Chicago is the major metropolis of America's heartland, with three million people hustling and bustling in the city of skyscrapers that appears to rise straight out of the waters of Lake Michigan, in northern Illinois. Once a gangster's hang-out synonymous with infamous names such as Al Capone and Bonnie and Clyde, the 'windy city' today has a squeaky-clean reputation as an international business and commercial capital boasting an eclectic mix of architecture, world-class theatre, art exhibitions, fantastic music and super-enthusiastic sportsmanship.
Chicago emerged as a rough and tough survivor after being destroyed in the Great Fire of 1871, and a huge influx of immigrants from all over the world in the early 20th century brought with them a determined spirit infusing the city with ethnic diversity and the unmistakable sound of Chicago-style blues music. Chicagoans have built a city that is to be reckoned with, boasting soaring skyscrapers like the Sears Tower (one of the tallest in the world); thriving ethnic neighbourhoods; a lakefront business district, the re-energised downtown; unbeatable shopping along the famed Michigan Avenue; and top-class sports teams.
One thing that does not attract visitors to Chicago is the weather, which, because of its geographical location is breezy at best, and freezing and gale-ridden at worst. It is possible to ignore the weather though, especially in summer, when getting caught up in the myriad of things to do, see and experience in this Midwestern metropolis - there are 30 excellent museums alone.
Chicago has the largest public transportation system in the country and getting around the city is fast, easy and inexpensive, with an extensive network of rapid transit trains and buses. The train system has both underground lines and elevated tracks above the city and is known as the El; most visitors only use the El, but buses also cover every part of the city including the suburbs, albeit less regularly. Most train lines run 24 hours a day, with Overnight or Night Owl services taking over between midnight and 5am, though only on some lines. The Metra commuter trains link the city to the outer suburbs, including Lake Michigan, Hyde Park and McCormick Place. Fares for the bus, subway and the El are standard, and a variety of visitor passes are available offering more economical travel. During the summer months, a free trolley system operates in the downtown area, connecting Chicago's top cultural attractions, shopping areas and visitor destinations. Taxis are easy to find, and the metered rates are reasonable for short journeys. Although traffic is not as bad as in other major cities (outside rush hour), parking is expensive and difficult to find.
Chicago Blues Festival
The Chicago Blues Fest is one of the biggest outdoor, free blues events in the world and is a must for all blues lovers. It features over 70 international, national and local Chicago artists spread over five stages and at night the festivities continue in blues clubs around the city. For more information contact the Chicago Office of Special Events on +1 312 744 3315.
Taste of Chicago
The Taste has been an annual summer festival for 20 years, featuring 10 days of Chicago-style food and entertainment. Samples from over 70 restaurants are available for tasting, with fare ranging from pizzas and burgers, to the city's classic prime rib steaks, and haute cuisine from some of the city's top restaurants. Various activities and events take place throughout the festival, including cooking demonstrations by top chefs, Ferris wheel rides, street performers, and face painting, and live music is staged around the park. The 4th of July is celebrated by a fireworks display accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Chicago Air and Water Show
The oldest and biggest exhibition of its kind in the country, the Air and Water Show displays daredevil acrobatics both in the air and water. It can be viewed from many lakeside locations, but the main hub is above and beyond North Avenue Beach. Both civilian and military demonstrations take place and electrifying stunts are performed, the highlight being the US Navy Blue Angels' jet formation.
Magnificent Mile Lights Festival
The official start of the holiday season in Chicago is signalled by the lighting of more than a million white lights along the Magnificent Mile during a procession of Mickey Mouse and his Disney friends, concluding with a spectacular fireworks show over the Chicago River. The whole winter wonderland weekend is geared for the holiday season with special offers and family entertainment along the Magnificent Mile.
New Year's Eve Fireworks
The countdown to New Year culminates in a pyrotechnic display of colourful fireworks above Michigan lakefront that is choreographed to a musical soundtrack. For more information contact the Chicago Office of Tourism on +1 312 201 8847 or 877 244 2246 (toll free information line).
Chicago Jazz Festival
In Grant Park on the shores of Lake Michigan, hundreds of thousands of people gather to picnic on the grass and to listen to the chilled-out music. A popular annual event, the festival offers a pleasing selection of old favourites and new talent on the jazz scene. For more information phone +1 312 744 3315 or email the Chicago Office of Tourism on Tourism@ci.chi.il.us
Annual American Indian Center Pow-Wow
The annual Pow-Wow looks back at Native American culture and invites other native Americans and outsiders to come and appreciate the fascinating aspects of their lives. There are a variety of cultural expressions including crafts, music and dance, histories and renewed interpretations. There are also plenty of opportunities to sample delicious, traditional cuisine.
St. Patrick's Day
The famous Irish holiday is undoubtedly celebrated on a grander scale across the United States, but in Chicago, one can expect the river to be turned green. St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is a well-known figure in the U.S. even if his origins and deeds have been somewhat lost in the mass commercialisation of his special day. Every Irish Pub (and almost every non-Irish Pub too) will be celebrating with plenty of Guinness, Irish Car Bombs and dyed-green beer.
Venetian Night is the city of Chicago's longest running annual event, having started in 1958 as part of the Lakefront Festival, and today attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the lakefront. The waterside parade on Lake Michigan includes about 35 boats decorated with extravagant lights and skippered by costumed crews. There is also live music and an impressive fireworks display. This event has been put on hiatus by the city of Chicago for 2010.
Art Institute of Chicago
An impressive pair of bronze lions guards the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago in South Michigan Avenue, housing one of the greatest art collections in the world. Works date from 3,000 BC through to the present, including a renowned collection of Impressionist art featuring numerous Monet paintings. The Institute has it all, from Japanese ukiyo-e prints and ancient Egyptian bronzes to masterpieces of 20th century sculpture. Exhibits include paintings and drawings, photographs, textiles, sculpture and architectural works. The Institute has two restaurants, one set in a garden, as well as a gift shop.
Chicago Field Museum
Chicago's wildly popular Field Museum of Natural History in Lake Shore Drive is home to 'Sue', the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever found. The dinosaur came to rest here after being unearthed in South Dakota when the Museum bought her remains for more than $8-million. Sue is just one of the drawcards at the museum which offers other marvels like getting a bug's eye view in an underground adventure; descending into an Egyptian tomb; watching a glowing lava flow; and getting up close and personal with the man-eating lions of Tsavo. The museum specialises in interactive and diorama-type exhibits across its nine acres of exhibition space, and is a must-visit for families on holiday in Chicago.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Home
America's most renowned architect lived and worked in the complex, which served as private residence, studio and architectural laboratory for the first twenty years of his career, between 1889 (when he was 22) and 1909. Wright's haven started out as a simple cottage and was continually added on to by the architect resulting in unusual features such as a balcony suspended on chains. The complex is administered by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust which offers guided tours. The neighbourhood of Oak Park contains the world's largest concentration of Wright-designed buildings and self-guided exterior audio tours of the 26 structures in the area are available.
Lincoln Park, beginning at North Avenue and following the shore of Lake Michigan northwards for several miles, is Chicago's largest park. It contains several attractions, bathing beaches, a botanical conservatory, golf course, grassy meadows, formal gardens and sports fields. Pride of place is held by the standing statue of Abraham Lincoln, sculpted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. His sitting Lincoln is in Chicago's other famous park, Grant Park. The most popular attraction within the park is the Lincoln Park Zoo, which not only houses hundreds of exotic animals in natural habitats, but offers experiences like paddle boat rides, a virtual safari trip, and the Endangered Species Carousel with 48 artisan-crafted wooden animals that accommodates up to 50 riders at a time.
Six Flags Great America
Top of the list of attractions for families on holiday in Chicago, the Six Flags Great America is a must for children of all ages. Featuring some of the country's most exciting theme park rides, such as the Dark Knight Coaster, Bedrock Boulder Roller and the Condor, the Six Flags Great America Park is a great way to spend the day with the kids, who will love meeting their favourite comic book superheroes and cartoon characters. You can also cool off on a hot day with the rides at Hurricane Harbour, the attached water park.
One of Chicago's best known attractions the Shedd, which opened in 1930, remains the world's largest indoor aquarium. The octagonal marble building houses more than 8,000 river, lake and sea creatures. The main attraction is the Caribbean Coral Reef exhibit and other marine habitat exhibits like a recreation of the Amazon basin and a 'Seahorse Symphony'. The aquarium also features an indoor saltwater Oceanarium housing marine mammals where dolphin shows are scheduled daily.
Illinois' second city, Rockford, is just a hop and skip to the northwest of Chicago, set in rolling hills. It is worth a visit for culture vultures and golfers, in particular. The city is known for its 'cultural corridor' of which the highlight is the Rockford Art Museum's stunning permanent collection focusing on 19th and 20th century works. There is also a wealth of private galleries and historical museums in the city centre. Rockford is also known for its antique shops and markets, and the many golf courses in the city and vicinity that have earned it the title of Illinois' 'holey' city.
Situated on the lakefront, Navy Pier has developed into one of the city's main tourist destinations, offering year-round attractions, events and entertainment for the whole family. Navy Pier encompasses acres of parks and gardens, shops, restaurants, and numerous attractions and rides, as well as serving as an embarkation point for tour and excursion boats. Its 150ft (46m) Ferris wheel attracts more than eight million people annually; other main attractions include an IMAX theatre, Chicago's Children's Museum, and the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows. Other special attractions are offered throughout the year.
Sears Tower (Willis Tower)
'You haven't seen Chicago until you've seen it from the Skydeck' is what many visitors will hear from locals and other tourists in the city. The iconic Sears Tower was renamed on 16 July 2009 to the 'Willis Tower', and located on its 103rd floor the Skydeck is 1,353 feet (412m) above street level and one of Chicago's most famous tourist attractions. Elevators whisk visitors up to the observation deck where the views stretch out across the city and Lake Michigan, and as far as neighbouring states on a clear day. Inside, there are some interesting, interactive exhibits and computer information terminals for a tour of the city's landmarks. The Willis Tower, standing at 110 stories high, is the tallest building in North America and one of the tallest in the world.
Millennium Park is one of Chicago's most popular destinations and is seen by Chicagoans as the crowning glory of their city. The award-winning park is famous for its innovative architecture and landscape design, featuring the work of several prominent artists, architects and designers. The park's most outstanding feature is the state-of-the-art outdoor concert venue, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which seats more than 4,000 people and hosts regular concerts. Another fascinating piece of architecture is the polished stainless steel Cloud Gate, shaped like a 66-foot (20m) long bean with a 12-foot (4m) high archway. Other interesting features include the Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden, BP Bridge, and the Millennium Monument. Visitors can also enjoy changing exhibitions, local art works, and ice skating in winter.
Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum
Located on Lake Michigan, the Adler is America's first planetarium and is the only museum in the world with two full-size planetarium theaters. The night sky has been visible from the historic Sky Theatre since 1930, while the all-digital StarRider Theatre is the first of its kind in the world and affords a virtual outer space experience in its 55-foot (17m) wide and three story high area. The Adler is also home to numerous exhibits including antique astronomical instruments dating back to 12th-century Persia and interactive displays.
The John Hancock building is Chicago's third highest skyscraper with a distinctive x-bracing exterior skin, and its Observatory competes with the facilities of the Sear's Tower Skydeck across town in the Financial District. Located on the 94th floor 1,000 feet (305m) above street level, the Observatory boasts the city's only open-air skywalk, as well as 360-degree views, a talking telescope, audio Skytours that provide an overview of the city with 16 stops, and the History Wall, with more than 100 photos featuring Chicago's history. Visitors can also have fun with some unique 'daring' photo opportunities. An annual 'Hustle up the Hancock' stair climb race up the 94 floors is held every February; the record time is nine minutes 39 seconds.
Chicago Children's Museum
The Chicago Children's Museum is a must for kids of all ages. Located on Navy Pier, the museum offers three floors of interactive exhibits offering plenty of hands-on fun. The main attraction at the museum is without a doubt the three-storey tall replica of a 1850s Schooner. The 'Inventing Lab', 'Waterways' and Dinosaur attractions are also highly popular with the little ones.
Chicago Botanic Gardens
A great place for families to unwind and relax with a picnic, is the Chicago Botanic Gardens. With plenty of wide-open space for kids to run around, the Botanic Gardens is one of Chicago's most tranquil and beautiful attractions. During the summertime, the Rose Garden, where over 7,750 plants are in full and glorious bloom, is a must and an unforgettable experience to wander through. There are also children's programmes available during the summer, check the website for information.
Chicago Loop Art Tour
The Loop Art Tour is a great way to see the stunning public art that adorns downtown Chicago, created by world-renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Joao Miro, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Henry Moore, and David Smith. This walking tour is accompanied by a free audio guide that can be downloaded from the Chicago Loop Alliance and includes visits to some of the city's best-known works of art, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, the Aon Center Plaza, Thompson Center, Daley Center, Chase Plaza, Federal Plaza, the Chicago Board of Trade Building, and Sears Tower. The entire tour takes about two hours, and is a good way to see the most scenic parts of the downtown Chicago Loop.
Museum of Science and Industry
The Museum of Science and Industry is by far one of the best attractions for children in Chicago. Featuring an exciting array of interactive exhibits, kids will love exploring all the museum has to offer. With an IMAX Theatre showing new films and educational documentaries, the learning experience is made fun.
Located alongside Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago in Grant Park, often referred to as the city's front yard, Buckingham Fountain is one of the city's most popular attractions and was the official starting point of US Route 66. Donated to the city by Kate Buckingham in memory of her brother on 26 August 1927, Clarence Buckingham, the fountain represents Lake Michigan and each sea horse symbolises a state bordering the lake. Water shows run every hour on the hour and last for 20 minutes. The last show of the night is at 10pm.
This stretch of Michigan Avenue in Chicago that runs from Chicago River to Oak Street is known as the Magnificent Mile. Famed for its nightlife, it also served as the main thoroughfare between Chicago's Loop business district and the Gold Coast. Visitors will love discovering everything the Magnificent Mile has to offer, from over 460 exclusive stores and boutiques to over 200 restaurants such as Spago, there is also fabulous architecture to be admired on a boat or trolley tour, including the Wrigley Building and the John Hancock Center. Indulge in a deep dish pizza, stroll past media houses like the Chicago Tribunenewspaper, stop to enjoy the local street performers, or watch the ambience of the Magnificent Mile change with the seasons where everything from tulips and lush gardens to weekly fireworks displays.
The world loves Oprah Winfrey and a visit to her production studios, Harpo, is a must for anyone visiting the windy city. While her famous talk show is no longer filming there, the television diva still uses the studios as one of the bases for her OWN tv network, and Rosie O'Donnell is now set to film her show for the channel at Harpo Studios.
Route 66 Sign
The world-famous Route 66 is colloquially known as the 'Main Street of America' or the 'Mother Road' as it originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending in Los Angeles. The stretch of highway has been immortalised by famous singers such as Nat King Cole and even the Rolling Stones and it has undergone some changes in the last few decades. The starting point in Chicago has moved a few times over the years and in 1933, the start (and end) was moved to Jackson and Lake Shore Drive. To cut a very long and complicated story short, the starting point remained here, so even while Adams Street at Michigan Avenue is marked as the starting point, Route 66 never actually departed from there. The recognised end of Route 66 is located at the intersection of Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue (which is marked as the terminus).
The Original Playboy Mansion
Designed by architect David Adler and built in 1899 for Dr George Swift Isham, the original Playboy Mansion was a 70-room classic French brick and limestone residence in Chicago. Playboy founder and editor in chief, Hugh Hefner, bought the mansion in 1959 and adorned the front door with a brass plate that read in Latin, Si Non Oscillas, Noli Tintinnare- If you don't swing, don't ring. Playboy is one of the most recognised and popular consumer brands in the world, and although the Playboy Mansion is now located in Los Angeles, the original Playboy Mansion is still a popular attraction for those visiting the city. Playboy's Corporate Headquarters are still located in Chicago.
Chicago History Museum
Chicago has a colourful and fascinating history, ranging from devastating fires to gangster assassinations and more. The Chicago History Museum has fascinating collections of artefacts from the city's past, including the first passenger car to operate on the Chicago L system, Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls jersey, and every postcard ever made of Chicago.
While Chicago is not well-known as a beach holiday destination, its position on the shore of Lake Michigan gives the city access to an extensive network of waterfront recreational areas operated by the Chicago Park District. There are over 26 miles (42km) of open and free lakefront to enjoy, including popular spots like Oak Street Beach and North Avenue Beach, the most fashionable places to see and be seen while enjoying the sun of a Chicago summer. The Rogers Park Beaches are also excellent: Howard Beach has a playground for children, while Pratt Beach offers tennis courts and jogging paths. Kathy Osterman Beach (formerly Hollywood Beach) is popular with is a great place for beach volleyball and has child-friendly shallow waters at the north end.
Cuisine style: Italian
Located in the Wicker Park area, this authentic and very retro Italian eatery conjures up images of wholesome Italian fare being cooked up in the kitchen by real Italian mammas. With homemade ravioli, Veal Parmigiana and their flagship dish, Chicken Vesuvio with roasted potatoes, peas, white wine and garlic, this cosy Chicago favourite is one of the best when it comes to tasty Italian cuisine. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner. Saturday and Sunday dinner only. Reservations accepted.
Address: 1824 W. Wabansia Ave
Penny's Noodle Shop
Cuisine style: Asian
Established by Thai native Penny Chiamopoulous, this simple and spacious Chicago eatery serves some delicious authentic Thai cuisine and other Asian fused dishes to perfection. Sample everything from Crab Rangoon, a crispy dumpling stuffed with cream cheese and seafood, and Tom Yum soup to Hot Pepper Noodles and Thai ravioli dumplings stuffed with shrimp & pork and served with BBQ pork, lettuce, green onions, cilantro and peanuts. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations not accepted.
Address: 950 W. Diversey Ave
Cuisine style: Oriental
Arun's has been called the finest Thai restaurant in the city and possibly the country too. Dinner is an ever-changing fixed-price menu comprising of a gourmet banquet of 12 exquisitely presented courses that puts the efforts of other Thai kitchens to shame. A special menu can be designed to suit individual tastes on calling ahead. The culinary experience is complemented by traditional Thai dÃ©cor and displayed artwork. Reservations are required with a credit card. Closed Monday. Dinner only.
Address: 4156 North Kedzie Avenue, Irving Park (North Side)
Cuisine style: International
Namesake of celebrity chef Charlie Trotter, this multi-award winning restaurant is regarded as one of the world's finest restaurants, producing haute cuisine that is highly original and inspired by subtle European and Asian influences. Trotter prides himself on the ability to combine foodstuffs and unusual flavour sensations in an unparalleled way and prepares his menus daily from the best of what is available seasonally. The Charlie Trotter's dining experience is through three fixed-price multi-course tasting menus: the Grand menu, which combines seafood, meat and grains, the Vegetable Menu and the Kitchen Table Menu. Advance reservations essential. Closed Sunday and Monday. Dinner only. Jacket required.
Address: 816 West Armitage Avenue, Lincoln Park
Cuisine style: French
Towering above the city with commanding views from the 40th floor, Everest is one of the city's premiere French dining rooms offering the world-renowned cuisine created by Alsatian chef Jean Joho. His distinctive style is a blend of 'noble' and 'simple' ingredients for unusual flavour combinations, such as caviar or foie gras with potatoes or cabbage, drawing inspiration from the cookery of his native Alsace. Everest includes classics like lobster and lamb, as well as a vegetarian menu, and some creative desserts. Closed Sunday and Monday. Dinner only. Reservations required.
Address: 440 South LaSalle Street, 40th Floor, One Financial Plaza building (The Loop)
Cuisine style: French
The black and white interior splashed by the colour of carefully chosen artwork provides a minimalist yet elegant setting for the prestigious patrons of Tru and its superb progressive French cuisine. The menu is divided into several fixed-price options ranging from three courses to a variety of multi-course 'collections' that showcase the creativity of the chefs. Excellent service, exquisite presentation and award-winning desserts compliment the dining experience. Closed Sunday. Dinner only. Reservations essential and jackets required.
Address: 676 North St Clair Street (Near North)
Morton's of Chicago
Cuisine style: American
King of the Chicago-style steakhouses, Morton's on North State is the original restaurant and upholds it reputation against stiff competition with huge succulent steaks cooked to perfection. It is famous for its signature tableside menu presentation, where a trolley is rolled out containing main course selections that are described in appetising detail by the server. The menu features a variety of cuts, including the house speciality, the 24-ounce (680g) porterhouse steak, as well as fresh fish, lobster, veal and chicken. Open daily for dinner. Reservations recommended.
Address: 1050 North State Street (River North)
The award-winning husband and wife team Rick and Deann Bayless serve authentic Mexican cuisine recreated from recipes gathered from across the border in both the casual Frontera Grill and in the adjoining, classier fine-dining Topolobampo. Frontera is brightly coloured and vibrant, with a changing menu based on Mexican home cooking. Topolobampo offers a luxury menu composed of pricier ingredients, including wild game and regional specialities. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Frontera accepts reservations for parties of five or more only; otherwise the waitlist can be very long. Reservations are accepted, and are recommended at Topolobampo.
Address: 445 North Clark Street (Near North)
Cuisine style: Indian
The high ceilings, clean lines, crisp white tablecloths and black and white photos clinging to the walls create an ambient yet stylish and sophisticated dining experience, where the Indian-Latin food is as contemporary as the restaurant. Indian tapas such as cilantro tamarind shrimp, coconut chilli mussels, and duck vindaloo arepa tantalise the taste-buds, while signature dishes include chilli-glazed blackened tamarind ribs served with amchur tortilla crisps and a sweet corn salsa, or fiery culinary delights such as the Desi goat curry in a rich Indian gravy served with naan. This restaurant lives up to its reputation as one of Chicago's finest eateries and does not disappoint. Reservations recommended on weekends. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner. Saturday and Sunday dinner only.
Address: 10 W. Hubbard St
Cuisine style: American
Chicago's chicest diners and celebrity clientele flock to this sought-after addition to the West's 'Restaurant Row', where the smart minimalist interior is the perfect backing to the ornate food presentation and creative renditions of French-influenced contemporary American food. The exterior of the restaurant is as stylish as the food, and the seasonal menu is creative yet simple and features dishes such as wood-grilled California sturgeon with English peas, braised peanuts, crispy bacon and bourbon carmel. Closed Sunday. No lunch Saturday. Reservations recommended.
Address: 619 West Randolph Street (West Loop)
Cuisine style: Japanese
Top-quality sushi and sashimi dishes are to be found in this funky-hip eatery that exudes a youthful ambience. Fresh fish is flown in daily for the sushi bar where several inventive chefs whip up a list of delicious offerings to order. Upstairs the futuristic sakÃ© lounge is the city's hippest place to sip sakÃ© or vodka with passion fruit. Dinner daily. Reservations recommended.
Address: 2020 West Division Street, Wicker Park
Cuisine style: Modern Eclectic
Claiming one of the prettiest settings in the city, North Pond is situated within the famous Lincoln Park, in a building that was originally an ice skaters warming house, overlooking Chicago's skyline. In keeping with the natural setting, chef Bruce Sherman emphasises organic produce and simple but delicious seasonal cuisine. The wine list focuses on boutique vintners. Dinner Tuesday to Sunday, lunch Tuesday to Friday (June to September), brunch on Sundays. Reservations recommended. Jacket and tie recommended for dinner.
Address: 2610 North Cannon Drive, Lincoln Park
Pizzeria Uno Chicago
Cuisine style: Italian
Pizzeria Uno is famous for its original Deep Dish Pizza, a pie-like crust stuffed with meat and fresh vegetables and cheese. This Chicago-style pizza originated at Pizzeria Uno in 1943 and both locals and out-of-towners pack into the panelled rooms for a filling meal. Other delicious dishes on the menu include Angus Beef steaks, ribs, and inventive new creations such as Chicken Milanese or Spicy Chicken Flatbread. There is often a wait, but regulars maintain it is more than worth it. Open from 11am daily.
Address: 29 E Ohio Street
Hot Doug's Inc
Cuisine style: Local
This modest-looking restaurant in Avondale is famous as the best place to get a Chicago-style hot dog, which traditionally consists of a steamed beef frankfurter on a poppy seed bun with all the condiments and trimmings you can imagine, including mustard, onions, sweet pickle relish, dill pickle slices and tomato wedges. Hot Doug's has an extensive menu though, including duck and rabbit sausage and Greek gyros, and many of the menu items are named after celebrities. Queues can be long at busy times, and remember to bring cash, as Hot Doug's doesn't accept cards or cheques. Open Monday to Saturday 10:30am-4pm.
Address: 3324 North California Avenue
Cuisine style: American
This restaurant is wildly popular for two things: the cheese fries and the cheeky attitudes of the staff. Modelled on a 50s-style diner, there are neon lights on the wall, waitresses dancing on the tables, and the brightly-coloured restaurant spans nearly a block. They say everyone needs to 'Eat at Eds' at least once. So go for a burger and chocolate shake, and save your change for the eight gumball machines!
Address: 640 N. Wells St.
Cuisine style: Pizzeria
Chicago-style deep dish pizza is famous, and some of the best you'll find is at Gino's East, baked fresh in cast-iron pans. The decor adds to the fun with walls covered completely in graffiti and etchings, and it's a tradition to contribute your mark once you've eaten there. Open 11am-9pm Monday to Thursday, 11am-11pm Friday and Saturday, and 12pm-9pm Sunday.
Address: 633 N. Wells St.
Cuisine style: Barbecue
Voted the best barbecue in Chicago, Smoque serves traditional Midwest barbecue like applewood-smoked baby back and St. Louis-style ribs, brisket (smoked for 15 hours), pulled pork (smoked for 12 hours) and sides like cornbread and mac and cheese. The restaurant is casual, and diners stand in line to order at the counter. Smoque's location outside of downtown Chicago makes it inconvenient for some tourists, but it is located near an El station and most diners say it's worth the trip! Open Tuesday to Sunday 11am-9pm, closes 10pm on Friday and Saturday.
Address: 3800 North Pulaski Road, Irving Park
O'Hare International Airport
Location: Chicago O'Hare is located 17 miles (30km) northwest of Chicago.
Contacts: Tel: +1 773 686 2200 or 773 686 3700.
Time Zone: GMT -6 (GMT -5 from March to November).
Transfer between terminals: A free automated rail system connects all terminals.
Facilities: Facilities at the airport include restaurants, bars, shops, duty free, bureaux de change, a bank and ATMs. The Hilton Athletic Club provides a health club, sauna, steam room and massage. Laptop Lane, in Terminal 1, offers fax, Internet and photocopying services. The nearby Hilton hotel provides more extensive services. There is a medical centre, AED units (defibrillators), baby-change facilities, a play area and a 24-hour interfaith chapel. Disabled facilities are good; those with special needs should inform their airline in advance.
Parking: Parking at Chicago O'Hare is divided into the main lots, international lots, economy lots, and valet lots, with an additional free Cell Phone Lot for pick-ups and drop-offs. Fees range from $2 per hour at the main lots, or $6 for two hours at the international lot, to $9 per day in the economy lots. Valet parking is also available.
Transfer to the city: Blue Line trains run every few minutes between the airport and downtown Chicago; the journey takes around 40 minutes and the fare is $2.25. For safety reasons travellers are advised against using the Blue Line at night. Taxi ranks are situated outside the arrivals hall in each of the airport terminals; the fare is around $40 for the 30-45-minute journey from the airport to downtown Chicago. There are two airport express services, Continental and Omega (phone: 773-734- 6688) which have coaches leaving from all the terminals every 10 minutes to central Chicago; the Omega Airport Shuttle also links O'Hare to Midway Airport.
Car rental: The major car hire companies represented at the airport include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz and National. Some companies are located off-site.
Chicago Midway International Airport
Location: 10 miles from Chicago between interstates I-90 and I-55
Contacts: Tel: +1 (773) 838-0600. Email: email@example.com
Facilities: The airport offers restaurants, cafes, gift shops, a business centre, ATMs and a chapel. Wireless internet costs $6.95 for a 24-hour period.
Parking: There is a six-level parking garage attached to the airport by a covered walkway, offering short-term rates ranging from $4 for the first hour to $10 for four hours, and long-term parking charges $10 for up to eight hours and a daily rate of $29. There are complimentary shuttle buses to the terminals running every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day.
Transfer to the city: Passengers transfering to Chicago can rent a car, or hire a limo or taxi. The Chicago Transit Authority's Orange Line runs from the airport to downtown Chicago, and Continental Airport Express has door-to-door service on shuttles leaving every 15 minutes.
Car rental: There are several car rental agencies based at Chicago Midway.
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