A multicultural haven, shopper’s dream and artist’s inspiration; Deirdre Flannery feels the Chicago breeze.
Chicago is fondly known by many as ‘the Windy City’, not because of the strong breezes that blow in from Lake Michigan, circling the soaring skyline, but because the politicians hailing from America’s third largest city are said to be full of hot air. The current, highly infused political climate lives up to this standard, with Illinois senator, Barack Obama aiming for the White House.
Chicago is also known traditionally as the ‘Home of the Blues’, and live music bars are easy to come by. Some of the best include guitar legend, Buddy Guy’s bar, located in the South Loop, and Kingston Mines, a favourite among students, which opens till 5am on weekends and is situated in the trendy Lincoln Park area.
Unfortunately its atmospheric value can no longer be increased by describing it as ‘smoke-filled’ as since the start of this year, smoking has been banned in Chicago workplaces.
The Eastern European district of Wicker Park has gradually established itself as the bohemian area of Chicago, full of quirky thrift stores and indie venues. Chinatown is also not to be missed Cityby those in search of trinkets and cultural diversity.
Chicago’s most famed shopping district is the ‘Magnificent Mile’, which runs right along Michigan Avenue, and includes all the American favourites such as Tiffany’s, Macy’s, Ralph Lauren and a host of classic couture stores, as well as high street favourites such as the fabulously cheap Forever 21.
Water Tower Place, which crowns the top of the Magnificent Mile, is certainly worth a look; not just for the selection of shops but also for the elegant architecture.
The buildings alone justify the trip to Illinois’s biggest city, and it is no surprise that the mixture of turn-of-the-century charm, Art Deco and futuristic frameworks provided the backdrop for The Dark Knight’s Gotham City.
The architecture tour which goes by boat along the Chicago River is the best way to appreciate the classic construction work. If you’re looking for a birds-eye view however, you may want to venture up the Sears Tower, the tallest building in the US, which has undoubtedly the premier panorama.
The bridge at Michigan Avenue leads to Millennium Park, the lakeside haven which contributed greatly to Chicago’s candidacy for the 2016 Olympic Games. Scattered with beautiful Romanesque architecture, the park boasts a large outdoor stage which frequently plays host to free concerts, as well as some unusual water fountains and installation pieces.
Chicago’s charm perhaps lies in the fact that such glorious greenery and bustling industry lie side by side, proving that business can indeed be mixed with pleasure. The concrete jungle effect is further diminished by the golden sands which line the lakeside, as the city is literally built on the beach. A day’s shopping may be ended by a quick swim and a cocktail at a beachside bar, followed by fireworks at Navy Pier.
Of course, this applies to the summer months only, as November sees the city freeze over. Still, there’s always the opportunity for a boat cruise on the lake, which may in fact involve more boozing than cruising.
Further additions to Chicago’s ‘wind bag’ status are talk show queen Oprah, and disgraced town mayor turned TV star, Jerry Springer. Audience tickets for both of their TV shows are free but must be booked in advance.
Chicago’s culture ranges from couture to classic construction, and in such beautiful and diverse surroundings it’s hard not to get swept away by the Windy City.