Chicago-My Kind of Town

A quick look at what to see in the City by the Lake.

Chicago-My Kind of Town

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by melissa_bel on June 18, 2004

Chicago, Chi-Town, the city of big shoulder, the city by the lake . . .

It was my home for three years. The third greatest city in the country is a mix of big metropolis excitement and laid back Midwestern attitude. Maybe I'm biased, but Chicago's probably more beautiful than New York . . . and I've been there. If you like skyscrapers and architecture, theatre and music, comedy and arts . . . you will love this town.

Chicago has a mystique due to its tumultuous past, especially during the prohibition era: bootleggers, mobsters, corrupt politicians. I don't know a Chicagoan who hasn't been asked: "What about Al Capone?" by their relatives and friends living somewhere else. Now, it's more a city dedicated to the arts, with a lot of parks and beautiful spaces but who didn't forget its blue-collar roots (Chicago is a big industrial town,). Sure, the city has a lot of problems too, like any big city, but it's livable and enjoyable (except during the harsh Midwestern winter. ${QuickSuggestions} Don't forget to buy your city pass for discount prices for city highlights such as the Sears Tower, The Institute of Arts, the Adler Aquarium, etc.${BestWay} Chicago has one of the best public transportation (CTA) in the country even making it a landmark with the "L", elevated train. For more information:

Bistro Campagne

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by melissa_bel on July 19, 2004

Bistro Campagne is a relatively young restaurant established in a neighboorhood that's alive and kicking again (Lincoln Square). With its whimsical decor, beautiful courtyard (that transforms into a heated tent in winter), it's the ideal place for a meal between friends or a romantic rendez-vous. The staff is great from top to bottom, from Marc the manager, to Howard the barman, to Nadine (the French touch in the restaurant) the waitress... The style is rustic French cuisine, and it will fill you up. The dishes are delicious (the menu changes). The mussels are delicious, the goat cheese is a delight and the dessert (they change pies regularly and top it with some fancy ice-cream flavor). And to top it all, most of the ingredients are organic! They also have an extensive list of French wine and... Belgian beers. The prices are reasonable, too. (Most entrees are around $8-15.) If you don't know which wine to pair with your food, the wait staff will be happy t o help, and they're really good at it.

My favourite dishes are:
Steamed mussels, steak-frites, apple pie with cinnamon ice-cream, pear pie with ginger ice-cream, mousse au chocolat... I'm not a fish lover but I heard the "brandade de morie" (a traditionnal provence dish made with cod) is delicious.

Bistro Campagne
4518 N Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, Illinois, 60625
(773) 271-6100

El Tapiato

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by melissa_bel on August 16, 2004

Sure, the neighbourhood's not THAT great, but El Tapiati stands out with its bright colors and lively atmosphere. This crowded and small eatery is one of the Chicago Tribune's favourite cheap Mexican restaurants. And cheap it is, the average price is $8 for an entree... Not bad! We went there and were not disappointed! The food was plentiful and delicious (I had Pollo al limon and my husband an enchilada). The margaritas are great too. It's very crowded most of the time, so if you're looking for a quiet place, don't go there. Try their specialty, Pechuga a la Tapatia (chicken sauteed with mushrooms, onions and green sauce, cheese with vegetables and rice). We went back there and gave it a try, it was really good. The staff is really friendly but often really busy so, you might need to be patient. We always avoided weekends and peak hours, so we never had to wait for a table.

On another note, their restrooms are cute!

My personal favourite dishes: Pollo al limon, margarita, hot-peaches stuffed pancakes.

El Tapiato
3400 N. Ashland Avenue
Chicago, Illinois
(773) 325-5475

Sears Tower

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by melissa_bel on June 18, 2004

The Sears tower is probably going to be on top of your list!

The city that invented skyscrapers hosts the second tallest building in the world, 1,450 feet high (443 meters), 110 stories . . . it's also a place of business with a lot of offices. For tourists like you and I, the sky deck is all that we're going to see: it's at 1,353 feet (412 meters), at the top floor. If the sky is clear, you'll be able to see four states! The sky deck also has a museum about the Tower's past. It's quite impressive when you look down and see cars not much bigger than ants!

Although the view from the Sears Tower is great, you'll know that the most beautiful cityscape is seen from the other "big girl": The Hancock Center Tower.

Willis Tower (Sears Tower)
233 South Wacker Drive
Chicago, 60606-8615
(312) 875-9447

Lincoln Park Zoo

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by melissa_bel on June 18, 2004

Chicago has two zoos. The big one, Brookfield Zoo, is in the suburbs and the urban Lincoln Park Zoo is located in one of Chicago's green lung and affluent neighborhood: Lincoln Park. The best part: it's free!

Created in 1868, it's one of the oldest in the country and is undergoing a lot of changes. After building a more adequate habitat for African animals, it is rebuilding its Ape center and, according to one of the zookeeper I met, they will have new guests. It will open this July. Amongst the sights to see: the new Regenstein African journey, the Primate house, the bird house and my personal favourite, the Lion House, hosting big cats such as lion, rare Siberian Tigers, an even rarer Afghanistan leopard, etc.

It’s a great family excursion.

Lincoln Park Zoo
2001 North Clark Street
Chicago, Illinois, 60614
(312) 742-2000

The L

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by melissa_bel on June 18, 2004

Getting around Chicago… the Public transportation is one of the best in the country and the famed "L" from Elevated Loop has become a Chicago trademark. And why is the Loop, the core of Chicago, called this? It is because the elevated train makes a "loop".

Buy a ticket and discover downtown Chicago with the Green, Purple or Brown line. You'll pass through the towering buildings and over the avenues of Chicago. It's very impressive the first time you do it. Both O'Hare and Midway airports are linked with the "L" (blue line for O'Hare, orange for Midway) and within 45 minutes of downtown.

There is a plethora of buses and the CTA's website will compute the route for you if you don't know what bus or train you need to take.

The El Train
Throughout the City
Chicago, Illinois

North Avenue Beach

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by melissa_bel on July 16, 2004

One of the best features of the Chicago landscape is Lake Michigan. "Forever open and free", the lakefront will remain uncluttered. And it's a glorious sight when the sun is shining and the Lake has that deep turquoise hue... And Chicago has 29 miles of it! My best spot is North Avenue Beach. It is the largest beach close to downtown. You'll see the Beach House, a 1938 Art Deco building, renovated recently that adds a playful feeling to the beach. In summer, activities start early with jogging and yoga. Then the activity picks up and you'll find the whole array of beach activities: bBeach volleyball, picnicking, etc. The boathouse has a restaurant (Castaway) and a convenience store if you need something like water or a new pair of sunglasses.You can also rent bikes, chairs...there is even a chess pavilion!

It's a nice feeling to be on the beach and then gaze at the cityscape so close.

Lifeguards are on duty during the summer season. It's likely you won't have the opportunity to swim though. The lake is really cold until late August and it can happen that bathing is prohibited because of bacteria proliferation. Make sure to check information.

North Avenue Beach and Chess Pavilion
1600 North Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois, 60614

John Hancock Tower

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by melissa_bel on August 2, 2004

The John Hancock Center Tower is maybe not Chicago's most beautiful building but is one of the most recognizable. After the Sears Tower, and the Aeon Building, the Hancock is the third tallest building in Chicago and in the US. While the Sears Tower is a place of business, the Hancock is a place to do business to but also to live. Yes, that 100 floors and 1,127 feet tall building has year-round resident. And I understand the prized apartment are the one where the windows are crossed by those X beams so characteristic of this building. It has everything you need too (Post office, dry-cleaning, newstand... even a grocery store! The ground floor has restaurants and business.

But people come here for the view, the best view in town. You have the choice, you can either pay the admission price for the observation deck (open from 9 am to 11 pm): Adults pay $9.50, Seniors (62+); $7.50 and children under 12-years-old; $6.00. The alternative is enjoying a drink or a meal at the Signature room on the 95th and 96th floor and 96th-floor (restaurant on the lower floor and lounge on the upper floor). It's not cheap (more than 6 bucks for a beer) but you can have a drink with a view! On the other side, if you really want a 360 degrees view, then the observation deck will be your pick. You may also notice that the building is... yes... swaying. Especially if the wind is strong. Don't worry though, the worse thing you can get is maybe a little motion sickness. I recommend going at sunset when the sun disappears and the Chicago lights are coming on, it's really, really a sight to see!

Hancock Building Observatory
875 North Michigan Ave.
Chicago, Illinois, 60611
(312) 751-3681

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