Mirror Travel shares the six sights, tastes and experiences not to miss in the USA’s former Second City
6. Willis Tower
You’re spoilt for high-rise fun in Chicago, so you might want to dodge this one if you suffer from vertigo. At Skydeck Chicago on the 103rd floor you can step out into a stomach-churning glass-floored box 1,353ft up (Tickets from $24). Trust me, it’s not for the faint hearted. But the panoramic views, spanning 50 miles and four states, are unrivalled.
Maybe don’t gobble a slice of Lou Malnati’s deep dish sausage pizza beforehand, though.
5. Food and drink
Don’t go to Chicago if you’re on a diet! You’ll really want to savour every morsel of bacon-fat popcorn, every sip of hoppy ale and every bite of an Italian beef sandwich.
Start at the Chicago institution Portillo’s, where diners queue out of the door for its famous hotdogs and slabs of chocolate cake.
One afternoon, try a Chicago Food Planet tour, which visits six food-tasting locations in some hip neighbourhoods – Bucktown and Wicker Park (Tickets from $54).Between mouthfuls of falafel and glugs of local beer, expert guides give you an insight into the city’s gourmet hotspots. Don’t miss the original deep dish Chicago-style pizza at Lou Malnati’s.
4. Sporting life
Chicago’s amazing sporting legacy embraces baseball, gridiron, ice hockey and basketball.
Head to Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs and the second-oldest baseball park in the major leagues – named after the chewing gum founder – to join match-day crowds.
Tickets are fairly easy to get and start from $9 on mlb.com/cubs. If you’re there on non-game days, worry not: it’s open for movie nights, concerts and even farmers’ markets.
True sports geeks can stay at the landmark Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, the renovated home of the club whose members swam with five-time Olympic gold medalist and Hollywood ‘Tarzan’ Johnny Weissmuller.
3 The architecture
You can’t miss Chicago’s stratospheric skyline even as you travel in a cab or bus from the airport to your hotel.
To truly take in the city’s range of architecture styles, hop on board a 90-minute Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise (Tickets from $47) which takes you on a historical tour of what has been a constantly-changing horizon ever since much the city was destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Certified volunteers interpret more than 50 buildings along the Chicago River, chronicling its literal rise from the ashes over the past 150 years. Highlights include the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower on North Michigan Avenue and the Marina City twin ‘corn cob’ towers.
2. The art
By Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago is America’s second largest art museum and the best in the world, according to TripAdvisor. It houses a multitude of impressionist and post-impressionist works (Tickets from $25).
Highlights include Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. but you can also spend an afternoon wandering through its architecture and pop art exhibits, or simply marvelling at the building’s marble and glass corridors dotted with surrealist gems.
Art addicts can top off the day with a half-hour stroll to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (Tickets from $15) to enjoy works by René Magritte, Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol.
1. Millenium Park
In a city park in the heart of downtown Chicago, this award-winning expanse of art, music, architecture and landscape design feels like a museum.
The centrepiece is Anish Kapoor’s spectacular Cloud Gate sculpture, affectionately known as The Bean by locals.
Inspired by liquid mercury, the stainless steel sculpture distorts the city’s skyline as you walk around and under its 12ft arch.
Join a free walking tour, run by knowledgable volunteers, from Chicago’s Cultural Centre (where you can also marvel at the world’s largest Tiffany stained-glass dome) and get an insight into the park’s history.
Set back from The Bean sits the Frank Gehry-designed outdoor concert venue, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.