Monday, April 21, 2014

Chicago #2 for US Destinations

 Just last week, TripAdvisor users ranked Chicago as #2 for top U.S. destinations! The ranking places Chicago just before San Francisco, CA, and behind New York, NY. For our readers who are not familiar with the Windy City, there are endless opportunities to get the full Chicago immersion experience, but I'll fill you in on some of my favorite places in this beautiful city.
     Chicago is the third most populated city in the U.S.  It is renowned for its culture in the performing arts, its cultivation of classical music, and its popular culinary dishes such as the Chicago-style hot dog and deep-dish pizza.  Chicago attracts more than 40 million visitors annually. With endless sites to see and activities to do, this beautiful city is a tourist hub. The perfect time of the year to visit Chicago is the summertime when the weather is warm and sunny, which we will hopefully be seeing soon! Whether travelling alone, with the family, a group of friends, or significant other, visitors are guaranteed to have a memorable vacation. There are a number of hotels in the city, but the prime location to stay for a three- or four-day planned weekend trip would be somewhere along the Magnificent Mile. It is adjacent to downtown and is located one block east of Rush Street, which is infamous for its nightlife scene. When visiting Chicago, shopping along the mile-long strip of various mid-range and high-end retail shops, restaurants, and museums is a must-do. One can view some of the tallest buildings in the U.S. with gorgeous architecture, when walking from store to store, such as the John Hancock Center and the Trump International Hotel and Tower.
     After a long day of shopping, the next destination to go to is Navy Pier. The 3,300-foot long pier along the shoreline of Lake Michigan offers numerous activities such as riding the 150-foot Ferris wheel, playing 18 holes of mini-golf, seeing a Shakespeare play, and sharing a bag of cinnamon almonds with friends while viewing a fireworks show. Visiting Navy Pier would be the best way to end a night out in Chicago.
     The next day calls for a trip to the beloved Shedd Aquarium which is also located along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The Shedd is the largest indoor aquarium in the world and is home to more than 8,000 aquatic animals and 1,500 different species consisting of fish, marine mammals, birds, snakes, amphibians, and insects from across the globe. The aquarium offers several different exhibits and presentations to its visitors.  Some of the permanent exhibits include the Waters of the World, which features exhibits on oceans, rivers, islands and lakes, and the species they are home to, as well as the Caribbean Reef exhibit which features a diver that interacts with the animals in a circular tank while talking to the aquarium’s visitors. One of the current special exhibits is the Jellies exhibit. The Jellies is extremely popular because it features the many different species of jelly fish from around the world.
     After visiting the Shedd, a stroll through Millennium Park would be another fun activity to enjoy the summer sun. Millennium Park is a public park that is located in the heart of the city. It features a variety of gardens and public art which includes the infamous “Bean”, also known as Cloud Gate. The Bean is a three-story reflective, steel sculpture in the shape of a legume that was created by world-renowned artist, Anish Kapoor, and was inspired by liquid mercury. Its mirror-like surface reflects and distorts the vast skyline of Chicago as well as the numerous visitors it attracts. Taking a “selfie” of yourself with the Bean is definitely required to commemorate your trip.
     After a long day at the Shedd Aquarium and Millennium Park, a visit to the Willis Tower Skydeck is a must. Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower and one of the tallest buildings in the world, is a 108-story, 1451-foot skyscraper. On the 103rd floor of the building is the Skydeck, an observation deck which features The Ledge, a glass balcony that extends four feet outside the floor that towers over the scenic city. It is most beautiful at night, when looking out at all of the luminescent buildings that stretch for miles and miles. It would be the perfect end to a vacation in Chicago to reminisce over the lasting memories made. Those are just some of the many attractions that Chicago has to offer, so multiple trips back would be the best way to carry on the fun that the cultural traditions of the city provides its visitors.

Madeline Mehall
Loyola University Chicago

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