The third most important city in the United States was visited in 2016 by more than 54.1 million people, according to the City of Chicago’s Office of Tourism.
Known as “The Windy City,” the Chicago Metro area has a population of 9.4 million (including the suburbs), of which 28% are Hispanic (80% Mexican), according to the Census Bureau. Chicago’s weather is quite distinctive: the average temperature in spring (March-May) is 10 ° C; in summer (June-August), 27 ° C; in autumn (September-November), 17 ° C; and in winter (December-February), -5 ° C, but the cold can reach 20 ° C below zero.
It is a city of great tourist attractions and that is why more than 54.1 million people visited it in 2016, according to the City of Chicago’s Office of Tourism. It is full of skyscrapers and lights and is located on the shores of Lake Michigan with its beautiful beaches. Visiting this city is a unique experience because it allows you to become acquainted with American culture closely and to feel what it is like to live in one of the biggest cities in the world.
Chicago’s architecture is recognized as one of the most beautiful in the United States. It is also home to the largest sports, musical, theatre and family shows. Its attractions are many. You can start by visiting the Chicago Cultural Center to enjoy guided tours or exhibitions; or you can appreciate its architecture with a walk along the banks of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, whether on foot, by boat or by bike; you will also take pleasure in discovering its urban art in almost every corner as you run into sculptures by Picasso, Miro, Calder and Chagall, among many others.
One of the city’s main attractions is the modern and emblematic Millennium Park, which offers free concerts in the summer, with its busiest spot being Anish Kapoor’s spectacular sculpture, Cloud Gate. The equally spectacular Buckingham and Crown Fountains are must-sees.
Another attraction is Navy Pier, a huge amusement park that houses a large shopping area full of life and entertainment, with luxury boat and amusement rides. It is home to the famous Chicago Ferris Wheel, a magnet for tourists and Chicago residents alike.
The first skyscraper in the world was built in Chicago: the Home Insurance Building, built in 1885 and demolished in 1931. The Willis Tower and the John Hancock are legendary among the city’s tall buildings. The Willis Tower, known as the Sears Tower, is Chicago’s tallest skyscraper at 443 meters high and 110 stories. Built in 1974, for many years it was the tallest building in the world until 1998 when construction of the Petronas Towers in Malaysia began. The Skydeck Willis’ observatory is 412 meters high and is all glass; if it is windy one can feel the whole building move. At 344 meters high and with 100 floors, the John Hancock Observatory is the fourth tallest and most emblematic Chicago skyscraper, its trapezoid forms on the facade make it recognizable from any point of the city. It offers spectacular views of Lake Michigan.
Museums are particularly special in Chicago as they house the most representative artifacts in the history of mankind. The most outstanding is the Field Museum of Natural History, featuring more than 30 permanent exhibitions that review the entire history of human civilization. A special attraction is its showcase of dinosaur skeletons including Sue, the largest skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex ever discovered. Also interesting is the Museum of Science and Industry where you will find gadgets from the Second World War as well as all kinds of weapons and machinery used or captured by the US military such as a submarine. The Art Institute of Chicago houses a variety of works from all parts of the world and all eras, from traditional Japanese art to 20th Century architecture and design. The Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the largest and most important in the United States, with its collection of pictorial, sculptural and photographic works from renowned contemporary artists. The Chicago History Museum introduces visitors to Chicago’s social history through unpublished photographs, curios, and many fascinating documents.
Ideal places to visit with the whole family include the Shedd Aquarium where you can appreciate marine species; the Adler Planetarium, founded in 1930 and the United States’ first planetarium; and the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, about 15 minutes north of downtown, a family gathering place regardless of season.
Chicago is also frequently visited for the spectacular stadiums of its world-famous sports teams, including Soldier Field (Chicago Bears), Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs), Guaranteed Rate Field (Chicago White Sox), United Center (Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks), and Toyota Park (Chicago Fire). The most currently visited is Wrigley Field, -the second oldest, and active, in Major League Baseball, only surpassed by Fenway Park of the Boston Red Sox-, because in 2016 the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. It is located in the Wrigleyville, a neighborhood in Chicago’s north side.
Music is another cultural expression that in Chicago can be enjoyed year-round. There are multitudinous festivals every summer that showcase the most renowned performers from around the world, whether popular or classical. One of the country’s largest rock festivals, Lollapalooza, attracts more than 2 million people during its three days; equally famous for attracting the world’s top artists is Ravinia Festival as well as the Grant Park Music Festival, which takes place in the paradisiacal gardens of Millennium Park. But the Windy City’s most representative festival is the Chicago Blues Festival, because blues is in the city’s DNA. Equally significant is the Chicago Jazz Fest, another distinctive musical genre of this Midwestern American city … And of course how could you not stop by the legendary Green Mill Lounge in the Uptown neighborhood, once a bohemian refuge for the legendary Al Capone.
Not to mention other festivals that combine music and food like Taste of Chicago that attracts more than a million visitors per year, or the Chicago Craft Beer Festival offering hundreds of varieties of beers and plenty of live music, as well as dozens of festivals, outdoor and indoor concerts during the winter time. In short, Chicago is a city to experience from end to end. It takes a lot of time to enjoy it to the fullest, but it is definitely an unforgettable experience.
BY EDUARDO ALEGRIA
ENGLISH VERSION EDITED BY ALEJANDRO RIERA