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  • Writer's pictureMark Vogel

Chicago: The Great City on The Great Lake

Chicago, Illinois

View of The Chicago Skyline and Lake Michigan from the Willis Tower
View of The Chicago Skyline and Lake Michigan from the Willis Tower

As a New Yorker, I always have been intrigued by the similarities and differences I've heard about the bustling metropolises of New York and Chicago. Both cities are renowned for their exciting energy, diverse cultures, and iconic landmarks, yet I've been told that they each possess a distinct charm that sets them apart. It was time for me to see for myself, so I headed to Chicago for my next adventure. With my stay at the centrally located Homewood Suites by Hilton Chicago-Downtown, I had the perfect base to uncover the charms of the Windy City.

Book a Tour: Chicago Walking Tour

“As a New Yorker, I discovered that both Chicago and New York have distinct personalities, and they share an undeniable spirit of ambition, creativity, and a deep love for their respective urban landscapes.”

A Stroll Along the Chicago Riverwalk

After settling into my comfortable suite at the Homewood Suites, I stepped outside and headed towards the nearby Chicago River. The Chicago Riverwalk, a pedestrian-friendly waterfront path, offered a picturesque setting for leisurely walks and absorbing the city's vibrant atmosphere. I found myself captivated by the stunning architecture that lined the river's edge.

One architectural gem that caught my eye was Marina City, a striking complex of twin cylindrical towers. This iconic landmark, designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg, is a testament to Chicago's architectural ingenuity. The mixed-use development, completed in 1964, consists of residential, commercial, and entertainment spaces, making it a true urban oasis. It was fascinating to learn about Marina City's history and its contribution to Chicago's architectural legacy.

Exploring The Magnificent Mile

Continuing my journey, I made my way to The Magnificent Mile, a renowned stretch of Michigan Avenue that beckons shoppers, history buffs, and culture enthusiasts alike. This iconic street boasts a dazzling array of luxury boutiques, department stores, exquisite dining establishments, and world-class hotels.

As I walked north along The Magnificent Mile, I came across Waterworks, an architectural gem that showcases Chicago's commitment to preserving its historic treasures. Once a pumping station that supplied fresh water to the city, Waterworks has been transformed into a vibrant dining and entertainment complex. It was fascinating to see how history intertwines with modernity in this bustling district.

Another notable landmark I encountered was Water Tower Place, a premier shopping destination that boasts a mix of upscale retail outlets, trendy boutiques, and delightful dining options. Adjacent to it stands the Historic Water Tower, an iconic Gothic-style structure that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Its resilience and beauty serve as a poignant reminder of Chicago's rich history.

Soaring Heights at 875 North Michigan Avenue

One of the highlights of my trip was ascending the heights of 875 North Michigan Avenue, formerly known as the John Hancock Center. This 100-story skyscraper offered breathtaking views of Chicago's skyline from its observation deck, aptly named 360 Chicago. From this vantage point, I marveled at the city's architectural grandeur and the vast expanse of Lake Michigan. It was a truly awe-inspiring experience that left me with unforgettable memories.

Thrilling Heights at the Willis Tower

The following day, my explorations led me past the impressive Lyric Opera House, where I stopped by Starbucks to grab a much-needed coffee. Energized, I then made my way to the iconic 110-story Willis Tower, once known as the Sears Tower. This architectural marvel, once the tallest building in the world, offers visitors a chance to witness panoramic views of Chicago's skyline from its Skydeck observation deck.

As I stood on the Skydeck, I was amazed by the breathtaking vistas that stretched as far as the eye could see. But the highlight of the experience was undoubtedly the glass ledge—a transparent platform that extended out from the tower, allowing me to stand suspended above the city. It was an exhilarating and slightly nerve-wracking moment that provided a unique perspective of Chicago's urban landscape.

Navy Pier: A Waterfront Haven

In the evening, I set off on foot from my hotel to Navy Pier, a bustling waterfront destination that offers an array of entertainment options. As I strolled along the pier, I immersed myself in the lively atmosphere, with its carnival rides, waterfront dining, and live performances. The Ferris wheel ride offers stunning views of the city skyline, the glistening waters of Lake Michigan, and the vibrant energy that permeates Navy Pier.

From the architectural wonders along the Chicago Riverwalk to the glamour of The Magnificent Mile, and from the soaring heights of 875 North Michigan Avenue to the thrilling glass ledge at the Willis Tower, I experienced the best that the Windy City has to offer. Navy Pier added a touch of waterfront charm, providing a perfect end to my Chicago adventure. Chicago truly captured my heart with its vibrant spirit, cultural diversity, and architectural wonders, leaving me with cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

As a New Yorker, I discovered that both Chicago and New York have distinct personalities, and they share an undeniable spirit of ambition, creativity, and a deep love for their respective urban landscapes. Visiting Chicago allowed me to embrace the similarities and embrace the unique experiences that this magnificent city has to offer. It's a reminder that despite the miles that separate us, the camaraderie between these great cities is unmistakable.

Finally, while in Chicago, be sure to take a Wendella Chicago River Boat Tour along the Chicago River and out into Lake Michigan. Also make sure you explore Millennium Park and Grant Park. To learn more about my experiences at these Chicago Must-do activities, read the following articles:

Book a Tour: Chicago Walking Tour


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