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Profile

The "Windy City" first became a city in 1837, having emerged from its origins as a backwater swampland mapped in the late 17th century to become an industrial and economic powerhouse that would solidify its place in U.S. history.

From 1850 to 1860, shortly after the development of the railroad and the Illinois/Michigan Canal, Chicago experienced a tremendous population surge and speculation which led to observations such as this from a visiting British tourist: "It is a city not in growth, but in revolution; growth is much too slow a word for the transformation of a hamlet of log-huts into a Western New York in the space of a few years." Chicago's population almost tripled during that decade.

The Great Fire in 1871 burned four square miles of the city. The city responded by replacing the old wooden structures with modern brick buildings in the form of banks, businesses, department stores, government agencies, and residential housing. Chicago's architects built upward instead of outward for lack of space, and one result was America's first steel-frame skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building, in 1885. Almost 100 years later in 1973, Chicago laid claim to what then was the tallest building in the world, Sears Tower (now called Willis Tower), which stands at 1,450 feet tall.

Chicago is a city rich in history. It is also home to many of the world's most famous architectural feats and popular retail and tourist destinations such as "The Magnificent Mile"; the country's largest exhibit and convention center, McCormick Place; one of the world's busiest airports, O' Hare International; the Navy Pier lakefront entertainment complex, a Chicago landmark since 1916; the monumental new Millennium Park; the second oldest baseball park in the country, Wrigley Field, and a total population in excess of 2.8 million.
Chicago's winters are mostly sunny with an average temperature of 28 F, and some 30 inches of snow. Weather from June until September is nearly perfect for outdoor activities, with an average temperature around 70, but expect a few tropically hot days. By mid-July and continuing through late September, Lake Michigan is perfect for swimming. Local weather reporters often talk of "lake effect" to indicate conditions near Lake Michigan where the water temperature and wind make summer extremes more moderate and winter conditions more intense.

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First conceived in 1998 as a way to create new parkland in the Grant Park area, Millennium Park (Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe streets) is a 24.5-acre park that embodies world-class art, music, architecture, and landscape design. Visitors can view public art displays and theatrical events, attend free public concerts, shop, dine, or take a relaxing stroll through the gardens and gaze at the city skyline. The park is open every day from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

For a view from above, take a trip to the top of two of the world's tallest buildings. The Skydeck (233 S. Wacker Dr.; 312-875-9696; www.the-skydeck.com) and the Hancock Observatory (875 N. Michigan Ave., 94th Floor; 888-875-VIEW; www.hancockobservatory.com) give visitors the chance to rise more than 1,000 feet above the city for spectacular views of the skyline as well as the four neighboring states spanning 80 miles outward. Both observatories offer high-powered telescopes, multimedia exhibits and multi-language audio tours.

Since first opening in 1916, the Navy Pier (600 E. Grand Ave.; 312-595-PIER; www.navypier.com), just east of Downtown, has been a Chicago landmark. Featuring a number of indoor and outdoor attractions that include museums, theaters, an indoor botanical park, a 150-foot-high Ferris wheel, miniature golf course, boat cruises, and more, it continues to be one of Chicago's biggest tourist attractions.

Combining creative activities with educational and hands-on exhibits, the Chicago Children's Museum (700 E. Grand Ave. at Navy Pier; 312-527-1000; www.chichildrensmuseum.org) is a place for learning and fun. Spend the day exploring the Inventing Lab and learn about inventions by Chicago-area students or invent your own flying machine. Discover age-old fossils at the Dinosaur Expedition, or play the role of architect at the Under Construction building workshop.

Lincoln Park Zoo (Cannon Dr. at Fullerton Pkwy.; 312-742-2000; www.lpzoo.org) is among the oldest zoological gardens in the country (established in 1868), and is also one of the last free zoos. It offers plenty of animal attractions and leisurely family activities, from paddle boating to train rides. Feed a cow or pet a goat at the Farm-in-the-Zoo, take a cruise on the Endangered Species Carousel or witness wildlife in its own natural habitat, either by foot or on the African Safari Ride.

The Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-443-3600; www.artic.edu/aic) features vast collections including famous French Impressionist paintings and drawings, fine and decorative arts from America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, photography, textiles and architectural works, as well as collections dating from 3,000 B.C. to the present. Call for details on special exhibits taking place throughout the year as well as special admission prices.

The largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found makes its home at the Field Museum (1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.; 312-922-9410; www.fieldmuseum.org). "Sue" made her debut at the museum on May 17, 2000 and represents the best-preserved fossilized bones of a T-Rex yet discovered. Another permanent exhibit, "Underground Adventure," allows visitors to view the world from an insect's point of view. Visitors can also descend into an Egyptian tomb, watch the flow of lava, learn about the world's cultures and environments, and more.

The Steppenwolf Theatre Company (1650 N. Halsted St.; 312-335-1650; www.steppenwolf.org) is an international non-profit performing arts center located in the heart of Lincoln Park on Chicago's north side. Steppenwolf is the home for launching world premieres, introducing new works to Chicago audiences and revisiting classic plays with year-round performances in each of its three theater spaces.

For a variety of sightseeing and exciting cruises, Chicago's Navy Pier is home to a wide range of vessels offering visitors everything from elegant dinner cruises and dancing to thrilling speed boat rides to relaxing educational excursions.

For sightseeing, Windy (312-595-5555; www.tallshipwindy.com) is a 198-foot four-mast traditionally American-style schooner offering 90-minute cruises for up to 150 passengers from May through October. The Seadog (312-822-7200; www.seadogcruises.com) vessels provide high-speed fun on four of the fastest speedboats in the country for a 30-minute blast along the lakefront. For lunch or dinner cruises, take a ride on the Spirit of Chicago (312-836-7899; www.spiritofchicago.com), which sails year-round and is available for group charters or individual reservations.

For the golfing enthusiast, the Chicago Park District (425 E. McFetridge Dr., Chicago; 312-245-0909; www.cpdgolf.com) offers six golf courses, three driving ranges, two miniature golf courses, and three learning centers all of which are easily accessible from anywhere in the Chicago metropolitan area. The Chicago courses are open all year long, from dawn to dusk, weather permitting. Tee times can be made in person or by calling the 24-hour tee time reservation system at (312) 245-0909. Two of the Chicago Park District's nine-hole golf courses are situated on the shores of Lake Michigan with the Chicago skyline as a backdrop.

Sydney R. Marovitz (3600 N. Recreation Dr., Chicago; 312-742-7930) ranks among the most challenging of the Chicago Park District courses with its tight greens, numerous bunkers and championship length.

South Shore Golf Course (7059 S. South Shore Dr., Chicago; 312-245-0909) is a 2,720-yard, par 33 course that offers panoramic views of Lake Michigan along tree-lined fairways and small greens.

Chicago offers a broad range of accommodations to suit every travel need. From world-class luxury lodging to affordable boutique hotels located nearby area attractions and shopping, there are many options from which to choose.

Located on Michigan Avenue in the heart of Chicago's famed shopping and dining district is the Chicago Marriott Downtown on the Magnificent Mile (540 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago; 312-836-0100; www.chicagomarriottdowntown.com), a 46-story building with nearly 1,200 guest rooms and 25 suites. Along with its prestigious location, the Marriott Downtown offers various amenities, which include five restaurants and lounges, health club and indoor pool, fitness center, salon, laundry service, and more.

Located within walking distance of McCormick Place and the Museum Campus, The Wheeler Mansion (2020 S. Calumet Ave., Chicago; 312-945-2020; www.wheelermansion.com) is a luxury boutique hotel with 11 rooms/suites individually designed with nineteenth century antiques, fine art and tapestries. Guests are treated to European style elegance and amenities including marble spa baths, robes, toiletries, complimentary gourmet breakfast, laundry services, and twice-daily chambermaid visits. A Chicago landmark since 1870.

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago (160 E. Pearson St., at Water Tower Pl., Chicago; 312-266-1000; www.fourseasons.com/chicagorc) set atop Water Tower Place, high above North Michigan Avenue and the city's Magnificent Mile, offers 435 luxurious guestrooms including 91 suites, all of which feature extra large picture windows offering scenic city views from within elegant interiors. The hotel boasts an exclusive full service spa and fitness center, an award-winning restaurant, The Dining Room, serving modern American cuisine, and a variety of special guest rooms and suites for all occasions.

There's no place more exciting to shop than Chicago. Year-round, the city tempts with a dazzling array of unique shops and stores.

The famous Magnificent Mile along Michigan Avenue is a true shopper's paradise laid along an eight-block stretch that includes four separate shopping centers encompassing 460 retail stores, 275 restaurants, 51 hotels, and a variety of cultural and entertainment venues in eight city blocks.

900 North Michigan features six levels of upscale retailers headed by Bloomingdale's and also includes a full service salon and spa; Water Tower Place at 835 North Michigan Avenue features eight levels of shopping, while Chicago Place at 700 North Michigan is an eight-level specialty retail center that features Saks and more than 50 other unique stores. Westfield North Bridge is an elegant specialty center anchored by Nordstrom. This four-level concourse at 520 North Michigan includes many popular retail stores and restaurants.

Shopping in Old Town (1520 N. Wells, Lower Level; 312-951-6106; www.oldtownchicago.org/shopping) is a delightful experience with a collection of unique fashion boutiques, gift shops and home decorating stores. From designer shoes to contemporary furnishings to imported antiques and unique gifts, the variety is inviting and exciting. Old Town is one of Chicago's most unique and charming neighborhoods with its tree-lined streets accented with historical streetlights and assorted outdoor cafes.

The starting point for many famous actors, directors and writers, including several popular Saturday Night Live alumni, The Second City (1616 N. Wells St., Chicago; 312-337-3992; www.secondcity.com) has been a Chicago institution since 1959 showcasing its signature brand of socio-political satire. The theater features free improvisation after the last show every day except Friday, and no drink minimums. The 45th Anniversary Tour featuring the "Best of Second City" takes place every Monday evening at 8:30 p.m. with tickets priced at $12.

Dick's Last Resort (315 North Dearborn; 312-836-7870; www.dickslastresort.com), known locally as the "Shame of Chicago," has live music seven nights a week, no cover and no dress code. This leisurely hangout features 74 kinds of beer, fully stocked bar and buckets of barbecue beef among other dinner menu finger foods. Excalibur Entertainment Complex (632 N. Dearborn Pkwy., Chicago; 312-337-3836) is Chicago's largest dance club and features a variety of music, recreational games and its own restaurant.

The Metra (www.metrarail.com) commuter rail system makes traveling to and from downtown Chicago and its surrounding areas convenient with four downtown stations. On Metra you can reach Chicago's lakefront shopping districts, museums, schools, and colleges as well as quaint, historic suburbs and small towns. Metra goes practically to the front door or nearby bus or train lines. Metra's Weekend Pass offers unlimited rides and may be purchased on the train or a Metra ticket office (312-836-7000).

Save money and avoid the wait with the Chicago CityPASS. Visitors can choose from a selection of Chicago's most popular attractions, including John Hancock Observatory (Fast Pass admission), Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Adler Planetarium, and save about 50 percent off the regular admission price. The CityPASS ticket booklet can be used up to nine days from first use and can be purchased at any of the participating venues or in advance at www.citypass.com/chicago.

Visitors can discover Chicago's unique character and many attractions with the aid of a Chicago Greeter. Chicago Greeter is a free service designed to help visitors become familiar with the city and all its neighborhoods. Greeters are experienced locals who volunteer to share their time and knowledge of the city. Visit www.chicagogreeter.com for more information.

312 Chicago

In a city known for amazing restaurants, with their iconic city views, 312 Chicago has a sophisticated yet welcoming atmosphere, which makes it stand out of the crowd. A perfect location, welcoming atmosphere and authentic Italian cuisine, with a modern twist have deliciously captured locals and travelers alike. Chef Luca brings his exceptional talents and passion to his cuisine, and serves breakfast through dinner. Make sure to try out the banana walnut bread with lemon crème for breakfast, or their signature 312 eggs benedict with prosciutto cotto, and truffle honey hollandaise. Their dinner selection is unique and delicious as well, with dishes like Carpaccio di Barbabietole, on roasted baby greens, ricotta salata, hazelnuts in a blood orange vinaigrette. Pasta dishes like gnocchi with lamb ragu, and salmon with braised lentils, and spinach are sure to tantalize your taste buds. Leave room decadent desserts, and have a cocktail or two. 

312 Chicago
136 N. La Salle Street
(312) 696-2420




Carmichael's Chicago Steak House


A classic favorite in downtown Chicago is spacious Carmichael's Chicago Steak House, where Chicago's nostalgia mixes with choice cut steaks. Options range from Angus Beef bone-in 20-ounce ribeyes to the Provimi green-peppercorn veal chop, with a supporting cast of garlic mashed potatoes and apple pie baked in a paper bag. In the summer, everyone moves outdoors to the garden with its charming gazebo. The lunch menu's less pricey and the place is generally more packed, but the steaks seasoned with the catchy "add-a-crust" selection are worth the extra spread.

Carmichael's Chicago Steak House
1052 West Monroe St.
(312) 433-0025
www.carmichaelsteakhouse.com



The Grill On The Alley


The Grill on the Alley is an upscale classic American establishment and Chicago's answer to the original Beverly Hills-based classic. Created from a chunk of the Hotel Westin's lobby, this clubby charmer is very civilized (the martinis are very dry). The ambience adds up to dark woods, ultra-private leather booths and the right menu for power brokers: grilled prime steaks, and a lush dessert called brownie pie with caramel sauce. Also have a go at the steak tartar appetizer for two and special tequila-marinated fried shrimp.

The Grill On The Alley
909 North Michigan Ave.
(312) 255-9009
www.thegrill.com



Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab


From South Miami to the Windy City no one serves the stone crabs better than Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab. Served in-season from October 15 through May 15, and with Joe Weiss's traditional mustard sauce they are truly exceptional. For starters, spinach stuffed mushrooms or shrimp and scallop ceviche do fine, or take out a "second mortgage" of seafood appetizers if you're really hungry. Then save plenty of room for the main course - it's weighty and a little pricey, but so satisfying.

Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab
60 East Grand St.
(312) 379-5637
www.joes.net



Kingfisher

Kingfisher, located in friendly Andersonville, is actually a reincarnation of a former seafood restaurant known as Pier 5736. Now located on Clark Street, the restaurant offers fresh seafood year-round. Locals know that their favorites, such as shrimp bisque, will be beautifully and freshly made, and the mains will feature the best catch. Expect an upscale, casual atmosphere without high prices. Those looking for choices beyond seafood will not be disappointed—there are pork, chicken and steak dinners on offer here as well.

Kingfisher
5721 North Clark St.
(773) 506-7014
www.kingfisheronclark.com



La Madia

At La Madia, they promise that the wine list is deep and it certainly is in this River North establishment, with 250-plus bottles to choose from in a contemporary setting. They also promise pizza that delivers and it does. You can relax here for a casual meal with house made fennel sausage, spinach and ham, and white clams and chili peppers among the toppings on delicious homemade pizza. Oven-roasted globe artichokes will do just fine as a starter. There’s a small dessert selection but it is unusual, and they are open for lunch as well.

La Madia
59 West Grand Ave.
(312) 329-0400
www.dinelamadia.com



La Sardine


Homesick for Paris? You'll revive with a visit to La Sardine. Lean back against a banquette in this long narrow room and contemplate the subtle lighting and semi-open kitchen in the sophisticated bistro owned by Jean Claude Poilevey; then dream of the lovely les escargots bourguignons or baked onion soup you've ordered as an appetizer. A salad might be composed of goat cheese or watercress, and your entree could be la bouillabaisse. Fine French dining at surprisingly moderate prices.

La Sardine
111 North Carpenter St.
(312) 421-2800
www.lasardine.com



mk

Culinary artistry in Chicago's River North Galley District comes by way of mk, named for the chef/owner Michael Kornick. Kornick's longtime track record in creating fine contemporary cuisine has led to acclaim for such signature dishes as yellowfin tuna, seared with red wine syrup and garlic mashed new potatoes. The wine list is tops; desserts include creme brulee. Come for lunch: the people watching is exemplary and the tab a bit less pricey than at dinner.

mk
868 North Franklin St.
(312) 482-9179
www.mkchicago.com



Mirai Sushi


Mirai Sushi is a cutting-edge "new world sushi" restaurant known for its three-foot fish tanks located behind the sushi bar. When you're not staring at the live fluke, rockfish and lobster, you may order such starters as sakana carpaccio moriwase, ebi motoyaki (grilled prawn and shiitake mushrooms), miso soup, seared duck, or ise ebi (lobster with fresh seaweed, lotus, and orange tobiko). Post-dining is fabulous in this floor-to-ceiling glass house, with its icy blues and warm seagreens, climb the steps to the lounge to listen to the deejay and sip sake on the weekends or simply lounge out during the week.

Mirai Sushi
2020 West Division St.
(773) 862-8500
www.miraisushi.com



Petterino’s

Best for pre-theater dinner or lunch, Petterino’s is a good choice for a fast meal. Come after 7 p.m. to partake of the nightly three-course prix-fixe dinner. You choose from seven firsts, seven entrees, seven desserts, and even seven wines for a bargain dinner. The menu includes classic beef and chicken dishes. Enjoy the wine chosen by the restaurant’s sommelier and sit back for the dessert choices.

Petterino’s
150 North Dearborn St.
(312) 422-0150
www.petterinos.com



Prairie Grass Cafe


A prairie-influenced panorama promotes a casual atmosphere that, combined with contemporary American cuisine, creates a truly Midwestern dining experience. The Prairie Grass Cafe exemplifies the handiwork of chef/owners Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris previously established at the Ritz-Carlton's Dining Room. The cafe's seasonal menu changes monthly and offers a variety of signature dishes and homemade desserts.

Prairie Grass Cafe
601 Skokie Blvd.
Northbrook
(847) 205-4433
www.prairiegrasscafe.com



RL

Adjacent to the world's largest Polo store, the Chicago flagship on Michigan Avenue, RL Restaurant has a fashionable accent, exceptional service and is stylish enough to make Mr. Lauren very happy. Once comfortably enclosed within the navy blue walls accented by mahogany paneling, you can enjoy an excellent choice of wines while you dine on an appetizer like steamed mussels or baked camembert and then choose from among the exquisite entrees of American fare with a French twist.

RL
115 East Chicago Ave.
(312) 475-1100
www.rlrestaurant.com



Spiaggia


A great many Spiaggia aficionados might argue that this Italian-flavored oasis has the best view in town; Lake Michigan lies beyond the massive windows of this luxurious and comfortable space. Spiaggia (which the Chicago Tribune deemed "the only four-Star Italian in town"), offers a vast wine list. In a town crowded with good Italian trattorie, however, it should be noted that most are more moderately priced than this beautiful restaurant.

Spiaggia
980 North Michigan Ave.
(312) 280-2750
www.spiaggiarestaurant.com



Terzo Piano

The new Modern Wing at The Art Institute of Chicago is known for its art, of course, but lately it is also a place to dine in style—at least on Thursday evenings and for lunch. Terzo Piano, highlighting the cuisine of chef Tony Mantuano, offers a three-course dinner that is complimented with the perfect choice of wine. Enjoy the roasted Alaskan salmon served with tomato vinaigrette or try the handcrafted spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, ricotta, toasted garlic, herbs, and pine nuts. It’s a different sort of experience and one that will be worth talking about. You don’t need a ticket to the museum to dine here, but reservations are suggested.

Terzo Piano
The Art Institute
111 South Michigan Ave.
(312) 443-8650
www.terzopianochicago.com

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