Last week was my first trip ever into downtown Chicago.
My viewpoint is the imagery of Chicago for a first-timer. I love architectural design and Chicago is one of the world’s great cities for architecture. Yet there are park spaces within the vicinity of the downtown hotels on both the south side and north side of the Chicago River.
I am a natural urban explorer. I purchased a 7-day CTA pass at the airport for $23 which is good for travel on the trains and buses from ORD through the entire downtown Chicago area. I do not even think I used $23 worth of trains and buses since I primarily walked around the city.
The Chicago River where it primarily runs west to east near the lakeshore creates a natural central city divider.
Millennium Park on the south side of the river provides a green and waterfront two-mile walkway to the museums around Soldier Field. The Field Natural History Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium are about two miles south of the river and this is a great location for viewing the Chicago skyscraper skyline.
Buckingham Fountain is a spectacular piece of waterworks.
The absolute coolest structural art in Chicago is Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate or affectionately known as “The Bean”.
Hyatt Regency Chicago, Swissotel, Westin Riverfront and Sheraton Chicago are located alongside the river.
Interestingly, the Michigan Avenue Bridge was renamed on October 15, 2010 to DuSable Bridge during my stay in Chicago. I came across the dedication ceremony at noon on my walk back to the Sheraton Chicago. Here is the WGN Chicago news story print version telling how DuSable was a freed black man from Haiti who was the first documented non-native settler of Chicago in the late 1700s.
The Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue North begins at the Wrigley Building on the north side of DuSable Bridge and is truly about one mile of top end stores and hotels like InterContinental Chicago, Conrad Chicago, Marriott Chicago on the south end of the Magnificent Mile and north of the river. Embassy Suites Chicago is one block north of the river across from the Sheraton Chicago adjacent to the river.
Midway up the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue North) is the historic Chicago Water Tower.
On this block are The Peninsula, Park Hyatt Chicago, and Four Seasons Ritz-Carlton Chicago. There is not a comma missing in the previous sentence. The Ritz-Carlton Chicago is not affiliated with Marriott’s Ritz-Carlton Hotels and is actually a Four Seasons brand hotel. Not to be confused with the Chicago Four Seasons Hotel, more northerly by a couple of blocks. The northern end of the Magnificent Mile has the historic Drake Hotel, a Hilton brand on Michigan Avenue that has the coolest elevators.
Other treasures along the Magnificent Mile stretch include Sofitel Chicago, Knickerbocker, Elysian, and a variety of chain hotels like Fairfield Inn, Four Points, Hilton Suites, Homewood Suites, Crowne Plaza Hotel Avenue, Omni, Wyndham Chicago, and Courtyard, which mostly sit a block or two off Michigan Avenue.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is less than three miles north of the Chicago River.