Chicago Travel Guide

  • The giant ferris wheel at night.
    The giant ferris wheel at night.
    by paulcalle
  • Chicago River Cruise
    Chicago River Cruise
    by riorich55
  • The Bean in Millennium Park
    The Bean in Millennium Park
    by riorich55

Chicago Highlights

  • Pro
    Jefie profile photo

    Jefie says…

     The people, food, architecture, arts & entertainment 

  • Con
    rmdw profile photo

    rmdw says…

     Cold in the winter months, pockets of bad areas 

  • In a nutshell
    Etoile2B profile photo

    Etoile2B says…

     Big City with the heart of a small town. 

Chicago Things to Do

  • Willis Tower (Formerly Sears Tower)

    When it was built, Willis Tower was the tallest skyscraper in the world. It still lays claim to that title, being as its extended radio masts stretch up higher than any other building, but officially the Taipei 101 building has sneaked into the lead. Willis Tower does, however, at 412 m (1,353 ft) up, have the highest observation deck of any other...

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  • Michigan Avenue

    Walking along Michigan Avenue you can see Water Tower Plaza - a huge shopping mall that has a Disney store and other stores. "Filenes Bargain Basement" is supposed to be discount name-brands. You will see the Old Water Tower that is one of only two buildings to have survived the great Chicago Fire. There is a nice bookstore on the corner called...

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  • Millennium Park

    Chicago's Millennium Park is shrouded in controversy. Through delay and ballooning budget, it became known as "next Millennium Park". Costs spiralled from a proposed budget of just $10 million dollars, to an amazing half a billion. However, for that money, the city of Chicago got itself an impressive waterfront park, which has developed into one of...

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Chicago Hotels

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Chicago Restaurants

See all 1388 Restaurants in Chicago
  • Berghoff Bar & Restaurant

    The main restaurant of Berghoffs is closed. The bar will reopen under another name and the cafe will remain open, but the old panelled dining room will become a space for private catered parties. ------------------ You miss German food and beer? You want to get service on the grumpy side? This is the place. The pictured salmon dish was typically...

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  • Ed Debevic's

    This is something like what you would see out of "Happy Days." An old style diner, Ed's has burgers to modern dishes at a casual atmosphere. The waitstaff are fun and the food is good. A good place for families.

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  • Gino's East

    I often get the question of which deep dish pizza is the best in Chicago and I believe that it is Gino's East ... the trick of this pizza is just to order 2 topping's max !!! after that the pizza becomes almost too much to eat !!!! Be warned it takes about 45 minutes for these pizza to be served to you so know that in advance .... One of the must...

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Chicago Nightlife

See all 364 Nightlife in Chicago
  • Bars/Nightclubs

    Selected by Chicago Magazine as one of the outstanding bars in the City, the Scofflaw (in Logan Square) is well known for its lack of pretention (ahem, Violet Hour) and also for its genuine neighborhoodliness. A charming street corner tavern, it remains true to its roots and hasn't "prettified" itself beyond all recognition. I really enjoyed my...

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  • Theater

    One of the actors we worked with was starring at the Steppenwolf Theater, so we took time out one evening to see a production there. It's a prestigious theater, formed by great actors, such as a personal favourite of mine Gary Sinise. He continues to act there, supported by a whole spectrum of America's best acting talent, such as John Malkovich...

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  • Blues Clubs

    A friendly place, with great music and musicians, that's a lot more impressive inside than it shabby exterior suggests. Owned by the Blues legend Buddy Guy, the club gets rave reviews from the locals, and is arguably the best Blues club in the city. It's about 10 or 15 bucks for a night of Blues music, but you can turn up earlier in the day and...

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Chicago Transportation

  • CTA (city trains & buses, the EL)

    Chicago has a great public transport system with the famous El (Elevated Train), tied-in underground/subway/metro lines, and buses. One can get individual rides or buy tickets for extended periods of time such as several days giving unlimited rides. This makes getting around town easy and enjoyable. The El in particular is a fun way to get around...

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  • METRA and South Shore Line (suburban...

    Here's an idea to save some $$ - particularly if you are coming to the city on a busy summer or fall weekend and the downtown hotels are booked up. In that case, Priceline or Hotwire or any other internets booking service is not going to be much help. In that case - and especially on weekends - great deals can be found in some of the northland...

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  • O'Hare International Airport

    A common question for travelers coming into O'Hare from overseas when transferring through Chicago is how long immigration and customs takes. I personally wouldn't contemplate a layover with anything less than 2 hours especially if you are coming in on a visa or ESTA and after the line I saw on September 8, 2013, I probably wouldn't do it with...

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Chicago Shopping

See all 209 Shopping in Chicago
  • Magnificent Mile/Michigan Avenue

    North Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile, is one of the world's best shopping destinations, rivaling US streets like 5th Ave. in New York and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Shopping centers such as Water Tower Place and 900 N. Michigan offer hundreds of stores, along with plenty of other stores on the street, including: Hugo Boss, Armani, Louis...

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  • Marshall Field's

    I do not find anything especially unique or interesting about Water Tower Place. It's a big mall, that is about it. I would have you go to State and Washington for the 'original' department store (now a Macys)...Marshall Fields...This is truly one of the orginal dept stores in the country. There is a beautiful domed cieling with cermaic design by...

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  • Outlet Malls

    A question I see frequently on forum boards is regarding outlet shopping, mainly from visitors from overseas. There are no outlet malls located within the city of Chicago, most of them require that you have a car or take a commuter train and then a bus and quite honestly, I just don't think you get that good of a deal at the outlet malls. Many of...

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Chicago Local Customs

  • Festivals & Holidays

    Christkindlmarket is a German Christmas market at Daley Plaza that runs from around Thanksgiving to Christmas each year. If you are in Chicago around this time, be sure to stop by. Sample a variety of food and drink from Germany, including bratwurst, schnitzel, leberkaese, potato pancake, stollen, and gluehwein. There are also a variety of vendors...

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  • Eating & Drinking

    Beginning on Thanksgiving Day, and continuing until Christmas Day, there is an old world outdoor German Winter Market in Daley Plaza. It's so much fun, I go there every year, and am always bringing new friends! The Christkindlmarket is full of booths of special gifts to buy, and German foods and drinks! There are hot pretzels, German holiday...

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  • People

    Chicago lies in the midwest of the US and is considered an almost exemplary city of this region. As such, it tends to carry those midwestern values such as being helpful. Of course, you'll still find rude people in Chicago (some taxi drivers, some bus drivers) but you'll find rude people anywhere you go. For the most part, I found people were...

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Chicago Warnings and Dangers

  • Common Sense Advice / Sketchy...

    I've lived in Chicago for most of my life and know the city well. Down town area is fairly safe but watch out for groups of teenagers as they have been jumping and mugging people the last few years. Put your IPhone away in transit stops. If someone comes up to you and starts to talk to you at a bus stop etc watch around you for others. Do not go...

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  • Parking

    Updated 9/16/13 Parking in Chicago is expensive, especially during the week. Sometimes you can get early bird specials on the weekdays if you come early enough. If you are coming in by plane, you should not need to have a car. If you are lucky enough to find a free or metered spot on the street, check all the signs very carefully. There are...

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  • Beggars & Scam Artists

    I was stopped on a street by a guy who offered to shine my shoes. His friend walked away by about 15 feet, but stayed close by. I turned down the shine, but the man insisted he wanted to show me his skills and would do it for free. I tried to politely decline, but the next thing I know, he's already on the ground putting polish on my shoe. I let...

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Chicago Tourist Traps

  • Sears Tower or John Hancock Building

    Getting up there is not all too cheap. And before you get on the elevator, they force you to pose for a picture with a fake background. On your way out, they try to sell you that picture for nearly $30. Then they force you to pass through a long hall of gift shops instead of walking straight out. Take in the views at the top though. That's one...

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  • Navy Pier

    The Navy Pier is a long concrete pier that extends into Lake Michigan. Along the pier are a number of restaurants and embarkation points for some of the lake cruises. There are also some carnival style attractions: a ferris wheel, miniature golf course, etc. All of this sounds okay, but the pier is usually crowded, the restaurants are overpriced...

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  • Restaurants

    I cannot take credit for the name - I read it in a recent article about the new McDonalds. Boy is it accurate though. I hate this strip of Ohio/LaSalle/Clark. It is NOT at all representative of Chicago as a city. This includes the Rain Forest Cafe (jungle theme- good for little kiddies with limited attention spans), The Hard Rock Cafe (basically a...

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Chicago What to Pack

  • You Never Know!

    I like luggage with many pockets, but you can use about anything. When I get to a new place, I usually buy a bag from that place to carry around and put in all the miscellaneous maps, brochures and postcards inside. In Summer, it's generally warm, so I would suggest some light clothing and swimsuit for the beach, but beware! In Chicago, you never...

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  • Wrap up warm!

    It gets really cold in Chicago in the winter, and I mean *really cold*! You will need a good coat, a hat, gloves, a scarf and anything else to keep wam and out of the wind. During the weekend in December 2008 we visited a bar in downtown Chicago and left around midnight, when we left the bar it was around -15 Celcius, which in itself is pretty...

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  • Don't forget the thermals

    If you're traveling to Chicago any other time than summer, be prepared for the cold weather. The weather can be unpredictable, even in the late Spring. Be sure to bring some thermals and warm clothing in case there's a cold spell. The temperatures drop into the negative in the winter and can drop down to 20 during April.

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Chicago Off The Beaten Path

  • Architecture & Public Art (outdoor)

    If you're in the University of Chicago area, have a look at this massive concrete sculpture (it was originally supposed to be carved in granite). It dates from 1915, sculptor Lorado Taft (whose workshop was nearby) and was intended to commemorate the first 100 years of peace between the US and the UK. The sculpture and its pool lie at one end of...

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  • Cemeteries

    Cemeteries, particularly those with extensive burials from 1840 onward, have always held a fascination for me. I do so mainly to (1) observe the art of how people wish to be remembered and (2) make a connection with people I view as important, either to the world or to myself. Chicago has two cemeteries excellent for both activities: Rosehill and...

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  • Neighborhoods-other

    Chicago has a number of defined neighborhoods. Somewhat like the Parisian arrondissements they have somewhat of a unique feel and separate identify. One such neighborhood that I had never been to before (I've driven by and through it, but never walked around is Logan Square. I joined a photography group this year that ventures into a number of...

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Chicago Sports & Outdoors

  • Individual Sports: Biking, Golfing,...

    Sunday August 25, 2013, in 2010 the starting location changed from the University of Chicago Campus in Hyde Park to the University of Illinois-Chicago campus at Morgan and Taylor streets, in 2011 renamed from the Boulevard Lakefront Tour (BLT) to the Four Star Bike Tour, renamed again in to the 2013 Four Star Bike & Chow 2013 was the 7th time...

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  • ICE HOCKEY - Chicago Blackhawks at the...

    I had never seen a live ice hockey game so when my husband's cousin mentioned he had season tickets I said "hey if you are ever looking to get rid of a couple of those tickets..." and sure enough one day he dropped off a couple for April 1st (I did look in the paper to see if he was pulling an April's Fools Day joke!). The Hawks play at the United...

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  • BASEBALL - Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field

    On our last visit to Chicago, we decided to take in a Cubs game because LJ had never been to a professional baseball game. Knock another thing off the bucket list!!! Was a wonderful day with lots of sun and a cool breeze. Sets were perfect and all has a great time.

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Chicago Favorites

See all 445 Favorites in Chicago
  • Local Specialities

    Chicago is really a foodie paradise and they have many native food concoctions than the new yorkers hehehe and one of this really good native invention is the Italian Beef which I watched from the Discovery Travel Channel so thanks a lot Adam Richman for the info hence I must try this delight before leaving chicago right! Italian beef is a sandwich...

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  • City Pass

    If you are in Chicago for longer than a few days and you are planning to cram a lot into your visit, you might consider getting a CityPass which includes the following 5 attractions: Willis (Sears) Tower Skydeck (fastpass) The Field Museum (all access pass) Shedd Aquarium (VIP pass that avoids lines to all three parts) Adler Planetarium OR Art...

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  • Walking

    If you are walking and shopping on State Street in Chicago during the holidays (November and December), be sure to stop by the Macy's on State Street (111 N. State St.) to check out their beautiful holiday window displays. Also be sure to visit inside the store itself to see Christmas decorations as well as a giant Christmas tree.

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Instant Answers: Chicago

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Comments (4)

  • riorich55's Profile Photo
    Apr 17, 2013 at 6:55 PM

    If you are planning to come to Chicago let me know and I'll help you put together a personal agenda based upon your interest.

  • Dabs's Profile Photo
    Mar 26, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    Lollapalooza tickets are on sale, the lineup will be available April 9th. August 2-4, 2013 www.lollapalooza.com

  • Dabs's Profile Photo
    Jan 2, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    Is this where we are supposed to post things like the CTA rate hike that is scheduled for January 2013? Or the new block of tickets that is going on sale for the very popular "Book of Mormon"?

  • riorich55's Profile Photo
    Jan 2, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    Let me know if you are coming to Chicago! I've given several personal tours to other VTers when they have landed in our town. If I'm available I can give you a personal guided tour also.

    • giampiero6's Profile Photo
      Jan 2, 2013 at 11:53 AM

      Non commercial and just a VT member in good standing :)

    • ranger49's Profile Photo
      Jan 2, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      riorich55 -That sound fine to me and the sort of useful information I would have hoped/expected to find here!

 
Explore Deeper into Chicago
John Hancock Center
Things to Do
Navy Pier
Things to Do
Shedd Aquarium
Things to Do
Field Museum of Natural History
Things to Do
Art Institute
Things to Do
Trolleys (some are FREE)
Transportation
Grant Park - Buckingham Fountain
Things to Do
Driving/Parking
Transportation
Amtrak (U.S. train network)
Transportation
Greyhound/Megabus (U.S. bus system)
Transportation
Taxis
Transportation
Eating & Drinking
Nightlife
Suburban delights
Off The Beaten Path
Museums
Off The Beaten Path
Giordano's
Restaurants
The EL (Elevated Train)
Warnings and Dangers
Jazz clubs
Nightlife
Pizzeria Uno/Pizzeria Due
Restaurants
Beaches and Parks
Off The Beaten Path
Oak Park/Frank Lloyd Wright
Off The Beaten Path
Signature Room at the 95th
Restaurants
Cheesecake Factory
Restaurants
Clothing & Accessories
Shopping
Airport Shuttles
Transportation
Lou Malnati's
Restaurants
Dishonest Taxi Drivers
Warnings and Dangers
Signature Lounge-Hancock
Nightlife
Eating & drinking
Off The Beaten Path
Live Music-other
Nightlife
Greek Islands
Restaurants
Weather
Warnings and Dangers
Bahai Temple
Off The Beaten Path
Eating & Drinking
Shopping
FOOTBALL - Chicago Bears at Soldier Field
Sports & Outdoors
Flea Markets & Antiques
Shopping
Comedy Clubs
Nightlife
BASEBALL - Chicago White Sox at US Cellular Field
Sports & Outdoors
State Street
Shopping
Maxwell Street Market
Shopping
History
Local Customs
Map of Chicago

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