If you have ever zipped up a jacket, spray painted a sign, ridden on a Ferris Wheel, eaten a Twinkie or used a vacuum cleaner, you have Chicago to thank. All of these wonderful inventions, well, maybe Twinkies are not so wonderful, were invented in Chicago during the last century and have been in worldwide demand ever since. Let discover the vibrant city through my Chicago travel blog.
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There are five “great lakes” in the United States and Chicago is situated on Lake Michigan, the only lake of the five that is entirely in the United States. Chicago is still a port city and in fact was first a settlement at the “Chicago Portage,” a water gap connecting the drainage basins and the navigable waterways of the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. It is in some ways similar to the Mekong Delta, a vast wet “highway” though much colder of course!
In 2016, 53 million visitors flocked to Chicago to take scenic boat rides on the Chicago River (the only river in the world that flows backwards) enjoy a baseball game at historic Wrigley Field, and immerse themselves in the multicultural melting pot that is Chicago. What are you waiting for?
Chicago is a vibrant, luxurious city where one can find anything. Want to admire some of the finest art in the world? Head to the Art Institute of Chicago, where you will find the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside of the Louvre in Paris. If it’s shopping you want, go to the “Magnificent Mile” a trendy section of Michigan Avenue. There you will find museums, shopping, dining, and hotels occupying 290,000 square meters of some of the most expensive real estate in the world.
No trip to the Windy City can be complete without posing for a picture with the public sculpture “Cloud Gate” by British artist Anish Kapoor and located at AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park. Constructed of stainless steel plates (168 of them!) welded together and then polished so that no seams are visible, Cloud Gate has been nicknamed “The Bean,” because of its shape. At 90718.5 kg and 10m by 20m by 13m, that is some bean!
When I travel, I am usually drawn more to open spaces and nature than shopping, and there are plenty of things to do in Chicago that don’t cost a lot of money to enjoy. The Chicago Zoo is one of the world’s last free zoos, meaning that to enjoy the exotic animals, all you have to do is show up—admission is free! Shedd Aquarium is also a great place to see all kinds of aquatic wildlife and is home to “Grandad” an Australian Lungfish that is over 85 years old.
This is just a small sample of all the things to do in Chicago and a long week is not enough time to take in everything. I have friends who live there and are constantly discovering new treasures! My time there was all too short, and so I have to placate my desire to return by looking at pictures, remembering the wonderful sights, sounds and smell of the Windy City while I plan my next trip.
Best time to visit Chicago
year round temperatures in Chicago vary between. from -18 to 23 degrees C. Chicago is called the “Windy City” because of the politicians talking all the time, but it is also a windy city because of the weather. Even in summer, the wind blowing off Lake Michigan can be chilly, so bring a jacket. If you visit in winter, it will be much colder and layers of warm clothing, gloves, a hat and heavy coat are a must.
Late Spring and Summer, from May to August, are the best times to travel in terms of climate, but I recommend visiting anytime as there is always something seasonal to do. Regardless of the time of year, you should dress in layers and don’t forget to bring an umbrella and light jacket all the time. The weather can change with little warning and it’s best to be prepared in case the weather changes.
Currently, there are no direct routes from Vietnam to the United States, but word on the street is that Vietnam Air will be offering non-stop service in 2018. Until then, and you will have to connect in one of several transits, which include South Korea, Japan or Hong Kong.
From Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, you can fly with a number of carriers and all are about the same price. Additionally, most of the major airlines code share anyway, so booking on American Airlines will often put you on Cathay Pacific (transit in Hong Kong) or another Asian airline. Other carriers to check are Eva Airways, (transit in Taipei) China Air, Korean Air or Asiana Air (transit in Seoul), as well as Japan Air (transit in Tokyo).
Tip: If you like to travel and don’t mind being on the go, try to schedule a long layover at the transit point. Not only does this allow you to get out of the airport and have a visit, I find that it helps me suffer less from jet-lag. Most of the airports have short day tours available for travelers and I have really enjoyed them.
Uber and/or Lyft—Download the app on your smart phone, send for a driver and go!
Taxi—Generally okay but more expensive than what you are used to back home.
Public Transportation: The Elevated train (called The L) is famous and functional. It provides 24 hour service and at 124 km long, is the fourth largest rapid transit system in the United States.
Tip: Try to stay in downtown Chicago to make getting around easier and safer.
- Japanese, try Roka Akor, Momatora or Yuzu Sushi and Robata Grill. There are many others of course, but these are the ones I have had good luck with.
- For Tapas, try Mercat a la Planxa or Bulerias Tapas Bar
- German go to Berghoff (over 100 years old!)
- American hotdogs try Portillos Hotdogs or for steaks try out Gibson’s and for Chicago style pizza you have to try Gino’s East.
- Cocktails: There a great many bars and clubs, but you must try The Hop Leaf. They have great beer and food pairings. Ask for Andy.
Must Try Experience
Go to Navy Pier and ride the Ferris Wheel for a view of the city and Lake Michigan.
Tip: Use YELP for reviews and recommendations of top restaurants, shopping, nightlife, entertainment, services and more.