From its vibrant arts scene to its ever-strengthening commitment to diversity and inclusion, Chicago has long given its counterparts on the coasts a run for their money.
Established in 1837, the city has never lost its commitment to its original motto “Urbs in Horto,” a Latin phrase for “City in a Garden.” That’s obvious when you see the city’s 2.7-mile elevated urban trail known as The 606, an uninterrupted "ribbon" that runs through the northwest side’s hip neighborhoods, including Humbolt Park, Logan Square, Wicker Park and Bucktown. It's actually 1.25 miles longer than New York City’s High Line trail — not that we’re keeping count.
The 606, © Ranvestel Photographic
Even the skyscraper haven that is Downtown Chicago is rich with acres of green, whether you’re talking the Lakefront Trail or the magnificent Millennium Park. In fact, the city boasts 8,800 acres of green space and more than 600 parks. And if you’re visiting over the summer, don’t forget to shop local at the farmer’s markets that take place at various parks throughout the city during the warmer months. Chicago is a biking city, with Divvy bikes stationed just about everywhere you want to go, making this accessible city all the more accessible, whether you're cycling The 606 or touring along the award-winning Chicago Riverwalk.
Chicago has upped the ante in cultivating a truly modern city — we could write a book ... actually, several books. Here are just a few of the other highlights we think make Chicago the poster child for the modern city.
Second City Theater, @ Clayton Hauck
Where to begin? The spring and summer — really all year long — is packed with events for lovers of museums, theater, music and food. The historic Steppenwolf Theatre and Second City Theater are as great a place to start for the uninitiated as they are for Chicago’s most well-versed culture mavens. Second City, known as home base of Chicago’s improv scene, runs nightly shows and is famous for producing some of the biggest names in comedy, like Stephen Colbert, Bill Murray, Tina Fey and scores of others. Remember the faces you see there because it probably won’t be long before you see them again on the big screen.
Every month, the Chicago theater scene is teeming with avant-garde, ground-breaking, blockbuster performances. Don't take my word for it; take a look!
Modern Wing, Art Institute of Chicago
This modern city we call home also features world-class museums like the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) and the Art Institute of Chicago. The Art Institute’s Modern Wing, an absolute masterpiece in both architectural design and concept, is basically a 264,000-square-foot altar to modern art from around the world. Venture over to the Museum Campus, and you'll find the Field Museum of Natural History sitting beside the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. Just south is the Museum of Science & Industry — the largest museum of its kind in the Northern Hemisphere.
Chicago Blues Festival @ City of Chicago
The summer months are packed with culture and entertainment, befitting the modern city that Chicago is. Today's Chicago is less about gangsters and "Windy City politics" and more about music, film, the culinary arts — all the things that make life richer. From film festivals and the Millennium Park Summer Film Series, to music festivals on the lakefront, food festivals throughout the city's 77 neighborhoods, and the venerated Oscars of the food world, the James Beard Awards, there's really no bigger statement about the richness of the city for the locals who love to live it and the out-of-towners who love to visit it. Oh, and did I mention that Chicago is the birthplace of gospel, blues and house music? Well, now I have. In fact, three free music festivals over three consecutive weekends beginning Memorial Day weekend celebrate both the greats and the up-and-comers in these genres.
Chinatown © Clayton Hauck
Arts, food and sustainability aside, Chicago’s most enduring commodity is its diverse people. With dozens of ethnic communities and neighborhoods to visit — swing over to Chinatown for dim sum, Pilsen for some Mexican flavor or up to Devon Avenue for a taste of Chicago’s vibrant Indian community — you don’t have to be here long to be exposed to languages, food and cultures from every corner of the globe.
@ Adam Alexander Photography
Chicago is also known for its commitment to inclusion, hosting one of the largest pride parades in the country, attracting more than 1 million people. Held in the beautiful neighborhood of Boystown, the parade, scheduled for June 24, 2018, has become a major draw for locals and visitors alike. Get your rainbow flags ready because this is one you don’t want to miss.