With impressive architecture, a wealth of public art installations, and an effortlessly cool culture, Chicago is endlessly popular with both locals and tourists alike:
Chicago is a legendary metropolis that is almost as popular as New York, and seems to get better every year. Once the city of gangsters, Chicago is now a thriving metropolis. During a holiday in Chicago there need never be a dull moment with the number of world-class events and attractions being as exciting and diverse as the city itself. Chicago is celebrated for its galleries, theatres, and restaurants, and attracts shopaholics with its shopping scene.
Anyone and everyone will enjoy a holiday in Chicago, the marvellous modern city that offers amusements, entertainment and interesting sights to suit all tastes.
Best time to visit Chicago
If there is anything that might put off visitors who travel to Chicago it could be the weather, which can be unpleasant for most of the year. It is called the 'Windy City' for good reason. Summers, between June and August, are overly hot and humid, and winters, between December and February, are unbearably cold, windy, and snow-covered. The best time to holiday in Chicago is during early autumn, when the air is frosty but it sparkles under blue skies and sunshine.
GMT -6 (GMT -5 from March to November).
Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. Plugs are mainly the type with two flat pins, though three-pin plugs (two flat parallel pins and a rounded pin) are also widely used. European appliances without dual-voltage capabilities will require an adapter.
English is the most common language spoken but Spanish is often heard in the south-western states.
There are no specific health risks associated with travel within the USA. Medical facilities are excellent, but expensive. Only emergencies are treated without prior payment and treatment can be refused without evidence of insurance or proof of funds. Good medical insurance is essential.
A 15 percent tip is expected by taxi drivers, bartenders, hairdressers and waiters, but don't tip in fast-food or self-service restaurants. In expensive restaurants or for large parties, tip 20 percent of the bill. It is normal to tip staff such as valets and porters in hotels; this is discretionary, although a minimum of $5 is expected. Most services are customarily tipped if the service is good.
Travel within the United States is generally trouble-free, however, travellers should be aware that the US shares with the rest of the world, an increased threat from terrorist incidents. Security has been heightened, particularly at airports. Restrictions on hand luggage apply and travellers are advised to check on the latest situation with airlines in advance. Travellers should also be alert to the dangers of car and street crime in cities and should use common sense and take basic precautions. Hurricanes are common between June and November, putting the southern USA, including the Gulf Coast and the eastern US at risk. There is a risk of wildfires in many dry areas in the US, particularly on the West Coast from March to November.
Laws vary from state to state, including speed limit, fines and punishment. The age at which you may legally buy and consume alcohol is 21 years.
What this city lacks in New York bravado and LA style, Chicago makes up for in the astonishing variety of its architecture, vibrant culture, and thriving art scene, all of which are highlighted by the Art Institute of Chicago. It is also a truly family-friendly destination, with world-class attractions such as the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium to delight the whole family.
With so much to see, it's worth getting a sense of perspective from the start. Visit the 360 Chicago or the Willis Tower Skydeck for views of the city from breathtakingly high up. Then check out Navy Pier for a 3D motion simulation of Chicago's fascinating history and exciting future. Afterwards, hop on a boat tour departing from the adjoining pier to explore the waterfront area.
A good option for visitors is the Go Chicago Card which gives discounted admission to all the city's key attractions, shopping and dining discounts, various free tours, and a guide book. A Go Chicago Card also allows you to skip some long queues, which can be useful in peak season. The card is available from a number of tour operators or online, and costs upwards of $99 for adults.
It has been estimated that there are more than 6,000 restaurants in Chicago, representing just about every cuisine across every price range imaginable. Visitors can experience eating an authentic Ethiopian meal or a true south Goan curry under the shadow of the Willis Tower.
While the city offers everything from haute cuisine to hotdogs with all the trimmings, its true specialty is the world-famous deep-dish pizza, invented at Pizzeria Uno in 1943, and now available throughout the city (though still served at its birthplace).
Chicago has been steadily earning a reputation as one of the cuisine capitals of America, with its concentration of award-winning chefs and highly acclaimed fine dining establishments. Around 25 restaurants in Chicago have earned Michelin stars, proving just how much fodder is available for discerning foodies. Top areas for dining include trendy Lincoln Park, Chinatown, Little Italy, and Pilsen, a Mexican neighbourhood.
Chicago's unassuming nightlife scene comes as a refreshing change to some other big US cities. Most locals prefer to stay close to what they know and hang out at their local watering hole. However, Chicago still has its fair share of trendy bars, clubs, and cocktail lounges.
Popular areas for nightclubs, bars, and music venues include Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, and Lakeview, where revellers can find music clubs devoted to just about every genre, from R&B and jazz to alternative rock and indie. The city's waterfront nightlife is popular with residents and tourists alike, while the piano bar at The Drake Hotel is a local favourite.
Wells Street in the Old Town offers some great restaurants and bars as well as the popular Zanies Comedy Club. Chicago's gay scene is concentrated on a stretch of North Halsted Street in Lakeview, where men's bars dominate the strip.
The birthplace of house music in the 1980s, Chicago has plenty of clubs full of 20-somethings dancing to the latest offerings of the resident DJ. Many of these types of clubs pop up and disappear at a dizzying rate, while others have been around for decades.
The culture scene in Chicago is bustling with shows and plays running throughout the year at renowned Chicago theatre companies, such as the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Goodman Theatre, and the Victory Gardens Theater.
Broadway-style entertainment can be found at the CIBC Theatre and the Cadillac Palace Theater. For lovers of classical music, a visit to Symphony Center to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform is an absolute must.
Chicago has an extreme continental climate with very hot summers and bitterly cold winters, its lakeside setting only slightly moderating the temperatures and adding some humidity to the atmosphere.
Chicago has distinct seasons, with a short spring, when temperatures are moderate and nights frosty. Summers are hot, sunny and humid, from June to the end of September, and are prone to thunderstorms. The daily average high in July is around 84°F (29°C). August is usually the wettest month of the year.
Autumn is a lovely time of year when the air is crisp and cool, with blue skies and sunshine. Winters (December to February) in Chicago are icy and prone to cold, harsh winds, with temperatures averaging between 32°F (0°C) highs in the afternoons and around 14°F (-10°C) lows at night. Snow is common.
The US is an extremely diverse society and attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people differ hugely across the country. Illinois is seen as one of the most progressive states in the United States in regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and often viewed as one of the most liberal states in the Midwestern United States. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1962, after Illinois became the first U.S. state to repeal its sodomy laws. Same-sex marriage was banned by statute in 1996, but has since been legalized in November 2013, after a law allowing such marriages was signed by Governor Pat Quinn on November 20 and went into effect on June 1, 2014. Civil unions have been legal statewide since 2011, and same-sex couples are also allowed to adopt children.
Chicago has a vibrant LGBT community. The first pride parade took place in 1970, a year after the Stonewall riots. Since 2013, the Chicago Pride Parade has attracted about 1 million attendees each year. 2019 polling from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 74% of Illinois residents supported anti-discrimination legislation protecting LGBT people.
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