By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: Probably within the last 6 months you gave some recommendations about things to do in Chicago. Unfortunately I did not keep the article and now we are planning a trip. Would it be possible to provide the details again?

A: Sure thing. Here’s my earlier column published last May. TV shows like E.R. have made the skyline of Chicago a familiar one. The actors of this popular program frequently paraded onto the Michigan Avenue Bridge with the gorgeous Wrigley Building as the backdrop. Viewing skyscrapers like these in the town dubbed the Windy City is no surprise.

Chicago is known as the birthplace of modern architecture so be prepared to be dazzled as you crane your heads skyward to the magnificent structures that loom along the river and waterfront. Be sure to visit the Sears Tower and the John Hancock Observatory for a bird’s eye view of this former American Hogtown. In addition, be sure to sign up for an eye opening architecture tour from the Chicago Architecture Foundation ( You have multiple choices here. I thoroughly enjoyed their walking and river cruise tours. Knowledgeable docents will give you the ins and outs of our twin city.

I recommend reading “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larsons before your arrival as the book gives a fascinating glimpse into the city’s early days after the Great Fire.

When in Chicago, you want to make a stop at the Chicago Cultural Center located at 78 East Washington. Besides housing the city’s visitor information center it is the home of an extraordinary refurbished library that was pegged as the “People’s Palace” when completed in 1897. Located across from Millennium Park, you can stock up on brochures, maps and inquire about any festivals and coupon booklets for discounts.

Other must-sees include the Field Museum, the Chicago Art Institute, Navy Pier, Magnificent Mile and of course Millennium Park. You might recall Frank Gehry designed the massive pavilion which opens up onto a sprawling great lawn perfect for outdoor summer concerts.

When I visited, the Chicago Jazz Ensemble was performing a free concert. Another great way to get a feel for Chicago is to make reservations for the Chicago Greeter Program through the office of tourism. It’s free and very informative. A local will take you for a two to four hour walking tour of a neighbourhood like Wicker Park, Oak Park or the downtown Loop.

Greeters are city-wise locals who volunteer to show visitors the city and its 25+ neighborhoods from a local’s perspective. It’s kind of like exploring a new city with a friend. Greeters also teach visitors to use public transit so they are not relying on cabs and cars on their trip.

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