In Chicago, downtown means the Loop, which refers to the skyscrapers and museums encircled by the rumbling elevated train tracks of the urban transport system. North across the river, designer shops and multi-story department stores line the shopping stretch of Michigan Avenue known as the Magnificent Mile. A few blocks west, River North is home to sleek clubs, art galleries, and loft dwellings. To the north, the tree-lined streets of residential Gold Coast and Old Town make for scenic strolling. Lincoln Park mixes blues clubs, trendy restaurants, and the famed Steppenwolf Theatre.
The fashion fan’s first stop in Chicago is Magnificent Mile, the first mile north of the loop on Michigan Avenue. Sophisticated shopping dominates here, with upscale chains, multi-story malls and chic boutiques. Fans of yesterday’s styles come to Lakeview, where shops stocked with funky antiques, collectibles and vintage clothing line Lincoln Avenue. In Lincoln Park, Halstead Avenue and Clark Street draw the young professional set to designer housewares shops like CB2 and Tabula Tua, and stylish kids wear at Stinky Pants.
No visit to Chicago is complete without a signature tomato sauce- and cheese-filled deep dish pizza. But don’t stop there: a world of culinary flavours unfolds beneath Chicago’s crust. Hearty eaters can dig into a juicy steak in a mahogany-walled downtown steakhouse, or twirl spaghetti in a Little Italy trattoria. Splurge on a star chef’s innovative take on seafood in an elegant Lincoln Park bistro, or electrify your taste buds with fusion delicacies at a sushi counter.
Impressionist canvases and contemporary sculptures adorn the Art Institute of Chicago, while multicolored quilts and graffiti decorate the walls of Intuit: The Center of Intuitive and Outsider Art. Take a virtual reality tour into space at the Adler Planetarium or watch exhibits come to life at the Museum of Science and Industry. At night, join in a performance of the Blue Man Group at Briar State Theatre or groove to blues in the roadhouse ambience of Buddy Guy’s Legends.
Chicago’s history is imprinted in its wide array of architecture. Grand skyscrapers line the Loop’s streets, anchored by the mighty, geometric Sears Tower. An architectural tour sweeps through the 20th century, from the Gothic 1925 Tribune Tower to the 1980s NBC Tower, layered like a wedding cake. A walk down the leafy streets of Old Town takes you past some of the best-preserved 19th -century homes in the city. For a more comprehensive taste of the past, the Chicago History Museum covers everything from the 19-century dresses of immigrants to local basketball star Michael Jordan memorabilia.