The Windy City: known for Willis ('Sears') Tower, John Hancock Center and its not-so-secret best view of the city from the ladies restroom on the 96th floor; the Museum of Science and Industry, the Art institute, Grant Park, Navy Pier, Lincoln Park Zoo and The River. The list of attractions goes on and it's easy to feel spoilt for choice, not to mention the options for nightlife and eateries available. But if you've been before, or want to delve deeper, consider adding a few of these to your list.
They say 'why pay more?' But in Chicago, there's a lot to do without paying at all!
And with so much on offer a great place to start is the Chicago Greeter Program which offers free walking tours of the city with regional insight from a local resident. If you prefer to do your own thing, download this map and do an underground Pedway tour at your own pace.
A trip to picturesque Lincoln Park is likely already on your agenda, but take some time to zone out from your busy itinerary in a free introductory meditation class at the park as well. If you prefer to march to the beat of your own drum, perhaps a jam session at the Old Town School of Folk Music where you can bring an instrument or just sing along is more your groove? Of course, if you're really looking to engage with the local vocal talent, Puptown is where it's at. An off-leash dog friendly area, on any given day there is likely to be a chorus of barking voices more than willing to sing you a song.
For a more 'cultured' experience (don't tell the puppies we said that!) visit the National Museum of Mexican Art with its always free existential and folk art, or Oriental Institute encompassing Persian, Mesopotamian and Egyptian displays. And if the weather's good you can head to Garfield Park Conservatory with its enormous animal landscape sculptures and scavenger hunts for the kids as a bonus. Don't forget your camera for a chance to take colourful snapshots of exotic flowers.
Of course you should try Chicago's famous deep-dish street pizza…
But on how many nights of your stay can you do that? Sure, a few… but on other nights, have some old school fun at the basement pub, Galway Bay playing darts and original Nintendo video games for about the same price. Or, emerge from your shell and race on over to the track at Big Joe's pub on a Friday Night. A friendly dive bar, your night is sure to get wild when the turtles are let loose in a crazy and competitive race to the finish line!
'Classier' may not be the best way to describe it but if friendly game of Movieokie, which is similar to karaoke except that instead of singing songs you get to perform a scene from some of your favourite movies, is more to your fancy then check the calendar at The Whistler for details of when it's next on. Or for some non-pretentious nightlife that won't be dominated by tourists, head to eclectic Danny's Tavern. With themed music ranging from dance, house, funk and soul to golden oldies you're bound to have a fun and inexpensive night out.
For just a little more…
Experience the classier side of the city with a decadent assortment of 'Chocolate at The Pen'. If you have a sweet tooth the assortment you will find at this, one of Chicago's premier hotels, is sure to appeal.
You only live once so Chicago-go-go!
And in a city famous for its skyline, a night tour of the sights by helicopter is sure to be an illuminating experience. Sparkling and spectacular, see the city lights take shape from a different angle while learning a little more about the history of Chi-Town from your experienced pilot.
But why stop now?
As you saved on your accommodation, spend a few more days in the vicinity by hiring a car and going on a scenic road trip! A change of pace and great escape from the city, America's 'Little Switzerland' is just 151 miles away from Chicago. New Glarus, Wisconsin will have you ready to dine on fondue in a chalet in no time and the local brew and friendly hospitality you'll find there may just make you want to stay a while…
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