From modern art to deep-pan pizzas, Chicago offers the visitor a unique feast of culture and entertainment. Lucinda Housley breezes around some of the Windy City’s most spectacular sights
1. Art Institute of Chicago
Laid out in a grid system along Lake Michigan, Chicago is an easy city to explore on foot. A good place to start your tour is the south end of Michigan Avenue, Chicago’s busiest and liveliest street. On your right, you will see Grant Park, home to Buckingham Fountain and the Art Institute of Chicago museum. At this location since 1893, the Art Institute museum is one of the city’s most beautiful buildings, and houses a world-famous collection of Impressionist and American art. As you enter the first things you will notice are the two bronze lions, sculpted by Edward Kemeys, which flank the main entrance. Inside, the highlights of the vast collection include Monet’s Houses of Parliament and Water Lilies, Picasso’s The Old Guitarist, Toulouse-Lautrec’s At the Moulin Rouge, and Wood’s American Gothic, to name but a few. The museum also boasts a scenic sculpture garden and an impressive collection of modern art. Tel +1 312 443 3600, visit artic.edu. Entrance US$8.
2. Millennium Park
For a true celebration of architecture, art and the outdoors, head north on Michigan Avenue to the 24-acre Millennium Park. The park opened in 2004 after six years of construction, and is characterised by various monumental sculptures. At Crown Fountain, the faces of a thousand Chicagoans are displayed in rotation on 15m towers, with their mouths spurting water. Most stunning of all is the 110-tonne stainless steel sculpture Cloud Gate, designed by British artist Anish Kapoor to reflect the city’s people, skyline and clouds. Millenniumpark.org.
3. Pizzeria Uno
Once you’ve worked up an appetite walking round Millennium Park, keep heading north on Michigan Avenue and turn left onto Ohio Street. Walk two blocks to the west until you see Wabash Avenue, and you’re at the home of Pizzeria Uno. No trip to the Windy City is complete without a slice of the casserole-like deep-dish pizza, which requires a knife and fork to tuck into. The deep dish was first invented here in 1943, and there are large crowds gathering outside most evenings. It will take around 30-45 minutes for your deep-dish pie to arrive, and do not be surprised if you feel completely full after your first gooey piece. For a really authentic experience, forget the new menu’s more creative pizza toppings and choose from old favourites cheese, sausage or pepperoni. For the same tasty deep dish with a more outdoors atmosphere, walk across the street and try Uno’s sister restaurant, Pizzeria Due. Tel +1 312 321 1000 or visit unos.com.
4. The Drake Hotel
When you’ve had your fill of Chicago deep dish, continue north on Michigan Avenue for about nine blocks until you reach the Drake Hotel, a Chicago icon of style and luxury since 1920. A long-time favourite destination of dignitaries and celebrities from Marilyn Monroe to Princess Diana, the Drake’s sumptuous interior of royal blue, gold and rich red carpet adds a traditional, old-world feel. Sip afternoon tea and listen to live harp music in the Palm Court, a beautifully decorated room characterised by a large floral arrangement atop a limestone fountain. Tea, finger sandwiches, fruit breads, jams and scones cost US$21.50. Tel +1 312 787 2200, thedrakehotel.com.
5. Hancock Observatory and Signature Room
For a truly unforgettable view of Chicago’s sparkling city lights, visit the reigning king of the Magnificent Mile, the John Hancock Center. A defining feature of the Chicago skyline since 1969, the tower is located at 875 Michigan Avenue. For the best view, skip the observatory deck and instead take the ear-popping elevator ride up to the 95th-floor Signature Room. Here you can enjoy gourmet fare and cocktails while taking in a breathtaking view of the city and several surrounding states from 337m up (request a window table). If you haven’t time for a full dinner, check out the lunch buffet for the experience of eating at cloud level. Prices range from US$29 to US$44 for an entrée, and the buffet lunch (available Mon-Sat) will set you back US$18. Tel +1 312 787 9596, signatureroom.com.