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Chicago is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings.
As the hub of the Midwest, Chicago is easy to find — its picturesque skyline calls across the waters of huge freshwater Lake Michigan, an impressive sight that soon reveals world-class museums of art and science, miles of sandy beaches, huge parks, public art, and perhaps the finest downtown collection of architecture in the world.
As far as Chicago's weather goes, well let's just say that Chicago is an enormous city so things tend to get blown out of porportion more than they would in other cities, that includes the weather. The winters in Chicago are indeed cold, but the same could be said for most of the United States from Maine to Utah, with the exception of the extreme south.
Chicago's summers are not much hotter than the East Coast, and definitely not as hot as the southern U.S. There is a good time to be had in any season in Chicago, and the summer offers an array of parades, festivals, and events.
Chicago is America's third most prolific movie industry after Los Angeles and New York, and there have been scores upon scores of films and television series filmed here. Here is a very small list of some very Chicago-centric movies that have been produced in the city. These are just a few:
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (John Hughes, 1986). The dream of the northern suburbs: to be young, clever, and loose for a day in Chicago. Ferris and friends romp through the old Loop theater district, catch a game at Wrigley Field, and enjoy the sense of invincibility that Chicago shares with its favorite sons when all is well.
Adventures in Babysitting (Chris Columbus, 1987). The flip side of Ferris Bueller — the dangers that await the suburbanite in the Loop at night, including memorable trips to lower Michigan Avenue and up close with the Chicago skyline.
The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980). Probably Chicago's favorite movie about itself: blues music, white men in black suits, a mission from God, the conscience that every Chicago hustler carries without question, and almost certainly the biggest car chase ever filmed.
The Untouchables (Brian De Palma, 1987). With a square-jawed screenplay by David Mamet, this is a retelling of Chicago's central fable of good vs. evil: Eliot Ness and the legendary takedown of Al Capone.
High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000). John Cusack reviews failed relationships from high school at Lane Tech to college in Lincoln Park and muses over them in trips through Uptown, River North, all over the city on the CTA, his record store in the rock snob environs of Wicker Park, and returning at last to his record-swamped apartment in Rogers Park.
Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005) and its sequel The Dark Knight (2008). Making spectacular use of the 'L', the Chicago Board of Trade Building, Chicago skyscrapers, the Loop at night, and lower Wacker Drive, the revived action series finally sets the imposing power and intractable corruption of Gotham City where it belongs, in Chicago.
To get in
Chicago (CHI for all airports) is served by two major airports: O'Hare International Airport and Midway Airport. There are plenty of taxis both to and from the city center, but they are quite expensive, especially during rush hours.
O'Hare International Airport (ORD) is 17 miles (27km) northwest of downtown and serves many international and domestic carriers.
Midway International Airport (MDW) is 10 miles (16km) southwest of downtown. Midway primarily serves low-cost carriers, with the exception of a handful of Delta flights, and is the largest airport for Southwest Airlines.
Navigating Chicago is easy. Block numbers are consistent across the whole city. Standard blocks, of 100 addresses each, are roughly 1/8th of a mile long. Each street is assigned a number based on its distance from the zero point of the address system, the intersection of State Street and Madison Street.
Downtown Chicago is very walkable, with wide sidewalks and minimal congestion. Walkers looking to avoid cold, heat, rain and snow find the Chicago Pedway System to be helpful. It is a system of underground, ground-level, and above-ground passages that connect downtown buildings.
By public transit
The best way to see Chicago is by public transit. It is cheap (basically), efficient (at times), and safe (for the most part). The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) oversees the various public transit agencies in the Chicagoland area.
Along the Magnificent Mile — one day and night in Chicago, with skyscrapers, shopping, food, parks, and amazing views of the city from high and low.
Loop Art Tour — a 2 to 4 hour walking tour of downtown Chicago's magnificent collection of modern sculptures.
Chicago's set of museums and cultural institutions are among the best in the world. Three of them are located within a short walk of each other in the Near South, on what is known as the Museum Campus, in a beautiful spot along the lake: the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Shedd Aquarium. A short distance away, in Hyde Park, is the most fun of them all, the Museum of Science and Industry — or, as generations of Chicago-area grammar school students know it, the best field trip ever.
International Museum of Surgical Science and the Loyola University Museum of Art in Gold Coast, Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park, DuSable Museum of African American History in Washington Park, National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, the Polish Museum of America in Wicker Park, the Museum of Photography in the Loop, and the Driehaus Museum in Near North.
What to do
Chicago's Shedd Aquarium is the city's premier location for aquatic life and family fun! With over 32,000 creatures, ranging from fish to crustaceans and everything in between, Shedd is the perfect place for children to learn and inspire curiosity about oceanic and aquatic life!
Chicago Architecture Foundation. provides over 90 tours by boat, bike, trolley, bus and on foot of Chicago's architecture.
Where there are beaches, there are waterfront parks. During the summer months, the parks are a destination for organized and impromptu volleyball and soccer games, chess matches, and plenty more, with tennis and basketball courts dotted along the way.
There are also terrific parks goin inland. In the Loop, Grant Park hosts music festivals throughout the year, and Millennium Park is a fun destination for all ages, especially during the summer.
Chicago is also home to the Bloomingdale Trail/606. This is a linear park in the sky. This elevated greenway, created from railroad right-of-ways and its viaducts, is 2.7 miles, running through several Chicago neighborhoods, and complete with walking paths, bike lanes, benches, flowers and plants.
Events & Festivals
If you're absolutely determined and you plan carefully, you may be able to visit Chicago during a festival-less week. It's a challenge, though. Most neighborhoods, parishes, and service groups host their own annual festivals throughout the spring, summer, and fall. And the city has several in the winter. There are a few can't-miss city-wide events, though. In the Loop, Grant Park hosts Taste of Chicago in July, the largest outdoor food festival in the world; and there are four major music festivals: Blues Fest and Gospel Fest in June, Lollapalooza in August, and Jazz Fest in September. All but Lollapalooza are free. The Chicago-based music website Pitchfork Media also hosts their own annual three day festival of rock, rap, and more in the summer at unnion Park on the Near West Side.