See the Chicago slide show on Yahoo Travel.
Chicago Main Attractions:
Sears Tower Skydeck
Art Institute of Chicago
Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago Botanic Garden
A strategy to get to know Chicago before you visit:
-Check out the articles on Lonely Planet.com, Wikipedia and Wikitravel , USA Today, Yahoo Travel , NYTimes, and IGoUGo.com - 1, 2, 3
-Go to the local AAA office and get a city map and a tour guide
Get a Downtown Hotel
Get a good hotel downtown through Priceline.com. You can book a four-star hotel for $ 80-100. This picture was taken from the Renaissance Chicago Hotel which has a beautiful view of Chicago river. You can see the cruise boats crossing bellow the bridge. The other characteristic feature of Chicago is the elevated train - this is a kind of subway but it is more like "upway" because the rails are above street level at many places. The Chicagoans do not even blink when the multi-ton trains pass with throttle just above their heads.
Skyscrapers - The Face of the Urban Jungle
Chicago has plenty of skyscrapers but the architecture here is more human-like and there is no "squeeze" feeling that you may experience in Manhattan. There is just more space between the buildings. No two skyscraper in Chicago are alike. Check out this twin-building with the garages occupying the first ten floors of each structure, they look like huge corn stems. See the place from above on Google maps.
Sail Down the River
Get a boat to sail on the Chicago river
The Museum Campus
The Museum campus is at the southern end of Grant Park. It consists of three institutions - the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Adler Planetarium. The Field museum is world-famous for the biggest preserved T-rex skeleton, named Sue. The museum is so proud of this possession that it is displayed at the entrance between the columns (see the picture above). The Shedd Aquarium is right on the shore of lake Michigan (see the satellite images on Google maps).
The museum campus is about a mile south from downtown. This is a bit far to walk from your hotel and back, so you might consider hoping on the double decker trolley bus which stops at all main attractions and the ticket is good for the whole day. You can stop at the Aquarium and then, after you are done watching the whales (2-3 hours), catch the bus again, to go north to Navy Pier. The other option is to get the CTA (elevated train) to Roosevelt station but there is quite a bit of a walk from the station to the museums.
This is the sculpture at the entrance of the Shedd Aquarium, and see the diver in the coral reef (there are 6 interactive shows per day). There is an Amazon section featuring the changes in the ecosystem during the rainy and the dry season.
The Oceanarium at Shedd Aquarium
The Oceanarium has a beautiful amphitheater with a lake Michigan view. You can see the Adler planetarium right through the windows of the Oceanarium. This is the building with the round dome on the right. The dolphins show is presented several times per day.
The beluga whales look like very nice creatures, they are, in fact, giant dolphins. There is underwater viewing but the water is intensely blue and not very clear. The regular view from above the huge aquarium is better.
When at the Museum campus, if you look back, you can see Sears tower behind Grant park. Then, turn a little bit to the right, while at the southern tip of Grant park, and you will see the lake.
This is a view of Chicago downtown and the marina from the Shedd Aquarium. The Navy Pier is seen at the distance. The pier is slightly above (north) the northern tip of the park.
More Downtown Pictures
The gothic structure in the middle of the photo is the building of the main newspaper in Chicago, The Tribune. Let's take a walk down Michigan avenue (the magnificent mile) towards the Buckingham fountain (south).
The Crown Fountain features changing faces on two video walls that are opposite to one another. The animated faces look at each other, smile, blink, and finally the water fountains flow from their pursed lips (check the pictures above). See the fountain in the making here.
This is the Art Institute of Chicago with the famous lion sculptures. The Institute is on N Michigan avenue, a part of the famous one-mile walk, called the magnificent mile.
The American Gothic is among the art treasures collected at the institute.
When you stand at the steps of the institute and turn back, you will see the Sears Tower right in front of you (as shown on the picture).
When you walk south on Michigan avenue, you will reach the Congress parkway, which is a big street perpendicular to Michigan avenue. The giant Buckingham fountain will be on your left. You can see the 150-feet-high stream of the fountain when you look towards the lake.
The huge fountain was built in 1927 with the funds donated by Kate Buckingham in the memory of her late brother Clarence. See it from above on Google maps.
Navy Pier is the place to have fun in Chicago, check out the satellite images on Google maps for a bird-eye view. There is a free trolley which takes visitors from downtown to the Navy Pier. The sculptures at the entrance, like this giant funnel, are popular photo spots for tourists. There are several museums at the Pier, and even a Botanical garden. Chicago is such an exuberant city that one of kind of anything is just not enough for it. That is why there are two Zoos, two botanical gardens and two dolphinariums in town.
There are two major landmarks at the pier - the giant Ferris wheel and the 7-10 ships that depart constantly off the pier for cruises in the lake. 'Completely Nuts at Navy Pier' (see the picture above) sells delicious caramel almonds, peanuts, pecans and cashews.
Ships at Navy Pier
There all kind of ships at the pier - from ancient style tall ships, to middle-sized boats, to very big ships.
Some of the ships can be seen on the satellite pictures from Google Maps.
The Ball room at the end of Navy Pier.
The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse with ships and boats sailing around it
Ferris Wheel is right in the middle of the Navy Pier
The fun continues until dark at Navy Pier, and then, there are fireworks.