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Home to deep-dish pizza, jazz music, and infamous 1920s gangsters like Al Capone, Chicago is a city with immense character. Despite burning to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, instead of fading into obscurity, the city rebuilt itself with twice the verve and quickly claimed its spot as one of the United States'; urban heavyweights. In the likes of New York or Los Angeles, Chicago sits squarely as the largest metropolis in the Midwest. Some of its abundant offerings include world-class architecture and renowned museums, an award-winning theatre scene, public parks and green spaces, ground-breaking music, and, of course, a culinary landscape to be reckoned with.
Hop in the car (rental prices start from just $20 per day!) to explore at your own pace. You'll find economy vehicles for rent in Chicago for just $43, or luxury cars like a Chrysler 300 or similar for $117 per day. Book your Chicago car rental in advance with Enjoy Travel for a seamless trip.
Guide to Chicago
Chicago is found in northeastern Illinois, on the shores of Lake Michigan. It is perched on the Saint Lawrence Seaway continental divide at the site of the Chicago Portage, an old trading route that used to link the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes watersheds. The city itself sits about 600-feet above sea level, on the relatively flat glacial plains of what used to be Lake Chicago, the precursor of Lake Michigan.
Chicago has a typically continental climate with warm and humid summers and freezing cold winters. As such, the best times to visit would be during spring (April-May) or fall (September to October) when temperatures are comfortably pleasant and you can indulge in the plethora of activities and festivals that the city has to offer, like the popular Mayfest and Jazz Festivals.
Culture in Chicago
Incorporated as a city in 1837, Chicago grew rapidly in the mid-19th century. However, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed large portions of the city and left thousands homeless. The city then had to be rebuilt from ashes, propelling a period of a massive construction boom. This eventually led to a population explosion, making Chicago the fifth-largest city in the world by 1900.
Today, Chicago is an international hub for finance, industry, culture, education, technology, telecommunications, and transportation. It is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies (such as Boeing, Exelon, Kraft Heinz, and McDonald’s, just to name just a few) and was voted the ‘Best Large City in the US’ for four consecutive years by Conde Nast Traveler.
Things To Do in Chicago
Explore the iconic Millennium Park
Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, the 24.5-acre Millenium Park is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. It exhibits world-class art, architecture, music, and landscape design, drawing in 25 million visitors every year. We bet you’ll want to take a selfie in the reflective surface of the 110-ton bean-shaped stainless steel sculpture that is a quintessential part of most people’s Chicago itinerary. Although named ‘Cloud Gate’ by British artist Anish Kapoor due to the fact that 80% of its surface reflects the sky, this enchanting piece of public sculpture has been fondly nicknamed ‘The Bean’ by local Chicagoans and that is how it is more popularly known around the world as well. Another must-see attraction in Millennium Park is The Crown Fountain, which consists of two 50 foot towers facing one another at opposite ends of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers feature LED screens that project the faces of a thousand Chicago residents that are so perfectly aligned with spouts that it seems they are spitting water on passersby. You can also watch a concert at the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion or take a stroll through the Lurie Garden or the Boeing Galleries.
Stroll through Navy Pier
The 3,300-feet long Navy Pier juts out into Lake Michigan and draws in tourists and locals alike looking to enjoy the myriad of exhibits, parks, rides and top-notch restaurants on the pier. The first thing that is likely to catch your eye is the 196-feet tall Centennial Wheel, a Ferris wheel that is a treasured part of the Chicago skyscape. It offers stunning 360-degree views of the city and Lake Michigan. Afterward, explore the nearby Chicago Children’s Museum, which features adult-size treehouses as well as an 18-hole miniature golf course. As dusk rolls around, head to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater to catch a show. During summer evenings, magnificent fireworks displays are also held at Navy Pier.
Admire the marvelous Art Institute of Chicago
Flanked by a pair of bronze lions, the Art Institute of Chicago is a magnificent museum located in Grant Park. It showcases 300,000 artworks from across the world and is visited by 1.5 million people annually. Collections include impressionist and post-impressionist paintings by renowned artists like Van Gogh, Monet, and Renoir. Do not miss masterpieces like Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, or Grant Wood’s famous American Gothic.
Modern art lovers will love Andy Warhol’s print of actress Elizabeth Taylor and works by Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns. among others. The Thorne Miniature rooms display 68 recreations of American, European, and Asian interior design and furniture dating from the late 13th to the early 20th centuries. Other notable attractions include ancient Greek, Egyptian. Etruscan and Roman mosaics, pottery, glass, coins, bronze, and jewelry The museum also holds traveling exhibitions now and then exhibiting a wide range of subjects, genres, and artists.
Meet animals at Lincoln Park Zoo
One of the last remaining free admission parks in North America, the Lincoln Park Zoo is built over 37-acres and dates back to 1868. More than 1,100 animals belonging to some 200 species are housed here, and the zoo has one of the largest zoo-based conservation and science programs in the country. Head to the Kovler Seal Pool for close encounters with harbor seals or check out the huge gorillas in the Regenstein Center for African Apes. Watch the Japanese macaques taking a bath in a hot spring just like they do in the wild. Other attractions include the polar bear and African penguin enclosures which were both opened recently. Kids will love the Farm-in-the Zoo experience where they get to pet cows, pigs, and goats.
Eating Out in Chicago
The restaurant scene in Chicago is varied and diverse with all corners of the world well-represented. Be it a street-corner pizza joint or a Michelin-starred establishment, the city offers delectable dining experiences to all.
Galit is a Middle-eastern eatery in Lincoln Park serving sumptuous hummus, fire-roasted veggies, and balloon-shaped pita. Superdawg Drive-In is an old-fashioned favorite where the servers bring you the delicious namesake all-beef frank loaded with Chicago-style toppings amid crispy superfries right up to your car window. Dig into the steak tartare remixed with pickled jalapenos, cilantro, and guacamole at Tzuco, a French-inspired Mexican restaurant. For the crispiest thin-crust pizza done in Chicago style, head to Vito and Nick’s Pizzeria, where the cracker-thin crust is loaded with a rich sauce, gooey mozzarella, and fennel flecked sausage chunks. Crab Rangoon, assorted congee, and beef brisket casserole are some lip-smacking delicacies that you should not miss at Ken Kee Restaurant, a Chinatown favorite.
O’Hare International Airport (ORD) simply called O’Hare is located 14 miles northwest of Chicago’s CBD (Loop Business District). One of the best and busiest airports in the world, it operates flights to 228 destinations across North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
Getting Around Chicago
Chicago has 3 public transit networks- CTA, Metra, and Pace. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates 8 ‘L’ metro train lines and 129 bus routes reaching almost all important attractions. Two of the ‘L’ lines offer 24/7 service. Metra is a passenger regional rail network that operates 11 lines in Chicago and its suburbs. Pace provides bus and paratransit service in more than 200 suburbs surrounding the city of Chicago.
Many visitors traveling through Chicago prefer to hire a car as it offers increased comfort, flexibility, and convenience. The highway system in the United States makes it a breeze to get from place to place via car and, if you’re traveling in a large group, a 7 seater or a 9 seater van would actually work out to be more cost-effective than taking the train. You can also do a one-way hire, which means that you can pick up your vehicle in one city – say Chicago – and drop it off in another – like Detroit – before flying out, saving you the hassle of driving it back.