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Reasons to Visit Chicago

The Windy City is not for the faint of heart, literally – the food is some of the richest on offer in the United States, and the harsh winters are likely to test one’s resolve as well. Chicago, one of the Midwest’s few notable and renowned cities, is a treasure trove of world-class food, cheap beer and glorious architecture. The city retains an inherent friendliness and charm, and its food, mix of cultures and storied history are a big part of its appeal.

1. A hometown feel in Logan Square

Logan Square is quickly becoming the new it neighborhood in Chicago. As opposed to super hipster Wicker Park and Bucktown, Logan Square retains a more Midwestern, down-home feel to it. Visitors can give their heart a break with some truly delicious vegan food at The Chicago Diner, or with Mexican at cheap and cheerful Taquería Moran. For drinks, Telegraph has a great wine list and Longman & Eagle melts away stress with excellent cocktails. Congress Theater hosts everything from rock concerts to lucha libre fights. For a more subdued evening, simply stroll along Logan Boulevard, especially around Christmas for some dazzling light displays.

2. So many neighborhoods, so little time

With 77 distinct neighborhoods to choose from, there must be something for everyone. Looking for a great gay scene? Chicago’s Boystown has one of the largest LGBTQ communities in the United States, and Lakeview’s Pride Parade sees around 750,000 revelers every year. Fancy a trip to the Caribbean? Travel to Puerto Rico via Humboldt Park, where 60-foot high metal Puerto Rican flags decorate the gates of Paseo Boricua, where visitors can gnosh on elote and other street food while checking out the huge murals, the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture and plenty of parks, lagoons and pools. Want a bit of everything? Head to Hyde Park, home of the University of Chicago, Hyde Park Art Center, Museum of Science and Industry and President Obama’s house.

3. It’s 5 o’clock all the time

When the price is right, it’s hard to say no to beer, and several places in Chicago take this sentiment seriously. Cash-only Happy Village offers $2 PBR and Old Style, an all-season beer garden and free ping-pong to test drinkers’ hand-eye coordination. In Logan Square, pay $8.50 for a PBR, a shot of Jack and slice of pizza at dive bar Boiler Room. While not as cheap, local brewery Revolution Brewing offers up some supreme stouts, IPAs and more as well as year-round favorites and seasonal tastes.

4. A slice of divisive deep-dish

Pizza or pie? There’s not much gray area when it comes to opinions about Chicago’s deep-dish pizza. With the fillings and cheese melting together under a thick layer of sauce, it’s one of those dishes that you’ll refuse to regret taking a second slice of even though it’s clearly against your arteries’ best interests. Order from North Side favorite Lou Malnati’s, Burt’s Place, which is the home of the caramelized crust, or Lincoln Park’s Pequod’s, which offers pizza and beer lunch specials for just $5.

5. Feed your brain at the many museums

The Art Institute of Chicago is practically endless, with more than 300,000 pieces under its roof. Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte are on permanent display, and the museum also houses a vast display of African American art. The National Museum of Mexican Art is home to a wonderful collection of 1,400 pieces covering the Chicano Movement. Back at Navy Pier, the Stained Glass Museum features Tiffany stained glass windows and a portrait of hometown hero Michael Jordan. Many other museums reflect the history of the various groups that have settled in Chicago, including the DuSable Museum of African American History, Oriental Institute, National Hellenic Museum and Swedish American Museum.

6. Architecture and shopping downtown

Start the day on Michigan Avenue and see how long it takes to set credit cards alight on the Magnificent Mile. Once past the call of consumerism, take a gander around Tribune Tower, where one could spend an entire afternoon gaping at the architecture. Pieces from famous sites, like the Great Wall of China, Angkor Wat, Abraham Lincoln’s tomb, Notre Dame and more have been incorporated into the lower outside levels of the building. See the view from above on the 103rd floor at Willis (that is, Sears) Tower. The glass deck is not for everyone! Right on Lake Michigan is Navy Pier, an all-American, family friendly good time with rides, a museum and a great view. After marveling at all the brick, take your picture in front of the Bean, a huge mirrored sculpture, and head to the lakefront.

7. Everything’s at the lakefront

Chicago’s lakefront remains unmarred by piers and large docks. It does, in fact, get warm enough to head to the beaches in summer, and they get plenty crowded. In winter, it’s incredible to see Lake Michigan freeze. The lakefront is home to practically everything and is an ideal place to hang out if just in town for a day or two. Grant Park, Millenium Park, Lincoln Park and Soldier Field are all there. A leisurely drive along Lake Shore Drive puts the nation’s largest freshwater lake on one side and the city’s brick-and-glass skyline on the other. For a more eco-friendly alternative, a bike ride or run along Lake Shore Trail is equally gorgeous.

8. Go outside to Oak Park

Technically, it’s not part of Chicago proper, but Oak Park is a still has plenty to offer. Those into architecture can join the Frank Lloyd Wright tour, which takes visitors to his first home and studio and Unity Temple in Oak Park as well as other sites in the city. Another tour well worth the time is a walk through Ernest Hemingway’s childhood home and museum. Get your brain ready for the onslaught of knowledge with a healthy vegetarian lunch at Munch.

9. Get serious about sports

Pick your loyalties wisely, because fair-weather sports fans will never hear the end of it in Chicago. The city is home to several teams across the four major sports. Da Bears, as they are affectionately known, are much more than an American football team – they’re a Chicago institution that dominate Sundays during the season. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s legacies still tower over the Bulls’ history, but the current basketball team has done an excellent job of making it to the playoffs several times in the last decade. Baseball splits the town, as Northsiders inevitably side with century-long underdogs the Cubs, while Southsiders cheer on the White Sox. Hockey team the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013.

10. Eat, eat, eat in Fulton Market

Chicago is undoubtedly a red meat town, but even the pickiest of eaters can find something to soothe salivating taste buds in the Fulton Market neighborhood. Go later in the afternoon to enjoy the Mr. G sandwich at Chicago’s oldest family owned Italian market J.P. Graziano without having to wait in line. Publican Quality Meats smokes, cures and cooks all their meat, making the hometown crowd proud. For those who just can’t see why deep dish pizza is a (good) thing, head to Piece, which specializes in New Haven-style pizza. Settle heartburn with the slightly healthier option of a bowl of pho at Hai Yen.