Chicago: A Week’s Guide to Attractions
I set foot in Chicago knowing very little about this historical city. To be honest, I wondered at the start of my trip if I would get bored holding idle in the same spot for a whole week. But as I passed my time I realized that there was a plethora of things to do here in the windy city, and the challenge wasn’t keeping myself occupied, rather the challenge was trying to squeeze in all the activities into one short week. As a reference I’ve decided to put together a list of the things to see if you have a week in Chicago.
Baseball is America’s past time, and even if you don’t understand the rules or think the game is boring you should
spend at least one afternoon, especially if it’s a weekend, soaking up the atmosphere of a baseball game. In Chicago there are two Major League teams, the north-side Chicago Cubs and the south-side White Sox.
The Chicago Cubs find their home at the historical Wrigley Field, and even though their team swears of a curse and hasn’t won it all in a long time, their games a worth a watch if for nothing else than the historical building they play in. The old stadium sits right in the middle of urban Chicago, so much so that many of buildings nearby have erected rooftop seating so they can look down on the game in the stadium below.
You can easily make it to the stadium by riding public transit. Ride the metro train from any station, hop on the Redline northbound towards Howard and jump off at Addison station; you can’t miss the stadium as the train stops right alongside it.
Chicago White Sox
Although the White Sox do not have the same historical legacy as do the Cubs the “South Siders” still have a lot to offer, and have been more successful on the field recently, as they are the 2005 world champions.
Their new stadium, US Cellular Field, sits just off of the redline southbound at the station 35th and Sox.
A strong part of American tradition is the classic theme park. The theme park dates back well into the early 1900s in Coney Island New York. But it is here in Chicago that the first ever Ferris Wheel was built. And the rides and games have become even more elaborate ever since.
Navy Pier is situated just out of downtown Chicago right on top of the lake. The attractions here stretch well beyond the giant Ferris Wheel and include fun houses, boat cruises, and a number of other things. And if those things don’t entice you maybe just stroll along the busy boardwalk and take in the atmosphere. If you get hungry great food isn’t far; be sure to try the deep fried seafood.
Six Flags Great America
Six Flags Great America is a theme park packed with adrenaline filled roller coasters and other intense rides suited for thrill seekers. However, it also contains more subdued rides for younger people and people looking for a
calmer sort of experience. On top of the dozens of rides Americans have become accustomed to at Six Flags theme parks, Six Flags Great America also features a large water park complete with dozens of slides from tube and mat slides to the good old fashion variety. A day at Six Flags Great America will only cost Adults 54.99$ and children 34.99$. But be sure to check online for their many online specials. Also, a season pass only costs 69.99$ so locals will have no problem taking advantage of the park over and over again.
If you have a car the trip is simple, the park is situated straight up the I84 interstate to Milwaukee. However if you rely on public transportation the trip becomes a little bit more tricky. You can catch the Metra train north to Waukegan station (about an hour and a half from downtown Chicago) and then hop on a PACE bus to Six Flags. A lot of the hotels will offer a shuttle to and from Six Flags as well, so try checking with the concierge at wherever you’re staying first.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a museum person. Although I have a keen sense of inquisition into history I don’t have the attention span to sit and read every single sign in a museum, instead I find myself racing through them, and looking for fun “hands on” exhibits. I think though, that if more museums were more like “A Night at the Museum” I would be a little more interested. And lucky for people visiting Chicago, the museums in this city are more like that. If you are planning on visiting multiple museums you should consider buying a City Pass which runs only 69 dollars and will give admission to all of the following site and also the Wills (formerly Sears) tower.
Shedd Aquarium is probably the most popular spot of those
included in the city pass, and those visiting will soon understand why. For its value, the aquarium has a heap to offer, and be prepared to spend the whole day roaming around from tank to tank. For families as well the aquarium will provide a great learning environment for the kids. The large aquarium show is informative and fun, and includes seals, penguins, beluga whales, a red hawk, and of course the dolphins. However, the real treat of the aquarium is its 4D movie, one of the features is “Happy Feet.” The film is about 3ominutes long, and on top of the visual 3D experience viewers are also treated with shaking seats, falling snow, bursts of wind, nibbles at your feet, squirts of water in the face, and pokes and prods from the seat. It really is a great experience. Pass to the aquarium without a city pass will cost 27-32 dollars depending on which pass you choose.
Field Museum is a museum of natural history which strays away from the typical “quiet please” museum that we have all grown used to. This museum provides an interactive forum where children and adults alike can learn without having to stand and read each title board. The level of integration between the people viewing the exhibits, and the exhibits themselves makes for a perfect educational platform.
Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry has recently been revamped and remodelled. Its location alone is fitting being situated in the heartland of the industrialization industry in the United States, and its exhibits promote both educational and stimulating means of experience. The newly renovated exhibits are a must, even for locals who haven’t visited in a while.
To be quite honest I was not all too impressed with Alder Planetarium. Mainly because of the value compared to some
of the other sites included in the City Pass. However, for anyone with a keen ambition to learn about the solar system this place is a must. And the place is also great for families with young children as the exhibits promote education and a hands-on experience. Included in the admission price is a star show developed in dome room where viewers basically lay flat out and watch the stars as if they were looking at the stars off their deck. However great the idea is, in reality the show provided is somewhat boring, and the Whoppi Goldberg narration is painful. Entrance price without a city pass is 19$.
Buildings and Architecture
I’m from the Western Prairies of Canada. I think that the oldest building that still stands in my city is only about 150 years old at the very best. As a result, I have always been impressed with old standing architecture, and buildings of unusual size; Chicago provides them both. In particular there are two famous buildings that must be visited as a part of any trip to this city.
Sears (Willis) Tower
The formerly named Sears Tower is still more well known in these terms than its new name, Willis Tower. However, irrespective of the name of the building the elevator of this enormous tower is definitely worth a trip upwards. The 103rd floor of this building provides spectacular views of the lake and the surrounding city. In fact, it is said that on a clear day people viewing outwards can see four different states. A trip up the elevator here costs 15 dollars if you aren’t carrying a city pass.
This train station, now occupied by Amtrak, and other providers, has appeared in just about every single film that features Chicago. Its hollow and domed lobby echoes each screech of shoe rubber, and its dynamic walls beg for silence like a church. In any case, this station is worth a visit if for nothing else than to take a couple iconic photographs. Entrance, of course, is free.
No city would be complete without parks. A city’s parks are sanctuaries from
the hectic streets and office buildings. Parks serve as asylums from the greys, greys, and greys of urban cityscapes. They also provide places of refuge for friends and strangers alike to meet up, hangout, and watch the world float by. Chicago has no shortage of great parks, but two of them in particular are worth a visit.
This park is situated just outside of the city’s main business district. It is the perfect refuge for a lunch break or for someone deciding to play hookie from work for an afternoon. The park is complete with a large oddly-shaped concert center – often with free shows, a large glass reflecting piece which is shaped like a giant bean, a relaxing garden, and a small ankle pool for resting feet tired from a day’s work.
Grant Park’s main attractions are its museums
This post was Written and Photographed by Brendan van Son