It has to be said, Chicago is very easy to find your way around. Even for a sense-of-direction-challenged girl like my daughter. Armed with a map and a City Pass however, she didn’t do too badly. Here are Holly’s suggestions for the pick of the city.
1. My first stop is Millennium Park, where I plan to check out the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate. Cloud Gate is a lot larger than I had imagined and certainly didn’t disappoint.
It’s worth spending the better part of a day exploring Millennium Park, taking in the many sculptures, the pretty gardens and the Crown Fountain, where today a heap of children are escaping the heat.
2. Not far from Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago houses a great collection post impressionist works, including a Vincent Van Gough self portrait, one of Monet’s Haystacks, Seurat’s Grande Jatte, Renoir, Cezanne, Degas, as well as Grant Wood’s iconic American Gothic.
3. Grant Park is not far from the city’s big museums and it’s a pleasant stroll towards Lake Michigan passing by matching statues of silver and bronze men to reach Buckingham Fountain – one of the largest fountains I’ve ever seen.
4. Large patches of sunflowers line the road towards Chicago’s museums where I headed next. My plan is to whichever place is closest, and that turns out to be the Field Museum.
First up on my list is Sue, the largest, most complete and best-preserved T-Rex, before heading in to see the 3D film, Titans of the Ice Age. I then explored the nature walk, through the world of birds, the world of mammals – I can’t imagine that there are any more animals on the earth that are not in this museum.
5. My next stop is the Shedd Aquarium, where I watched the sweet little Pacific white-sided dolphins, black-tipped reef sharks and beluga whales. The beluga whales did loops around the tank and it fascinated me how they all swam upside down.
6. Another day, another park… I decide to be a bit adventurous, get off a few stops earlier and head for Lincoln Park for a walk along the lakeside boardwalk and through the free Lincoln Park Zoo.
The zoo is home to a wide variety of animals, including big cats, hippos, monkeys and rather peculiar looking anteaters. Lincoln Park’s Lily Pool is another highlight, as well as the Conservatory.
7. I then took myself off to Skydeck, whizzing up 103 floors to test my nervies on the Ledge. The view at the top is incredible, and while it’s a bit freaky making that first step onto the glass –the thrill and the view make it worthwhile.
8. On my second last day I visit the Adler Planetarium, a very family friendly attraction with lots of interactive displays for kids.
The Historic Atwood Sphere shows you the night sky over Chicago as it would have appeared in 1913, without today’s light pollution and the Planetary Machines is a great collection of mechanical devices that illustrate the movements of the planets.
9. My last day, and today I’m headed for the John Hancock Observatory, another view of the Windy City – this one 300 metres high with an outdoors viewing platform (so you can feel the wind).
10. This list wouldn’t be complete without somewhere to eat, and for all the craft beer aficionados out there – I recommend the Farmhouse, with a choice of about 30 craft beers on tap, plus a few ciders.
They have a hearty menu that includes things like home-cured beef jerky and crispy pigs ears, but being a non-carnivore I opt for a delicious deep fried cheese curd that I wish I could get in Australia, a beetroot salad and a side of mashed potatoes – YUM.