During our 16-hour journey, on a dog-eared page of a novel, we discovered an interesting historical fact about Chicago, USA. In 1871, in a farm south of Chicago, a cow kicked a lantern, which ignited some hay, which further lit some lumber, and caused the entire city to light up in flames. Centuries later, as we drove out of O’Hare International Airport, our groggy eyes weren’t prepared for the magnificent and towering skyscrapers that stretched as far as we could see. It took less than a second for the city of Manhattan to pop up in our minds. The Windy City, however, is a less-crowded and cleaner version of the concrete jungle. Although it is packed with buildings, it is spacious and well-planned. You can never go wrong with Google maps here. Chicago also has parks that sprawl over acres of lands, and a hint of greenery every few miles. Here’s how you can make the most of the city in a short span of time.
Sky is the limit
Chicago is renowned for its bold architecture. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that most of the tourist attractions overlook the beautiful skyline brimming with skyscrapers. The Willis Tower, Chicago’s tallest building, situated in the Loop (business) district, is one such spot. The ear-popping, 60-second elevator ride to the Skydeck transports you to the heavens. You can stroll around and get a spectacular view, spanning four different states, or step on to the Ledge — a glass box jutting out in mid-air. Be prepared to feel a tad light-headed; the ledge that peers 103-floors down the Wacker Drive is not meant for the faint-hearted. But once you get accustomed, the view is addictive. For a similar ‘high’, you can also enjoy drinks on the 96th floor at the buzzy Signature Lounge, located in the iconic John Hancock Centre on Michigan Avenue.
They say the best way to discover a city is by foot. We’d say the best way to discover Chi-town is by the boat tour that cuts through downtown, weaving past dozens of skyscrapers. Our tour guide pointed out to the Trump International Hotel and Tower, and said, “The 98-storey building was designed by architect Adrian Smith. The tallest structure in the world, The Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, was also built by the same firm.” As we drifted downstream, she pointed out to the only building that had an unobstructed view of the lake — Lake Point Tower. It is believed that American philanthropist-TV host Oprah Winfrey is a resident of this building. “It was built years ago due to a loophole in the system. No other skyscraper was allowed to be built as close to Lake Michigan ever after,” she explained.
Lose track of time
Make sure you keep your camera handy on your visit to the Millennium Park in the Loop district. The Bean or the Cloud Gate that draws a large crowd every day is situated in this park. British artist of Indian origin Anish Kapoor’s massive, mirrored-surface sculpture, The Bean, reflects the city’s skyline and the mesmerised onlookers. Grant Park, which boasts a large fountain, known as the Buckingham Fountain, is a five-minute walk from Millennium Park. If you have missed out on the architecture tour, then a stroll down The Magnificent Mile is a must. You will see some of the most fascinating buildings, including the neo-gothic Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower, which has stones from 120 iconic spots around the world. This stretch of Michigan Avenue is definitely not called Mag Mile for nothing. You can also walk down the The Navy Pier. Once a Lake Michigan dock and warehouse, the Navy Pier, is now one of the liveliest spots in the city, with a bevy of restaurants and places to shop. The gigantic Ferris wheel is the most prominent structure on the pier, which is located in the Streeterville neighbourhood.
A foodie’s haven
While strolling down the street, you will often be pulled back by the whiff of caramel in the air. Chicago is famous for its Garrett Popcorn. It is found in various nooks and corners of the city. The most recommended flavour is the Garrett Mix, a combination of caramel and cheese popcorn. You haven’t truly experienced Chicago if you haven’t tried the Deep Dish Pizza. The crunchy deep pie-like crust oozes mozzarella cheese. It is topped with a layer of meat or vegetables of your choice, and finished with some tomato sauce. Giordano’s is the most recommended chain for the Chicago-style pizza.