5 Chicago landmarks you shouldn’t miss

Say ‘Chicago’ in a crowded room, and you can bet that one or two people will end up making clever little jokes about Catherine Zeta-Jones, or jazz, or speakesies. And they’re right to; it’s a great musical. But if you’re visiting Chicago any time soon, you’ll realise very quickly that things have moved on, and it’s a cultural, thriving hub of amazing restaurants, great bars and brilliant people.

Chicago Skyline

And much like New York, if you’re into your sightseeing, there are some terrific landmarks which will present many memorable (and possibly even amusing) photo opportunities.

Millennium Park/The Bean

It’s hard to think of Chicago without thinking of the massive silver bean that is the centerpiece of AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park. Its proper name is Cloud Gate, and it’s a sculpture by artist Anish Kapoor, who was inspired by liquid mercury.

The Bean

It’s actually made of stainless steel plates which have been welded together, but none of the joins are visible as the exterior has been so thoroughly polished. Tourists and locals alike love the Bean for many reasons; it reflects the city’s skyline, its strange reflective properties make for some weird pictures and it’s a great meeting place if you get lost. You probably won’t find your reflection very alluring, but even just taking a coffee and people watching is a pleasure in itself.

The Willis Tower

This domineering building was known as the Sears Tower until 2009; it’s since been rebranded, and North America’s tallest building was renamed by the Willis Group as part of its lease on a portion of the tower’s space. On the subject of record-breaking heights, The Willis Tower is not to be sneered at; it’s the second-tallest building in the United States and the 12th-tallest in the world.

Willis Tower

The one million people who visit every year come for the The Ledge, a glass balcony extending four feet outside the 103rd floor. The view spans over four states but may not be suitable for people who aren’t that fond of heights.

The Rookery Building

From the pavement, this just looks like an ordinary office building, but step inside and you’ll be amazed at what you see. Set in the heart of Chicago’s financial district, Daniel Burnham and John Root’s Rookery Building contains one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most dramatic interior compositions – a beautifully illuminated central light court.

Rookery Building

Most people take the tour; it’s only 30 minutes, but you should find it very informative. You’ll start off downstairs, then head upstairs to see the famous spiral staircase. Take heed – if you’re going to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, you might want to remember that he was only responsible for renovating and brightening up the Light Court, not the whole building.The glass roof, the light fixtures and the marble give the building a thoughtful, calm air; it’s not to be missed.

Wrigley Building

By gum, this place needs to be seen (sorry). When work started on the building in 1920, this area wasn’t office-friendly at all; there were no other major office spaces locally. That’s all changed these days, and the Wrigley Building continues to attract tourists in their thousands. The building was designed to mimic the shape of the Giralda tower of Seville’s Cathedral; the south tower was completed in April 1921 and the north tower in May 1924.

Wrigley Building

Set right on Michigan Avenue on the Chicago River, this location is also great for photographers who love architecture. You can also walk through the bottom part of the building and go into the centre to take some great pictures.

360 Chicago

Formally known as the John Hancock Observatory, this is a place to enjoy some stunning views of Chicago; it’s also the ideal place to watch the air show, or heading to when there are fireworks on Navy Pier.

360

After a 42-second elevator ride, you’ll find yourself surrounded by glass walls and open skies; head to the edge and you’ll see the city in action, spread out beneath you. Each wall is labelled with the direction you are facing; enjoy the solitude and the quiet. You’ll feel like you’re suspended in time while the city carries on its business beneath you.

For an additional $7, you can enjoy Tilt, one of the newer attractions. This involves standing by a window, holding on to the bars in front of you, and then you’re tilted out – so you’ll get a unique, downwards-facing view of the city. Probably not the best idea if you have a hangover but otherwise, it should be a thrilling experience.

Vicky Anscombe is Editor-in-Chief at Columbus Direct.

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