USA Illinois 

A Guide to Chicago

Situated on the southwest edge of Lake Michigan in Illinois with 20 miles of beautiful lake-front, beaches and a river running through it, Chicago is a vibrant, dynamic and stunning city, the third largest in the US. Financial capital of the Midwest, transport hub, and renowned for its many styles of imaginative architecture, cultural and educational institutions, Chicago has it all.

Although a sprawling metropolis, many of the sights downtown are within walking distance. The elevated track circles ‘the loop’ giving passengers a great orientation tour.

After the great fire of 1871, architects were given carte blanche to re-design the devastated city. The world’s first skyscraper was built here where the innovative architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, developed his Prairie School of Architecture (Robie House). Gothic Revival (the Water Tower), Italianate (Drake Hotel), Queen Anne (Crilly Court), Neo-Classical (Chicago Cultural Center, Field Museum), Neo-Georgian (Chicago Historical Society), Richardsonian Romanesque (Newberry Library), Chicago School (Santa Fe Center and some skyscrapers), International (Sears Tower), Post Modern (Harold Washington Library Center) and Art Deco (Chicago Board of Trade) rub shoulders in this exciting eclectic mix of architectural styles.

Downtown of fashionable Magnificent Mile, Michigan Avenue north of the river, is a shopper’s paradise. Two historic buildings survived the fire: the Water Tower and the Pumping Station (still pumping water!). The Gothic Tribune Tower has rock fragments from world famous sites and a prehistoric piece of moon rock embedded in its walls.

The John Hancock Center, 100 storeys high, has an observatory on the 94th floor and an open-air skywalk. But even higher at 1 450ft is Sears Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world, with over 100 elevators. A glass-enclosed Skydeck on the 103rd floor provides stunning views of the city. But hold on to your stomach!

Built in 1916, Navy Pier, 3 000ft long x 400ft wide, was the largest in the world. Used for naval training during World War II, it is now a fun recreational centre.

Within Lincoln Park is the elegant Chicago Historical Society housing a major museum, a research library and centre. Newberry Library contains collections of cartography, geneology, Renaissance studies, Native American history.

The Art Institute of Chicago, a gracious Neo-Classical building situated in one of Chicago’s many green parks, is a veritable treasure-trove. Its vast collections include ancient Egyptian and Chinese artifacts, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, Cubism, Surrealism, German Expressionism, and Asian art.

The Museum Campus, an enormous lake-front park in lush surroundings, connects three natural science museums: the Field Museum, containing a huge collection of zoological, geological, anthropological artifacts; the Aquarium and Oceanarium which has a curved glass wall facing Lake Michigan which feeds the tank; and the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum.

Across Columbia Basin on the water’s edge is the Museum of Science and Industry. The Apollo 8 Command Module is displayed in the Henry Crown Space Center where a 20-minute film simulates blasting off in a space shuttle.

The great University of Chicago founded in 1890 has cloistered quadrangles resembling those of Oxford and Cambridge. The Smart Museum of Art, the Oriental Institute Museum, the Gothic Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, and Henry Moore’s sculpture ‘Nuclear Energy’ marking the spot where scientists signalled the start of the atomic age in 1942 with the first controlled nuclear reaction are also on this beautiful campus.
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