Chicago Travel Guide

Chicago, Illinois, is the third-largest metropolis in the United States, with over 2.7 million residents, and the seat of Cook County. “The Windy City,” as it is called, sees some 50 million visitors per year, and while many of these are only passing through Chicago on the way to other destinations, many of them also come to enjoy Chicago’s numerous tourist attractions.

History

The name “Chicago” applied to the area long before the city every was founded. It comes from an Illinois Indian word meaning “wild onion,” and was so named for the abundance of that vegetable in the vicinity. Various Native American peoples continued to live in the region until their land was taken by treaty of by force in the early 1800’s.

In 1833, Chicago was established at a portage between Lake Michigan and waterways leading to the Mississippi. The city boomed to 4,000 by 1840 and grew rapidly for decades. The building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and connection to the Galena and Chicago Railroad, both in 1848, brought further growth. In 1871, the famous Chicago Fire burnt down four square miles of the city, but it was rebuilt bigger and stronger and continued to be an economic giant, the “City of Big Shoulders.”

Things to see and do in Chicago

Millennium Park – Chicago, Illinois

Tai Chi session (energy, wellness, balance) in Milllennium Park, downtown Chicago.

Walk through an island of green in a sea of concrete at Millennium Park. Because the park is elevated above ground and yet has very decorative greenery, it is sometimes called a “rooftop garden.” Concerts are held it the park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Cloud Gate and the towering Crown Fountain are popular for photo ops, and the 2.5-acre Lurie Garden sets nature’s beauty against a backdrop of skyscrapers.

Relax and swim at Chicago’s beach strands, including the popular North Avenue and Oak Street Beaches. Also consider llinois Beach State Park, where you can hike on miles of shoreline trails and see natural dunes, marshes, and prairies.

You may also want to get out on foot or on bike for a scenic perusal of the Lake Michigan shore on the 18-mile-long Chicago Lakefront Trail.

Get out on the waters of Lake Michigan for a boat tour of the shore, for a sailing excursion, or to go “deep lake fishing.”

Lake Michigan – Chicago, Illinois

A man along Lakeshore Drive climbs into Lake Michigan to go swimming at sunrise.

Visit the Shedd Aquarium, where you can see thousands of fish and other sea creatures through the walls of enormous glass aquariums. There are numerous exhibits, including: Caribbean Reef, Amazon Rising, Waters of the World, and Stingray Touch.

Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo, which was founded in 1868 and is among the oldest zoos in the country. Admission is free, and you can see over 1,000 animals from around 200 species, including: penguins, polar bears, macaques, elephants, black rhinos, crocodiles, ostriches, big cats, monkeys and apes, and many more.

Grant Park – Chicago, Illinois

Buckingham Fountain at Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois.

Climate conditions

Chicago has a “humid continental” climate. Its summers are hot and humid, while its winters are cold, snowy, and dark. Spring and fall are transitional seasons, but generally mild and with low humidity.