Second to None: Why Chicago is America's Heart - My Family Travels
Chicago Skyline
Chicago from the Air

Gritty, blue-collar town, City of Broad Shoulders. Hm. Strolling along the breezy blue lakefront, among the joggers, jugglers, bikers, chess players, volleyballers, and sand-castle-builders, you would have no idea. No idea that the constellation of colors in the magnificent miles of skyline is made of the heart, hustle, and muscle of a people who never stop. But listen closely: you’ll hear a workweek’s worth—no, a life’s worth—of hard work and dedication bursting through the beach-goers’ squeals of joy. Listen to the sax player on the street, squeaking not only the city’s jazz roots to life but his mysterious past to the present. Listen to the laps of the waves, the waves that saw such Chicagoans as Daniel Burnham, Frank Lloyd Wright, Michael Jordan, Barack Obama. Listen to the honk-honking of Lake Shore Drive, the bang-rattling of the El, the shuffling of shoes, songs, ships. Listen closely, because Chicago is not defined by its awe-inspiring skyline or its crystal blue shoreline. It is defined by its people. 

By the late 19th century, Chicago emerged as a thriving metropolis. It became the nucleus of the Industrial Revolution’s track-laying frenzy, the heart of the breadbasket, the nation’s steel mecca, the center of the Great Lakes, and a playground for the world’s greatest architects. As a collective result, the city became a magnet for immigrants from around the globe. Today, Chicago thrives from this brilliant diversity. 

While the city’s skyscrapers first attract tourists to the Loop (the heart of downtown), visitors should let their stomachs lead the way.

Chow down on Chicago staples: deep-dish pizza, Italian beef, hot dogs. No ketchup on the dogs. Seriously.

Or opt for ethnic foods in the city’s 77 unique neighborhoods. Try German cuisine in Lincoln Square or Mexican in Pilsen. Greektown or Ukrainian Village, anyone? Swedish pastries in Andersonville or southern soul food in Bronzeville should do the trick. Head to Hyde Park, home to the University of Chicago, on the South Side to sample a wide variety of cultural eats.

After a bite (or two) to eat, catch a ballgame at Wrigley’s friendly confines to watch the beloved Cubs (although the White Sox may offer better prospects for a win).

Head back downtown on Chicago’s El (short for Elevated) train, where you’ll witness the city lights sparkle above Chicago’s urban playground, Millennium Park.

After your park exploration, head next door to the Art Institute to take in world-famous works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Serrat, and Warhol. The nearby Field Museum houses the world’s largest T-Rex skeleton.

If music’s on your mind, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is right across the street. Blues and jazz have their roots in Chicago – swing a smooth trip to the House of Blues.

Shopping on Michigan Avenue—nicknamed the Magnificent Mile—is just that: magnificent.

An architecture tour is a fascinating way to uncover the history of Chicago, whether by river, lake, bus, or foot. Learn about the city that invented the skyscraper!

Frankly, “I’m bored” is not an option here.

But let me reiterate: this city is a product of its people.

Chicago’s beauty is a function of its diversity of people. This place is a mishmash of greatness — a reflection of its mishmash of people.

Chicago is nicknamed the Second City. More truthfully, it is the American City. A scramble, a melting pot, a dump-all-the-refrigerator’s-contents-into-the-blender, whatever you wanna call it. That’s what makes it great.

And it is second to none.

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