So you’re in Chicago, and you’re contemplating a visit to the numerous museums (oh the T-Rex, and the White Whale and what-not), maybe the Lincoln Park Zoo, and of course you want your picture on the Skydeck Ledge. But wait. Are you one of those people who went to NYC and skipped the Natural History museum for the Met? Are you thinking of spending a day at the Art Institute?
I’d suggest you start out by taking what is probably the best way to walk through Chicago – the Art Loop tour on Wikitravel. It’s free, and allows you to see how urban spaces are used by people. If you have an architect friend to show you her favorite picks, that’s even better! I personally loved the Picasso statue and the Flamingo (both of which are mentioned on this itinerary). And I really liked the humongous US Post Office building (that I only got to see because of my friend). In times where most forms of offline communication (the telegraph) are being discontinued, this building highlights the resilience of the postal system.
Once you are done walking through the streets and checking out the sculptures, including the usual suspects like ‘The Bean’ and Crown Fountain, you are ready to go spend an entire day at the Art Institute. There’s an Impressionism and Fashion exhibit going on right now that’s getting great reviews (I skipped it here because I saw it at the Met a few months ago). If you’re short on time, the Art Institute provides you with a one hour highlights option. Be sure to spend some time in their sculpture garden.
If you are still not in love with this city, I recommend the River and Lake combined cruise that gives you an insight into the stories behind the skyscrapers. And then, you are finally ready to be a regular tourist and go to the Skydeck Ledge (so over-rated!) and the Hancock Center (tip – go to the Signature Lounge, get a drink and enjoy the views. Don’t bother paying for the observatory. Also, if you are a woman, the Ladies Restroom has the BEST view). You can also get a great view from the top of the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier. But be warned – unlike the Seattle Ferris Wheel, this one only does one rotation. Go to Chicago for the art and the architecture. Stay away from the deep dish pizza (so over rated!).