To coincide with the release of the new Chicago travel guide, the experts at Lonely Planet have provided us with Chicago’s Top 5 experiences!
The Art Institute of Chicago
The second-largest art museum in the country, the Art Institute houses a treasure trove from around the globe. The collection of impressionist and postimpressionist paintings is second only to those in France, and the number of surrealist works is tremendous. Wander the endless marble and glass corridors, and rooms stuffed with Japanese prints, Grecian urns, suits of armor, Grant Wood’s American Gothic, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and one very big, dotted Seurat. The Modern Wing dazzles with Picassos and Mirós.
In recent years chefs such as Grant Achatz, Rick Bayless and Stephanie Izard put Chicago on the culinary map winning a heap of James Beard awards. Suddenly international critics were dubbing Chicago one of the globe’s top eating destinations. The beauty is that even the buzziest restaurants are accessible: visionary yet traditional, pubby at the core and decently priced. Chow down on a range of global eats in Chicago’s neighborhoods, from Puerto Rican jibaritos (steak covered in garlicky mayo and served between thick, crispy-fried plantain slices) to Indian samosas to Polish pierogi.
The playful heart of the city, Millennium Park shines with whimsical public art. Go ahead, walk under Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate – aka ‘the Bean’ – and touch its silvery smoothness. Let the human gargoyles of Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain gush water on you to cool down in summer. Unfurl a blanket by Frank Gehry’s swooping silver band shell as the sun dips, wine corks pop and gorgeous music fills the twilight air. Or try to find the secret garden abloom with prairie flowers and a wee, gurgling river.
Who cares if all the backward neckbending causes a little ache? There’s no better way to feel Chicago’s steely power than from low on the water looking up while cloud-poking towers glide by and iron bridges arch open to lead the way. The skyline takes on a surreal majesty as you float through its shadows on a river tour, and landmark after eye-popping landmark flash by. Guides’ architecture lessons carry on the breeze, so you’ll know your beaux art from International style by day’s end.
Blues & Rock
In Chicago no genre is as iconic as the blues – the electric blues, to be exact. When Muddy Waters and friends plugged in their amps c 1950, guitar grooves reached new decibel levels. Hear it in clubs around town, such as Buddy Guy’s Legends, where the icon himself still takes the stage, or Rosa’s Lounge, where it’s a bit more down and dirty. The blues paved the way for rock and roll, so no surprise cool little clubs hosting edgy indie bands slouch on many a street corner.
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