Chicago, “that
toddling town” that keeps reinventing itself, never ceases
to amaze me.  The “Windy City,” teeming with life
and exuding an excitement all its own, is now fully grown into
a sophisticated metropolitan area that rivals any major city in
the world.

Chicago’s twenty-nine miles of lakefront, that form the front lawn of
what has become one of the world’s greatest cities, make that vibrant
city a shore bet. Chicago is home to an unrivalled collection of
buildings that chronicle the rise and evolution of the skyscraper.
Some of the world’s tallest buildings backdrop its
dramatic skyline and many architectural gems form a
living legacy to the hometown genius of Louis Sullivan and
Frank Lloyd Wright.

Strange as it may seem, in this mega-structure-mad metropolis, the simple
1909 Prairie Style house of the latter, still reigns
supreme.  Frank Lloyd Wright’s vastly influential Robie
House, which the master architect said was his best residence,
is not only one of the most important dwellings in Chicago but is
considered one of the most important dwellings in the world.

One of the best introductions to Chicago’s diverse architectural
scene is on the official Chicago Architecture Foundation’s
(CAF) Architecture River Cruise that highlights more than
50 architecturally significant sites.  The tours are
led by CAF-certified volunteer docents who are drawn to the river
cruise program out of a love for Chicago and a desire to share
their knowledge of, and passion for, Chicago’s architectural legacy.


its unprecedented combination of architecture, monumental sculpture,
and landscape design, the 24.5 acre Millennium Park might well be
the most glittering, jewel in Chicago’s crown. Millennium
Park was first conceived in 1998 to transform the unsightly
railroad tracks and parking lots that had long dotted the lakefront.

The most popular, and most prominent features of this award-winning
center for art, music, architecture and landscape design
include: Architect Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion,
the most sophisticated outdoor concert venue of its kind in the
United States; Anish Kapoor’s hugely popular Cloud
Gate sculpture; the interactive Crown Fountain by Jaume
Plensa; and the contemporary Lurie Garden designed by the
team of Kathryn Gustafson, Piet Oudolf and Robert Israel.

Frank Gehry’s 120-foot high Jay Pritzker Pavilion regally showpieces
its billowing headdress of brushed stainless steel ribbons that frame
the stage opening and connect to an overhead trellis
of crisscrossing steel pipes. The trellis supports the sound
system, which spans the 4,000 fixed seats and the Great Lawn, which
accommodates an additional 7,000 people.


Inspired by liquid mercury, the 110-ton elliptical Cloud Gate
is forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel
plates, which reflect the city’s famous skyline and the clouds above.
A 12-foot-high arch provides a “gate” to the
concave chamber beneath the sculpture, inviting visitors
to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected back
from a variety of perspectives.


The Crown Fountain consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each
end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images from
a broad social spectrum of Chicago citizens, from whose open
mouths water spouts.


Additional world-class
public art sculptures, including those by renowned artists
can be viewed by strolling through The Loop.  Among
these are: Louise
Nevelson’s Dawn Shadows, Chagall’s mosaic Four
Seasons, and Yaacov Agam’s sculptures at 20 N. Clark Street and
111 W. Monroe.
Chicago’s Magnificent Mile (shimmering from the Chicago
River north to Lake Shore Drive, North Michigan Avenue and
its neighborhoods) is an international showcase of great hospitality,
style, design, and taste.  The Magnificent Mile also showcases one of
my favorite sculptures, “Allow me “ by J. Seward Johnson Jr. on the Plaza of
the Four Seasons Hotel, a  landmark of refined
comfort, with unrivalled Lake Michigan and city views.


The dining scene in Chicago has something for every one.  However there
are two culinary standards that never leave the
Windy City’s.  The Chicago Hot Dog and the
Deep-dish Pizza remain a constant.

With names like Mustard’s Last Stand, The Wieners Circle,
and Doggy Diner, there are over 2000 hot dog stands in
Chicago.  The classic Chicago hot dog consists of a hot dog and
a bun.  Then it is loaded with mustard, bright
green relish, tomatoes, onions, pickles, cucumbers, and
hot peppers.  Celery salt is optional, but about
one thing there is no doubt…on a Chicago hot dog there is always

Deep-dish pizza (now known to many as Chicago Pizza) may be one of
Chicago’s most important contributions to 20th century
culture.  In 1943, Ike Sewell combined some of Italy’s old,
authentic recipes with impressive quantities of meats, veggies,
cheeses, and spices.  Pizza became a hearty meal and
the result was Pizzeria Uno and Pizzeria Due.  The
rest is history.
Beer gardens, cafes, pubs, and taverns assure visitors that one need
not go hungry at Navy Pier.  A virtual United Nations of
dining specialties is available in the downtown area as well as in
the neighborhoods.  Ethnic enclaves such as Chinatown,
Greektown, West Town (Polish, Ukrainian), the near West
Side (Italian) and Rogers Park (Jewish), also offer a taste of the
world at affordable prices.


This “stormy, husky, brawling city of big shoulders”, as
Carl Sandburg called it in 1916, might well be the most apple pie
city of all the country’s major metropolises.  But, take my
word for it…it’s a gourmet apple pie.

JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 40 national Travel Writer Awards and
a travel consultant with The Travel Authority in Mariemont, OH.