Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Windy City is full of attractions that
keep the crowds coming all year round.
But are they all worth it? Here's our
list of what you could pass up and where to go instead.
For someone looking to get to the heart of Chicago, the
first thing they should know is that it doesn't all center around Michigan
Avenue.
The Loop and its landmarks definitely have their charms, but to travel
like a local, branch out into the city's neighborhoods and hidden spots, and
don't feel guilty about skipping these well-trod activities.
1.
Cloud Gate (a.k.a.
The Bean) Unless you're deliberately photobombing
hundreds of tourists carrying selfie sticks, the novelty of The Bean's
reflective curves can start to look more like a funhouse mirror than a
fascinating reflection of the Chicago skyline.
Instead, walk around Tribune
Tower.
There may not be any crazy mirror-like surfaces, but the 120 stones
embedded in the concrete along the building's perimeter are eye-opening in
their own way.
Sourced from significant sites around the world, they're dated
and note their provenance, whether they trace their origins to London's
Westminster Abbey, Moscow's the Kremlin, or the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt.
2.
Magnificent Mile At this time of year, it's too crowded, too
expensive, and a little too uniform.
Head for Clark Street in Andersonville
instead.
The Swedish-centric neighborhood is high in local flavor.
Not only
does it have the phenomenal Swedish Bakery, but there's an array of funky
boutiques and indie shops, such as Akira, which stocks women's clothing and
accessories from hip but affordable brands like Sam Edelman and Gracia; Room
Service for expertly selected Midcentury Modern furniture and decor; and
Jameson Loves Danger for all your pet needs.
3.
Navy Pier Not that we have anything against this iconic landmark, it's
just that Navy Pier has become less about history and more about city-branded
tourist shops.
Try heading south to visit the Pullman Historic District.
What
was once a planned industrial town for George Pullman, the creator of the
famous Pullman sleeper cars on trains, has become a historical village of
about 7,500 people that offers tours of the community that feel like a walk
back in time—almost all of the original 1880s housing and many original
public buildings still populate the district today.
4.
Willis Tower SkyDeck Even if you're still sour about the city getting
robbed of the Sears Tower moniker, SkyDeck has unparalleled views of
Chicago.
But it's also swarming with tourists and unattended children.
Locals
go to 360 Chicago, the observation deck at the John Hancock building, which
offers fewer crowds and just as commanding views.
5.
Chicago Botanic Garden If you don't want your views of the Botanic
Garden's stunning displays interrupted by nearly every group of suburban
schoolchildren in northern Illinois, head farther south to a different
garden.
At the Garfield Park Conservatory, a beautiful world of flowers and
stone walkways under a historic glass building, there are twelve acres of
outdoor gardens and paths, waterfalls, fountains, and art.
6.
Vosges Haut-Chocolat Granted, Vosges has some delicious goods.
But the
chocolate bacon bar is pretty overdone at this point—along with several
other of the store's unique flavors.
At privately owned chocolatier Veruca
Chocolates in Bucktown (named for the Willy Wonka character), every piece is
handmade and looks like a miniature artwork, from the gilded champagne
truffles to the technicolor turtles.
Bonus: they specialize in gourmet
s'mores.
7.
Wrigleyville Although it's home to historic Wrigley Field, this North
Side neighborhood also is a haven for rowdy fans and over-served college
kids.
The neighborhood to explore these days is Pilsen.
It's a cultural
powerhouse famous for its public art and murals, young Chicagoan-owned
businesses, unique shops (Accent Minded, Shudio), and quirky art and music
experiences (Thalia Hall, Redmoon Central, National Museum of Mexican Art).
What to skip and where to go instead in the Windy City.

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