That’s what you feel in the streets of Chicago. It’s indescribably exhilarating.
The skyscrapers, the attractions, the traffic, the food, the architecture and the history are all things Americana.
They say your heart cannot live outside of your body, but I beg to differ. The Windy City has stolen mine.
Ever since I can remember, my mother has taken me to explore the city she was born and raised in. Chicago is nothing new to me. Our Italian roots run deep here. My family has recounted their history of the city time and time again.
While many kids grew up listening to stories of their aunts and uncles swamp adventures, I had the pleasure of listening to my family recount stories of the gangsters they grew up with. The blood is thick and the plot is too.
Though I’ve been traveling to the city and listening to exciting tales my entire life, it has taken me 26 years to truly appreciate the city for the magnificent place that it is.
If someone were to ask my, “Why travel Chicago?” My answer would be why not? There is something so magical about this place! The energy is exciting. It calls to you, beckoning your spirit to create and to believe.
I am convinced that the American Dream was birthed in the city.
I am convinced that growing up here makes you somewhat invincible.
The streets are gritty.
Horns are used as blinkers. You’ll get brushed into with no remorse. Manners… well… let’s just say that no one is worried about how you feel. Your emotions are your problem.
Children are taught to create. They are taught to believe in themselves. They are taught to be fearless. The heart of Chicago is “get it how you can.” There is nothing sweet about this place, but that’s what makes it so great.
The city breeds gangsters.
Gangsters in politics like the Obamas. Gangsters in art and music like Kanye West and Jennifer Hudson. Gangsters in film like Harrison Ford. Gangsters in thought like Oprah Winfrey. And real life gangsters like Al Capone.
The city is where American businesses like Sears Roebuck and Marshall Fields shipped millions of catalogues a month to your mother, father, aunts, uncles and the majority of the American population. If you want to learn business, spend a few years here. The take no prisoners mindset or business owners makes for better schooling that Harvard or Yale.
Chicago is where the zipper, the vaccum, the electrical dishwasher, the ferris wheel, the yellow pencil, the skyscraper, and the brownie and so much more where created.
I am telling you that Chicago is the epicenter of creativity, resilience and grit.
You cannot come from this city and not have a voice.
Chi- town natives are loud! Trust me I was raised by one. They are opinionated and painfully honest. The men are tough and the women are too. You have to be.
This place is where thick skin originated.
If you’re not afraid of the real world, Chicago is the place to visit.
The river tour guide will tell you about the undesirable real estate that was the Chicago river back when the gangsters would throw their enemies to the fish. The taxi drivers will discuss ISIS, religion and politics with you as if they didn’t know these were taboo topics.
This city is real and the people are too. It’s the place where the wondering heart finds refuge and the lost can be found. It’s the place where dreams come true. It’s the city of all cities. Chicago, Illinois is where my heart lives.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN CHICAGO:
- Millennium Park: The home of the bean and the crown fountains, Millennium Park is perfect for a family outing. There are public restrooms, places to eat and a bar. It will most likely be packed, but it’s a big place so it shouldn’t be overcrowded.
- Michigan Avenue: You have to walk in Chicago in order to get the full effect of it’s majesty. So, if you choose to walk you have to walk through Michigan Avenue. There are shops and restaurants, and you will always find some interesting form of free entertainment on the street. Advise: stay to the right side when you are walking. This is common courtesy.
- The Field Museum: Chicago has plenty of amazing museums and I suggest you see them all if you have the time. If you don’t, try not to pass up the Field Museum. It’s massive and contains some of the most interesting artifacts and exhibits. This is a cool place for kids as well.
- The River Walk: The river walk is flooded with shops and restaurants. The view is amazing and it’s a great experience for someone who only has a few days.
- River tour: If you’re down on the river, try taking an architectural and history boat tour. It’s a nice way to rest your feet while still seeing the city and getting a nice dose of condensed history.
- Stay Downtown: I suggest staying in a hotel or AirBnB downtown. It’s easy to get around and it makes for great views. I like to airbnb because most hotels don’t have balconies. In the summer, the cool weather is perfect for sitting outside, 52 floors up and watching the action of the city.
- 360 Observation Deck: If you cant get a balcony apartment, go up to the 360 observation deck to get a nice view of the city. Most people would suggest the Sky Deck at the Willis tower, but that is always packed! I do not like waiting an hour in line. The 360 deck is much less crowded and if you go at sunrise or sundown you wont have to wait too long.
- Museum of Science and Industry: This is the museum that told the world that we would have smart phones before smart phones were invented. It’s an awesome place to see when your visiting the city. I am sure you will walk away scratching your head wondering if these inventions are even possible. Then one day you’ll be shocked to see a device for sale that prints shoes, clothes and food! 3-D printing is the future!
- Navy Pier: Go to the pier early if your going to go. Beat the lines! If you have kids, the pier has an amazing Children’s Museum. Don’t miss it!
- Lincoln Park Zoo: The zoo is always a great stop on a vacation! The Lincoln park zoo is great for families. My mother used to tell me that her father would take her there every month. It’s special, especially for kids.