Chicago

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After arriving at O’Hare International, which is 29km from the city centre – visitors can make their way to downtown Chicago on the city’s 24-hour ‘L’ train service for just $2.25. Taxis also run from the airport directly into the city but cost between $35 and $40 for a trip to the centre of town. You can expect to pay double that if you’re travelling during rush hour.

See the sights

When you’ve settled in to your hotel or guesthouse (which are numerous and vary in style and standard depending on your taste and budget), you should first seek out the highest spot to take in the breathtaking skyline of the Windy City. Among the most popular sites for viewing are the Sears Tower Skydeck – located on top of a building that was once the tallest in the world before the Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia controversially took that distinction in 1998 – and The Hancock Observatory, which sits atop a 100-storey tall skyscraper. 

Shopping 

For shoppers, a stroll down the Magnificent Mile is a must. Located on a one-mile stretch of North Michigan Avenue, the famed street exhibits as many boutiques, sports shops, souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels as any visitor could need. 

Sports

As in all major US cities, the country’s national sports are well represented. The Chicago Cubs (Baseball), Bears (American Football), Bulls (Basketball) and Blackhawks (Ice Hockey) play regularly and, depending on the stage of the season, tickets are usually available from the box office at each stadium.

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Music

The city also has a reputation for acting as a home to some of the US’s niche music markets. Jazz, soul and folk bars are a regular feature on the streets of the inner city, and the Chicago Jazz Festival – held every year around early September – always draws a big crowd.

Five for free

  • Chicago Cultural Centre

    One of the most visited attractions, the Chicago Cultural Centre regularly hosts film, art and music exhibitions. Among the facilities open to the public are a dance studio, a music café and a poetry centre.

    Tours of the building are also available. The centre’s interior, which contains many marble, mosaic and brass structures, is often of interest to architects. It’s worth noting that tour groups are limited to a maximum of 20 people.

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  • Hyde Park Art Centre

    The Hyde Park Art Centre mainly serves as an exhibition space for contemporary art, but is also used as a community resource to teach those interested in painting, drawing and sculpture. For those with a literary interest, the Centre regularly hosts poetry readings.

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    Hyde Park Art Centre Seth Tisue
  • City Parks

    If outdoor pursuits are more your thing, Chicago has plenty to offer. Despite having to support one of the largest populations in the United States, there are almost 600 parks to choose from in Chicago, covering a total of 8,100 acres. Among the best are Garfield and Lincoln Wildlife Reserves, which are filled with protected species of animals and plants.

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  • Lincoln Park Zoo 

    Another place to find exotic plants and animals is the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is one of the last free attractions of its kind in the United States. It manages to maintain its population of exotic animals and wildlife through public donations so while there’s no cost to enter, a small contribution will go some way to ensuring that it’s still there on your next visit. 

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  • Adler Planetarium

    America’s oldest planetarium, the Adler specialises in space science exhibits, with many astronomical tools on display. Completely free to the public, staff at the Planetarium often organise shows in the three large onsite theatres.

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