Chicago, Illinois, the United States' third-largest city, is an international business center, a shopper's paradise and an ideal spot for sports lovers, offering major-league hockey, basketball, baseball and football teams. Known as the "Windy City," it's plagued by bitterly cold winters, while summers range from pleasant to blazing hot. Whatever time of year you visit and whatever your interests may be, Chicago is replete with activities to make your vacation special.
The Magnificent Mile
A stretch of the city's Michigan Avenue world-famous for its designer shopping, posh hotels and stunning lake views, the Magnificent Mile can occupy you for a few hours, or for your entire trip. The eight-story Water Tower Place alone, for example, boasts more than 100 shops and is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.
Water Tower Place 845 N. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60611 312-440-3166 shopwatertower.com
Wrigley Field, in the city's Lakeview neighborhood, has been a Chicago landmark for almost a century. It was built in 1914 and welcomed the Cubs two years later. If you visit between April and September, the regular season of major league baseball, your chances of catching a game are good--but Wrigley is a marvel to behold any time of year.
Wrigley Field 1060 W. Addison St. Chicago, IL 60613 773-404-2827 mlb.mlb.com/chc/ballpark/index.jsp
A trip to the top of the former Sears Tower is worth it. At 1,353 feet, its Skydeck provides breathtaking views of the entire city, along with the four states adjacent to Illinois. The Skydeck is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, April through September, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. the rest of the year.
Sears/Willis Tower 233 S. Wacker Drive Chicago, IL 60606 312-875-9696 theskydeck.com
Six Flags Great America
Great America theme park opened in 1976 in Chicago's Gurnee suburb under the Marriott brand. Since its purchase by Six Flags in 1984, the park has opened roller coasters, thrill ride and the Hurricane Harbor Water Park. The park opens at 10 a.m. from late April until October, during which it operates under the banner of "Fright Fest," a Halloween-themed celebration. Operation is daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day and weekend-only otherwise.
Six Flags Great America 1 Great America Parkway Gurnee, IL 60031 847-249-4636 sixflags.com/greatamerica
Whether you come for the Ferris wheel, the food or the Cirque du Soleil shows, Navy Pier is at least an entire day's worth of Chicago activities. Jutting out into Lake Michigan, Navy Pier is open year-round, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. between Memorial and Labor Days and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. the rest of the year, with closing postponed two hours on Friday and Saturday nights.
Navy Pier 600 E. Grand Ave. Chicago, IL 60611 800-595-PIER (7437) navypier.com
You'll know you've reached the Chicago Theatre once you see its trademark marquee which reads, not surprisingly, "CHICAGO." Depending on when you visit, you can choose between musicals, concerts or comedy evenings. No matter which show you see, you'll be astounded by grandeur and beauty to be found within.
The Chicago Theatre 175 N. State St. Chicago, IL 60601 312-795-0034 thechicagotheatre.com
Museum of Science and Industry
The "largest Science Museum in the Western hemisphere," Chicago's Museum of Science and industry boasts an IMAX theater and interactive science experiments to supplement its world-class exhibitions. The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. year-round, with the exception of Christmas Day.
Chicago Museum of Science and Industry 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive Chicago, IL 60637 773-684-1414 msichicago.org
Lincoln Park Zoo
Home to more than 1,200 animals, the Lincoln Park Zoo's residents encompass 230 of the world's species. The park includes a separate children's zoo and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. year-round, except in winter, when it closes at 4:30 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays during the summer, when it stays open until 6 p.m.
Lincoln Park Zoo 2001 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60606 312-742-2000 lpzoo.com
Deciding the location of the best Chicago-style pizza in the city is no easy task. Thankfully, if you head to the Little Italy neighborhood, you'll have an easy pick of contenders. Although it's small, the community is so packed with restaurants, cafes and other Italian heritage that finding your way in can be a challenge. The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii, a central and well-known landmark, is a useful jumping-off point.
Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii 1224 W. Lexington St. Chicago, IL 60607 312-421-3757 ourladyofpompeii.org
Just as the length of a millennium can be confounding, the array of activities within Chicago's Millennium Park can be overwhelming--if you let them. Whether you prefer to lounge in any of the scenic gardens or under the avant-garde Jay Pritzer Pavilion, Millennium Park is an enjoyable excursion right in the city, open daily between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. year-round.
Millennium Park 55 N Michigan Ave Chicago, IL 60611 312-742-5222 millenniumpark.org