They also like to look at art, and Millennium Park probably best
exemplifies the local determination to continue creating visually
stimulating public spaces for the common good. I decided this
while pausing to watch Jaume Plensa’s
Crown Fountain
, a sculp-
ture composed of 50-foot-high twin towers adorned with LED
videos of smiling folks who purse their lips every few minutes to
emit a strong flow of water into the adjacent reflecting pool.
Anish Kapoor’s
Cloud Gate
is probably the park’s most famous
installation. You’ve no doubt seen it on television commercials
or happened across photos of it in
magazines. It’s the perfectly polished
stainless-steel bean that is now the
ultimate outdoor selfie studio.
As impressive as Millennium Park
is, it’s simply one jewel in the much
larger Grant Park complex. Known
affectionately as Chicago’s “front yard,”
the sprawling 319-acre grounds are
home to an assortment of attractions —
and plenty of priceless gems at the Art
Institute of Chicago.
I could have spent the day star-
ing into Georges Seurat’s
A Sunday
on La Grande Jatte – 1884
, were there
not close to 100 other impressionist and
post-impressionist masterpieces to con-
template. I slipped into Monet’s
, relaxed
among Cézanne’s
The Bathers
, and pirouetted
with Degas’
Yellow Dancers (In the Wings)
, until van
Grapes, Lemons, Pears, and Apples
reminded me
that lunch was past due.
I’d love to be able to claim I followed the Dutch master’s lead
and opted for a fruit plate, but this is Chicago, a foodie desti-
nation with no cumbersome concern for calories. So I was off to
Revival Food Hall, a 24,000-square-foot gallery of local vendors,
and the Loop’s latest go-to dining destination. (Note: The Loop is
Chicago’s central business district, and it’s this neighborhood for
which Grant Park serves as the Windy City’s front yard.)
Located in The National, a recently renovated historic building,
Revival Food Hall is hardly food court fare. I’m forced to choose
from 15 menus, including Michelin-starred Shin Thompson’s
Furious Spoon ramen shop, Antique Taco Chiquito, and Smoque
BBQ. I went with Smoque’s chopped brisket sandwich, but defi-
nitely made a mental note to figure out how to work off the tangy
Memphis sauce, potato salad, and barbecue beans.
Post-brisket, a Midwestern thundershower prompted me to
duck into the lobby of the Chicago Athletic Association, a plush
leather-bound room — think private club without the hassle of
membership. There’s also a vast gaming area replete with indoor
bocce and regulation-sized billiards, an eight-seat speakeasy
with rare spirits and artisan cocktails on hand, and Cindy’s, one of
the city’s newest and best rooftop bars.
My next stop was Willis Tower, but I knew better than to ask
for directions to that particular building. “And thank you for calling
it the
Tower,” said Joe, a Chicago Athletic Association bell-
man, when I inquired about the best route. He wasn’t the first, nor
was he the last, to do so. Chicagoans aren’t only proud of their
city’s present, they’re immensely protective of its heritage. Macy’s
remains Marshall Field’s in the eyes of locals, and the 1,450-foot-tall
Even before I arrived, I knew an awful lot about
and yet, I had never walked down Michigan Avenue
or sat in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. No, the reason I was so
aware that Chicago is home to the best pizza, the best sports
fans, the best parks, the best … well, everything, is because
of Chicagoans. They’re among the proudest and loudest homers
in the world. So when I recently had reason to visit, I did so with a
healthy dose of skepticism, but I also decided it was finally time to
see if Chicago truly lives up to all of the breezy boasts.
Turns out all those Second City citizens might be right —
Chicago is pretty darn fantastic.
My first impression of Chicago happened while floating along a
river I hadn’t known existed — even though it’s both the source of
the city’s founding and the basis for its name. According to legend,
French explorer Robert de La Salle lifted the Native American name
for the area, which was Shikaakwa. At the time, the future namesake
waterway wasn’t anything more than a narrow tributary emerging
from the nearby marshlands that could only be reached by portage.
Once dredged, though, the Chicago River became a crucial conduit
between the Illinois River and Great Lakes. The boom was on.
The Chicago River continues to reflect the city’s growth, and
not just in the rows of converted warehouses and offices that loom
above it, but in the construction of the pedestrian-centric Chicago
Riverwalk. Started in 2001 and still expanding, it features a food
arcade (not to be confused with Riverwalk’s Arcade District) that con-
nects to floating gardens and a river theater, where patrons can watch
concerts and other entertainment performed on a barge stage.
After strolling along the water’s edge for a bit, I boarded
Chicago’s First Lady
for a Chicago Architecture Foundation River
Cruise. It proved to be among the most interesting tours I’ve taken.
The city’s dramatic development history was complemented by our
dazzling perspective, a point of view that allowed us to see layers
of construction ranging from Gothic Revival to midcentury mod-
ern and contemporary. Indeed, the juxtaposition of new
and old dominates the riverbank, with the monolithic, Art
Deco–style Merchandise Mart just a few blocks from the
more-modern Marina City mixed-use complex.
“Walk by these buildings and you have to pay attention,”
architecture docent Kathy Kulick told me after we docked.
“And make sure you step inside at least a few of the 1920s
structures. Every lobby is spectacular.”
Before I had embarked on this can’t-miss tour, I would
have taken Kathy’s comment as merely more local bragging.
But she’s completely correct, and along with the stunning
facades come some cool backstories.
For example, rumor has it that Chicago architect
William Le Baron Jenney envisioned the structural dynam-
ics of the world’s first skyscraper (the 10-story Home
Insurance Building) after his wife laid a massive book atop
a small birdcage. Chicagoans have looked skyward since.
imageBROKER/Alamy Stock Photo; Crai S. Bower;
Crai S. Bower; Crai S. Bower
Issue 1, 2017
Issue 1, 2017
Explore the
Windy City
Getaways start at
The Getaway price is valid July 1
through December 31, 2017.
LEFT: The faces of 1,000
Chicagoans loop
through the Crown
Fountain installation in 
Millennium Park. The
Art Institute of
Chicago’s lauded
collection includes
more than 50 works by
Renoir. Visitors creep
onto The Ledge, a
extension of the
103rd-floor Skydeck
of Willis (aka
Sears) Tower. The
Frank Gehry–designed
Jay Pritzker Pavilion in
Millennium Park
exhibits both
acoustical and
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