Book unique things to do offered by locals in Chicago.

About Chicago

The Author
Chicago native, ESPN reporter. Bloomberg TV,,

From the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th, Chicago's breakneck growth was only limited by its untiring ambition and the speed with which recently arrived immigrants could build its jagged skyline and polyglot neighborhoods. Sitting at the confluence of Lake Michigan, the Chicago river and thousands of miles of prairie surrounding it - Chicago was perfectly poised to take advantage of the rise of widespread industrialization and its vehicle of choice, the railroad. The city's population went from 4,000 in 1840 to 1.7 million in 1900 -- no American city has grown as quickly or as much.

The city rose from the ashes after the great fire of 1871, reversed the flow of the Chicago river, raised the entire city by several feet to allow for a sewage system, and boasted about itself by hosting the World's Fair in 1893. The city by the lake is a testament to the uniquely American philosophy, that anything material can be accomplished.

The chaos of growth led Chicago's planners, most notably Daniel Burnham, to look to provide an urban oasis that would allow all residents to breathe. So Burnham oversaw the development of a series of downtown parks that stretches along the shores of Lake Michigan through the Northern suburbs. The city tapped the brakes on industrialization just long enough to prevent it from becoming a concrete jungle that typified large cities at the time -- a gift to future generations who liberally use the beaches, parks and shoreline that characterize the city today.

Chicago's rapid growth and rising class of industrialists made it a destination for some of the world's leading architects. Take a cruise down the Chicago river or a walk downtown to see some of the best buildings. The lines are long at the Sears Tower, the city's tallest building, but the views are worth it on a clear day. If you want to skip the charge, but don't mind paying for a drink, check out the views of the lake from the top of the John Hancock Tower, in the middle of the city's best known shopping district, the Gold Coast.

The city's immigrant neighborhoods are not to be left out either -- Swedes continue to live in Andersonville, which now boasts a vibrant Middle Eastern community as well. The nation's biggest Mexican population in the US outside of Los Angeles - you're just as likely to find a great taco in Chicago as you are a good hotdog or slice of pizza. Many Mexican-Americans still call Pilsen home. The South Side neighborhood is a great place to spend an afternoon at the National Museum of Mexican Art. At some point, try to catch a day game at Wrigley Field. More than a few baseball fans will argue that it is the best place to watch a game -- which, considering the current state of the Cubs, is saying a lot.

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