Chicago Travel Guide

Chicago

Known as 'The Windy City' and the jewel in America's Midwest crown - Chicago sits boldly on the picturesque shores of Lake Michigan in Illinois.

Immortalised in song by Frank Sinatra, Chicago successfully combines the past and the present, with its traditional 19th century buildings, on-through to 1920's (prohibition era) architecture to today's vast and glittering skyline. Skyscrapers were invented here and today Chicago's skyline features some of America's most stunning structures.

Start at Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) - it offers astonishing views from it's 103rd floor skydeck, or take a late ride to the top of the iconic John Hancock Center to watch the glittering skyline as the sun sets and the city prepares to party.

City Breaks: Chicago is listed in the top five US cities to visit for an exciting short break adventure. The city has an exhilarating blend of history, great sightseeing and a perfect mix of luxury 5 star hotels. An electric nightlife and trendy bars combine with luxurious restaurants to offer a wealth of international style and cuisines.

Top Tip: Explore the vast collection of modern American and European art at The Art Institute of Chicago, it's a perfect excuse to spend a few extra days in this fascinating city of culture.

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Visitor information

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Chicago Skyline

The Loop: Chicago's Loop is the central business district and heart of the city, it's a vibrant area with many eateries, shops, parks and a celebrated theatre district that buzzes with Tony Award-winning shows and world premieres. The area comprises mostly of high-rises, it’s also home to the 108-story Willis Tower and the iconic “Cloud Gate” sculpture that sits in Millennium Park. You'll also find the award-winning Chicago Riverwalk, a 1.25 mile-long pedestrian-only pathway running along the bank of the Chicago River, it offers a variety of dining, entertainment and recreation options.

Chicago Skyline at Night

Top Attractions: Start as you mean to carry on, try the 360 Tilt. The Tilt is a thrilling new attraction that will forever change your view of Chicago. Located 1000 feet up at the top of the John Hancock building is where you'll find the observation deck, where on a clear day visitors can see four different states (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan). The fun really starts when you step onto the Tilt, the deck slowly extends out away from the building and over the Magnificent Mile and Chicago's famous skyline, to offer visitors a unique downward facing view from 1,030 feet up. If you’ve got a fear of heights, this may not be for you.

Other Attractions: Downtown Chicago offers many exciting cultural experiences, helped by the city's ethnic diversity from Greektown to Chinatown, which are worth visiting for their authentic restaurants and atmosphere.

Go back in time on the Gangsters and Ghosts tour, to hear about Chicago in the roaring 1920’s or take an Untouchables tour to revisit the city's gangster history. The museum of Science & Industry has more than 2000 exhibits and is well worth a visit.

Chicago has a number of outdoor sculptures by artists including Picasso and Miro. One of the most visited sculptures is the Cloud Gate by Indian-born British artist Sir Anish Kapoor. The sculpture is the centerpiece of AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park, the design was inspired by liquid mercury and the sculpture's surface reflects and distorts the city's skyline.

For a break from the city drive along Chicago's Lake Michigan shoreline which is dotted with sandy beaches and hundreds of parks and harbours.

Shopping: Chicago is a shopper's fantasy come true. Imagine a place with world-class department stores, every kind of boutique from upscale to specialty, throw in fabulous discount shopping and you've just begun to picture the retail adventures that await you.

There's an incredible choice of shopping ranging from exclusive boutiques to top-class stores. Visit the 'Magnificent Mile' stretching along Michigan Avenue it houses some of Chicago's finest hotels, malls and is also the home of Gucci. In this eight-block stretch, 460 stores offer luxury items, beautiful bargains, and everything in-between.

Public Transport: Chicago is relatively easy to navigate, public transportation is operated by the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) and is easy to use. Both buses and trains are fast and cost-effective ways to travel into and around the city.

The city’s most widely connected elevated train system is called the ‘L’ train (though they may be underground or elevated). The L train covers 144 stations in downtown Chicago and includes The Loop, Central Park, and Evanston. For tourists the L train is an excellent way to see the city sights from an elevated vantage point. The L also connects to the Metra train system and both of Chicago's major international airports.

There are a number of CTA ticket buying options, you can purchase single-fares, one-day passes or three-day passes at vending machines at any "L" station. Alternatively you can purchase a Ventra Card and add payment to it. By downloading the Ventra Card App you can pay & download day passes or add the Ventra Card to your smartphone.

Taxi's are plenty and easy to hail, during warm weather months you can board one of the water taxis that run along the Chicago River or lakeshore for a slightly more scenic and relaxing ride.

Dining: Chicago is famous for two classics, pizza and hot dogs. There are over 6,000 restaurants in Chicago serving every type of cuisine possible. Match your mood to one of the city's elegant dining spots, charming cafes, intimate bistros, pizza palaces or another of the endless alternatives that highlight the city's rich and diverse culinary landscape.

Chicago Nightlife: Chicago's nightlife has a friendly vibe which can be found right across the legendary lounges, piano bars, and other great venues throughout the city. Chicago pulses with the beat of countless live performances, including mainstream and indie rock, dance & techno, jazz and of course the blues, after all Chicago is the official home of the blues. The varied nightlife includes comedy clubs, experimental theatre, Irish pubs, dance venues and of course the legendary jazz clubs & blues bars.

Festivals & Club Scene: Chicago is home to famous festivals including the Taste of Chicago, the world's largest five day food festival held in Grant Park in July. The Pitchfork Music Fest is an annual summer music festival held in September at Union Park. Lollapalooza is an annual four-day music festival held in mid-summer at Grant Park, music genres include alternative & punk rock, heavy metal, hipp hop and electronic music.

Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD). The airport is located 17miles (28km) northwest of Chicago City.

Chicago O'Hare International Airport serves as a major hub for both American Airlines & United Airlines. The airport ranks among the worlds-busiest airports and handles passenger and freight for over 70 airlines. Both British Airways and American Airlines operate direct services departing from London Heathrow to Chicago.

Airport Transport and Shuttle Services:
One of the easiest ways to travel into the city is by train. The CTA Blue Line trains run frequently between the airport and downtown Chicago, it offers a 24 hour service with a more frequent service during weekday morning and evening rush hours, journey time is 40 minutes.

Alternatively, there are a number of shuttles, private transfers and regional buses that service all arrival terminals at O'Hare International Airport, with an approximate 45 minutes travelling time.

Car Hire: All major car rental companies are represented at Chicago ORD airport, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt.

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