June 16, 2009

A friend from Tennessee sent a message saying that she and her husband are going to be in Chicago for a conference later this month, and could I give them a few recommendations on places to see, things to do, and favorite Chicago restaurants?

Happy to oblige. The only I should add  is that my friends will be staying downtown and will only be in town for two or three days. And they do have a conference to attend. That said, here are my recommendations. I offer these mostly so that our many Chicago readers can add whatever they like to this list.

You’ll love Chicago. I know you can’t see everything so here are some must-see sights, in no particular order:

1) Wrigley Field. If the Cubs are in town, by all means go to a game.
2) Walk Michigan Avenue and check out “The Magnificent Mile.”
3) Best Museums: Museum of Science and Industry and the Field Museum. Both are world-class.
4) Chicago hot dog. You have to have one. Trust me. You’ve never had a hot dog until you’ve had a Chicago Hot Dog. My favorite: Portillo’s. They have lots of locations. But if you can’t find a Portillo’s, buy from one of the many street vendors. Have your hot dog with everything, including sport peppers. Or do what I do and have a brat with the works.
5) Pizza. Chicago is the pizza capital of America. Forget about New York. They’re dreaming. My favorite is Giordano’s. Others prefer Gino’s East or Pizzeria Uno. Get the deep dish. I repeat: Deep Dish. None of this thin crust nonsense. Chicago invented deep dish. You’ll thank me later.
6) Take a walk along the Lake Shore trail. It’ll be crowded but that’s part of the fun. It goes for 20+ miles. Just walk it for a mile or so and enjoy Lake Michigan. Quite a sight.
7) If you’re into skyscrapers, go to the top of the Sears Tower.
8) If you have time, by all means take a Chicago Architectural Boat Tour. Tons of fun. There are several companies, all based at Navy Pier, takes two hours, and worth the money and the time. Your tour guide will be dressed in costume and will take your boat along the Chicago River. Amazing stories about the history of the city.
9) If you have extra time, go to Oak Park and visit the studio of Frank Lloyd Wright. There are more Wright-designed homes in Oak Park and nearby River Forest than anywhere else in the world. You’ll find my favorite church at 931 Lake Street. Oak Park is 8 miles due west of downtown.
10) Also on the list . . . Millennium Park, the Art Institute, the Chicago Historical Society, the Water Tower, Moody Church.

Hope this helps. You’re visiting at an ideal time. Warm but not too hot.

What else would you add to the list for a first time visitor to Chicago?


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Ray Pritchard
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