Sunday, 12 June 2011


Frank Sinatra once called Chicago "my kinda town" and you'll share his classic sntiments once you've visited this classy city. From the minute you breeze into the Windy City, Chicago takes your breath away. From the incredible, unique high-rise buildings to the down-to-earth, delightful, personality rich people, this is the city. The town that brought everyone from Bill Murray to Kanye West into the world really has everything. From big city, epic grandeur to a small-town feel of warmth or charm. Chi-town right now is one of the best places to visit or live. There is even a new 26 foot sculpture of Marilyn Monroe to welcome you here (guys be gentelmen and don't look under the skirt). Want to go?

Now then, straight out of O'Hare Airport where's the place to be when everywhere is what you need to see? Well, how about just taking your own, individual walking tour of the city of wind, breathing it in at your own pace? Standing above everything the 'Willis Tower' (formerly known-and still by most people-as the 'Sears Tower') really shows you everything this city has to offer and from the awe-reaching aerials to the Matt-black finish there really aren't many structures as sensational as this. Going inside and up to the 'Skydeck' of this towering landmark really gives you the best view of outside. The literally 'outstanding' clear floors gives the seriously scariest and highest, aerially amazing perspective of the city literally below you...if you dare to sit.

You can also catch a great side-on view of the skyline from a seated position on the grand, lasting legacy that is the Navy Pier and it's favourite Ferris Wheel. Navy Pier not only offers a great view of the city, it also offers a sensational perspective on Lake Michigan's shoreline. Also there are plenty of cute little shops and eateries inside the pier, decked out in a wood, boat feeling style. You can even go up-top to the high-reaching beauty of the Navy Pier Greenhouse, (for you film fans it's where Chi-town based actor Vince Vaughan spied on Winona Ryder in 'The Dilemma') or outside to many of the classic carousels and amusements that make for a pleasant afternoon for all the family, no matter their age.

Now if you head back down to the heart of the city, that itself is a sight to see inside itself. Every street-corner and alley is paved with character and detail. From the rich, red iron supports and bridges to the legendary, everlasting Lake Michigan that runs through them. Along with this are the signature subway trains that pass outside and over the city, offering every passenger an incredible view and those below something to marvel at. Plus with old but outstanding architecture and buildings enveloping the city (and some new foundations too) there are plenty of picture opportunities to take and send home. Day and night the heart of this city beats with life and the grand buildings have a great Gothic feel.

It's no wonder this city was used for the latest, greatest 'Batman' films. Speaking of which this city is also the place of many famous movie landmarks like the aforementioned 'Batman' series', including the street featuring the 'Chicago Board Of Trade Building' (another must see), where Christian Bale's Batman and Heath Leger's (rest in peace) Joker had their famous fight. The Kevin Costner, Robert De Niro, Sean Connery and Andy Garcia classic movie 'The Untouchables' about Al Capone and Elliott Ness was filmed here also. With so many locations made infamous like the unique 'Union Station' (worth a visit in all it's vintage, bold, beauty itself) where the iconic, stairway action, set-piece scene was filmed. No city could have captured both the fictions Gotham City or the early 1930's so perfectly then this one. Now that's the Chicago way.

Speaking of art, designed in the canvas of this city is some amazing, astounding architecture. Millennium Park and it's new generation 'AT&T Plaza' opens up a world beyond the city in an atmosphere of astonishing art. The 'Cloud Gate' (or that big silver bean as it's more commonly thought as) makes for some great photo, or 'how's my hair' opportunities. With it's great perspectives and strange allure it really does stand out in this already outstanding city. Also from many new developing sculptures and structures to fountains featuring changing faces, (the 'Crown Fountains' profile changes every 5 minutes) this plaza always pleases those looking for something fresh and new. With an ice-rink in Winter to boot, this plaza skates through the seasons with ease and all-year-round appeal.

Still if you'd rather site the latest bargains, Chicago's shopping district is among the best any city has to offer. All-round the city is a network of incredible shops from the new to the niche. Still the 'Macy's' mall may be the most memorable place that offers it all under one roof. From eating delicious deli to receiving one of the closest and best shaves you'll ever get you can really get it all here. Still even out-of-town there are so many private owned business' that offer some perfect, more personal service, whether your after some new music, or new clothes. Chi-town also boasts some of the best places to eat and drink. Even the mad-looking, 'Rock-N-Roll McDonald's' (on the North Side of town) stands next to the Hard Rock Cafe in more ways then one. From it's designs to it's escalators (really? In a McDonalds) that take you up to a cafe bar. Oh and with it being open all night, it's a great place to hang out and catch a bite with some friends, 24/7. Speaking of the fast food chain, there's also a great one on 'Martin Luther King Dr' where the walls are adorned with all the great civil-rights leader accomplishments. Something you really have to take in, so don't take out.

There are so many great places to eat in Chicago that you really will want to seek out your own unique place to eat, but if Chicago is known for anything it's their perfect, prominent Pizza Places. The Windy City is renowned for it's rich, traditional, Deep-Dish Pizza and trying one is a much-delicious-eat. With so many places to choose from however, these dishes really do deep, but for great ambiance and atmosphere why not check out 'Lou Malnati's' (on the North Side)? That's as long as you don't mind Shaquille O'Neal's sweaty, gym shorts staring at you while you eat? That's a great piece of memorabilia, but enough to turn even the biggest of men off his food. Still if you really want to see memorable memorabilia and have a great choice to chomp down on, nothing beats the almost cattle-market excitement of Portillo's. Also from the clear-cut, classy 'Proof' and 'Vision', there are plenty of great Nightclubs in the area to take your night away. Still if your prefer a quieter evening why not check out a bar? There's plenty of brilliant ones in and around the city, vibrant with character and charming locals. Still in the soul of downtown nothings more soothing or calm then 'The Cove'. It's bottled up with tradition and style and hey it was good enough for Sandra Bullock in 'The Lake House'.

For eating out and nightlife Chicago has plenty more delightful districts to quiet things down, if you want to take a break from downtown. From Lakeview to Lincoln Park (you won't find Mike and his band there however) Chicago's lovely atmosphere lasts. If your in to sports and burgers you have to check the game out and the taste and variety of 'Duke's Bar & Grill'. From fond and friendly staff, to a classic, cool, cabin-wood look this daddy of burger joints really is the duke. Still if you actually want to catch a real game for yourself then Chicago really is the place for that too. Take a trip to the United Centre and you'll see one of the NBA's most legendary and best basketball teams today in the Chicago Bulls. From a legendary legacy charged by Michael Jordan (you have to check out the incredible statue) to the latest run of great players (including 2011 League MVP, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah) your in for a great night of good team sport. Beyond the Basketball too, the centre stands to attention with incredible live music and displays from the championship trophies to the banners and legendary jersey's retired to the rafters. Or if you bounce at the sight of a basketball then how about we pitch you some baseball? Where seeing the Chicago Cubs play at the classic Wrigley Field is among one of the best experiences you could have on this trip in this town. Regardless if your a fan or not. Don't sleep on the other sports and teams either as the Bears, Blackhawks and White Sox will all show you why this town of the Chi is proud of it's sporting traditions.

Or if you like your evenings a bit more theatrical why not check out the legendary 'Chicago Theatre', that really illuminates at night from the outside to what's going on inside? This lavish landmark also serves as a great snap shot or meeting place for a date...hey it's easy to find. Still if that isn't the ticket (watch out things aren't sold-out), the 'Oriental' makes for another outstanding evening. or you could just simply marvel at this city as you walk around and take in the sites. Or why not take it even easier and take a boat trip right through the Michigan Lake and the ever pumping heart of the city, checking out every beautiful beat, day or night?

After all that surely you'll need some rest and there are plenty of great places to do that from the relatively cheap to the real rich. Whether your into towering the heights of the 'Trump Hotel', or keeping it homely and welcoming in the great 'Getaway Hostel' (a truly warm and friendly place to meet locals and fellow travellers), or even finding some middle ground in the real nice, recently renovated 'Red Roof In'' your guaranteed a great nights stay and sleep if you look the right way. As you head for some shut eye, you better keep it brief as if you miss any more of this city you really will miss out. So wake up and realise that Chicago is one of the classiest and coolest places to visit and set a date. Even if you've already had your first-look it may just be time to open up your eyes again and take a second look at the sublime second-city. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

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