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Best Places to Visit In Chicago

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Famous Attractions and Things-to-do

The Art Institute of Chicago

The impressive lions in front of the Art Istitute have been know to wear Bear's helmets before important gamesThe Art Institute of Chicago is one of the largest art museums in the United States, containing more than 260,000 works. The collection includes paintings, sculptures and artifacts representing a world of cultures, from: Asia, Africa, Europe and America, from ancient times to the present.

The Art Institute boasts an extensive collection of French Impressionist paintings, by Monet, Renoir, van Gogh, Seurat and others. Its American Collection features such artists as: Homer, O’Keefe, Sargent, and Hopper.

In addition to its plethora of beautiful paintings and sculpture, the Art Institute’s also houses ancient artifacts, medieval and renaissance armor, tapestries, and other unique furnishings. The Thorne Miniature Rooms, for example, depicts life in Europe and America from the 13th century to the 1930s, on a scale of one inch to one foot. Little girls and big girls, alike, will enjoy these dollhouse-like rooms, with working lights, tiny paintings and perfectly replicated furnishings.

The Art Institute is located at 111 S. Michigan Avenue and is open seven days a week. Go to the official website of the Art Institute for details on special exhibitions, hours of operation and cost of admission.

The Field Museum of Natural History 

This is Sue and when she was alive, you would have been dinnerThe Field Museum of Natural History was built in 1893 to house the biological and anthropological collections for the World’s Columbian Exposition. Today, it contains more than 20 million specimens and a library with more than 250,000 volumes.

The Field Museum’s most famous permanent resident is 67 million-year old Sue, the largest and most well-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in existence today. Visitors can learn all about Sue in the 3-D film "Waking the T.Rex: The Story of Sue." 

However, Sue is just the beginning of the many adventures you will have during your visit, as the Field Museum houses a variety of other exhibits that explore the history and sciences of the world around us. Among those exhibits are: the DNA Discovery Center, which shows how DNA is changing how we look at the world; Inside Ancient Egypt, where you can explore an Egyptian tomb that has  a resident mummy; and the Underground Adventure, where you go beneath the earth to explore what life is like for bugs and their neighbors.

A recorded audio tour is available which tells you about these and other exhibits. The tour takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. If you’re traveling with little ones, the Field Museum also has a special place just for them – the Crown Family Play Lab. In the Play Lab, younger visitors can dress up like animals, dig for hidden treasure and learn about the world in a hands-on environment.

The Field Museum is located at 1400 S. Lakeshore Drive.  For more information on hours of operation and cost of admission and exhibitions, go to the official website of the Field Museum.

By the way, the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium are located near each other in a compact area known as the Museum Campus.

Lincoln Park and the Zoo

Lincoln Park and its Zoo are a wonderful place to exploreLincoln Park is Chicago’s largest public park at 1,208 Acres, running seven miles along Lake Michigan from Ohio Street on the south to Ardmore Street on the north. The park provides a peaceful oasis amid the hustle and bustle of the city.

Lincoln Park is home to Lincoln Park Zoo, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Chicago History Museum, The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool. The Park also features: beaches, harbors, a bird sanctuary, manicured gardens and a nature preserve. With more than 2 million visitors a year, Lincoln Park is the second most visited park in America.

Lincoln Park Zoo was opened in 1868 and is one of the oldest zoos in America. It’s a pleasant way to spend the afternoon for animal lovers of any age. The Zoo is sited over 35 acres, crisscrossed by tree-lined paths that meander among the habitats of more than 1,200 animals. The Pritzker Family Zoo area gives the little ones a close encounter with the animal world and a chance to ride on a pint-sized train, or the endangered species carousel.

Lincoln Park Zoo is located off the Fullerton Avenue exit of Lake Shore Drive. It is opens everyday at 10 a.m., and admission is always free (although there are modest fees to ride the Carousel and Children's Train Ride). For more details on the Lincoln Park Zoo, visit its  official website.

If you are a fan of zoos, then you might be interested in seeing the suburban Brookfield Zoo, a mere twelve miles from the Loop (but it could be very heavy traffic, depending on the time of your visit.)  See the website of the Brookfield Zoo  for more details on visiting.

The Magnificent Mile

The Magnificent Mile was appropriately named by real estate developer Arthur Rubloff in 1947, as it is where the wealthiest Chicagoans live, shop and play. However, the phrase is most commonly used to refer to the high-end shopping district on Michigan Avenue between the Chicago River to the south and Lake Shore Drive to the north.

Along Michigan Avenue you will find  Armani, Chanel, Cartier and  a number of relatively exclusive stores. There are enchanting, one-of-a -kind boutiques here, as well as department stores, such as Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.  Be sure to visit Water Tower Place, a luxurious, high-rise, mall at the intersection of  Chestnut and Michigan Avenue, as it has some great stores, an inviting food court, and it is home to  American Girl Place Chicago .

The Watertower is the only building still standing that escaped the Great Chicago FireThe Magnificent Mile is a great area to spend the day, even if shopping isn’t top on your list of things to do. You could stop at the elegant Palm Court restaurant at the world-famous Drake Hotel for  traditional English afternoon  tea (finger sandwiches, fruit breads, scones, French pastries and a wide selection of teas), relax in the sun on Oak Street Beach, or take in the spectacular architecture of Chicago as you wander down Michigan Avenue towards the Chicago River.   If you are interested in architecture, you might want to take one of the Chicago River Architectural Cruises.

Another interesting sight in this area is the old Water Tower building  located at 806 North Michigan Avenue on a little island in the center of a forest of high rise buildings. The historic Water Tower is one of the oldest buildings in Chicago. It was built in 1869 and is the only building, still standing, to have survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that leveled the business district of Chicago. Today it houses a Chicago Visitor’s Information Center office and the City Gallery. The gallery features photographs of Chicago taken by local photographers.

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Places  Described On This Page

The Art Institute
The Field Museum of Natural History
Lincoln Park and the Zoo
The Magnificent Mile
The Water Tower Building


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