Things to do in Chicago
Frank Sinatra is not the only one to sing Chicago’s praises. Vinnie Van GO is quite partial to the city as well. He loves its Lake Michigan beaches, vast network of parks, Willis Tower and two major league baseball teams not to mention some quirkier attractions.
Chicago’s history is written in the tombstones of Graceland Cemetery (founded in 1860, where the city’s founders, architects, industrial and commercial forefathers are buried. Among its permanent residents are Cyrus McCormick, Philip Armour, George Pullman, Marshall Field and boxer Jack Johnson. One of the largest shrines is the final resting place of Potter and Bertha Palmer, who together were the social, cultural and economic leaders of Chicago in the Victorian era. And don’t miss the “Cemetery of Architects,” where such luminaries as Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe are buried. The cemetery offers a free self-guided tour map or you can sign up for a two-hour walking tour conducted by the Chicago Architectural Foundation.
Photo Credit: Eric. X via Yelp
The city’s newest attraction is Maggie Daley Park, a brand new children’s park with lots for grown-ups to love: an ice-skating/rollerblading ribbon, a climbing wall, field house, tennis courts and a play garden. The latter is a high-concept playground which is divided into several distinct areas designed to appeal to different age brackets. They include The Sea, The Watering Hole, The Harbor, Enchanted Forest, Wave Lawn and Slide Crater. The park is located on East Randolph Street – walking distance from Millennium Park, another major Chicago attraction.
Chicago offers numerous options to see the city from the water. There are several boat operators at Navy Pier, including Chicago’s own Tall Ship. Interactive programs include the Real Pirates of the Inland Seas, Spirit Ships & Haunted Harbors, fireworks cruises and more. One of the most popular tours is provided by the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF). The CAF-certified volunteer tour guides interpret more than 50 buildings along the Chicago River, revealing how the city grew from a small back-country outpost into one of the world’s most important crossroads in less than 100 years.
Don’t want to spend your time indoors at a stuffy museum? Chicago boasts a world-class collection of iconic public art from such prominent artists as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Jean DuBuffet, Henry Moore, Marc Chagall, and Alexander Calder. Equally outstanding are newer works including Magdalena Abakonwicz’s stunning “Agora,” which features 106 headless figures and is located at Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Rd. Also see Claes Oldeburg’s Pop Art “Batcolumn,” at 600 W. Madison; Anish Kapoor’s bean-shaped “Cloud Gate” and Jaume Plensa’s “Crown Fountain,” both at Millennium Park. To help you plan your tour, see “The Chicago Public Art Guide,” which identifies more than 100 sculptures, mosaics and paintings on public display in downtown Chicago.
The City of Chicago has a corps of volunteers who serve as city greeters and will show you around their particular neck of the woods. Explore any one of 25 diverse neighborhoods -- including Hyde Park, home of the University of Chicago; Old Town, with historically preserved homes that predate the Chicago Fire; Pilsen, which features outdoor murals reminiscent of Mexico City, and Chinatown, home to Chicago’s Chinese population since the 1860s. There are also special interest tours for foodies, history buffs, families with children and the LGBT community. Sign up 10 business days prior to the requested visit.