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Chicago Spotlight

The best of the Midwest is everyone's kind of town

By Darren Frei

June 6th, 2006

Chicago stands a strong chance of being everyone's kind of town. With world-class museums and performing arts venues, legendary jazz and blues clubs, more than 7000 restaurants serving everything from haute cuisine to hot dogs, and 29 magnificent miles of lakefront, the "City of Big Shoulders" offers something for everyone. Whether taking in a free concert at Chicago's gleaming new Millennium Park, indulging in a bit of retail therapy on Michigan Avenue, or diving into one of the city's signature deep-dish pizza pies, visitors can expect a diverse array of cosmopolitan creature comforts served up with a friendliness and charm that's lacking in bigger cities like New York.

Chicago's most obvious attraction is its impressive skyline. The dazzling architectural heritage of this Midwest metropolis can be owed, at least in part, to a cow. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (which started, according to legend, when Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over a lantern) the city was rebuilt on a massive scale by some of the world's most renowned architects. Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and "father of the skyscraper" William Le Baron Jenney have all left their marks on the city's skyline. Acclaimed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava will join their ranks in 2010 when his 150-storey Chicago Spire, a twisting condominium complex on Lake Michigan, becomes North America's tallest building.

Most major attractions are centrally located, making it easy to pack a variety of activities into a whirlwind weekend without running yourself ragged. On a three-day visit, you'll be able to take in the downtown area's key museums, parks, and sky-high observation decks, while a weeklong stay provides an opportunity to explore the city's diverse patchwork of multiethnic communities as well as neighboring suburb Oak Park, home of the world's largest collection of homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and Illinois state capital Springfield (a three-hour drive), which is home to the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum.

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