Chicago

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No matter your age or what you like to do, you won’t experience a dull moment in Chicago. The city has world-class museums, inviting parks and colorful neighborhoods inhabited by famously friendly Midwesterners. Add to that the sparkling, expansive Lake Michigan, and you have a magical place. Some locals theorize that Chicago’s arts and culture community owes a debt to the city’s toe-freezing winters. How so? If the ground weren’t frozen over for about half of the year, then artists, musicians, athletes and others wouldn’t have the time to hone their skills and elevate Chicago’s arts to new heights. It’s just a theory, though, and with the quality work coming out of this city — from powerful plays by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company to powerhouse hits at the Friendly Confines and the Cel, we’ll chalk it up to raw talent. Chicagoans are proud of their world-famous symphony orchestra, Lyric Opera and numerous and diverse dance companies. Chicago’s theater community is vibrant, with more than 100 theaters. The collections at the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art and galleries in the River North area are among the best in the country. The 1996 expansion of Lake Shore Drive made it possible to create the Museum Campus. This 57-acre extension of Burnham Park provides an easier and more scenic route to the Adler Planetarium, Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium, and surrounds them with one continuous park featuring terraced gardens and broad walkways. No visit to Chicago is complete without touring Millennium Park. This downtown park area includes the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, the 50-foot-high, water-spewing towers of the Crown Fountain, the Frank Gehry-designed band shell and bridge, and the Cloud Gate sculpture, which locals lovingly call “the bean.” Of course, Chicago is also famous for its architecture. A city of neat frame cottages and bulky stone mansions, it produced the Chicago School of Architecture, whose innovative style was carried on by Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in town for a convention or for the latest outdoor music festival, you can rest easy knowing there’s a hotel for you somewhere in this city.