Every now and then I like to visit a city that is particularly rich in art and culture and spend a few days soaking up as much of it as I possibly can until my eyes glaze over. I did it in Paris, wandering through the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay for hours and again in London, taking advantage of the free admission at the National Gallery.
But one city that has been on my art-and-culture-binge bucket list is Chicago – for a number of reasons. This Midwest metropolis is a treasure trove of art, architecture, museums, and history and there is enough to see here that you could fill up a visit without even scratching the surface.
Chicago has a collection of fantastic museums any city would be proud of, including the Museum of Science and Industry and the Field Museum of Natural History which features T-rex skeletons and Egyptian artifacts. Walking through the Art Institute of Chicago is a chance to see some of the most famous pieces in a range of different movements from early Japanese prints to modern American art. There are also plenty of lesser-known museums throughout the city including the Museum of Photography, the Chicago History Museum, and the DuSable Museum of African-American History.
The Windy City is known as the “birthplace of the skyscraper,” as it was where steel-frame construction was invented and the first of these enormous towers was constructed. Today, the city is home to three out of the five tallest buildings in the USA.
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This city is paradise for architecture geeks, offering some of Frank Lloyd Wright’s early buildings and some of the few surviving designs of Louis Sullivan. You could even stay at an architecturally significant building like the Silversmith Hotel, which is an iconic example of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Take an architectural history walking tour of Chicago’s downtown and learn about the history of the city’s landmark buildings.
Chicago has a thriving theatre scene and clever and quick improvisational comedy is a big part of it. The famous Second City Improv show originated here, which led to Saturday Night Live and was a huge influence on American comedy over the last several decades. See a Second City show while you are in Chicago, or check out one of the other comedy showcases at The Playground or The Annoyance Theatre. Another landmark theatre to visit is Steppenwolf in Lincoln Park, which offers interesting, edgy, modern, and emotionally charged plays and usually features an impressive roster of actors like Gary Sinise and John Malkovich.
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Last but not least, Chicago also offers a superb array of live music. Of course, the blues scene is legendary but there are also many venues offering cutting edge hip-hop, indie, rock, and electronic acts. Check out The Metro; it’s one of the most iconic venues in the city and big names such as James Brown, Nirvana, and Bob Dylan have graced the stage.
Have you ever been on a culture binge in Chicago? Share your tips and experiences in the comments!
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