Explore Chicago

Chicago Travel Guide

Chicago is the major metropolis of America's heartland in northern Illinois. Around three million people live and thrive in the city of skyscrapers that appear to rise straight out of the waters of Lake Michigan. Once a gangster's paradise, home to Al Capone and Bonnie and Clyde, the 'Windy City' today has a reputation as an international business and commercial capital with an eclectic mix of architecture, world-class theatre and art exhibitions, a fantastic local music scene, and thriving sports scene.<br /><br /> Chicago emerged after being destroyed in the Great Fire of 1871 when a large influx of immigrants in the early 20th century infused the city with diversity and the unmistakable sound of Chicago-style blues music. It now boasts soaring skyscrapers like Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), colourful neighbourhoods, a lakefront business district, a re-energised downtown district, unbeatable shopping along the famed Michigan Avenue, and top-class sports teams.<br /><br /> One thing that does not attract visitors to Chicago is the weather; the city's geographical location means it is breezy at best, and freezing and gale-ridden at worst. It is possible to ignore the weather though, especially in summer, while getting caught up in the myriad things to do, see and experience in this Midwestern metropolis.<br /><br />

Art Institute of Chicago

Address: 111 South Michigan Avenue Chicago

Admission: $25 (adults), $19 (discounted), free for children under 14. Daily 10.30am to 5pm (until 8pm on Thursdays).

Telephone: (312) 443 3600

An impressive pair of bronze lions guards the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago, a museum which houses one of the greatest art collections in the world. Works date from 3,000 BC through to the present, including a renowned collection of Impressionist art featuring numerous Monet paintings. The Institute has it all, from Japanese ukiyo-e prints and ancient Egyptian bronzes to masterpieces of 20th-century sculpture. Exhibits include paintings and drawings, photographs, textiles, sculptures, and architectural works. As if the permanent collection isn't enough to occupy visitors, an impressive programme of temporary and travelling exhibitions grace the museum. The Institute has two restaurants, one set in a garden, as well as a gift shop.<br /><br />

Chicago Field Museum

Address: 1400 S. Lakeshore Drive Chicago

Admission: $24 adults, $17 children 3-11. Various ticket packages and concessions are available. 9am-5pm daily, last admission 4pm.

Telephone: (312) 922 9410

Chicago's wildly popular Field Museum of Natural History in Lake Shore Drive is home to 'Sue', the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever found. The dinosaur came to rest here after being unearthed in South Dakota when the museum bought her remains for more than $8 million. Sue is just one of the draws to the museum. It offers other marvels like getting a bug's eye view in an underground adventure; descending into an Egyptian tomb; watching a glowing lava flow; and getting up close and personal with the man-eating lions of Tsavo. The museum specialises in interactive and diorama-type exhibits across its nine acres of exhibition space, and is a must-visit for families on holiday in Chicago.<br /><br />

Frank Lloyd Wrights Home

Address: 951 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park Chicago

Admission: Guided tours: $17 (adults), $14 (youth 11-18). Tour hours: 10am to 4pm daily. Museum shop: 9am to 5pm.

Telephone: (312) 994 4000

America's most renowned architect lived and worked in this complex, which served as private studio and architectural laboratory for the first twenty years of his career. Wright's haven started out as a simple cottage and was continually added on to by the architect, resulting in unusual features such as a balcony suspended on chains. The complex is administered by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, which offers guided tours. The neighbourhood of Oak Park contains the world's largest concentration of Wright-designed buildings. Self-guided exterior audio tours of the 26 structures in the area are available.<br /><br />

Lincoln Park

Address: Chicago

Admission: Free. Opening times vary according to season, but the zoo is open every day of the year.

Lincoln Park, beginning at North Avenue and following the shore of Lake Michigan northwards, is Chicago's largest park. It contains many things to see and do, such as bathing beaches, a botanical conservatory, a golf course, grassy meadows, formal gardens, and sports fields. Pride of place is held by the standing statue of Abraham Lincoln, sculpted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens. His sitting Lincoln is in Chicago's other famous green lung, Grant Park. The most popular attraction within the park is the Lincoln Park Zoo, which not only houses hundreds of exotic animals, but offers experiences like paddle boat rides, a virtual safari trip, and the Endangered Species Carousel with 48 artisan-crafted wooden animals that accommodates 50 riders at a time.<br /><br />

Six Flags Great America

Address: 542 N. Route 21, Gurnee Chicago

Admission: $75 general admission; $45 child under 48 inches. Discounted tickets available via the website. The park is seasonal, and the water park has its own schedule: check the calendar on the website for details.

Telephone: (847) 249 1776

Top of the list of attractions for families on holiday in Chicago is the Six Flags Great America. Featuring some of the country's most exciting theme park rides, such as the Dark Knight Coaster, Bedrock Boulder Roller, and the Condor, the Six Flags Great America Park is a great way to spend the day. The kids will love meeting their favourite comic book superheroes and cartoon characters. You can also cool off on a hot day with the rides at Hurricane Harbour, the attached water park. The amusement park can easily occupy the whole family for a day, with numerous restaurants and snack bars for refreshments and some live entertainment on offer.<br /><br />

Shedd Aquarium

Address: 1200 South Lake Shore Drive Chicago

Admission: General admission: $40 (adults), $20 (children aged 3-11). Special deals are available on the official website. Hours vary by season; generally 9am-6pm. Check website for detailed calendar.

Telephone: (312) 939 2438

One of Chicago's best known attractions, the Shedd, opened in 1930, remains one of the world's largest indoor aquariums. The octagonal marble building houses more than 8,000 river, lake, and sea creatures. The main attraction is the Caribbean Coral Reef exhibit and other marine habitat exhibits like a recreation of the Amazon basin and a 'Seahorse Symphony'. Animals in the Shedd include otters, penguins, whales, sharks, sea turtles and much more. The aquarium also features an indoor saltwater Oceanarium housing marine mammals, where dolphin shows are scheduled daily.<br /><br />

Rockford

Address: Chicago

Illinois' second city, Rockford, set in rolling hills, is just northwest of Chicago. It is worth a visit for culture vultures and golfers in particular. The city is known for its 'cultural corridor' of which the highlight is the Rockford Art Museum's stunning permanent collection focusing on 19th and 20th century works. There is also a wealth of private galleries and historical museums in the city centre. Rockford is known for its antique shops and markets, and the many golf courses in the city and vicinity that have earned it the title of Illinois' 'holey' city.<br /><br />

Navy Pier

Address: 600 East Grand Avenue Chicago

Admission: Admission to the Pier is free, but many of the attractions require separate fees. Open daily, but hours vary according to the season.

Telephone: (312) 595 7437

Situated on Chicago's lakefront, Navy Pier has developed into one of the city's main tourist destinations, offering year-round attractions, events, and entertainment for the whole family. Navy Pier encompasses acres of parks and gardens, shops, and restaurants, as well as serving as an embarkation point for tour and excursion boats. Its 150ft (46m) Ferris wheel attracts more than eight million people a year. Other main attractions include an IMAX theatre, Chicago's Children's Museum, and the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows. Special temporary attractions and events are offered throughout the year. To see what's on during your stay check out the official website listed below.<br /><br />

Sears Tower (Willis Tower)

Address: 233 South Wacker Drive; entrance on Jackson Boulevard Chicago

Admission: $24 adults, $16 children 3-11. Combo tickets and special deals are available. Open daily 9am-10pm (April to September), 10am-8pm (October to March).

'You haven't seen Chicago until you've seen it from the Skydeck' is what many visitors will hear from locals and other tourists in the city. The iconic Sears Tower was renamed on 16 July 2009 to the 'Willis Tower', but the old name is still commonly used. Located on its 103rd floor, the Skydeck is 1,353 feet (412m) above street level and one of Chicago's most famous tourist attractions. Elevators whisk visitors up to the observation deck where the views stretch out across the city and Lake Michigan, and as far as neighbouring states on a clear day. The Skydeck is completely transparent, so that visitors look straight down through the floor. Inside, there are some interactive exhibits and computer information terminals for a tour of the city's landmarks. The Willis Tower, standing at 110 storeys high, is the tallest building in North America and one of the tallest in the world.<br /><br />

Millennium Park

Address: 201 E Randolph Street Chicago

Admission: Free Daily 6am-11pm.

Millennium Park is one of Chicago's most popular destinations and is seen by Chicagoans as the crowning glory of their city. The award-winning park is famous for its innovative architecture and landscape design, featuring the work of several prominent artists, architects, and designers. The park's most outstanding feature is the state-of-the-art outdoor concert venue, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which seats more than 4,000 people and hosts regular concerts. Another fascinating piece of architecture is the polished stainless steel Cloud Gate, shaped like a 66-foot (20m) long bean with a 12-foot (4m) high archway. Other interesting features include the Crown Fountain, the Lurie Garden, BP Bridge, and the Millennium Monument. Visitors can also enjoy changing exhibitions, local art works, and ice skating in winter.<br /><br />

Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum

Address: 1300 S Lake Shore Drive Chicago

Admission: $12 adult, $8 children, other package deals available Open daily 9.30-4pm.

Telephone: (312) 922 7827

Located on Lake Michigan, the Adler is America's oldest planetarium, and boasts two full-size planetarium theatres. Visitors and locals alike have marvelled at the night sky in the historic Sky Theatre since 1930. It now feature the all-digital StarRider Theatre which is the first of its kind in the world and affords a virtual outer space experience in its 55-foot (17m) wide and three-storey high area. The Adler is also home to numerous exhibits including antique astronomical instruments dating back to 12th-century Persia as well as fun interactive displays. The Adler hosts many special lectures and events and a visit is an absolute must for star-gazers. It is a good family attraction in Chicago as the shows enchant all age groups and much of the programme is carefully designed for children.<br /><br />

360 Chicago

Address: 875 N. Michigan Avenue Chicago

Admission: General Admission $20 adults, $13 children 3-11. Concessions and packages available. Daily 9am-11pm (last entry at 10.30pm).

Telephone: (888) 875 8439

The John Hancock building is Chicago's third highest skyscraper. Located on the 94th floor, 1,000 feet (305m) above street level, the 360 Chicago Observatory is the city's only open-air skywalk, with 360-degree views, a talking telescope, audio Skytours that provide an overview of the city with 16 stops, and the History Wall, with hundreds of photos illustrating Chicago's history. An annual 'Hustle up the Hancock' stair climb race up the 94 floors is held every February. With a distinctive x-bracing exterior skin, its Observatory competes with the facilities of the Sear's Tower Skydeck across town in the Financial District.<br /><br />

Chicago Childrens Museum

Address: 700 East Grand Avenue Chicago

Admission: $15 for adults and children over one. Concessions available. Open daily 10am-5pm, closes 8pm on Thursdays.

Telephone: (312) 527 1000

The Chicago Children's Museum is a must for kids of all ages. Located on Navy Pier, the museum offers three storeys of interactive exhibits with plenty of hands-on fun. The main attraction at the museum is the three-storey tall replica of an 1850s Schooner, which is a huge climbing course. The 'Inventing Lab', 'Waterways', and Dinosaur attractions are also highly popular with the little ones. Kids can play in anything from tree houses to model skyscrapers and furniture forts, and there are endless toys to tinker with. Older kids will enjoy the organised craft activities and building workstations. Exhibitions and activities are frequently changed to keep everything new and exciting for regular visitors.<br /><br />

Chicago Botanic Gardens

Address: 1000 Lake-Cook Road, Glencoe Chicago

Admission: Entrance is free, but there are parking fees. Open daily 8am-7pm.

Telephone: (847) 835 5440

With plenty of wide-open space for kids to run around, the Botanic Gardens is one of Chicago's most beautiful attractions. During the summertime, be sure to explore the Rose Garden, where over 7,750 plants are in full bloom. A number of greenhouses, including a gorgeous orchid collection, can be explored in the gardens. There are also children's programmes available during the summer, as well as numerous fun events and exhibitions. Check the official website listed below for more information.<br /><br />

Chicago Loop

Address: Chicago

Stunning public art adorns downtown Chicago, created by world-renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Henry Moore, and David Smith. Numerous walking tours of the Loop are available, with the Chicago Loop Alliance offering some free tours. Exploring the Loop includes some of the city's best-known works of art, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, the Aon Center Plaza, Thompson Center, Daley Center, Chase Plaza, Federal Plaza, the Chicago Board of Trade Building, and Sears Tower. Joining a tour is a great way to see the most scenic parts of the downtown Chicago Loop, although it is also fun to find your own way to the main artistic landmarks.<br /><br />

Buckingham Fountain

Address: 301 South Columbus Drive Chicago

Telephone: (312) 742 7529

Often referred to as the city's front yard, Buckingham Fountain is one of the Chicago's most popular attractions. Located alongside Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago in Grant Park, the fountain used to be the official starting point of the celebrated US Route 66. Donated to the city by Kate Buckingham, in memory of her brother Clarence Buckingham, on 26 August 1927, the fountain represents Lake Michigan and each sea horse symbolises a state bordering the lake. Water shows run every hour on the hour and last for 20 minutes. The last show of the night is at 10pm.<br /><br />

Magnificent Mile

Address: Michigan Avenue Chicago

The stretch of Michigan Avenue in Chicago that runs from Chicago River to Oak Street is known as the Magnificent Mile. Famed for its nightlife, it also serves as the main thoroughfare between Chicago's Loop business district and the Gold Coast. Visitors will love discovering what the Magnificent Mile has to offer, from more than 460 exclusive stores and boutiques, to more than 200 restaurants. There is also historic architecture to be admired on a boat or trolley tour, including the Wrigley Building and the John Hancock Center. Indulge in a deep dish pizza, stroll past media houses like the newspaper, enjoy the local street performers, or watch the Magnificent Mile change with the seasons. There are even weekly fireworks displays!<br /><br />

Route 66 Sign

Address: The sign is located at Adams St between Michigan &amp; Wabash Avenues Chicago

The world-famous Route 66 is colloquially known as the 'Main Street of America' or the 'Mother Road'. This is because it originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending in Los Angeles. The stretch of highway has been immortalised by famous singers such as Nat King Cole and even the Rolling Stones. The starting point in Chicago has moved a few times over the years and in 1933, the start (and end) was moved to Jackson and Lake Shore Drive. The starting point remained here, so even while Adams Street at Michigan Avenue is marked as the starting point, Route 66 has never departed from there. The recognised end of Route 66 is located at the intersection of Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue (which is marked as the terminus). This landmark is a sort of pilgrimage site for those interested in the pop culture of America.<br /><br />

Chicago History Museum

Address: 1601 North Clark Street Chicago

Admission: $19 (adults); free for children under 18. Concessions available. Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 4.30pm; Sunday 12pm to 5pm. Open to 9pm on Tuesday.

Telephone: (312) 642 4600

Chicago has a colourful and fascinating history, ranging from devastating fires to gangster assassinations. The Chicago History Museum represents this history through an intriguing collections of artefacts from the city's past. This includes the first passenger car to operate on the Chicago L system, Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls jersey, and seemingly every postcard ever made of Chicago. The admission cost includes an audio guide to help visitors make sense of all the exhibitions. The permanent collection is more than sufficient to capture the imagination, but the museum does also host regular temporary exhibitions and special events.<br /><br />

Chicago Beaches

Address: Chicago

While Chicago is not well-known as a beach holiday destination, its position on the shore of Lake Michigan gives the city access to an extensive network of waterfront recreational areas. There are over 26 miles (42km) of open and free lakefront to enjoy. These include popular spots like Oak Street Beach and North Avenue Beach, the most fashionable places to see and be seen while enjoying the sun of a Chicago summer. The Rogers Park Beaches are also excellent: Howard Beach has a playground for children, while Pratt Beach offers tennis courts and jogging paths. Kathy Osterman Beach (formerly Hollywood Beach) is a great place for beach volleyball and has child-friendly shallow waters at the north end.<br /><br />

Chicago Blues Festival

Where: Grant Park,Chicago

When: 8 - 10 June 2018

The Chicago Blues Fest is one of the biggest outdoor, free blues events in the world. The festival features more than 70 international, national, and local Chicago artists, spread over five stages, and at night the festivities continue in blues clubs all over the city. The Blues Fest is the city's biggest music festival and attracts about 500,000 people every year. Past performers have included huge stars like Ray Charles, B.B. King and Bonnie Raitt. For more information check out the official website listed below.<br /><br />

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Where: North Michigan Avenue,Chicago

When: 18 November 2018

The official start of the winter holiday season in Chicago is signalled by the lighting of more than a million white lights along the Magnificent Mile during a procession of Mickey Mouse and his Disney friends. This all concludes with a spectacular fireworks show over the Chicago River. The whole winter wonderland weekend is geared for the holiday season, with special offers and family entertainment along the Magnificent Mile. Live music is played on numerous stages and the grand tree-lighting ceremony is one of the highlights. Those in Chicago in November will love this beautiful, exuberant display.<br /><br />

Club Lucky

Address: 1824 W. Wabansia Avenue Chicago

Food Type: Italian

Located in the Wicker Park area, this authentic and retro Italian eatery reminds one of wholesome Italian fare being cooked up in the kitchen by real Italian mammas. With homemade ravioli, Veal Parmigiana, and their flagship dish, Chicken Vesuvio with roasted potatoes, peas, white wine and garlic, this cosy Chicago favourite is one of the best when it comes to Italian cuisine. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner. Saturday and Sunday dinner only. Reservations accepted.<br /><br />

Pennys Noodle Shop

Address: 950 W. Diversey Avenue Chicago

Food Type: Asian

Established by Thai native Penny Chiamopoulous, this simple and spacious Chicago eatery serves delicious authentic Thai cuisine and other Asian fusion dishes to perfection. Sample everything from Crab Rangoon - a crispy dumpling stuffed with cream cheese and seafood - and Tom Yum soup, to Hot Pepper Noodles and Thai ravioli dumplings stuffed with shrimp and pork and served with BBQ pork, lettuce, green onions, cilantro, and peanuts. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations not accepted.<br /><br />

Aruns

Address: 4156 North Kedzie Avenue, Irving Park (North Side) Chicago

Food Type: Oriental

Arun's has been called the finest Thai restaurant in the city. Dinner is an ever-changing fixed-price menu comprising of a gourmet banquet of 12 exquisitely presented courses that puts other Thai kitchens to shame. A special menu can be designed to suit individual tastes on calling ahead. The culinary experience is complemented by traditional Thai décor and displayed artwork. Reservations are required with a credit card. Closed Monday. Dinner only.<br /><br />

Everest

Address: 440 South LaSalle Street, 40th Floor, One Financial Plaza building (The Loop) Chicago

Food Type: French

Towering above the city with commanding views from the 40th floor, Everest is one of the city's premiere French dining rooms offering the world-renowned cuisine created by Alsatian chef Jean Joho. His distinctive style is a blend of 'noble' and 'simple' ingredients for unusual flavour combinations, such as caviar or foie gras with potatoes or cabbage, drawing inspiration from the cookery of his native Alsace. Everest includes classics like lobster and lamb, as well as a vegetarian menu, and some creative desserts. Closed Sunday and Monday. Dinner only. Reservations required.<br /><br />

Tru

Address: 676 North St Clair Street (Near North) Chicago

Food Type: French

The black and white interior, splashed by the colour of carefully chosen artwork, provides an elegant setting for the prestigious patrons of Tru and its superb progressive French cuisine. The menu is divided into several fixed-price options ranging from three courses to a variety of multi-course 'collections' that showcase the creativity of the chefs. Excellent service, exquisite presentation, and award-winning desserts complement the dining experience. Closed Sunday. Dinner only. Reservations essential and jackets required.<br /><br />

Mortons of Chicago

Address: 1050 North State Street (River North) Chicago

Food Type: American

King of the Chicago-style steakhouses, Morton's on North State upholds its reputation as the best steakhouse in the region with huge succulent steaks cooked to perfection. It is famous for its signature tableside menu presentation, where a trolley is rolled out containing main course selections that are described in detail by the server. The menu features a variety of cuts, including the house speciality, the 24-ounce (680g) porterhouse steak, as well as fresh fish, lobster, veal and chicken. Open daily for dinner. Reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Vermillion

Address: 10 W. Hubbard Street Chicago

Food Type: Indian

High ceilings, crisp white tablecloth,s and black and white photos on the walls create a sophisticated dining experience, where the Indian-Latin food is as contemporary as the restaurant. Indian tapas such as cilantro tamarind shrimp, coconut chilli mussels, and duck vindaloo arepa tantalise the taste-buds. Signature dishes include chilli-glazed blackened tamarind ribs served with amchur tortilla crisps and a sweet corn salsa, or fiery culinary delights such as the Desi goat curry in a rich Indian gravy served with naan. This restaurant lives up to its reputation as one of Chicago's finest eateries and does not disappoint. Reservations recommended on weekends. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner. Saturday and Sunday dinner only.<br /><br />

Blackbird

Address: 619 West Randolph Street (West Loop) Chicago

Food Type: American

Chicago's chicest diners and celebrity clientele flock to this sought-after addition to the West's 'Restaurant Row'. Here the smart minimalist interior is the perfect backing to the ornate food presentation and creative renditions of French-influenced contemporary American food. The exterior of the restaurant is as stylish as the food. The seasonal menu is creative yet simple and features dishes such as wood-grilled California sturgeon with English peas, braised peanuts, crispy bacon and bourbon carmel. Closed Sunday. No lunch Saturday. Reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Mirai Sushi

Address: 2020 West Division Street, Wicker Park Chicago

Food Type: Japanese

Top-quality sushi and sashimi dishes are to be found in this funky-hip eatery that exudes a youthful ambience. Fresh fish is flown in daily for the sushi bar where several inventive chefs whip up a list of delicious offerings to order. Upstairs the futuristic saké lounge is the city's most stylish place to sip saké or vodka with passion fruit. Dinner daily. Reservations recommended.<br /><br />

North Pond

Address: 2610 North Cannon Drive, Lincoln Park Chicago

Food Type: Modern Eclectic

One of the prettiest settings in the city, North Pond is situated within the famous Lincoln Park, in a building that was originally an ice skaters warming house, overlooking Chicago's skyline. In keeping with the natural setting, chef Bruce Sherman emphasises organic produce and simple but delicious seasonal cuisine. The wine list focuses on boutique vintners. Dinner Tuesday to Sunday, lunch Tuesday to Friday (June to September), brunch on Sundays. Reservations recommended. Jacket and tie recommended for dinner.<br /><br />

Pizzeria Uno Chicago

Address: 29 East Ohio Street Chicago

Food Type: Italian

Pizzeria Uno is famous for its original Deep Dish Pizza, a pie-like crust stuffed with meat and fresh vegetables and cheese. This Chicago-style pizza originated at Pizzeria Uno in 1943 and both locals and out-of-towners pack into the panelled rooms for a filling meal. Other delicious dishes on the menu include Angus Beef steaks, ribs, and inventive new creations such as Chicken Milanese or Spicy Chicken Flatbread. There is often a wait, but regulars maintain it is more than worth it. Open from 11am daily.<br /><br />

Smoque BBQ

Address: 3800 North Pulaski Road, Irving Park Chicago

Food Type: Barbecue

Voted the best barbecue in Chicago, Smoque serves traditional Midwest barbecue. Dishes like the applewood-smoked baby back and St. Louis-style ribs, brisket (smoked for 15 hours), pulled pork (smoked for 12 hours) and sides like cornbread and mac and cheese. The restaurant is casual and diners stand in line to order at the counter. Smoque's location outside of downtown Chicago makes it inconvenient for some tourists, but it is located near an El station and most diners say it's worth the trip! Open Tuesday to Sunday 11am-9pm, closes 10pm on Friday and Saturday.<br /><br />

Chicago's unassuming nightlife scene comes as a refreshing change to some other big US cities. Most locals prefer to stay close to what they know and hang out at their local watering hole. However Chicago still has its fair share of trendy bars, clubs, and cocktail lounges.<br /><br /> Popular areas for nightclubs, bars and music venues include Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, and Lakeview, where revellers can find music clubs devoted to just about every genre, from rhythm and blues and jazz to alternative rock and Indie. The city's waterfront nightlife is popular with residents and tourists alike, while the piano bars at The Drake Hotel and the Ambassador East Hotel's Pump Room are favourites with locals. Wells Street in the Old Town offers some great restaurants and bars as well as the popular Zanies Comedy Club. Chicago's gay scene is concentrated on a stretch of North Halsted Street in Lakeview, where men's bars dominate the strip.<br /><br /> The birthplace of house music in the 1980s, Chicago has plenty of loud and pumping clubs full of 20-somethings dancing to the latest offerings of the resident DJ. Many of these types of clubs pop up and disappear at a dizzying rate, while others have been around for decades.<br /><br /> The culture scene in Chicago is bustling with shows and plays running throughout the year at renowned Chicago theatre companies, such as the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the Goodman Theatre, and the Victory Gardens Theater. Broadway-style entertainment can be found at the LaSalle Bank Theater and the Cadillac Palace Theater. For lovers of classical music, a visit to Symphony Center to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform is an absolute must.<br /><br />
The fact that Chicago has a city-appointed Director of Fashion tells you that this is a great place to shop for haute couture. If you want to dress for success there is one destination: The Magnificent Mile along Michigan Avenue. Along an eight-block stretch, over 460 stores offer luxury items and fashion bargains to suit most budgets, and there are lovely restaurants and cafes aplenty to offer exhausted shoppers refreshment. Another area worth exploring is Oak Street, which provides a renowned concentration of designers and salons.<br /><br /> Chicago is equally famous for its art and antiques dealers, which are congregated around the River North Gallery District. There are also some good markets, some of which sell antiques: on Sunday mornings don't miss the Maxwell Street Market, which boasts more than 500 stalls selling everything under the sun. Get there early and don't be afraid to bargain.<br /><br /> Malls and department stores in Chicago are generally open from 10am to 9pm Monday to Saturday; and 12pm to 6pm on Sundays. A sales tax of about 10 percent (the highest sales tax of any large city in the US) is levied on most products and is added at point of purchase, not on the price tag.<br /><br />
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