Chicago is often referred to as “The Second City.” This nickname was originally created in the 1950s by a columnist with the New Yorker magazine who used it as a derogatory reference to Chicago. He said the city was second to New York City in terms of population and everything else.
He couldn’t have been more wrong. The city of Chicago takes a backseat to no one.
Whether it’s food, architecture, arts, culture, business, nightlife, sports or anything else, Chicago has it all. And what it has is world class.
My wife and I visited for a week during the summer as a vacation and had an amazing time. We took in the sites, devoured the food, experienced the history, laughed through the shows, and fell in love with this amazing place.
With so much to experience, we packed our week full of things to do. Whether it was taking in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, watching the polar bears play at the Lincoln Park Zoo, catching a performance of Second City, listening to music at the Blues festival, eating a Chicago-style pizza or hot dog, getting a picture under The Bean in Millenium Park, or hanging out on Navy Pier, we did it all during our time in the Windy City.
It’s hard not to spend time doing something, because there are always so many great things to do.
During our visit in the summer, the weather was nearly perfect. It was comfortable during the day and just cold enough at night that you’d need a light jacket. I’m scared of what it’d be like to visit Chicago during the winter, but our time couldn’t have been more pleasant.
We were fortunate to be able to stay with a friend, who lived in a fantastic apartment in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. We had easy access to a train and it didn’t take longer than 15 minutes to an incredible variety of restaurants, shopping, and other city icons. We could walk to Old Town or spend time in the newly developed section of Lincoln Park, and both were great places to hang out.
As much as I’m trying, it really is hard to capture the amazing diversity of Chicago. There’s diversity in the food. There’s diversity in the people. There’s diversity in the architecture. Clearly, there’s diversity in the amount of things I can say there’s diversity in.
Because we did so much, I’m going to point out some of the highlights from our trip. I’d highly recommend any of these things if you get the opportunity. And even if you can’t, I’m sure there are plenty of other great things you can do.
Lincoln Park Zoo - Not only it this one of the last free zoos in the United States, the Lincoln Park has an awesome collection of animals and exhibits. With bears, tigers, lions, giraffes, seals, and much more, you could easily spend a day at the zoo hanging out with all the animals. I had low standards when I heard the zoo was free, but it was one of the coolest zoos I’ve been to.
Navy Pier - While much of Navy Pier is a cheesy, tourist trap, there are some great parts of it worth checking out. It’s home to the Chicago Children’s Museum, which has some interesting exhibits that kids of all ages will enjoy, and it’s also where you’ll find the Stained Glass Museum, which is tucked away near the end of the Pier. It’s also one of the best spots to walk and look back at the phenomenal Chicago skyline.
Millenium Park - There are music festivals. There are gardens. There are monuments. There’s so much to Millenium Park that makes it more than a traditional park. It was the host site for the Chicago Blues Festival when we were visiting and it’s a fantastic venue for live performances. You can have a picnic in the park on a nice day and getting your picture taken in front of the Bean is one of the things you MUST do when in Chicago.
Second City - While Saturday Night Live features some of the most talented performers in the country, many of them came from Second City before joining SNL. The shows at Second City are an outstanding combination of comedy and perspective on current issues in society, and it’s a fantastic show to see in Chicago.
Cubs game at Wrigley Field - As a sports fan, Wrigley Field is one of the stadiums that has always been on my bucket list. The Cubs were terrible, but that didn’t affect our experience at all. The history and charm of Wrigley Field made it an awesome afternoon. It’s the closest thing to going back to a different era as I think you can get when it comes to watching a game.
French Market - This isn’t the traditional farmers market we usually look for when we visit a city, but it’s still just as cool. The french market features a variety of vendors that serve different foods - from traditional American foods to diverse ethnic options. You can get fresh produce and baked goods as well as plenty of things that are cooked to order.
Chicago Food - Chicago could make an argument as being the best food city in America. I wouldn’t argue against anybody who says that. Between Chicago-style pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and much more, this city is a foodie’s dream. As we always do on vacation, we spent the week eating and trying as many different things as we could. It was amazing.
Chicago Riverwalk - Make sure you have your camera ready for this beautiful walk along the bank of the Chicago River. The incredible architecture stands out against the water and the skyline and the walk allows you to take it all in at your own pace. Boat tours along the Chicago River have become extremely popular, but I enjoyed the Riverwalk because it gave us more flexibility in how long we wanted to be there.
We packed as much as we could into one visit to Chicago. I’m certain we could go back and spend a week doing entirely different things. I can’t wait for that opportunity to present itself again.
- Al's Beef
- Argo Tea Cafe
- Big Star
- Billy Goat Tavern
- Franks & Dawgs
- Frietkoten Belgian Fries & Beer
- Frontera Grill
- Glazed & Infused
- Hot Doug's
- Katherine Anne Confections
- Kuma's Corner
- Lou Malnati's
- Lucky's Sandwich Company
- Mario's Italian Lemonade
- Tortas Frontera