Chicago is my favourite city in the USA and one of my favourites in the whole world (to date). I cannot recommend a visit highly enough. Famous for Hotdogs, Pizza, and of course Al Capone!
The Windy City, which regularly takes 2nd place to New York on list of top cities to visit in the USA is one of the bigger cities in America so I recommend planning out what you want to see and experience to pack the most into your trip. You can then group activities by area and time required. By doing this I managed to fit a lot into my few days.
My favorite thing to do in Chicago is the Architecture Tour, Chicago is known around the world for its architecture. If like me you like to sit back and take in all the sights and sounds while listening to your guide, a boat tour on the river may be the solution. You will hear how Chicago grew from a small settlement into one of the world’s largest cities in less than 100 years and your guide will give you an overview of Chicago’s architecture and history.
If walking and discovering is your thing, there are guided tours available both downtown and in the historic neighbourhoods. Chicago’s skyline is stunning from every angle, whether you’re on the street, in a car or cruising through the Loop on a train. For me this is a main reason to visit Chicago.
Another thing I love to do while is Chicago is to go to different sports games! Chicago is a sports town, with a pro team for every season (two teams, in baseball’s case, Go CUBS). My favourite sport to attend is Hockey and I love to watch my Chicago Blackhawks in their home stadium the United Center. I was lucky enough to be in Chicago in 2013 when they won The Stanley Cup, which would be the equivalent of the All Ireland but in Hockey and is 20 times bigger!!! Interesting enough a final is spread over 7 games and is truly amazing.
No matter what time of year you visit, there is always some sport to go and watch whether you lather on the blue-and-orange body paint for a Bears football game, join the raucous baseball crowd in Wrigley Field’s bleachers, or pop down to a sports bar to catch a game on TV and soak in the passion and atmosphere.
When you visit Chicago I recommend a visit to Skydeck at Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower). The Skydeck offers spectacular views that span up to four states. If you enjoy an adrenalin rush, you can go on The Ledge – a glass balcony that extends four feet outside the 103rd Floor. I’m very scared of heights but was able to muster up courage to step on the Ledge to get fantastic breath-taking photos!
Another of my favourite things to do is visit Navy Pier. The south dock of Navy Pier has a 2,000-foot long pedestrian boardwalk, very popular with locals and visitors alike. With a 196ft ferris wheel, theme park rides, entertainment venues, bars and restaurants open all year round the Navy Pier has plenty to occupy all the family. It is a great place to take photos of the Chicago Skyline, the view from here is fantastic.
When you need refreshments, a tourist delight is a visit to Harry Caray’s Tavern. Located near the main entrance to Navy Pier and with an enviable waterfront location, you will enjoy great food and craft wine while having the opportunity to view the world class collection of sports memorabilia.
When it comes to food Chicago is known for three things: pizza, hot dogs and steak. The Windy City has an ongoing rivalry with New York over who can serve up the better slice – while New Yorkers prefer wide and flat, Chicagoans like their pizza with a deep crust that can carry loads of toppings. Chicago is also known for its steakhouses. Some of the best steakhouses include Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab and Benny’s Chop House just off The Magnificent Mile and Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf in the River North area.
How to Get There
Aer Lingus and United Airlines have direct flights from Dublin to Chicago O’Hare airport. The journey takes approximately 8 hours 30 mins. From O’Hare to downtown Chicago is 18 miles. There is a great train service from the airport to downtown and its very cost efficient. The Blue Line ‘L’ will take you all the way from the airport to downtown in about 45 minutes for approx $5.00 per way.
There are also regular shuttle buses (daytime only) from the terminal 1E, 2D, 3F, and 5E to downtown Chicago. Alternatively, Uber, Lyft, Taxi or Limo are all available from the airport, from approx $30 one way.
Tip: If you planning using an App to book your transport – make sure you can have sufficient mobile data options for the States!!