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Chicago - United States
Great food isn't the only thing this city has to offer. From its world-class theaters and museums to its ever-growing music and arts scene, Chicago has staked its claim as the Midwest's entertainment capital.
You cannot talk about art in Chicago without mentioning its architecture, from the modern behemoth that is the Willis Tower to the old Water Tower. Several buildings showcase the Modernist genius of Ludwig Miesvan der Rohe, including the IBM building, the Ralph Metcalf Federal Building, numerous structures on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus, and twin "glass house" apartment buildings on Lake Shore Drive. World-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed many of the beautiful buildings that make the city and surrounding suburbs unique; learn more about him with a visit to his Home and Studio in Oak Park. While in the suburb, be sure to see Unity Temple, the Unitarian Church that Wright designed.
To gain a thorough 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 country's 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. The Gene Siskel Film Center at the Art Institute of Chicago presents world cinema in a non-commercial context, and hosts a monthly film series. For classic movies in a classic theater, visit the distinctive Music Box Theatre, which shows old films at weekend matinees and foreign and artsy films in the evening.
Chicago is a blues town, with many great blues houses to choose from. Buddy Guy's Legends, owned by the legendary bluesman himself, is sure to please. 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.
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.
Museums & Galleries
Chicago has a diverse offering of museums. Depending on your length of stay, you will want to take in several of these gems. The Art Institute of Chicago features French Impressionists, an Oriental Collection and great special exhibits. The Adler Planetarium offers a wide array of hands-on exhibits and information about the universe. The Field Museum of Natural History features Sue, the world's most complete remains of a T-Rex. The Shedd Aquarium, the world's largest indoor aquarium and oceanarium, showcases beluga whales. The mammoth Museum of Science and Industry includes a coal mine, a German U-Boat and a Zephyr, and an old-style steam train, all under one roof.
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 will not want to miss the summer's 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. Finally, don't miss dipping in and out of Chicago's 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.
Increasingly, the Loop has become the place to be for large-scale theater. The Cadillac Palace Theatre joins the ranks of the Ford Center for the Performing Arts-Oriental Theatre, the Auditorium Theatre and the Chicago Theatre for Broadway-style shows. The Goodman Theatre has relocated from the Art Institute to a North Loop site. Some good off-Loop theater options include the Steppenwolf Theater, the Victory Gardens Theater and the Royal George Theatre Center.
Second City has launched many a comedian's 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 stand-up comedy, with occasional appearances by established stars. For unique, off-the-wall productions, try the Neo-Futurarium.