Chicago was founded in 1833 on an expanse of marshland at the south-west tip of Lake Michigan. The Potawatomi tribe named the marshes on which Chicago was built 'Checagou' (pronounced She-ka-gan) or 'wild onions.' The clumsy tongues of European settlers who arrived in the mid-west in the late 1820s and early 1830s could make of this only 'Chicago.'

Chicago's climate is notoriously volatile, and visitors would be well advised to come prepared. A warm coat and a wooly hat are the best defence against the cold winter months, when temperatures often drop to far below freezing, whilst a good supply of shorts, T-shirts and sunscreen would be more appropriate in the summer. Visitors should also take note of the fact that Chicago has long been known as "the windy city." One could be forgiven for assuming that this apt nickname is a reference to the strong winds which often blow across Lake Michigan. In fact, it originated as a jibe aimed at fervent Chicagoans by a nineteenth century New York newspaper. In the midst of the debate about which city would host the 1893 World's Fair, Chicago's advocates were accused of being unnecessarily "long-winded."


It is impossible to become bored in Chicago. In a city which boasts a myriad of museums, shopping districts and parks, all visitors will find something to entertain them.

The most popular of Chicago's museums can be found on the Museum Campus, south of Grant Park. Opened in 1998, the Campus contains three major museums: the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, the oldest planetarium in the world; the Field Museum of Natural History, which houses numerous artefacts within the fields of anthropology, zoology, botany and geology, and is home to 'Sue' – the largest, most complete Tyrannous Rex skeleton in the world; and the Shedd Aquarium, which contains 8 million animals of 650 species, including fish, mammals, birds, snakes and insects. Those interested in American history or politics might also find the Freedom Museum worth a visit. The museum is dedicated to explaining the origins and complexities of the First Amendment to the American Constitution

Chicago has no less than 552 public parks. Many include ice rinks, swimming pools, mini-golf courses and other activities and provide an enjoyable, cheap day out. The Chicago Park District (telephone: +1 312 245 0909) provides excellent advice about what each park has to offer.

A visit to Navy Pier, a 900 metre long pier with numerous restaurants, shops, museums and a 45 metre tall Ferris wheel is a relaxing way to pass a few hours. The pier can be found north of Grant Park. Navy Pier's Dock Street is also the base for several boat tour companies; ideal for those who do not plan to spend long in Chicago and would like to learn as much as possible from a knowledgeable tour guide.

If you fancy something a little less cultured, but undeniably entertaining, try your luck at obtaining tickets to see the Jerry Springer Show! There is no charge for entrance, but it is necessary to call or write in advance to secure tickets. Chicago is also the home of the slightly less controversial chat show host, Oprah Winfrey. Call the ticket office on 312-591-9222 to inquire about availability.


From high-class boutiques to cheap outlet malls, Chicago has something to satisfy the tastes of all shopping enthusiasts. The main shopping district in the city is known as 'The Magnificent Mile' and runs between north Michigan Avenue and Oak Street. This is the place to find the Chicago branches of the major American department stores, as well as a number of indoor malls including Chicago Place and Water Tower Place. Bargain hunters will find themselves at home in the prolific outlet malls of the suburbs.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Chicago caters for every palate with an array of fine restaurants and international cuisine. The city is most famous, however, for its deep-dish pizzas. The infamous 'Chicago hot dog' is also a gastronomic delight which is not to be missed: a unique combination of Vienna beef, mustard, onions, tomato, pickle relish, celery salt and peppers can be found all over the city, but is perhaps best enjoyed at one of the city's numerous sporting venues. A trip to see the Chicago Cubs play baseball at Wrigley Field or the Chicago Bulls play basketball at United Centre provides an all-American experience.

Chicago is famous for its lively theatre scene. The Steppenwolf Theatre, The Goodman Theatre and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre are just a few of the many companies based in Chicago. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago (who perform at the Auditorium Theatre) also provide a great evening's entertainment.

Music fans can listen to blues, soul, jazz and gospel at numerous venues across the city. If you are particularly interested in coming to Chicago to hear the music the city has become famous for, June is perhaps the best time of year to visit: both blues and gospel festivals are held annually at the beginning of the month and the city also hosts a country music festival at the end of June.

Tourist Information

  • The Chicago Office of Tourism, 78 E Washington St, Chicago, IL 60602
  • Telephone: +1 312-744-2400
  • Website:


O'Hare International Airport lies a mere 18 miles, or a 30-45 minute drive away from downtown Chicago. Upon leaving the airport by car, visitors should take the I-90 East for downtown. O'Hare is also linked by the Blue Line Train to downtown Chicago. The journey takes approximately 45 minutes.

Midway Airport is also easily accessible and often offers cheaper (although mostly domestic) flights than the far busier O'Hare International Airport. The Orange Line train takes approximately 30 minutes to reach downtown Chicago from Midway.

If you have an early morning flight from Chicago, then you may want to consider looking at Chicago airport hotels

If you are driving to the airport and plan on leaving your car behind, you can find some great deals on Chicago Airport parking

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