Top 10 things to do in Chicago
While Chicago was dubbed 'the second city' back in 1890 (when it was always being compared to New York), today it's very much a first rate experience. In fact, nearly everything we associate with American culture originated in Chicago - baseball, deep dish pizza, the film industry, mobile phones, car racing and blues, just to mention a few. There's just so much to do in this intoxicating metropolis!
To make your first few days easier, we've researched a Top 10 list of places to go and things to see. Pick and choose or do them all.
1. See a show at the Chicago Theatre
Built in 1921, this theatre is the grand old lady of Chicago's live entertainment scene. It's on the National Register of Historic places and is officially a Chicago landmark. There's no better way to appreciate this theatre than by securing tickets and seeing a show. Mostly the Chicago Theatre hosts live music and comedy events - everything from huge international acts to local favourites.
2. Listen to live blues at Blue Chicago
When in Chicago, do what the Chicagoans do - get your blues on. One of the top spots for live blues music is Blue Chicago. Open every night, this venue is in the heart of the river North entertainment district. The style here is electric blues, which emerged from the migration of African Americans from the south to the midwest. We think you're going to love it.
3. Sip and see at London House rooftop bar
Chicago looks amazing from up high, so find yourself a table at London House Rooftop. On the 21st floor there's an indoor lounge serving cocktails and imaginative American nibbles, while the 22nd floor has an impressive outdoor terrace with whopper views of the Chicago River, Lake Michigan and the Magnificent Mile.
4. Order a deep dish at Uno
The famous Chicago deep dish pizza was invented in 1943 by Ike Sewell, founder of the Uno Chicago Grill, known today as Pizzeria Uno. Often copied but never equalled, the original Uno deep dish pizza can carry a massive amount of filling because the tall sides keep it all in. As they say: if you visit Chicago and don't eat deep dish pizza, you weren't really there at all.
5. Snap a selfie with The Bean
Its real name is Cloud Gate, but everyone in Chicago calls it The Bean. We're talking about the shiny, chrome, kidney bean-shaped sculpture in AT&T Plaza created by Indianborn British artist Sir Anish Kapoor. You can walk under and around it, but most of all you'll want to snap a selfie with it.
6. Stroll Millennium Park to see the Crown Fountain
The Crown Fountain is a knock-your-socks-off kind of art installation. Two 15-metre glass towers sit at each end of a reflective pool and their inward-facing walls are video screens showing close-up faces of Chicago citizens. The effect is compelling and fantastic Instagram fodder.
7. Hang with the pterosaurs at the Field Museum
The Field Museum isn't any old museum. With soaring neoclassical architecture and a reputation for wow-factor exhibits, it's one of the most impressive natural history attractions in the world. The Field Museum is particularly famous for its Egyptian mummies, science hub and dinosaur collection. You can even hang out with a flock of flying pterosaurs.
8. Catch an event at Wrigley Field
Nothing is more American than Wrigley Field; it dates back to 1914 when a local tycoon decided to build a ballpark for his baseball team, the Chicago Whales. Today the stadium is home ground for the Chicago Cubs, plus it's also a concert venue. So what's it to be? Baseball or music? Either way, you're into for an exciting time and great stadium food.
9. Appreciate architecture from the water
Cruise down the Chicago River to get a duck's-eye view of the city's impressive architecture. It's a fresh way to discover the biggies - Aon Center, the John Hancock Center, the Willis Tower (previously the Sears Tower) the Wrigley Building and the IBM Building. All up, you'll learn about more than 35 Chicago landmarks.
10. Burn off your pizza along the shores of Lake Michigan
If you followed our advice about the deep dish pizza, the Chicago Lakefront Trail awaits. Whether you prefer to run, walk, skate or bike, just do it. It's about 28 kilometres long and paved from start to finish. There's a multitude of Chicago attractions along the way, so leave enough time to get distracted.