South of the Chicago River, beneath the rattle of the elevated trains, the Loop is an architectural showcase of shimmering 20th-century towers and 19th-century Art Deco buildings. The 108-story Sears Tower stands tall among corporate plazas, alive with music, markets and bustling trade centers. On State Street, by day shoppers peruse the goods in gigantic department stores like Macy’s and Carson Pirie Scott, while glitzy theatres stage top touring shows in the evening. To the east is the city’s new playground, Millennium Park, with its Frank Gehry-designed music pavilion. At the southern end, the Chicago Cultural Center and the Art Institute of Chicago balance corporate architecture with fine arts.
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North of the Chicago River is Magnificent Mile, a mile-long-stretch of ritzy shops and upscale multi-storied malls along Michigan Avenue. The streets east and west are rich in luxury hotels and some of the city’s most elegant restaurants. Boat tours and the Chicago Children’s Museum draw families to Navy Pier. To the west lies River North, a once-vibrant industrial district turned home to the city’s hottest nightspots, fashionable restaurants and art galleries. See it all from 96 floors up in the Signature Room of the John Hancock Center.
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Old Town, which lies above North Avenue, holds some of the best preserved 19th-century Victorian homes in the city. Stroll the leafy streets of this residential enclave and admire their stately facades. Sports bars and shiny new loft apartments pepper Wells Street. Comedy fans head to Second City to laugh along with rising stars. To the east, luxury modern apartment buildings and palatial townhouses fill quiet blocks along Lakeshore Drive on the Gold Coast. Contrasting with this serenity, raucous bars and late-night eateries burst with exuberant nightlife around Division and Rush streets, on the neighborhood’s southwestern edge.
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The sophisticated set, young singles and families come together in Lincoln Park. On the east side of the neighborhood, animal lovers can see rare lowland gorillas at the Lincoln Park Zoo, while outdoor enthusiasts can sunbathe, stroll or cycle along stylish North Avenue Beach. Offbeat and couture shops line Halsted and Clark streets, and Lincoln Avenue buzzes with music clubs, trendy bars and off-Loop theatres, including the acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre. Above Diversey Parkway, on Clark Street, it’s all about baseball. Wrigley Field, the ivy- covered home of the Chicago Cubs, draws a dedicated legion of fans. Banter about the team fills the surrounding sports bars. Brunch lovers can satisfy their appetites with a stack of fluffy pancakes at Ann Sather’s on Belmont.
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