36 Hours In: Chicago, IL
Chicago is a huge vibrant city and metropolitan area; well-known for blues, jazz, comedy, shopping, dining, architecture, and fine cultural attractions. As the hub of the Midwest and the third largest city in the United States, Chicago is easy to find. Its picturesque skyline nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan is an impressive sight revealing world-class art and science museums, miles of sandy beaches, spacious parks, public art, and perhaps the finest assortment of architecture in the world. With a wealth of iconic sights and trendy neighborhoods to explore, there's enough to fill a visit of weeks or even months without ever seeing everything, so prepare to cover a lot of ground. Chicago is best explored in constant movement, through its subways and elevated tracks, and in-between its network of high-rise buildings.
The Chicago Diner | Breakfast
When Hornick and his partner opened the restaurant in 1983, it seemed like everyone around them scoffed at the idea. A restaurant serving only vegetarian and vegan options was unheard of at the time. In their words, “It’s like we were going against apple pie and mom and the whole thing." It's safe to say that their idea not only lasted, but evolved into multiple locations. Their food is so good that the people seated next to me were surprised when they realized that the "chicken" in their sandwich was plant-based. Order the radical reuben sandwich, you'll thank me later.
Chicago Cultural Center | Landmark
The Chicago Cultural Center is one of the city's ten most popular attractions and is considered one of the most comprehensive art showcases in the United States. Taking up an entire city block, the building is massive and they present more than 700 free programs a year, it's immersed in the humanities. You can spend hours admiring the architectural beauty of this incredible gem or just stop in for a quick dose of culture and enjoy the free exhibits.
Native Foods Café | Lunch
This delicious establishment was founded in 1994; out of a passion for fresh food, compassion for animals and the environment. Today, Native Foods Café has grown to become America’s premier fast-casual vegan restaurant group spanning coast to coast. They serve made-from-scratch, chef-crafted cuisine to thousands of food lovers every day. Their menu is beloved by vegans and non-vegans alike, with seasonally updated one-of-a-kind dishes, delicious desserts and homemade beverages.
Chicago Architecture River Cruise | Boats and Buildings
The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise is a must for visitors and Chicagoans alike. Their tour guides interpret more than 50 buildings along the Chicago River. You’ll also learn how Chicago grew from a small settlement into one of the world’s largest cities in less than 100 years. In 90 minutes, you'll get the real story on Chicago architecture and its history.
The Signature Lounge at the 96th | Dinner and Cocktails with a View
Now that you've seen Chicago's architecture from below it's time to see it from above. While most people who visit Chicago will opt for the iconic Skydeck inside of the Willis Tower, I prefer to skip the long lines and $22 charge and instead have a cocktail at the Signature Lounge. It's been rewarded with consistent accolades such as “Most Romantic Restaurant” and “Best View,” The Signature Room and Signature Lounge have become part of the quintessential Chicago experience.
Urban Vegan | Jumpstart
At Urban Vegan Chicago they made it their mission to create a truly authentic Thai and Asian restaurant with an international theme. They use vegetarian meat alternatives to maintain a healthy diet without sacrificing the tastes we all love. They focus on providing premium-quality meat-free products, with the finest ingredients and delicious original recipes from every corner of the vegan lifestyle.
Cloud Gate | The Bean
Cloud Gate (referred to by locals as "The Bean" for obvious reasons) is a public sculpture by British artist Anish Kapoor. The sculpture has the appearance of a giant drop of liquid mercury, and the mirrored surface offers an amazing reflection of the city's skyline, even more breathtaking on a bright, clear day. Visitors can walk underneath the Cloud Gate, which is surprisingly concave and it's one of the more popular photo opportunities in the city.
Millennium Park | Take a Stroll
The largest public space within the 319 acres of downtown Chicago's Grant Park. It was established in 2004, and is now one of the biggest free attractions of the city, rivaling only Lincoln Park Zoo. That's mostly due to its popular "The Bean" installation. Here you'll discover an amazing collection of architecture, landscape design and art that provides the backdrop for hundreds of free cultural programs including concerts, exhibitions, tours, and family activities.
To view the rest of our photos captured in Chicago, click here.
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About The Author
In 2015, Founder of TMDE Paul Martinez left a career in sales for a life of exploring. In just a matter of months he had visited over 10 countries, 30 cities, 10 states, countless national parks, taken thousands of photographs, and did a ton of soul-searching. His search uncovered a deep passion for exploration; which he now believes to be the essence of the human spirit, and led to the birth of The Modern Day Explorer. You can follow him on his personal journey by visiting his Instagram, and hopefully continue to support TMDE by following us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.