By Kamila Dautnokova
New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas…there are so many exciting cities to visit in America that sometimes others get overlooked by international students looking for somewhere new to travel. Yes, all of the above cities are amazing, and I have enjoyed visiting them very much, but the city of Chicago also made an unforgettable impression on me. In some ways it is similar to Manhattan, but in my opinion is somehow more spacious, more clean, and more comfortable. The architecture in Chicago is amazing, and isn’t quite as overwhelming as some of the skyscrapers in New York can be. Chicago is an amazing city that I hope to return to soon, and here are some reasons why you should visit!
Located on the southwest coast of Lake Michigan in Illinois, Chicago is the third largest city in the United States (after New York and Los Angeles), the second most important financial center of the country (after New York), and the largest transport hub in North America. Being the largest city in the entire Midwest, it is also the largest transportation, industrial, economic, and cultural center in North America. As a stronghold of the Democrats, many well-known politicians have come out of Chicago, including Barack Obama (senator from Illinois). The unofficial name of the city is the Windy City and speaking from personal experience, this is accurate–the Chicago winter is freezing.
Chicago is a “city of skyscrapers”, and is home to lots of interesting sites to see and places for hiking. There are many parks, recreation areas, beaches, museums, theaters, and restaurants. In my opinion, the first thing to do in Chicago once you arrive is to wander aimlessly. The city itself is one giant landmark, where the streets are narrow, and the skyscrapers are so tall that you need to tilt your head fully to see the top of them.
Millennium Park is a green park in downtown Chicago the size of fourteen football fields. There are bizarre sculptures, concert zones, and benches to sit and relax. The famous Crown Fountain is also located there – two fifteen-meter glass blocks, on which video images of Chicagoans are broadcast. Millennium Park is the center of Chicago’s social life. Entrance is free everywhere. Volunteers lead tours of the park, tourists watch spiders through microscopes, and actors give free theatrical performances. Cloud Gate is also located in Millennium Park. This is the most recognizable monument in Chicago and, perhaps, America – a hundred-ton metal sculpture of a bizarre shape. However, the locals came up with a more spunky nickname for the sculpture: The Bean. The scultpure really looks like a giant bean from above, and is an iconic place to visit if you have the chance.
One of the most famous eateries in the city is the restaurant “Jordan’s”. This is a Chicago pizzeria with a forty-year history, which was founded by immigrants from Italy. The New York Times and dozens of other influential media wrote that they served the best pizza in Chicago.
Art museums are also very popular in Chicago. Some of the best include the Art Institute of Chicago, where you can view classical art for tickets priced at $27, or the Museum of Contemporary Art, where adult admission costs $15. Among the historical museums, the one that was the most memorable for me was the Chicago History Museum where adult tickets sell for $19.
Another amazing aspect of the city is the impressive buildings. Here is a small checklist for architecture lovers:
• Explore the 36-story Neo-Gothic skyscraper Tribune Tower.
• Take a selfie with The Wrigley Building in the background.
• Visit the largest library in the world, listed in the Guinness Book of Records – Chicago Public Library (Harold Washington Library Center).
• Check out Chicago’s only Chicago Temple Building.
• Purchase a $35 ticket to the Skydeck (103rd floor) at the Willis Tower.
• Appreciate the multifunctional complex of 2 Marina City towers.
For those looking to visit some of the many parks of Chicago, here is a short list of the ones I consider to be the best:
• Millennium Park. Here you can see a beautiful sunset and there is a Cloud Gate sculpture. It is called “Bean” because of the similar architectural form. The park hosts festivals and open-air performances by musicians.
• Maggie Daley Park. Place for children and adults: climbing wall, playgrounds, tennis courts. In winter, the ice rink is flooded. If you cross the BP Pedestrian Bridge, you will get to Millennium Park.
• Garfield Park. Here is a greenhouse with charitable contributions for the entrance, where lectures and exhibitions are often held.
• Lincoln Park. Place for cycling and running. There is a free zoo on site.
• Humboldt Park. The Puerto American Center in Chicago is located here. Come to taste national dishes and look at folk art.
Chicago is a great place all year round, but I would particularly recommend visiting during spring break when it’s much warmer and you can enjoy your time in the city fully. I hope this list inspired you to visit Chicago and helped you narrow down your itinerary for when you visit!
Kamila is a graduate student in the M.S. in Digital Social Media program at the Annenberg School for Journalism and Communication. She is an international student from Kazakhstan, which is located in Central Asia. Kamila is also a holder of the Bolashak International Scholarship. Prior to attending USC, she worked for two years at an international company in the brand marketing department. Outside of school, Kamila has a passion for swimming and playing tennis. She also speaks three languages fluently: Kazakh, Russian, and English.