There are plenty of things to love about the Windy City, but for a first-time visitor, negotiating this sprawling metropolis (with over 70 distinct neighborhoods!) can leave one a bit overwhelmed. Here is a brief guide to five neighborhoods that will give you a feel for Chicago’s diversity.
Loop (photo: Chicago loop skyline): The neighborhood that gets its name from the L train track that “loops” around this area contains both Chicago’s central business district and theater district. Adjacent to the business district will find the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Ford Center for the Performing Arts/Oriental Theatre, Bank of America Theater and the Chicago Theatre (home to the famous red and gold marquee). If you have a chance to see a show at or take a tour of the Chicago theater (built in 1921), do— it’s like traveling back in time.
Bridgeport: Bridgeport is a working class neighborhood that has a flourishing arts and foodie scene. Stop into one of the neighborhood’s galleries to check out work by local talent. When you’re done, grab a glass of wine and a meal at a nearby trendy eatery or a cup of java at an independent coffee shop.
Wicker Park: Wicker Park is the place to go for boutique and book shopping. It’s also home to a variety of independent coffee shops, wine bars and eateries. Victorian architecture buffs will have a hey day strolling by the area’s large and well-preserved Victorian mansions.
Lincoln Park: One of the most popular tourist areas of Chicago, Lincoln Park is home to the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago History Museum, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and the Lincoln Park Conservatory. The area is also known for its high-end boutiques and eateries.
Grant Park/Millenium Park: Located on the lakefront, Grant Park is a 319-acre area that includes landscaped formal gardens, Buckingham Fountain, the Spirit of Music Garden, the Daley Bicentennial Plaza, and the renowned Art Institute of Chicago. At the northern edge of Grant Park is Millenium Park (opened in 2004), home to a variety of thrilling public art pieces (including the reflective “Bean”— Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate”). Frank Gehry’s striking Jay Pritzker Pavillion (an outdoor venue), the Lurie Gardens (a prairie landscape), and an outdoor ice rink in the winter months round out this unique slice of Chicago.
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