Sunday, January 20, 2013

Worth a Return Trip: Chicago

I love Chicago and it has been far, far too long since I was last there. The problem with visiting Chicago is that is too close: It’s too easy to say “let’s take a long weekend next month and drive down to Chicago.” But then, when next month rolls around with a non-refundable plane ticket in hand, it ends up being “Work is really busy this month, how about we do it next month?”

I’m sure you can see how this leads to years going by without ever actually getting in the car. I’ve considered flying just to make sure we actually get there!

When I do get there, I’ll clearly find more to do than I’ll have time for in a single long weekend!

Architecture
Chicago is a great city for architecture, with a rich architectural history.
By Voogd075 from Wikimedia Commons

Years ago I took an architectural boat tour of the city. It was fabulous and I’d like to do that again. (Of course, the Chicago Architecture Foundation also has a number of walking tours too.)     

 Downtown has a wealth of classic buildings, perfect for walking, but when I get tired of walking the question will be: the Hancock or the Willis (the former Sears Tower)?  I love the bar at the Hancock, with its huge windows and panoramic views of the city. But the Willis has an observation area with a “sky deck” that lets you step out on a glass floor and look straight down at the city 103 floors below.
By Dan Smith via Wikimedia Commons


Chicago’s Oak Park Heights suburb was once the home of Frank Lloyd Wright and a number of his designs can be found through-out the area, and a few are even open for tours. Among those open to the public are his home and studio in Oak Park Heights and the Robie House at the University of Chicago.


from greenroofs.com


Chicago is also national leader in the use of green architecture and infrastructure – it is a city where it is easy to sustainability in action. I might well humor my inner sustainability geek and make arrangements to tour as many of these as I can, including green roofs, green alleys, community gardens,  and other projects designed to bring about a greener, more sustainable urban structure.  
Museums
Chicago is a good museum city, but my favorite is the Art Institute of Chicago. Remodeled since I last visited, I’m eager to check out the changes, but also to visit old favorites. There are other great museums, including the Field Museum with it’s fine natural history and cultural collections, so I'll have plenty to do no matter what the weather is.

By J. Crocker via Wikimedia Commons

Urban parks
This might be the biggest area of change since my last visit, which pre-dated the establishment of Millennium Park. Last time I was here, the area was a wasteland frequented by the homeless. Now it boasts a concert-friendly pavilion, gardens, sculpture, the Cloud Gate (the giant bean), and Crown Fountain. All of which seem as if they were designed especially for photographers!

At least in the summer, the real highlight of Chicago might well be these wonderful urban parks, especially the parks and beaches that wrap along the Lake Michigan waterfront. It sounds perfect for biking.

This year I’ll get there!

More Places Worth a Return Trip

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