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USA & Canada: Chicago | Deep-Dish Pizza & Lakefront Love

Never thought of Chicago as a honeymoon destination? News flash -- it's a pretty romantic place. The Windy City, which sits on the edge of gorgeous Lake Michigan, is a world-class metropolis -- and it may be the perfect place for you to moon, especially if you're Midwesterners who can't afford to travel long and far, or if you're just not a beach person and you want to check out a Great American City.

Chicago is a city that likes to point out its bests: tallest, largest, first, etc. -- it's that Second City thing. The Sears Tower is currently the third-tallest building in the world. The city has the largest public library building (but not collection) in the world. The first McDonald's restaurant was in the northwest suburbs.

Plus, this Third-Coast city (those Great Lakes are big) has 29 miles of lakefront parks and beaches plus 18 miles of lakefront biking and walking paths. There are also countless places to view the beautiful skyline -- you can take in the entire downtown in one fell swoop. There's tons of theater, music, and culture, and some of the best food you'll ever eat (especially the pizza). Sounds like a great honeymoon, right? Read on...

good to know

  • The city is set up on a grid, with ground zero being the corner of State and Madison streets in the Loop. Addresses go up in each direction as you head out from that point.
  • Most main attractions are along the lakefront, which makes taking the El (the elevated train) the easiest in most instances. Of course, you'll be able to easily hail cabs to get yourself to more out-of-the way places.

Where to Stay

You'll definitely want to stay downtown or "near north," close to the city's central business district -- this will put you in a central location. Of course, there are hundreds of hotels from which to choose.

Don't Miss

  • If you want to do some shopping there are two main districts to hit -- State Street and Michigan Avenue. On State, down in the Loop (so named because of the elevated train tracks that ring the area), you'll find the historic Marshall Field's and Carson Pirie Scott flagship stores. Be sure to buy a few boxes of Frango mints at Field's -- it's a native thing. From there, walk east to Michigan Avenue and wander north -- shops line the street all the way up to Water Tower Place, one of the city's oldest and most famous malls. Be sure to ride the glass elevator!

    Even if you're not into shopping, strolling these two streets is a must -- you really get a feel for the city's rhythms on foot. When you cross over the Chicago River, look down to the left, in front of the Chicago Sun Times building -- you can take a boat ride out onto the lake from there.

  • Chicago's also famous for its architecture -- be sure to take a walking tour. Stop in at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, 224 S. Michigan Ave., and join a group headed by a knowledgeable guide. After you learn about the city's historic buildings, plazas, public sculptures, and skyscrapers, take a trip to the top of the Sears Tower, 233 S. Wacker Dr. or the John Hancock Building, 875 N. Michigan Ave. The views from their observatories are amazing. (Knot Note: Go at night for a really stunning vista!)
  • You won't want to miss Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park -- it's lit up with colored lights at night, from May through October. Also stroll out to Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., and ride its ferris wheel for a panoramic city view. If you're visiting in summer, there's bound to be some sort of lakeshore or park festival going on.
  • Culture? There's culture galore. Be sure not to miss the world-class galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave. Or cab it down to the Field Museum of Natural History; the Shedd Aquarium, with its oceanarium looking directly out at the lake; and the Adler Planetarium. They're all within a stone's throw of each other, just south of the Loop off Lake Shore Drive.
  • Into theater? There are more than 150 here, from the experimental to the ornate and traditional. Two of the most famous and well-respected are the Goodman, 200 S. Columbus, and the Steppenwolf, 1650 N. Halsted St., a group founded by actor Gary Sinise that also counts John Malkovich and Laurie Metcalf among its members.
  • Chicago is also a capital of comedy -- ever hear of Bill Murray, John Belushi, or Mike Myers? They all got their start at Second City. Go check it out -- maybe you'll get to see an up-and-coming stand-up's act. It's at 1616 N. Wells St.
  • You'll find nightclubs to suit every taste here, but remember, this place is a blues mecca. The best place to see some is the legendary Kingston Mines, 2548 N. Halsted St.

When to Go

A word of advice (from someone who has survived 22 Chicago winters!): You probably don't want to be in here when it's bitterly cold. There's a reason it's called the Windy City, you know! It is gorgeous when it's decked with Christmas decorations, though. You'll have to gauge how much you want to see that with how much cold and wind (not to mention snow) you can stand.

Whenever you visit, you're sure to fall in love with the City of Big Shoulders -- you'll be back! For a free Chicago visitor information pack, call (800) 2-CONNECT.

Photo: Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau

-- Tracy Guth

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