How about bears, lions, and sharks?
The bears are the NFL variety, as for lions you have a couple of options, but sharks? Well, we're talking the real thing, not big-league sports or business types.
The new Wild Reef exhibit at the Shedd Aquarium is the latest major expansion at a major city museum. Visitors can get up close and personal with more than 25 sharks.
Open to the public since spring, the exhibit features one of North America's largest, most diverse shark habitats.
Guests descend 25 feet underground to come face to face with sharks-only 5 inches of acrylic separates them from a 400,000-gallon, 100-foot-long habitat that is home to these menacing underwater creatures. Visitors catch a diver's-eye view of the mythic predators-from Japanese wobbegongs, blacktip reef, sandbars and zebras to whitetip reef sharks.
"Sharks are the most efficient killers in the ocean," says Bert Vescolani, vice president of aquarium collections and education at Shedd Aquarium. "Although movies like ‘Jaws' left an indelible mark on our cultural psyche, they did a disservice to sharks. The truth is these animals play an important role in helping maintain healthy reefs."
And if you like Wild Reef there's more to see at the Shedd, including dolphin and whale exhibits that incorporate a magnificent view of Lake Michigan.
Just across the museum campus is the newly renovated Soldier Field, home of the city's NFL franchise, the Bears. The "Monsters of the Midway" were carpetbaggers during the 2002 season while their historic home field was refurbished (or desecrated, depending upon which side of the civic argument you're aligned with), but now they're back home. The Bears play host to the Detroit Lions on Sunday Oct. 26. If you stick around after WWFE concludes, they will be at home again on Nov. 2, facing the San Diego Chargers. Both games kick off at noon.
Of course you can also see polar bears and African lions at the Lincoln Park Zoo. A short cab ride from downtown hotels, the zoo is one of the finest attractions in the city, and it's free.
Chicago offers some spectacular attractions, the kinds of gems every regular visitor should see and experience at least once. For instance, a visit to the sky deck of either the John Hancock Building or the Sears Tower offers incredible vistas, and the bragging rights of having been in one of the world's tallest buildings. On the first day of a cold front, visibility can extend more than 20 miles. Both buildings have made recent improvements to their sky deck attractions.
Navy Pier has become the most visited and most visible attraction in Chicago. A major renovation completed just before the 1999 Worldwide Food Expo turned what was once nearly a white elephant into a bustling, multi-use destination place that retains at least some of its historic character. You can see a movie, have dinner or a drink, rent a bicycle, take a boat ride, or, if the weather permits, a breathtaking ride on the Ferris wheel.
ShoppingFor many, a visit to Chicago wouldn't be complete without a shopping spree.
Shopping in Chicago began on State Street with the opening of the original Marshall Field's Department store in 1852. Today, shoppers at Field's flagship store will find an outstanding selection of men's and women's apparel, an extensive housewares department, several fine restaurants, a food court and a visitor center. State Street is also home to another famous Chicago department store, Carson Pirie Scott, where customers are drawn into the entrance of the store by the ornate ironwork designed by Chicago architect Louis Sullivan in 1899.
A bit further north there's more shopping at the famed "Magnificent Mile," which runs along Michigan Avenue from Oak Street to the Chicago River. Amidst department store giants, Marshall Field's, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's, are hundreds of specialty shops and boutiques offering goods from around the world. Oak Street, just west of Michigan Avenue,
is a boutique shopper's dream with such stores as Ultimo, Gianni Versace and Giorgio Armani.
An abundance of shopping can also be found at Water Tower Place, the 900 North Michigan Avenue Shops, Chicago Place Shopping Center, Navy Pier, dozens of Chicago neighborhoods and "The Shops at the Mart" located at Chicago's Merchandise Mart.
Five Great Chicago AttractionsNavy Pier
Grant Park and Museum Campus
Lincoln Park Zoo
The Sears Tower
The John Hancock Building
Musuems GaloreIn the Wild Reef, the Shedd may have the flashiest new museum exhibit in town, but there are plenty of other wonderful museums to choose from-about 50 of them according to the list kept by the city's convention and tourism bureau. About half of them have something to do with art, a half-dozen are related to architecture, and perhaps the most unusual is a collection of surgical instruments.
At the Art Institute you'll find more lions. Two sculptured beasts adorn the steps of the building, which is on the east side of Michigan Avenue in Grant Park. Inside, in October, you'll find two special exhibits-Paul: Paul Gauguin and the South Pacific: The Edward McCormick Blair Collection; and Manet and the Sea: Voyage to Impressionism. The Art Institute is also permanent home to many great works from throughout history. The Gauguin exhibit opened just last month to rave reviews.
Meanwhile the Field, Chicago's natural history museum, features Sue, the largest and most complete T-rex skeleton ever found.
Ten Great Chicago MuseumsThe Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago Historical Society
DuSable Museum of African American History
The Field Museum
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
Frank Lloyd Wright's Frederick C. Robie House
Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum
Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Science and Industry
ArchitectureVisitors from around the world come to Chicago, the birthplace of the modern building, to admire its architectural marvels. From historic landmark buildings to contemporary technological masterpieces, Chicago is built of the unique and innovative designs that have shaped American architecture. The city is a living museum of architecture thanks to the work of such greats as Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Helmut Jahn and hundreds of others.
Chicago is home to the world's first skyscraper, and some of the earliest 10-plus story buildings are still standing on one block in the loop. The city is also home to three of the world's 10 tallest buildings including the Sears Tower, which opened in 1974. Other city landmark buildings include the Chicago Cultural Center- completed in 1897 in the Beaux Arts style, Adler and Sullivan's 1889 Auditorium Building, and the Art Deco era Chicago Board of Trade Building, designed by Holabird and Root in 1929. The Rookery Building, 209 S. LaSalle St., is a must visit for serious architecture buffs. The exterior, designed by John Root, is remarkable in itself, but the interior remodeling done by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905 makes it a landmark.
To learn more about Chicago's acclaimed architecture, the Chicago Architecture Foundation (312/922-tours) offers more than 50 walking or bus tours, conducted by knowledgeable guides. If you'd rather sightsee by boat, an architectural boat cruise on the Chicago River shows bridge houses and Loop skyscrapers from a wonderful vantage point. If you prefer a self-guided tour, "Audio Architecture," a taped walking tour of the Chicago Loop, is available for rental from the Chicago Office of Tourism at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Center StageChicago is also a great theater town. And one of the hottest Broadway shows, the Lion King (there they are again) is at the Cadillac Palace through November 23. The Goodman Theater, recently hailed as the best regional theater in the U.S. by Time magazine, helped put Chicago on the theater map. Blue Man Group and Late Nite Catechism are Chicago originals that continue to entertain, year after year.
There's also plenty to laugh about at Chicago's improv comedy clubs including Second City Theater and Zanies.
Where to Wine and Dine in the Windy CityNeed to have a breakfast meeting, client dinner, or a strategy session over a cocktail? There are plenty of great restaurants to pick from in Chicago.
For breakfast, there's no better place than the Original Lou Mitchell's for huge omelets, pecan rolls and thick French toast. For lunch, try a Chicago deep-dish pan pizza at Pizzeria Uno, the place where it was invented. Other good picks for lunch include the Billy Goat Tavern or Rock Bottom Brewery. All of these places are a short cab ride from McCormick and the downtown hotels.
For dinner, Chicago offers some of the best steak houses, the most adventurous new cuisine, and one of the widest selections of ethnic foods of any city in the United States.
For the pinnacle of dining ex-periences there's Everest, on the 40th floor of 440 South LaSalle St. You will need a reservation, a jacket and a hefty expense account but you'll be treated to some of the best French food in the country and stunning views. Also, Sommelier Alpana Singh has become a bit of a celebrity. At only 26 she is one of the youngest Master Sommeliers in the world, and this month she takes over as host of the popular Chicago PBS restaurant review show, Check, Please.
There's also the venerable Charlie Trotter's, which enjoys a world-class reputation for inventive dishes, and Everest's more casual sister restaurant, Ambria, in Lincoln Park.
Looking for something brand new? Sushi Samba Rio, opened just this year. A concept imported from New York, it dishes up opulent, wild décor and equally flamboyant Asian and Latin appetizers and main courses. Aria opened last December at the trendy Fairmont Hotel in the Loop. It features global cuisine from four different continents and has gotten good reviews.
If you like beef, Chicago is home to many great steakhouses. Try Mike Ditka's, Eli's, or the Kinzie Chop House for a truly Chicago experience.
May we propose a toast?
Everyone in the dairy industry loves milk, but if you're looking for a stronger drink after a day at the Expo, you're in luck. You can visit a big, busy place at Division and Rush, but there are also plenty of neighborhood taverns, wine bars and brewpubs to choose from.
The highly rated Narcisse is a wine bar with a lush atmosphere, that morphs into a nightclub. Other wine spots include the 3rd Coast Café on Dearborn, the Tasting Room at Randolph Wine Cellars, and Pop's For Champagne on Sheffield.
If you take your beer seriously there are plenty of opportunities to do just that in the Windy City.
Goose Island Brewing Co. is Chicago's most re-nowned craft brewer and has pubs in Lincoln Park (Clybourn) and Wrigleyville. The beers are fantastic, and the food is surprisingly good. A relative newcomer is Piece on North Ave., in Wicker Park. Beers are brewed by a Goose Island veteran brewer, and paired with pizza, including a signature New Haven, Conn.-style white pizza made without tomatoes. It's a unique setting and there's live jazz most nights.
If you are looking for the best selection of imports from Belgium and the U.K., the Map Room on Armitage is still the place. Did you miss Oktoberfest? There are a handful of German bars in the city. The best is probably Resi's Bierstube on Irving Park Road in Lakeview, which has an outstanding selection of bottled and draft German beers.
Eight for DinnerAria
The Everest Room
Eight for SteakEli's
Smith & Wolensky's