>Chicago. There is something all-american about this city. Situated in the Midwest, it is a cool and classy place, less frenzied than New York, less self-concious than LA. It has a big-city feel with more skyscrapers than you could shake a stick at but also has a beach bordering lake Michigan, which feels more like open sea. In short, Chicago has the best of everything.
There’s an awful lot to see and do in this city, so here are just 5 of the best.
Watch a Cubs Game
Being British, I vaguely knew that baseball existed from watching American TV shows, but that was the extent of it. I had no idea what the rules were (that’s still pretty hazy even now) but it was one of the best experiences ever! If you’re going to watch a baseball game anywhere in the states, make it Chicago. It is home to Wrigley Field, the iconic baseball stadium and the Cubs fans are the most loyal and downright crazy of all. The Cubs don’t exactly do well (they haven’t won the world series for over 100 years) but this only seems to make the fans adore them more.
Then of course, there is the beer ninja, who can open beers faster than you can blink (this looks more impressive than it sounds, trust me!) And of course there is the wonderfully named player – Kosuke Fukudome. What more could you ask for? I found myself getting just as involved as the fans, cheering whenever they did, which was a lot, although nothing of any note seemed to be happening on the pitch. When somebody finally did get a home run, we blew the top off the stadium (sorry about that!) It is the ultimate Chicago experience.
And do a lot of shopping! Downtown Chicago is shopping heaven. Anything you could want, huge stores and when you need a break, cafes with mind-boggling drinks menus. However, when you’ve shopped to your heart’s content (or possibly before, so that you’re not laden down with bags) just enjoy wandering around downtown. The bean is a major draw for visitors – it sounds mad that a large mirrored sculpture shaped like a kidney bean could be at all enthralling, but it really is. Try and resist going up to it, touching it, going under it, pulling funny faces at it. I certainly couldn’t! It also gives you a whole new (slightly skew-whiff) perspective on the city. Right next to it is the outdoor music stadium; even when there’s nothing on, it’s worth a look; I came across a couple of beatboxers having a practise on the other side of it and they made up a beat-box rap about London! Navy Pier is not far away and this is a great place for restaurants, so stop here for lunch and enjoy the views of the great lake.
Go up the Hancock Tower
At the top of this skyscraper is a viewing station which offers amazing views across the city, so make sure your camera is fully charged. You can also get an audio tour of what you are looking at, although I have to say I didn’t pay a lot of attention, I was just spellbound by the views.
Take a stroll along the beach
It is an incongruous thing to have a beach literally at the foot of skyscrapers, but it is a real delight. Amazingly for a city beach, it is also clean and well-kept which certainly makes it a more pleasurable experience. It’s a lovely place to be as the sun sets and you might not be as childish as me, but if you are then go and have a paddle in the water! You can then simply walk a few metres to be back amongst the buildings and find a nice restaurant for dinner. It is the perfect end to a day in the city.
Not Geneva, Switzerland; unless you have a private jet it’s a bit far for a day trip. Geneva, Illinois is a picture-perfect suburb town just a short train-ride from Chicago. It is a very civilised, utterly gorgeous slice of small-town perfection and well worth a visit. It’s full of pretty little independent shops, selling artisanal products, everything from cupcakes and wine to furniture Denise’s vintage shop was my particular favourite – it is a little treasure trove of wonders and I could quite easily spend hours in there. There are coffee shops and ice-cream parlours to keep you fed and watered and there is a lovely nature reserve right by the shops where you can sit and eat an ice-cream in a state of pure tranquility and bliss.
Chicago has everything, from bright lights and exciting entertainment, to places of calm perfection. Chicago is a city that seems comfortable in its own skin, if such a thing is possible. Chicago has stolen my heart, but I defy anybody to go and not fall in love.