Sweet Home...

Sweet Home, Chicago

I love Chicago--I'm convinced that I would love it just as much even if I hadn't grown up here, although there's something special about home, no matter where it is. But Chicago has a wonderful "feel" to it--classy but not too snobby, and it boasts a gorgeous skyline, lovely lakefront, and all the culture you could ask for in the way of museums, the arts, and dining. See below for more reasons why I love Chicago! (Note: all pictures below are taken by myself, to the best of my knowledge, unless otherwise indicated.)

Sears Tower
Sears Tower--the world's tallest building...I'm sorry, but puny spires on Malaysian high-rises don't count! :)

Tribune Tower
The Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue--one of my favorite buildings!

View from the bike path on the lakeshore, looking south.

A passerby shot this for us, as the fam and I were having a blast cycling down the lakeshore on a quadricycle!

View from the Skydeck of the Sears Tower
View from the Skydeck of the Sears Tower (taken by somebody else)--check this out around dusk for an incredible view...

Unfortunately, I can't remember where I found this picture of a bolt of lightning striking the Sears Tower (no harm done to the structure), but it was taken during a storm in 2003. Breathtaking, isn't it?

My favorite skyline all aglow...

On Michigan Avenue

View from Lincoln Park
The skyline as seen from Lincoln Park Zoo

Chicago in summer is great fun, but Chicago during the holidays is magical! One of the best parts is discovering the treasures along Michigan Avenue, such as this elaborate model train display in the basement of the Hancock Building (beside the Cheesecake Factory).

Choose Chicago
The City of Chicago's Official Website

Exploring Chicago
The definitive site listing a plethora of activities and attractions that Chicago has to offer.

Downtown Chicago Interactive Map
Use this interactive map to plan a day (or two, or three...) in the city.

Chicago Tribune Weather
Current weather conditions around Chicagoland.

Chicago's Best...

The best of the best in a world-class city, according to Tara. :)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra The world's finest orchetra--enough said.

Chi-town Restaurants You could eat at a different restuarant every day for the rest of your life and never experience all the food that Chicago has to offer. But start here for the best of the best!

WBBM Channel 2 Chicago's best TV News Station. We got a fascinating tour of their studio a few years ago.

Navy Pier's Official Website--It isn't hard to fill a whole day just strolling in and around this resort-ish pier jutting out into Lake Michigan. Stroll to the end for a great look back at the skyline. The dancing fountain at the entrance is a magnet for kids--and overgrown kids, too.

Fun Things to Do in Chicago

As a lifelong resident of the Chicago suburbs who has visited every other major city in the US, I'm firmly convinced that this is the place to be. Given a second choice, I'd pick a place called Grenwich, CT--actually a suburb of NYC, but far enough out to escape the hysteric (yet fascinating) pace of the city. But it still wouldn't be home--and I'm not saying that just because I'm from Chicago. Chicago has a feel all its own--it's cultured, but not snobby; a source of endless fun, but not overly glitzy; Midwestern, but not "farmy"; and a treasure chest of everything I love. So, given my twenty-something years of experience in the city, I figured I'm qualified to offer my suggestions for the best places to go and things to do in the city, for those of you not fortunate enough to call Chicago your home :), or for a visitor to "my" city. So here you go!

Best Places to Eat:

Pizzeria Due -- Chicago pizza at its best--deep dish, of course. Right downtown is the original store, but it's branched out across the country now. But there's no place like home for the authentic stuff. I'd actually recommend Pizzeria Due right across the street for a bigger sit-down area and a more family atmosphere.

Sayat Nova -- Ever had Armenian food? I hadn't either, until I tried this place recently. I was wonderfully surprised--it's fabulous, filling food served in a small, romantic restaurant just off the Magnificent Mile. If your taste buds want a charge, come here! Try the dessert coffee for the biggest charge you'll ever get.

The Stalls at Navy Pier -- If you're looking for something cheaper, faster, and more casual, try one of these food stalls inside the main building. Except for a McDonalds, the variety is great--baked goods, fresh hot pretzels, exotic salads, Mexican, Greek, and Italian. And there's a great indoor arboretum on the floor above where you can bring your food to eat.

Walker Bros. Pancake House -- It's a tradition in Chicago. Although they don't have a store downtown, the small chain has restaurants in Highland Park, Vernon Hills, and other towns along the North Shore. The apple pancake rules--it's a "deep dish" pancake with apple slices, cinnamon, and brown sugar.

Cheesecake Factory -- Yes, it's a national chain, but the restaurant on the ground floor of the John Hancock Center is fabulous--it looks like you're eating under a giant mushroom top, and the food is beyond wonderful, especially the grilled veggie sandwich. But don't eat much of a main course if you want room for one of their humongous slices of cheesecake. (I recommend the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake...)

Hot Tamales -- This is a great semi-Mexican restaurant on Central Street in Highland Park (northern suburb). The cuisine is a sort of "elegant" Mexican--for example, my favorite is the grilled burrito (a sundried tomato tortilla with grilled zucchini, goat cheese, carrots, etc. with a side of breaded sweet potato chips). And they have the best flan I've found in Chicago. The decor is playful--bright colors, fun lighting, and Hispanic music on the speakers. Prices are reasonable, too.

Trattoria Convito Italiano--situated in the prettiest shopping mall in the world--Plaza del Lago on Sheridan Road, where you can see Lake Michigan glittering across the street. The best authentic northern Italian cuisine I've had anywhere.

Bucca di Beppo--this has to be one of the coolest placest to eat around Chicago. This is a quirky, festive, family-style Italian restaurant in Wheeling, with a great sense of humor in its decor. Besides great atmosphere and Italian music, the huge portions are truly fantastic Italian cooking. The cannoli in chocolate sauce is particularly fabulous. Great for big parties, but it would be just as fun for small groups. There are other locations around Chicago, too--check out their website!

Cucina Roma--Another fabulous Italian restaurant I just discovered. I was at the one in Lincolnshire, but I'm sure all four locations around Chicagoland are equally good. The atmosphere is rustic and slightly formal, but no snobbery. And the northern Italian menu is great, including a great version of cannoli!

Biaggi's--My first visit here was just recently--February of 2004. I think it's the best Italian food I've had outsideof Little Italy in Boston. There's only one in Chicagoland, located in the Deer Park Town Centre (near Lake Zurich, a northern suburb). It's a small chain, with a few other locations in the midwest. The experience is fantastic--refined northern Italian cooking, in perfect-sized portions. Great sauces, homemade pastas, a fantastic bread basket (flatbreads, focaccia...), and the desserts are works of art, but taste even better than they look. I recommend the "ice cream sundae"--actually a fried vanilla crepe filled with chocolate gelato with rasperry, vanilla, and chocolate sauces, or the semi-freddo, a fantastic concoction of espresso, ice cream, and whipped cream. I'm hungry...

Best Places to Go:

A Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert -- even if you've seen them somewhere else, you've got to see the world's best orchestra in its homtown. Check their webpage listed above for concert dates and times. If you're here during the summer, they'll probably be at their summer home, Ravinia Festival in Highland Park. It'll take your breath away.

The Art Museum of Chicago -- Even though I'm not a huge art buff, this place is fascinating. There are so many recognizable paintings here, even the most artistically illiterate would recognize several. A few hours should do it for all but the most serious fans, and it's worth the time.

The Field Museum of Natural History -- One of the best natural history museums around. There are at least two or three sections of this museum that will fascinate even the most apathetic modern tourist. I'm partial to the Egypitian colllection in a reconstructed indoor "pyramid," and their recent special exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls was wonderful.

Navy Pier -- Chicago's ultimate playland for all ages. Just walking around is fun, but there are tons of things to do there--a ferris wheel, outdoor food vendors, a reflecting pond, bike and quadricycle rentals (those are great!), and boat rides. There are boats of all types, but a ride on Windy, a 4-masted schooner, is an amazing way to see the skyline and feel the rolling waves at the same time. Fireworks in the summer, too--it's not a place to miss!

Get to Know Chicago

This is an ad that was made by LaSalle Bank in Chicago to welcome Boeing to their new headquarters in our town. I guess it was their way of introducing all those Seattle people to life in Chicago, and I think it's hilarious...

  • In the summer, it`s cooler near the lake. In the winter, it`s warmer. Really.
  • If you order a hotdog with everything, don`t expect ketchup.
  • It`s not the `L`; it`s the `el` as in `elevated train.`
  • The Chicago Botanic Garden is located in Glencoe, not Chicago.
  • The Chicago River flows backwards. On purpose.
  • North Side: Cubs. South Side: Sox.
  • Richard M. is the mayor. Richard J was the mayor.
  • Chicago produced the first Twinkie, the first pinball game and the first Lava lamp.
  • The Windy City refers to our politicians, not our weather.
  • Chicago`s wind is called `The Hawk.`
  • It`s `Soldier` Field, not `Soldier`s.`
  • We say `pop` and `bag,` not `soda` or `sack.` And we never say `Illi-noise.`
  • The Sears Tower is the world`s tallest building. (We don`t count antennas or fancy spires.)

    You know you're from Chicago if.....

    1. The "Living Room" is called the "front room" (pronounced fronchroom)
    2. You don't pronounce the "s" at the end of Illinois. You become irritated at people who do.
    3. You measure distance in minutes (especially "from the city"). And you always say everything is pretty much 15 minutes away.
    4. You have no problem spelling or pronouncing "DesPlaines" (DisPlaines) or "Lisle"(lyle).
    5. Your school classes were canceled because of cold.
    6. Your school classes were canceled because of heat.
    7. You've had to switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.
    8. Stores don't have sacks, they have bags.
    9. You end your sentences with an unnecessary preposition. Example: "Where's my coat at?" or "If you go to the mall--- I wanna go with."
    10. You carry jumper cables in your car.
    11. You drink "pop."
    12. You understand that I -290, I-90, I-94,and I-294 are all different roads.
    13. You know the names of the interstates: Stevenson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Dan Ryan, and the Edens. But you call the interstates "expressways".
    14. You refer to anything South of I-80 as "Southern Illinois".
    15. You refer to Lake Michigan as "The Lake".
    16. You refer to Chicago as "The City".
    17. "The Super Bowl" refers to one specific game in a series of 35 played in January of 1986. GO BEARS!!
    18. No matter where you are, when you hear the term "Downtown" you immediately assume they're talking about downtown Chicago.
    19. You have two favorite football teams: The Bears, and anyone who beats the Packers.
    20. You buy "The Trib".
    21. You think 35 degrees is great weather to wash your car!
    22. You know what goes on a Chicago Style Hot Dog.
    23. You know what Chicago Style Pizza REALLY is.
    24. You know why they call Chicago "The Windy City".
    25. You understand what "lake-effect" and "wind-chill factor" means.
    26. You know the difference between Amtrak and Metra, and know which station they end up at.
    27. You have ridden the "L" (and you still are not hearing impaired....)
    28. You can distinguish between the following area codes: 847, 630, 773, 708, 312, & 815
    29. You respond to the question "Where are you from" with a "side," example: "WEST SIDE", "SOUTH SIDE" or "NORTH SIDE."
    30. You know the phone number for Empire Carpet(588-2300).