Chicago was one of those cities I never thought I would love. What a pleasant surprise for me to leave the city wondering when will I be back!
Here are 9 reasons why this city is so lovable:
1. The Free Walks
Spend your morning taking a stroll along the river and take in the grandeur of the Chicago skyline. The best part? It’s all FREE!
The Magnificent Mile:
Technically, this walk is free if you are not spending money shopping. There are several reasons to stop along the Magnificent Mile – like Tribune Tower and Michigan Avenue Bridge. During the holiday season, visit here to be inspired by the beautiful decorative lights, walking until you reach Oak Street Beach.
Cool places to hang out: Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium.
Visit the Museum Campus if you have kids. Even if budget is a concern, you have to visit the planetarium for the W-I-N-N-E-R view of the Chicago Skyline! Even better if you are visiting on a Saturday evening, as it is one of the best places to catch the fireworks show from the Navy Pier.
3. For the Love of Art
This museum is ranked number one in the world by Tripadvisor. Bonus if you are an Illinois resident – there is even a free day for you to explore this art-buffs’ paradise. Simply show up from 5 to 8 p.m. on a Thursday.
Water Tower City Gallery
Not only is it one of only a few buildings to survive the 1871 Chicago Fire, it is now a must-see spot to appreciate art work and photography by local artists.
The cultural center holds free exhibitions, free events and gives out free visitor maps! The highlight? Tiffany glass domes! Also, come here for the killer view of Michigan Avenue and Millennium Park.
4. The Hidden Gem: Chicago Public Library
Tastefully mixing classical and modern architecture, the building of Harold Washington Library is a sight to behold. If you think that is all, wait till you see the winter garden oasis at the 9th floor.
Maggie Daley Park, Millennium Park
A huge complex of a wonderful city oasis suitable for all ages. After taking your touristic photos at the Bean, spend time exploring the rest of the park: take off your shoes for Crown Fountain, catch a concert at the Pavilion and take a free art tour. After that, you can make your way to Grant Park for the hourly musical light fountain show at Buckingham Fountain.
Bloomingdale Trail, the 606
If High Line in New York fascinates you, the Bloomingdale Trail won’t disappoint either. Rent a bike and spend a sunny day exploring this 2.7 mile elevated park trail above the streets.
Other worthy mentions: Chicago Botanical Garden, Garfield Park Conservatory
6. The Pier
If you are a first time visitor to Chicago, take the iconic Ferris wheel to the top for a spectacular view over the city. The Crystal Gardens and Smith Museum of Stained Glass are also free to wander. Firework shows are held every Wednesday and Saturday night, so schedule your visit accordingly.
7. Family Fun Time at the Zoo
Easily accessible with the city bus, the Lincoln Park Zoo is a free attraction in the city. My favorite site in the zoo is the Hive Structure where you can enjoy your picnic lunch admiring the picturesque Chicago skyline. After visiting the zoo, don’t miss the Lincoln Park Conservatory which houses four display rooms: the Palm House, Fern Room, Orchid House and Show House.
8. Chicago’s Underground Pedway
What if it’s raining? Will the rain kill all the fun? The answer is no – take the time to explore Chicago’s underground pedway which connects more than 40 downtown buildings through a series of subterranean tunnels and overhead bridges.
9. The Food!
No trip to Chicago is complete without trying a classic Chicago pizza – the deep dish! Although greasy and potentially heart-attack-inducing, this pizza is one of the best foods I’ve tried in the States! Preparation takes time, so make sure to allow at least 45 minutes (don’t order it if you are starving!)