Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Tourist in Chicago by Margot Justes

My recent trip to Chicago was to a wedding at the historical Warwick Allerton Hotel.
It reminded me of the rich and wondrous architectural history in Chicago.

Not only is the hotel an historical treasure, but the management took great care in providing an elegant venue, delicious food and wonderful service. The wedding was truly a memorable occasion.

The hotel was designated “an official Chicago Landmark” by Mayor Richard Daley in June 1998. Built in 1922, and opened in 1924, it is a Northern Italian Renaissance Revival design and it is opulent and rich with wonderful windows, marble floors, and with incredible views of the city from the reception ballroom.  It was the first 25-story skyscraper built on North Michigan Avenue.

The Tip-Top-Tap lounge that served as host to Don McNeill’s nationally broadcast “Breakfast Club” was closed in 1961, but the neon sign remains and is an iconic reminder of the rich history of the building.

If your taste runs to architecture, you won’t be disappointed, there are many more fantastic buildings. A simple walk along Michigan Avenue, will get you the Wrigley Building, and the Chicago Tribune; if you look closely at the Tribune building, you’ll see stones imbedded from many of the world’s greatest treasures, all are labeled from point of origin.  Even out latest mega Trump Tower, has the perfect location, overlooking the Chicago River, and can be clearly seen from the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, and from the Allerton Hotel.

This is the city where Mies van der Rohe, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wight to name just a few built a few treasures.

The city has been called the windy city most probably because Chicago was trying to get the 1893 World Exposition, and as an ad campaign, the lake breeze was heralded as a city wonder. The more popular version is due to the politicians, and the hot air that continuously blows from City Hall. Either way, the name stuck. I personally prefer the more recent political version.

Chicago is multi cultural, vibrant, and has stunning architecture. Not a bad start to a city that is filled to the brim with world renown museums, an abundance of fine dining establishments, local eateries, a world renown orchestra, and theater productions that rival New York. I love this city, and play tourist whenever time allows.

My favorite museum is the Art Institute, beautifully situated on Michigan Ave-the Grand Avenue-that gives Fifth Avenue, and the Champs Elysees, a run for their money. The wide sidewalks are lined with pots of flowers, trees and miniature gardens, decorated for every season. Along with occasional sculptures, from cows to couches. Sometimes whimsical, sometimes serious, but always fun to see.

There are many museums, but only a few have the envied lake shore location; the Field Museum, the Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium are aligned in the ‘museum complex’ in close proximity, and are a must see. All this can be yours, within walking distance , if you really like to walk, or a short bus, taxi, car, or trolley ride.

If your taste runs to modern art, just a bit off Michigan Avenue is the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Don’t forget State Street, and the loop area that has been greatly revitalized, visit the Macy’s store, that once was the great Marshall Field’s, and to me always will be.

There is the Buckingham Fountain, Millennium Park, an architectural gem, and the over used word  world renowned. The building costs of Millennium Park went way over budget, but the park has become a main tourist attraction. We have Grant Park, and an amazing lakefront, and bicycle paths everywhere you turn. Not to mention ethnic food galore; I don’t think there is an ethnic food you can think of that you won’t find in Chicago.

On the south side of the city we have the Oriental Museum, and the interactive Science and Industry Museum. This city has it all, and at a slower, more relaxed pace than New York.

I listed just a few of the main central tourist attractions, that by no means limits the rich cultural history that abounds in many neighborhoods in this city. This is just a brief glimpse of what Chicago has to offer.

I haven’t even mentioned the fantastic food choices.

Margot  Justes
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A Hotel in Venice
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