“Either you love Chicago or you are wrong.”
By Renée S. Gordon
Chicago, Illinois, now 237-square-mile international city and shopping mecca, was first discovered by Europeans in 1673 and first settled by a Haitian immigrant in 1779. Today, the international city and shopping mecca of Chicago has many characteristics and offerings that make it an ideal destination for lovers of luxury, culture, unique history, art, dining and architecture.
Chicago by the numbers…
- 200 theaters
- 7,300 restaurants
- 56 museums
- 46 historic districts
- 15 miles of beaches
- 26 miles of lakefront
- 18.5-mile lakefront pathway
- 200+ art venues—one, The Art Institute of Chicago, showcases the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside of the Louvre
In 1871 a fire destroyed a large portion of Chicago, a tragedy that created a blank slate for modern architects to create cutting edge designs. Chicago is now home to four of the nation’s ten tallest buildings. The 75-minute Chicago Architecture River Cruise along the Chicago River showcases important buildings while tracing architectural history from the trading post days to the 21st Century. The Chicago River not only provides stunning views but is also the world’s only river that flows backwards. It was reversed to redirect sewage away from Lake Michigan.
For an aerial view of Chicago, visit the John Hancock Center. The 1,500-ft. skyscraper was constructed in 1969 using steel x-braces that alleviated the need for internal supports. An observatory on the 94th floor offers a 360-degree view. On a clear day you can see the skyline and the lake plus four states: Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin. “TILT”, the city’s highest and newest amusement, tilts visitors 1,000-ft. above Michigan Avenue at a 30-degree angle. The panorama includes the Navy Pier’s 15-story Ferris wheel, the Magnificent Mile, the iconic Water Tower and 1866 Pumping Station.
Approximately 500,000 African Americans migrated from the South to Chicago between 1916 and 1970. Their significant cultural influence is seen in cuisine and jazz and blues music. The 1961 DuSable Museum of African American History preserves and promulgates the story of people of African descent through special exhibitions, lectures and a permanent collection exceeding 15,000 objects.
Chicago’s Museum Campus was created in 1998 and consists of the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium and Soldier Field. The venues are connected by a green space and are a short distance apart. The Adler has a 12-sided entrance, one for each Zodiac sign.
A Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off guided sightseeing tour offers a great two-hour overview of the city. The double-decker buses offer free WIFI, several languages and 14 stops. For best views sit mid-to-back on the left side. A Panoramic Night Loop tour is also offered. To make the most of your visit, pair the Big Bus tour with a Chicago CityPass; it provides express entry to the most visited sites.
The Magnificent Mile is one of the most recognized sites in Chicago. This landmark boulevard is bookmarked by North Michigan Avenue and Oak Street Bridges. Construction along the street began in the 1920s and continued until 1929. Later the street would undergo several revitalizations. Currently the Magnificent Mile adjoins five neighborhoods and encompasses Randolph Street, North Avenue, Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, a total of 13-blocks. It is an international destination with an eclectic mix of luxury stores and trendy boutiques.
To experience the ultimate in luxurious accommodations, the five-star Chicago Peninsula Hotel is so impressive that it surpasses “ideal.” The deft blend of Asian service and hospitality, modern technology, international sensibilities, and distinctive Chicago culture have earned the hotel Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best Hotel in Chicago” for 2017.
The 339 guestrooms feature iPads, in lieu of printed material, which means you can access all services, control lighting and select from 4,500 publications in 11 languages. Amenities include designer bath products and wave-patterned linens are unique to the hotel. Some things may look familiar: Scenes from Empire have been filmed in The Peninsula Suite.
Health magazine selected The Peninsula Chicago one of “America’s Healthiest Hotels.” You can experience the healthy lifestyle at The Spa and Fitness Centre. Asian-inspired treatments are offered in the two-level spa in eight treatment rooms. A half-Olympic size pool is set in the midst of floor-to-ceiling windows that provide panoramic city views. The pool is fully handicapped accessible.
A trio of award-winning restaurants, Pierrot Gourmet, The Lobby and Shanghai Terrace, are on-site. The AAA Four Diamond Shanghai Terrace is the Zagat designated number one “Chinese Restaurant in Chicago.” The menu is Cantonese, the décor replicates a 1930s Shanghai supper club, and the service is exemplary.
Keys to the City is the ultimate experiential program that introduces guests to unique Chicago experiences. There are 10 from which to choose including the Chicago Helicopter Experience, Luxury Speed Boat Experience on Iconic Chicago River, Chicago’s Music History and Princess for a Day.
As Muddy Waters said, “Going to Chicago was like going out of the world.” It’s impossible not to agree.
– Photos by Renée S. Gordon
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.