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Finding the Very Best to See and Do in Chicago
Chicago does some things better than any other city: you just have to know what they are, and how to find them. Read on for some of the activities that make Chicago a special place to visit.Cheering on the Cubbies
Baseball at Wrigley Field is a quintessential Chicago experience. (See Chapter 16.) The ivy-covered field is the coziest little park in baseball. Even though the Cubs lost 97 games in the 2 season, tickets can still be hard to come by on a perfect summer day. The seats in Wrigley give you room to breathe, and watching a game under the Midwestern skies, which are vast with low-lying puffy clouds, is a quintessential Chicago experience.Getting the Blues--A Good Thing
Chicago is the blues capital of the world. And if you get to know this style of music, you may gain a greater appreciation for other popular forms, such as jazz and rock n' roll. There is nothing quite as sweet as hanging out at Buddy Guy's Legends on a Thursday night and discovering that the couple seated next to you is B.B. King's drummer and his girlfriend, visiting Chicago on a rare night off. Even if you don't love the blues, do yourself a favor and check it out when you're here. (See Chapter 24, for more blues clubs.)Discovering the Third Coast
While residents of the first two coasts (East and West, that is) might consider it a surprise, we Chicagoans consider ourselves residents of the "Third Coast" -- Lake Michigan's shore, that is. Thanks to the foresight of city founders who in 1836 wrote that the lakefront was a public ground "to remain forever open, clear, and free" from construction, the shore has no warehouses or shipping docks. Instead, you find 30 miles of sand beaches, green lawns, beds of flowers, and bicycle paths. More than half of the 2,8 acres of lakefront were created by filling in the lake and building a string of splendid lakeshore parks (Lincoln, Grant, Burnham, Jackson, Rainbow and Calumet). While you're here, join Chicagoans at the lake to walk, run, or just relax.Soaking Up Some Culture
Chicago's Lyric Opera continually sells out 1% of the time (but don't fear, it's because subscription holders routinely hand in unused tickets before the performance -- meaning you can get your hands on some great seats). Directed by well-known conductor Daniel Barenboim, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is world-class. And the city recently adopted the Joffrey Ballet, which now performs in venues around the city. Our local theater companies include the Goodman and Steppanwolf theaters, with their particular takes on the physical and demanding Chicago school style of acting.
Nobody does comedy better than Second City (see Chapter 17), a training grounds for comedians such as John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, and Chris Farley. Other theater highlights include the refurbishing of the Oriental and Palace theaters and the opening of the Old Town School of Folk Music theater and education center (see Chapter 17) and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (see Chapter 22) on Navy Pier.Seeing "Sue" and Other Museum Stars
Sure, the biggest T-Rex fossil ever unearthed is now residing at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History (see Chapter 16 for information on all museums). As long as you're going to see Sue, you should know that an entire "campus" of museums is nearby, including The Adler Planetarium and the John G. Shedd Aquarium. And they've both revamped and improved their facilities. The Shedd, the nation's oldest and largest indoor aquarium, is housed in a 1929 Beaux-Arts structure and a modern addition, the Oceanarium, was finished in 1990. The Shedd is currently being restored and reconfigured and two new partially underground wings are being added in an $85 million project that will last several years. The Adler is also doing a top-to-bottom renovation of its original 1930 Art Deco building, which has 12 sides adorned with astrological signs and is topped by a dome. The facility has been improved with a new $20-million wing that curves around the building and contains a new virtual-reality theater. Further south, the incomparable Museum of Science and Industry wows kids and adults with a real-life submarine, airplane, ant colony and more. Downtown, the Museum of Contemporary Art is a new addition in the past five years and features spectacular cultural programming. The Art Institute is Chicago's ground zero for masterpieces of art. And, a brand new natural science museum in Lincoln Park -- the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum -- is an environmental museum for the 21st century.Admiring the Architecture
One advantage to having your city burn to the ground: You can rebuild and do it with style. Thanks to the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago's architects were able to start over and "make no small plans," as city planner and visionary Daniel Burnham said. Chicago is the birthplace of modern architecture, and of the skyscraper. We are home to 45 Mies Van Der Rohe buildings, 75 Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, plus dozens by the first Chicago school and the second Chicago school. Enough said? The Chicago Architecture Foundation helps visitors discover the city's architectural gems. (See Chapter 16.)Eating Your Way Through Town
If you have to eat while you're here, you're in luck. Food doesn't get much better than the Mexican cuisine at Frontera Grill or Salpicon, the ribs at Twin Anchors, burgers at Iron Mike's Grille, sushi at Kamehachi, or Italian at Tuscany on Taylor in Little Italy. And if that's not enough, how about cocktails at Cru, steak and mammoth baked potatoes slathered in butter at Gibson's, or deep-dish pizza at Gino's East. (See Chapter X for all restaurants.) Oh, I can't forget to mention Italian beef sandwiches and garlicky Chicago hot dogs. And don't forget to finish off your meal with a Frango chocolate mint from Marshall Field's department store (See Chapter X). Feeling hungry yet?Can We Talk?
Chicago is ground zero for talk shows, including Jenny Jones, Jerry Springer, and of course, Oprah Winfrey. If you want to check out a show and laugh, cry, boo and hiss with the best of them, Chicago is the place to do it. After all, Chicagoans have been dispensing advice for decades. (The newspaper advice columnist, and Chicagoan, Ann Landers has been dishing out advice to the lovelorn, frustrated, and just plain confused for more years than I can count.)