The City of Chicago is home to an estimated 2,695,598 residents and covers an area of approximately 237 square miles on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan.Many people identify Chicago with the Great Fire or with the 1893 World’s Fair, two very important events in the city’s history. Yet, we are also the home of the Blues, Al Capone and world-famous architecture.We remember walking the windows of the beloved Marshall Fields (now Macy’s) during the holiday season. We wear jackets and shorts on the same day because the weather is that unpredictable at times. Being from Chicago means we are resilient, down-to-earth, have a great sense of humor, love the vibrancy of our city and of course, we love the food.
Chicagoland is a complex mix of many surrounding suburbs which meld into each other and can be accessed by several expressways or the Metra train system.The Chicagoland area contains nearly 10 million people in three states – Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana – and is the 22nd largest metropolitan area in the world.You’ll often hear people refer to Chicago as “the city,” while the Downtown area is often called, “the Loop,” which refers to the area encircled by the elevated (‘L’) train tracks.
The treasure of the city is by far Lake Michigan, which is the 5th largest body of fresh water in the world. The 26 miles of lakefront are a haven for beach goers, fisherman and boaters where you can find 15 miles of beaches and 19 miles of bike paths.Visit Navy Pier and you’ll be greeted with beautiful lake views, access to bike rentals and boat tours, and a 15-story Ferris Wheel modeled after the one used in the 1893 World’s Fair.You’ll often hear natives say “it’s cooler by the Lake” in regards to temperature, and once you know “the Lake” is East in reference to where you are, directions easily fall into place.
The city is traversed by the Chicago and Calumet rivers. Chicago's extensive parklands, including 552 parks attract an estimated 86 million visitors annually.Grant Park and Millennium Park are by far two of the most beautiful locations to wander or take in the great skyline.The 1,450-foot Willis (Sears) Tower, completed in 1974, is the tallest building in North America and the third tallest in the world. You can view the entire skyline and even surrounding states from the SkyDeck.A walking, bus or river architecture tour is a great way to spend a sunny day and enables you to see many beautiful buildings and styles.
As a multicultural city that thrives on the harmony and diversity of its neighborhoods, Chicago today embodies the values of America's heartland-integrity, hard work and community and reflects the ideals in the social fabric of more than 100 neighborhoods. In fact, the city has 36 annual parades representing all types of heritages, people and celebrations. Chicago is an ethnic city with many cultures represented in its neighborhoods, traditions and best of all, food! In 1900, Chicago successfully completed a massive and highly innovative engineering project – reversing the flow of the Chicago River so that it emptied into the Mississippi River instead of Lake Michigan. Each year, the Chicago River is dyed green to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and there is a parade.
Politically, we, of course, are the home of President Barack Obama, the influential Daley family, and most often recognized as a ‘blue’ democratic, blue collar kinda town. We are home to famous writers and authors such as, Gwendolyn Brooks, Shel Silverstein, Ernest Hemingway, Saul Bellows, Ray Bradbury, K.A. Applegate, Stuart Dybeck, Carl Sandburg, Sydney Sheldon and so many more.
Chicago is recognized across the United States as a very passionate sports town.You’re either a North-sider and a Cubs fan or a South-Sider and a Sox fan, but you can’t be both! The traditional cross-town classic is a series that brings out the baseball fan in all of us.The Bulls will always be home to Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball player of all time, whose statue is right outside the United Center (which we still call the Chicago Stadium). The Blackhawks are just a few games away from another Stanley Cup. (Well, we are hopeful!) Please don’t bother us on a Sunday afternoon during Bears season, especially when we play the Green Bay Packers or the Minnesota Vikings. We take our football very seriously!
In addition, Chicago is home to more than 200 theaters including the famous Second City, 200 art galleries, of which a must see is The Art Institute of Chicago located on Michigan Avenue, and more than 7,300 restaurants. Don’t forget, be sure to take a walk and shop the “Mag Mile” known as Michigan Avenue.
Visitor Information Centers:
Chicago Cultural Center
77 E. Randolph Street
Located in the Loop at Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue.
Chicago Water Works
163 E. Pearson Street
Located on the Magnificent Mile at Pearson Street and Michigan Avenue.
City of Chicago Website http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en.html
What to Do in Chicago (Convention & Visitors Office):http://www.choosechicago.com/deals/tours-and-attractions/
Chicago Loop Alliance: http://www.chicagoloopalliance.com/visitloop/
Chicago Architecture Foundation: http://www.architecture.org/
Chicago Public Radio (NPR): http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/
Chicago Public Television (WTTW): http://www.wttw.com/
Chicago River and Lake Tours: http://www.wendellaboats.com/
The lists below have been prepared to give you a sampling of the best our city has to offer:
Two special libraries to visit:
The Newberry Library
www.newberry.org., 60 W. Walton,An independent research library that is free and open to the public; you’ll just need a photo ID to register for a reader’s card. One of the nation’s top libraries for genealogy research, the Newberry also hosts exhibitions, a book store, and free public tours on Thursdays at 3:00 p.m. and Saturdays at 10:30 a.m.
The Chicago Cultural Center, http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/chicago_culturalcenter.html/ , 78 E. Washington, The first home of the Chicago Public Library, built in 1897. Home to the world’s largest Tiffany stained glass dome, beautiful mosaics, and a GAR Memorial, the Cultural Center hosts exhibitions, concerts, and a café. Free public tours Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday at 1:15 p.m.
Additional Libraries of Interest:
The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at UIChttp://mansueto.lib.uchicago.edu/
Newly constructed and opened in 2010. The 8,000-square-foot reading room provides comfortable seating for 180 faculty, students and visiting scholars under a soaring elliptical glass dome.It uses a state-of-the art automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) and materials are stored underground. It has been featured in numerous publications for design excellence, and its conservation and preservation facilities. You do not need to be a student to visit this library.
The Harold Washington Library
The main branch of the Chicago Public Library system, this 756,640-square-foot neo-classical building appeared in The Guinness Book of Records as the largest public library building in the world. In 2007, the Harold Washington Library Center ranked 85th in an American Institute of Architects national poll of the public’s favorite pieces of American architecture. Tours are available.
Pritzker Military Library
Admission to the Pritzker Military Library is $5. Admission is also free for all visitors with active military ID. It is located across the street from Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago, and is open to the public with live events and a collection of books, films, and gallery exhibits that tell the story of the Citizen Soldier in American military history.
The Ryerson and Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago
The research libraries of the Art Institute. While you are there, check out the Special Exhibit at the Art Institute “Play, Pretend and Dream: The Caldecott Medal and Honor Books, http://www.artic.edu/exhibition/play-pretend-and-dream-caldecott-medal-and-honor-books-2010-2013
Off the beaten path museums:
Many people know about Chicago’s most popular museums.But, if you are looking for something off the beaten path and want to explore some of the city’s neighborhoods:
Arts Club of Chicago, http://www.artsclubchicago.org/. Located off North Michigan Avenue, the Club hosts public exhibitions of international modern and contemporary art.
The Chicago History Museum, http://www.chicagohs.org/, located in the Lincoln Park/Old Town neighborhood, features permanent and temporary exhibitions on the city’s past, present, and future.
The Chinese-American Museum of Chicago, http://www.ccamuseum.org/index.php. Located in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood, promotes the culture and history of Chinese-Americans in the Midwest.
The Driehaus Museum, http://www.driehausmuseum.org/. This Gilded-Age mansion just off North Michigan Avenue houses period art and furniture.Guided tours of the home offered daily, or wander on your own.
The DuSable Museum of African American History http://www.dusablemuseum.org/.This museum, located in Washington Park, hosts exhibitions on African American history, culture, and art.
The International Museum of Surgical Science, https://www.imss.org/. Housed in a 1917 lakefront mansion, this museum features exhibitions that trace the development of surgery around the world and over time through art and artifacts.
The Oriental Institute, http://oi.uchicago.edu/museum/ Part of the University of Chicago and located on the Hyde Park campus, the museum features the history, art, and archaeology of the Ancient Near East.
The Swedish American Museum, http://www.swedishamericanmuseum.org/ Located in the North side Andersonville neighborhood, this museum examine the Swedish American experience and immigration.
Restaurants and Dining
Chicago is home to restaurants to suite every style and taste. Here’s a short sampling of the restaurants in the city, some are close to McCormick place and the conference hotels, and some are a longer trip for anyone who wants to explore more of the city during the conference.
Epic Burger http://epicburger.com/
Park Grill http://www.parkgrillchicago.com/
Billy Goat Tavern http://www.billygoattavern.com/
Tamarind Sushi http://www.tamarindsushi.com/
Café Iberico Tapas http://www.cafeiberico.com/
Gibsons Steakhouse http://www.gibsonssteakhouse.com/
Chicago Firehouse http://www.chicagofirehouse.com/
La Cantina Grill http://www.lacantinagrill.com/
Chicago Oyster House http://www.chicagooysterhouse.com/
Sweetwater Tavern & Grille http://www.sweetwatertavernandgrille.com/
Native Foods Café http://www.nativefoods.com/
Greektown Restaurants: http://www.greektownchicago.org/directory/category/restaurant
Chinatown Restaurants: http://www.chicagochinatown.org/?page_id=418
Looking for Chicago style pizza? Here are some best of lists:
The Chicago Traveler’s Top 10 http://www.thechicagotraveler.com/2012/06/top-10-pizza-places-in-chicago/
CBS News Chicago’s Top 5: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/top-lists/best-deep-dish-chicago-style-pizza/
…Or Chicago Style hotdogs?
The Serious Eats’ Chicago Dog Style Guide http://chicago.seriouseats.com/2012/03/the-serious-eats-chicago-dog-style-guide.html?obref=obinsite
How to Get Around in the City:
Despite Chicago’s vast network of public transportation, there is no obvious route from the Loop (where all the train lines converge in a circle) to the McCormick Place Convention Center. Your first choice in transportation will likely be the shuttle buses that run between the hotel blocks and the convention center, as well as some select stops for social gatherings. Consult the shuttle schedule to make sure you allow enough travel time between sessions. http://ala13.ala.org/files/ala13/ala13_hotel_shuttle.PDF
If you are driving, check out McCormick Place’s website for driving directions and parking information. http://www.mccormickplace.com/attendees/getting-here.php
If public transportation is your style, note that the nearest CTA train stop is close to a mile away at the Red Line’s Cermak-Chinatown stop. The most direct bus is the #3 King Drive which runs down Michigan Ave. from as far north as Chicago Ave. and makes stops near the Museum Campus and McCormick Place. http://www.transitchicago.com/assets/1/bus_schedules/3.pdf
There is also a commuter rail line, the Metra Electric, that runs between Millennium Station in the Loop and McCormick Place. See the Metra’s website for the timetable and fares, http://metrarail.com/metra/en/home/maps_schedules/metra_system_map/me/farestructure.html. Although taking the Metra may mean a quick trip, it does not use the same payment system at the CTA and does not run as frequently. If you want to explore the surrounding suburbs, Metra is the way to go.
If you plan to explore Chicago outside of the Loop and Convention Center, definitely consider picking up a CTA pass which you can find at CTA stations as well as local convenience stores. Groupon is even offering a discounted three day pass (http://www.groupon.com/deals/chicago-transit-authority-cta-4?pt=aUaJfMjAAAACrkfqm--u45Bn0gqGODmN8). Buying a daily pass saves you the trouble of making sure you have enough money on your card to make all your transfers. Also note that the CTA provides easy, accessible transportation between downtown and both airports. See their website for maps, schedule, and fare information (http://www.transitchicago.com/). If you’re a smart phone user, consider picking up one of the many transit apps available so that you can make transit decisions on the go (http://www.transitchicago.com/apps/default.aspx).