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1-Day Plan

If you find yourself in the city of Chicago for just 1 day, do not be discouraged! You can still get a very nice feel for the city, but it's best to stick within the city limits, and be very focused on what you'd like to do.

Here is a sample 1-day itinerary, with options according to weather and interests:

  • After a leisurely breakfast, either at your hotel or any neighborhood diner or coffeeshop, follow the map that you have and make your way to the South Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street area, where you will find the Chicago Cultural Center, formerly a Public Library. The Cultural Center is a public resource that houses, amongst others, the Museum of Broadcast Communications, the Preston Bradley Hall with its huge Tiffany glass dome and views of the city (top floor), and, for your interest, a tourist information center where you can pick up more maps and brochures. Explore the Cultural Center a little, taking the steps up to the Preston Bradley Hall (ask any official), and admire the inlaid mother-of-pearl staircase and the magnificent details in its architecture. The Museum of Broadcast Communications is fascinating, and there is a store where interesting memorabilia may be purchased.
  • From the Cultural Center (where you can also get a cup of coffee and a snack), go across the street to the Chicago Art Institute. If you wish to check out the hours ahead of time, go to http://www.artic.edu/aic. Note that the Art Institute is one of the world's foremost art museums, and is a place to return to time and time again, not to see in one visit. Given only 1 day, go to the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist galleries, where some of the most important French impressionist works are housed. Of interest to some would be the Thorne miniature rooms (which would take just under half an hour to enjoy, albeit not that thoroughly). On your way out of the Institute, quickly check out the gift shop.


  • From the Art Institute, follow your map and go north to Chicago's new and expensive Millennium Park, designed by architect Frank Gehry, who has designed so many major buildings through the world, including the new Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Stroll around the gardens, and, take a quick look at the performing arts center, home to the Grant Park Symphony and the Festival in the summer. You can pause if it's a nice day to watch children playing in the fountains fronting Michigan Avenue. Rested up, you can then take a walk around a small loop to take a look at Chicago's public art, enjoying the people-watching and also the different architecture you will encounter. There are tours that are offered by the excellent Chicago Architectural Foundation, but this would be something you would do if you had more time and could coordinate your schedule with the tours.
  • Walk north on Michigan Avenue, taking in the architecture, shops, etc. You will arrive at an area where you will see 4 corners anchored by magnificent buildings including the famous Wrigley Building and the Chicago Tribune Tower. Below you, you will see the river, which is a place where you can hop on a sight-seeing boat to see the skyline from the river.
  • Keep walking on the east side of North Michigan now, until you arrive at the John Hancock building, which also has an observatory. A great thing to do is to take the buffet lunch on the 95th floor (reasonable and quick), rather than pay for the observatory. The views are spectacular, in particular, the view from the ladies' room! If you don't make it for lunch, and choose to visit this later (highly recommended), you can also get cocktails in the later afternoon in the lounge and enjoy a respite as well as the superb views.
  • For your afternoon activities, you could stroll along the North Michigan area, also called our Magnificent Mile to do shopping, perhaps stopping in at Water Tower Place. Or you could go back to the river area to catch a riverboat sightseeing cruise. On a beautiful day, there is nothing like seeing the skyline from the water vantage point, and seeing how the locks on the river work. If it's a priority to you, you could also either drive to the area called Navy Pier, or get there in a cab, and catch a lake tour from there. Navy Pier also has many stalls, an iMax theater, a very funky McDonalds for the kids, and restaurants and bars galore. For an upscale dining experience, you could investigate a dinner cruise on one of Chicago's cruiselines (e.g. the Odyssey).
  • Have a leisurely dinner at any of Chicago's amazing dining establishments. You might be ready to call it quits by now, but if you have the energy, you could also get mellow at a blues or jazz bar (check with your hotel concierge) close by. One of Chicago's most venerable institutions is its Jazz Showcase, which has hosted and continues to host some of the greatest jazz players in the world, within a non-smoking environment. Check http://www.jazzshowcase.com

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