Think of your one day in Chi-town as an appetizer, whetting your taste for a bigger bite the next time you’re in town. These attractions will get you started on a Chicago tour done right.
201 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60602
One of the most extraordinary public spaces in the world, this 24.5-acre park is like a futuristic town square with jaw-dropping architecture, art and landscape design. More than a park, it is a breathtaking showcase for the visual and performing arts and a permanent homage to the vitality and creativity of this world-class city. The centerpiece of the park is the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor concert venue that boasts the highest sophistication of its kind and, if you’re lucky, there will be a performance going on from jazz and drumming to dance and orchestral movements. You can’t miss one of the world’s largest outdoor sculptures by British artist Anish Kapoor (Cloud Gate aka The Bean). It’s the shiny, happy thing that everyone who visits Millennium Park wants to touch: 110 tons of stainless steel inspired by the look and feel of liquid mercury that engages with its grandeur and energy. Be sure to admire the Crown Fountain designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, and the Lurie Garden, a distinctive blend of spatial structure, plantings and lighting.
Chicago Cultural Center Visitor Information Center
77 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601
Whether you’ve lived here since the first Mayor Daley reigned or you’ve just arrived from the Far East, you’ll have an eye-opening time with a Chicago Greeter, a friendly, in-the-know local ready to give you an insider’s look at the city – for free. The two to-four-hour tours, accommodating up to six people, are customized based upon your interests, choice of neighborhoods and language and combine walking, buses and trains. Are you interested in art and architecture, food, Chicago history, family-friendly spots or gay Chicago? Or choose to get to know any of 24 neighborhoods from Albany Park to the West Loop. Why did the Swedes settle in Andersonville and who the heck was Anderson anyway? Tour the Old World neighborhood of Ukrainian Village filled with Eastern European restaurants and glorious churches like Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral which was designed by Louis Sullivan in 1899. Be sure to register online at least 10 business days in advance of your arrival in Chicago to schedule a Greeter. For procrastinators, there’s a one-hour Instagreeter tour of downtown or Millennium Park.
Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria
439 N. Wells St.
Chicago, IL 60610
Chicago natives consume deep dish pizza just a couple times a year, usually when family and friends are visiting, and so should you, dear visitor. Although you may be tempted to try other pizzerias that claim to have the original recipe or have been serving it longer or knew a guy in 1945 who knew the owner and…just trust us. Lou Malnati’s is the real deal, properly erected (cheese on the bottom, vine-ripened tomatoes and a colossal patty of perfectly seasoned Italian sausage nestled atop a butter crust). There are a handful of other neighborhood joints that do a righteous deep dish, but Lou’s has nearly 30 locations and you have one day.
Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603
Whatever speaks to you, it’s calling at the Art Institute: American art (John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Georgia O’Keeffe and Edward Hopper among the collection); Asian works spanning nearly five millennia; photography; Picasso or Dali; or the stunning collection of major Impressionists like Seurat, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Chagall, Renoir, Monet and Manet. It’s a million square feet of painting, sculpture, armor, stained glass, installations and mind-blowing creativity and madness, so get a map and have a plan. Chef Tony Mantuano’s Terzo Piano, in the Modern Wing, is a great spot for lunch.
541 N. Fairbanks
Chicago, IL 60611
Matchless architecture, an array of world class chefs and fantastic cheap eats, stellar museums, high-end and vintage shopping, friendly Midwesterners and a gorgeous lakefront? Chicago is an overachiever for tourists and a walk, bike, jog or sit along any of the 26 miles of public beaches is nature’s way of telling you this town has it all. Walk from downtown or the Mag Mile right to Oak Street Beach, but if you want a serene experience, hop on a bus and go north or south to smaller, less crowded coves.
Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.