Chicago is a city that is very well connected but is also all about its neighbourhoods and micro-neighbourhoods. Many Chicagoans are proud to be so, but are equally as proud to be North Siders and South Siders. You can travel around Chicago by foot, bike, double decker bus, train and even boat.
Today, we are going to do all of that in one day. One day is not enough to see Chicago, but we can get a taste of the city by taking the red line from the North to the Loop, and then a water taxi to Chinatown.
The North Side is a good place to start, as it is the home of a few GlobaLexicon employees.
Andersonville – A Swedish past
Like many areas in Chicago, Andersonville was an ethnic neighbourhood originally developed by Swedish Americans. While most of the Swedish immigrants have now moved out of the neighbourhood, it still connects with its roots through a Swedish restaurant and a Swedish American Museum. You can recognise the neighbourhood from its large water tower, proudly painted like the Swedish flag (seen below).
From Andersonville, we will walk up through tree-lined streets to the nearest redline “L” stop, “Bryn Mawr”.
Uptown – Chicago’s old entertainment district
Our next stop is Uptown, a few train stations south. This is the neighbourhood that is famous for having a bar with a secret exit (where Chicago gangsters in the 1920s would escape when they were being chased by the police). Uptown is vibrant, with plenty of music venues, jazz clubs, and places to grab some Vietnamese “Pho” (noodle soup). You’ll notice that some of the architecture is not exactly “American” though.
Accents of Spanish and Moorish architecture adorn the Aragon Ballroom.
Lakeview: Home of the Cubs and thirsty Northsiders
After our Vietnamese lunch, I imagine we are all feeling a little thirsty so we’ll hop back on the train to the Lakeview neighbourhood; Chicago’s most popular “party” area. There, you can find many bars and restaurants, plus it is home to one of the country’s largest LGBT communities: Boystown.
Having visited Lakeview, we can head towards Wrigleyville and do a bit of bar-hopping, whilst stopping to take pictures of the famous Wrigley Field baseball stadium.
Lincoln Park: Affluence by the lake
It’s only 2 pm and time to head towards our next stop, Lincoln Park.
Lincoln Park is known to be one of Chicago’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. There, you can find a huge park and a free zoo, right in the middle of the city! We can take a look around and say ‘hi’ to the resident polar bear.
Now that we’ve explored the zoo, let’s take an express bus down Lake Shore Drive to catch an early showing of the Broadway hit “Chicago”. On the bus, we pass the affluent Gold Coast district and probably a few Lamborghinis, the River North neighbourhood (where GlobaLexicon’s US offices are located), and arrive at the Theatre District in time for our show. What a coincidence that “Chicago” is playing here, don’t you think?
Double Decker bus sightseeing
London isn’t the only city with double-decker buses; Chicago uses them for tours. Let’s hop on one to see what Chicago is most known for around the world - its architecture! We see some very tall buildings (Chicago has a taller skyline than New York City), bean-shaped sculptures, Buckingham Fountain and the Sears Tower (recently renamed The Willis tower, although it hasn’t yet caught on).
Alighting from the double-decker at the Sears Tower, we’ll no doubt happen upon a group of people meeting for SkyRise Chicago, the world’s largest indoor stair climb event. However, for the sake of saving energy, let’s take the lift instead. Upon reaching the top, you can experience Chicago’s skyline from the tower’s Skydeck, complete with see-through glass you can step on. Some experience a feeling of sheer terror, whereas others love the adrenaline rush from seeing the city so small below their feet.
Looking out, you may notice that Chicago has many beaches - who would have known?
With energy to spare thanks to the lift, let’s hop on a “Divvy bike” (the city’s own bike-sharing system) and head towards the riverfront. There, we’ll take a water taxi to marvel at more of Chicago’s unique architecture.
We may find ourselves getting pretty hungry at this point, but the 30-minute water taxi ride to Chinatown is scenic and exciting enough to keep us distracted for the moment.
As the day comes to an end, we come to realise how big Chicago is and that we’ve only covered 10% of the entire city. Locals would recommend we also visit the South Side neighbourhoods such as Bridgeport (home of the White Sox baseball team), Hyde Park (home of the University of Chicago and the Obamas), and Pilsen (where you can find Chicago’s vibrant Mexican-American community). Alas, today we didn’t get a chance to visit those neighbourhoods so let’s agree that those will be first on our list during our next visit to Chicago!
Now in Chinatown, let’s enjoy some dim sum and take in the lively atmosphere. There really is no other place like Chicago on the entire planet.
Thank you for joining me on our 1 day tour of Chicago. See you next time in Pilsen!