Chicago is a pretty cool city on the shores of Lake Michigan. There is plenty to do here and one week wouldn’t be enough to discover everything, let alone one weekend! Anyway, if that’s all you have then follow this guide to find out what I did during my visit. If you need more inspiration, visit the Chicago Tourism Office site here at Choose Chicago.
Chicago Self-Guided Tour by Public Transport
Buy yourself a cheap weekend ticket for the local public transport. It is very efficient, clean and frequent so my tip No. 1 is to ditch the tour bus and get on the train around town. It is not only cheap but also the fastest way to get about. The best is that the center of Chicago is circled by the “loop” so you can easily reach all tourist locations by the Chicago elevated railway. Here is a link to the Chicago Transit Authority’s website for maps and more.
For breakfast I would recommend the Panera Bread Store near the Harold Washington Library Centre on East Congress Parkway. The store opens early and serves their signature egg and avocado sandwich! I still dream of it sometimes when I think of Chicago. Then, either after or before breakfast, you can visit the library which is a stunning construction from the last century.
Visiting the Willis Tower in Chicago
After visiting the library head over to the Willis Tower on South Wacker Drive. It is a good place to start the day and see the city skyline. The tower used to be the tallest building in the Americas and the views are stunning from the top.
Cloud Gate – The Chicago Bean
Don’t miss the Bean – or Cloud Gate – either! The bean is a large stainless steel sculpture in the shape of a bean. It’s been in the Millennium Park since 2004 and now serves as a famous symbol of Chicago. Listen to a podcast here by the Chicago City Council about the Bean.
The Space Center
The Henry Crown Space Center by the lake is also worth a visit. It is a little bit far out of downtown but the walk there is stunning. Or, if you prefer you can take a bus or train there. The museum is open from 9.30-4.00 and has a wealth of displays and information about space. I spent a good few hours here when I visited.
The Chicago Canal System
Walking along the canal system, which is an engineering marvel of the world, is also a great experience. Originally the canal was a river but back in the early 20th century the engineers managed to reverse the flow of the river and turned it into a canal! The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal – as they named it – reverses the direction of the Main Stem and the South Branch of the Chicago River. So the latter now flows out of Lake Michigan rather than into it!
According to Wikipedia, the city built the canal as a sewage treatment scheme. Prior to its opening in 1900, sewage from the city of Chicago flowed freely into the Chicago River and then into Lake Michigan. The lake was of course the city’s main drinking water supply so there were fears that the sewage could reach the intake and cause serious disease outbreaks. Since the sewer systems were already flowing into the river, they made the decision to dam the river and reverse its flow, thereby sending all the sewage inland. Here, they treated the sewage before emptying it into the Des Plaines.
Once you’ve done the canals head over to the Magnificent Mile area. Most of the world’s famous shops are here as well as the Tribune Tower and many other sights. If you watch any movie about Chicago chances are that they feature this area.
One definitely famous building is the McDonalds at the intersection of West Ohio and North Clark St. This building looks as the original McDonalds buildings from the 1960s and has huge glass windows. I had many a meals here during my three visits to Chicago.
This is of course not a comprehensive list of things to do in Chicago but would suffice for one day. Check back later for more stories on Chicago!
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