Last updated: 05:32 PM ET, Tue December 14 2021
Chicago skyline aerial view at dusk, United States (Photo via  marchello74 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)


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South pond by Lincoln Park ZOO In Chicago (Photo via  jaskoomerovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
PHOTO: Lincoln Park's South Pond in Chicago, Illinois. (photo via jaskoomerovic/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Chicago, Illinois, has emerged as a no-holds-barred city that offers everything from world-renowned museums and cutting-edge architecture to mouth-watering cuisine and side-splitting comedy clubs. This city is second to none, and definitely don’t try comparing it to New York City. “Chi Town” is one of a kind with big-city thrills and metropolitan luxuries slow churned with a sincere Midwestern charm. With a wealth of iconic sights, attractions, restaurants and neighborhoods to explore, there is plenty Chicago to go around.

Though many visitors may not get beyond the limits of downtown, Chicago is an immense metropolitan area that is made up of several distinct districts. Skyscrapers pierce through the clouds on the western bank of Lake Michigan in downtown’s central business district, called The Loop -- named for the elevated train that “looped” around the area. This iconic area is home to the Art Institute of Chicago, Grant and Millennium parks and some of the finest hotels and restaurants in the city. The Magnificent Mile, in the Near North section of town, is nothing short of a shopper’s paradise. There is no better place to abuse your budget than at the department stores and boutiques of this stretch of Michigan Avenue. During the day, check out the famous Field Museum and wrap your mind around the millennia of natural history in the Near South area. At night, don’t miss a chance to hit up the Second City for an improv comedy show or get down with some tunes at the Green Mill jazz club uptown.

Just above Downtown, the North Side is a mix of upscale neighborhoods and entertainment options that include a plethora of bars, clubs and storefront theaters, as well as legendary Wrigley Field. The historic South Side is home to Hyde Park and the University of Chicago, while the West Side has the expansive neighborhood of Logan Square, the nightlife of Wicker Park and the culinary strips of the Italian section and Greektown.

Foodies are at home almost anywhere in the city with a selection of everything from authentic Italian dishes, gourmet hot dogs and Polish sausages to perfect dry-aged steaks and the world-famous deep dish pizza. For some true Chicagoan haute cuisine, Charlie Trotters serves dishes that are worth the resulting lighter wallet. For a meal, drinks and a show all in one, check out the Kit Kat Lounge with its 1940s motif. Arguably serving up some of the best Chicago-style pizza pies in the region, locals and visitors alike flock to Gino’s East for a taste of their famous deep dish. Serving up hometown staples like Italian beef sandwiches, hot dogs and sausages, Al’s Beef has numerous locations around the city and is sure to satisfy even the largest of appetites.

O’Hare International Airport (ORD), located 17 miles northwest of the city, is Chicago’s largest and busiest airport. Midway International Airport (MDW) is 10 miles southwest of downtown, and serves a smaller number of airline carriers. The most efficient and cheapest way to navigate throughout Chicago is by public transit. Both the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) oversee the operation of all trains and buses in the area. Transit cards can be purchased and refilled at kiosks in every CTA station. Most commuter trains are referred to as the “L” by locals (many lines run on elevated tracks) and along with buses, run 24/7.

Chicago has a humid continental climate with four distinct seasons and drastic temperature changes. Known for their fiercely cold and snowy winters (not to mention windy), January takes the prize for the coldest month, with average overnight temperatures dropping to 14.3° F (-9.8° C). July is the warmest month, with an average daytime temperature of 83.5° F (28.6). The highest amount of rainfall tends to drop in late summer, while spring and autumn are dry, cool months. Although there may not be any true best time to visit Chicago, weather should be taken into account when planning the perfect trip.