Art lovers will find plenty of options in this city. An obvious choice is the world-class Art Institute of Chicago, which houses a renowned Impressionist collection. The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Terra Museum of American Art are other good bets.
For a more hands-on arts experience, you won't want to miss the summers 57th Street Art Fair in Hyde Park on the South Side. It is a delightful way to view and purchase original works by local artists. In Wicker Park, the Around the Coyote Festival is another popular annual arts event. Finally, don't miss dipping in and out of Chicagos myriad galleries. River North is a good place to start. You'll find Carl Hammer Gallery, Fassbender Gallery, and the Illinois Institute of Art all within a few short blocks of each other.
You can't speak about art in Chicago without mentioning its architecture, from the modern behemoth that is the Sears Tower to the old Water Tower. World-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed many of the beautiful buildings that make the city and surrounding suburbs unique; learn more about him from a visit to his Home and Studio in Oak Park. While in the suburb, be sure to see Unity Temple, the Unitarian Church Wright designed.
To get a good understanding of the buildings that surround you, visit the Chicago Architecture Foundation, which offers an array of tours by foot, bus and even water. The River Cruise is highly recommended. Another great place to visit is the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, which offers tours, unique exhibits, and a wonderful book and gift store.
The Chicago International Film Festival is one of the countrys oldest competitive film festivals -- a must-see if you happen to be here in the fall. The Navy Pier Imax Theatre is a nice alternative to the standard movie house fare, offering an exciting, panoramic 3-D viewing experience. And even if you do choose to see a new, blockbuster release, it doesn't have to be in a cookie-cutter cinema environment. Perhaps the best screens in the city (and certainly the biggest) for first-run films are the McClurg Court Theaters, which always have the latest in sound technology for a heart-pounding movie experience. For classic movies in a classic theater, visit the distinctive Music Box Theater, which shows old films at weekend matinees and foreign and artsy films in the evening. Finally, the Biograph Theater is infamous for what happened off its screens and outside its doors. Gangster John Dillinger was shot in the alley behind the movie-house.
Chicago is a blues town, and there are many great blues houses to choose from. Buddy Guys Legends, owned by the legendary bluesman himself, is sure to please, and the Checkerboard on the South Side is one of the few remaining blues bars that was here for the very beginning of Chicago blues -- luminaries like Muddy Waters and Junior Wells got their start here. Kingston Mines is one of the oldest venues in the city, but still holds its own with low admission prices. For great jazz, try the Green Mill, a former Al Capone-owned speakeasy where the best and hottest still play; another good bet is the Jazz Showcase, which brings big name acts into town. Grant Park offers Blues and Jazz festivals each year. Ravinias summer-long jazz series brings standard greats like Tony Bennett to the Chicago suburbs and is a great way to spend a summer evening.
Alternatives to the blues and jazz are provided by the Cubby Bear, which features rock-n-roll acts. For more live rock, don't miss the Double Door, the Metro, the Riviera or the Aragon Ballroom. If you?ve ever wanted to be the performer on stage, then head to the Old Town School of Folk Music, which holds classes as well as public performances.
For the more classical side of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and The Lyric Opera are world renowned. In the summer, the Chicago Symphony joins classical legends and young guns alike to make music under the stars at the Ravinia Festival.
Chicago has a wonderful offering of museums. Depending on your length of stay, you'll want to take in several of these gems. Heres a briefing of the Top Five:
The Art Institute of Chicago features French Impressionists, an Oriental Collection, and great Special Exhibits.
Adler Planetarium offers a wide array of hands-on exhibits and information about our universe.
The Field Museum of Natural History features Sue, the worlds most complete remains of a T-Rex.
The Shedd Aquarium, the worlds largest indoor aquarium and oceanarium, showcases newly-born beluga whales.
The Museum of Science and Industry, a mammoth museum that has a coal mine, a German U-Boat and a Zephyr, an old-style steam train, all under one roof.
Increasingly, the Loop is becoming the place to be for large scale theater. The newly-renovated Ford Center for the Performing Arts-Oriental Theater joins the ranks of the Shubert Theater, the Auditorium Theater and the Chicago Theater for Broadway-style shows. Some good off-Loop theater options include the Steppenwolf Theater, the Ivanhoe Theater and Live Bait Theater.
Be sure to check out the Hot Tix Booth on State Street, for limited half-price day-of-show tickets.
Second City has launched many a comedians career, especially those of Saturday Night Live fame. Seating is cabaret-style, the drinks are good, and the improv ensemble shows are top-notch hilarious. Zanies is a Chicago standout for standup comedy, with occasional appearances by established stars. For unique, off-the-wall productions, try the Annoyance Theater or the Neo Futurarium.