1. Third largest city in the United States
The name ‘Windy City’ may be known throughout the world but the fact that Chicago is the third largest city in the United States may not. Trailing only a few short steps behind New York City and Los Angeles, Chicago enjoys a rising number of tourists from all around the world, with 55 million visitors last year, a consistently-growing number compared to the years before.
Millennium Park, without a smidgen of doubt, chicago managed to hang onto its top spot as the most visited attraction in downtown Chicago. In fact, its record is unbeaten throughout the Midwest. The city also has a large number of other similar attraction that emits the same gravitational pull – The Art Institute of Chicago, Cloud Gate, Willis Tower, Navy Pier, Shedd Aquarium, Chicago History Museum and Lincoln Park Zoo, the Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago Opera Theater events and Harris Theater for Music and Dance, just to name a few.
The list of popular tourist attractions may continue to be the biggest draws to Chicago, but so are the countless types of unique cuisine and shopping destinations. Don’t miss the chance to hunt down exclusionary and delicious Chicago-style hot dogs, deep dish pizza or the Maxwell Street Polish Sausage while taking the charter bus around intriguing architectural structures like Sears Towers and museums that feature 1920s gangster history like Al Capone, Frank ‘The Enforcer Nitti’ (Al Capone’s successor), John ‘Papa Johnny Torrio, John Dillinger, Lester Joseph ‘Baby Face’ Nelson, etc. And when you’re ready for some serious shopping, organize a few side trips to Magnificent Mile or State Street. The streets are lined with famous branded retail outlets, family-run shops, fanciful diners, fast food restaurants, playful cafes, bakeries, breezy ice-cream shops and coffee outlets.
- Millennium Park 201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602 (312) 742-1168
- Art Institute of Chicago 111 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603 (312) 443-3600
- Willis Tower 233 S Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606
- Navy Pier 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611 (312) 595-7437
- Shedd Aquarium 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605 (312) 939-2438
- Chicago History Museum 1601 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614 (312) 642-4600
- Lincoln Park Zoo 2001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614
- Harris Theater 205 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601 (312) 334-7777
2. The Country’s Railroad Capital
With well over 1,300 trains ferrying people in and out of the capital, into and out of suburbs, The Loop, and boasting of the world’s very first elevated railway, getting in and around Chicago is a breeze. Chicago is also an easy-to-navigate city, with predictable north and south boundaries, and east and west divide, all cut up into grids. The ‘L’, short for the Loop, and its elevated railway was amazingly designed and constructed during a period of time when no such precedent was yet set. It was built in 1892 and mobilizes more than 1.7 million passengers on a weekly basis, connecting the city both above and below ground through 144 rail stations all over town. The Blue Line and The Red Line operates 24 hours a day between the north and south of Chicago downtown; the Metra, a high-speed commuter train, is used to ferry people in and out of some outlying suburbs.
Traveling alone or with a couple of friends, the CTA Visitor Passes, which has a set number of admission days loaded into the cards, is more than enough to get you around. It costs $10 to $105 for 1 to 30 days of rides. If you’re unsure about how much moving around you’ll be doing, get the unlimited ride options. The good news is that the passes can be ordered and delivered ahead of time! Load your preferred amount into your Ventra card, personal bankcard, or get disposable 1-day tickets which can be purchased from Ventra Vending Machines all around town and you’re good to go!