Chicago’s landmarks, from its skyscrapers to the curve of its long lakeshore, and the faces of its residents, all exude a sense of self-assurance and pride. Chicago is a great example of what can be accomplished by hard work and determination in the United States, and a visit to the Windy City will give you a taste of the values of the American Midwest.
In Chicago, visitors can choose from a wide variety of must-see destinations, many of which provide spectacular vantage points of the city’s iconic skyline. The city’s location on the shores of Lake Michigan has resulted in a beautiful waterfront, complete with parks and a pier full of attractions. Chicago, the third-largest city in the United States, has a lot going for it and is well worth a visit.
The John G. Shedd Aquarium, which shares the Museum Campus on the lakefront with the Field Museum, is home to over 32,500 fish and more than 1,500 different species of marine life. The aquarium, which opened in 1930, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, drawing over two million visitors annually.
The museum’s exhibits are separated into distinct sections, such as the “Caribbean Reef” and the “Amazon Rising,” the latter of which won an award. A lot of people enjoy seeing the dolphins and beluga whales in the Oceanarium at the aquarium.
Field Museum of Natural History
To a large extent, the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago can be credited with inspiring the establishment of the Field Museum of Natural History. The museum’s original intent was to provide a venue for displaying Fair exhibits, but it soon grew to house a wide variety of natural history artifacts and displays.
When the Museum Campus was established in 1921, it relocated to its current location in Grant Park. From African elephants and other large taxidermied animals to Native American artifacts, this museum has it all. While the museum houses millions of specimens, the 12 meter (40 foot) long Tyrannosaurus skeleton known as “Sue” is the most popular exhibit.
Architect Edward Bennett modeled the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park after the Latona Fountain in Versailles to create this Beaux Arts masterpiece. The spray from this font can be up to 15 stories high, making it famous for its massive size and impressive visual impact.
The pool represents Lake Michigan, and the four water-spouting sea horse statues are said to represent the four states that border the lake. Kate Sturges Buckingham, an art patron who inherited her family’s fortune at age 32, gave this fountain to the city.
When “Chicago’s Grandest Spinster” died in 1927, she left the city of Chicago the Buckingham Fountain as a memorial to her brother and set up a trust fund to ensure the fountain’s upkeep forever. The fountain is a well-known Chicago landmark, having appeared in the opening credits of Married with Children and Crime Story, among other shows.
360 Chicago Observation Deck
The Lakefront Trail has some beautiful vistas, but the 360 Chicago Observation Deck has the best views in the city. Views of the cityscape, Michigan Lake, and the Magnificent Mile can all be enjoyed from the 94th floor of the building formerly known as the John Hancock Center.
In addition to taking in the breathtaking views, which can extend as far as 90 kilometers on a clear day, visitors to the bar atop this supertall skyscraper can also relax with a beverage. If the breathtaking sunsets weren’t enough to entice you, TILT, an extreme ride, tilts so you can look down 300 meters to the city streets and see them from a whole new perspective.
There is no better symbol of Chicago’s character than the river that cuts through the middle of the city. Chicago finished an incredible engineering project in 1900 by turning the flow of the Chicago River in the opposite direction. Several canal locks were built to divert the water to the Mississippi rather than Lake Michigan.
There is now a mile-long pedestrian Riverwalk along the south bank of the river as it winds through the downtown district, providing a lush green space where tourists can stroll while taking in the sights of the city. The city’s most famous landmarks can be seen from a different perspective on river cruises that provide interesting historical context.
Millennium Park had a history of missed deadlines and budget overruns long before it ever opened. But the biggest surprise of all was that, once completed, it was actually quite pleasant.
Besides greenery and open space, the park is home to several notable modern sculptures made of steel and glass. These include Frank Gehry’s Pritzker Pavilion, where concerts are held outdoors, and Chicago’s newest must-photo attraction, The Bean (also known as Cloud Gate). In the winter, an ice rink welcomes skaters, and in the summer, it transforms into an outdoor dining area.
Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago is a must-see because it is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the United States. Its expansive exhibitions and galleries are located in the enormous Grant Park and are housed in a beautiful Beaux-Arts building that was constructed for the 1893 World Expo.
Established in 1879, the museum’s impressive collection features works by artists such as Magritte, Monet, Renoir, Rembrandt, and Picasso. The museum has artifacts and works of art from all over the world, including those from Africa and Asia, though it is best known for its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. Two of the most well-known examples of this style in the United States are American Gothic by Grant Wood and Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.
Despite criticism that the Sears Tower (renamed Willis Tower in 2009) has lost some of its luster since it was dethroned as the world’s tallest building, it continues to be one of Chicago’s most visited landmarks.
Elevators in the 1973-completed, 108-story building can travel as fast as 1,600 feet per minute, making it one of the fastest in the world. On a windy day, visitors can feel the building sway beneath them as they stand on the Skydeck, which is located on the building’s 103rd floor and is reached after a short ride of only 70 seconds. Views of Lake Michigan and the neighboring states of Michigan and Wisconsin can be seen from the Skydeck.
The fantastic Navy Pier, which extends into Lake Michigan and features numerous exciting attractions perfect for families, is another of Chicago’s must-see attractions. The mile-long pier is filled with restaurants, shops, and attractions like carnival rides and gardens to ensure that everyone has a good time.
You can find a wide variety of cultural venues, from theaters and museums to plazas and performance spaces, all along the pier, with many annual festivals and events to enjoy. Furthermore, there is a giant Ferris wheel, a historic carousel, mini-golf, and sightseeing cruises to enjoy.
The Magnificent Mile is one of the best shopping districts in the world, with its abundance of high-end boutiques, department stores, and shopping malls. This glittering stretch of Michigan Avenue, which begins at Oak Street and ends at the Chicago River, is the ultimate shopping destination in the Windy City.
This affluent neighborhood was given its name in the 1940s by real estate mogul Arthur Robloff, who saw the dominating presence of the Chicago Water Tower and the Wrigley Building. In addition to its many one-of-a-kind boutiques and high-end retailers, the “Mag Mile” also features numerous five-star restaurants and hotels.
The “Mag Mile,” as it is colloquially known, is also convenient for getting to the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Wrigley Building, and the Chicago Water Tower, among many other famous Chicago landmarks.