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The jewel of America's heartland, Chicago blends the style and sophistication of the country's biggest cities with the friendliness of the hard-working Midwest.
Chicago USA Vacations
The jewel of America's heartland, Chicago blends the style and sophistication of the country's biggest cities with the friendliness of the hard-working Midwest. Architect Frank Gehry and Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa have made the downtown Millennium Park an eye-catcher with public art -- the graceful curves of its fluid, metallic sculptures contrasting sharply with the rectangular office towers in the distance. Just steps away lie the shores of Lake Michigan where families have soaked up the sun and tycoons have yachted for generations.
The Chicago River remains one of the most visible of the city's major physical features. It's spanned by more movable bridges within the city limits (52 at last count) than any other city in the world. An almost-mystical moment occurs downtown when all the bridges spanning the main and south branches -- connecting the Loop to both the Near West Side and the Near North Side -- are raised, allowing for the passage of some ship, barge, or contingent of high-masted sailboats. The Chicago River has long outlived the critical commercial function that it once performed. Most of the remaining millworks that occupy its banks no longer depend on the river alone for the transport of their materials, raw and finished. Recently, Chicagoans have begun to discover other roles for the river, including water cruises, park areas, cafes, public art installations, and a riverside bike path that connects to the lakefront route near Wacker Drive. Actually, today's developers aren't the first to wonder why the river couldn't be Chicago's Seine. A look at the early-20th-century Beaux Arts balustrades lining the river along Wacker Drive, complete with comfortably spaced benches and Parisian-style bridge houses, shows that Chicago architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham knew full well what a treasure the city had.
The heart of the Loop is Chicago's business center, where you'll find the Chicago Board of Trade (the world's largest commodities, futures, and options exchange), Sears Tower, and some of the city's most famous early skyscrapers. If you're looking for an authentic big-city experience, wander the area on a weekday, when commuters are rushing to catch trains and businesspeople are hustling to get to work. The Loop is also home to one of the city's top museums, the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as a number of cultural institutions including the Symphony Center (home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra), the Auditorium Theatre, the Civic Opera House, the Goodman Theatre, and two fabulously restored historic theaters along Randolph Street. On the eastern edge of the Loop in Grant Park, three popular museums are conveniently located within a quick stroll of each other on the landscaped Museum Campus. Busy Lake Shore Drive, which brings cars zipping past the Museum Campus, was actually rerouted a few years ago to make the area easier to navigate for pedestrians.
(c) Zagat © 2013, Google.