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whereisliz Chicago - A travel report by Liz
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Chicago,  United States - flag United States -  Illinois
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whereisliz's travel reports

Winter in My Kind of Town: Chicago

  19 votes

Chicago travelogue picture
Chicago -- the name conjures up images of gray skyscraper canyons funneling the bitter wind blowing off Lake Michigan. What could possibly be appealing about this place, especially in December? Turns out, my concept of Chicago seriously needed a reality check. Traveling there for the first time to visit relatives, I was unprepared for what I found: an abundance of music, art, architecture, food, friendliness, and holiday spirit with more to see and experience than I could accomplish in five months, let alone five days.

Favourite spots:
Chicago travelogue picture
To get the best value out of any trip, start by being an informed consumer: get a good guidebook. I like the Lonely Planet for Chicago, compact yet dense with information, well orgnized and unabashedly opinionated; a book with an attitude. Chicago is such a big subject, and I had such a short time to explore it, so this report is by necessity incomplete. So take what you can from it, and have fun discovering your own favorite spots. To get around the heart of Chicago, nothing beats the El Train System. A $1.50 will take you anywhere these trains run, including to and from the airports.

A few of the must-see spots: Sears Tower, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the architecture and sculpture in and around the center of town.

What's really great:
Chicago travelogue picture
The collection of the Art Institute of Chicago belongs on anyone's short list of museum must-visits. There are so many familiar faces among the galleries, it's like high school reunion; you're constantly running into someone you recognize. But in this case, every encounter is a delight and a pleasure. I didn't have enough time to take in everything on offer here, but who could blame me when the museum includes comprehensive collections of African American art, architecture, Asian art, European decorative arts, sculpture, Classical art, European painting, modern and contemporary art, photography, prints, drawings and textiles? The Art Institute, while spectacular, is only one of many museums with which the city is blessed. When I return I hope I'll have time to sample the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Museum of Broadcast Communications, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, among others.

Chicago travelogue picture
Even a Scrooge or a Grinch would have a tough time resisting the urge to get into the spirit of the season during Christmastime in Chicago.

In front of Marshall Field's department store, Polite crowds of all ages gather around windows filled with animatronic puppets, and the sidewalks churn with pedestrians clutching festively striped shopping bags in their gloved hands.

Commercial and civic buildings alike, wrap themselves in the decor of the season. Displays of trees, wreaths, and garlands (and sometimes menorahs, snowmen, Santas and angels) grace the lobby of each building I peer into as I explore downtown.

I enjoy a seasonal surprise in City Hall as I encounter a Christmas concert in full swing in the lobby of the grand old art deco building.

Chicago travelogue picture
I can personally recommend The Map Room, which has no cover charge for live music on weekends. 

The Map Room is a coffee house during the day and a hip live music venue featuring Blues and Jazz music on the weekends. It's an offbeat, neighborhood pub, decoraded with all kinds of maps, perfect for making the traveler feel at home!

The Map Room
1949 N. Hoyne, Chicago, IL 60647  773-252-7636 
Hours: Sun-Fri 6:30a.m.-2a.m., Sat 6:30a.m.-3a.m. 

Chicago travelogue picture
Arturo's Tacos 2001 N. Western Ave., Open 24 hrs.
A casual Mexican place, their menu features every conceivable meat from a pig or a cow, as well as poultry, fish, and veggie options.

Art Institute of Chicago's Restaurant on the Park
111 S. Michigan Ave., Hours: Mon - Sat 11am-2:30pm
It's no exaggeration to say that nearly every meal I ate in Chicago was memorable, but if pressed I'd have to confess the favorite during my limited visit was lunch in the restaurant of the Art Institute.

Cafe Laguardia 2111 Armitage Avenue
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 12-8pm
If you want to try something a little off the culinary beaten path, step out for Cuban food at Cafe LaGuardia. Dishes include savory Havana black bean soup, with sides of white rice, crunchy fried green plantains, and boiled casava with creamy garlic sauce.

A gem of a choice for breakfast, Toast is a little cafe with three locations (Bucktown, Lincoln Park, and River North).

And don't forget to try Chicago deep dish pizza!

Other recommendations:
Chicago travelogue picture
The spirit of the season is in motion, whether you're the type to strap on a pair of blades and go ice skating in Millennium Park, or just sit back and watch the world roll by to a clip-clopping beat in a horse-drawn carriage ride around the Loop in downtown.

You can't miss Chicago's official Christmas tree, a sparkling triangle that wedges itself into the geometry of Daley Plaza. The plaza also boasts an "authentic German market" where one can fulfill all one's holiday schnitzel needs.

No Christmas would be complete without a sighting of the big guy, Santa Claus, himself. I found him visiting with children in a snug little cottage in Daley Plaza.

So don't let the thought of cold and snow put you off a visit to Chicago in the winter, and you too can discover the glittering magic of this urban winter wonderland.

Published on Monday October 27th, 2003

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Sat, Feb 17 2007 - 08:46 PM rating by travler

Great report and excellent picutures. This is my kind of town. I always enjoy it when I visit here.

Thu, Sep 28 2006 - 08:57 AM rating by mrscanada

Chicago makes the best pizza in the world!

Sat, Nov 19 2005 - 02:38 PM rating by jesusferro

all your reports deserve 5 points!

Fri, Aug 13 2004 - 12:23 PM rating by bootlegga

The Field Museum is amazing. Next time you are Chi-town, I definitely recommend stopping by and spending the afternoon there

Sat, Dec 13 2003 - 11:02 AM rating by cycleboy

Excellent! I enjoyed the text and was deeply impressed by your pictures! I wonder why this report was not elected "Report of the Month".
Happy travels

Thu, Oct 30 2003 - 08:17 AM rating by marianne

I loved to read this, very informative. I like your style. Beautiful pictures

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