Experience Millennium Park, Willis Tower in Chicago
Published January 19, 2012
Chicago’s colorful history has shaped it into one of the most captivating cities in the U.S. One of the city’s defining moments came in 1871, when a huge fire tore through much of the town. Although it was regarded as one of the city's greatest disasters, the fire spurred Chicago’s redevelopment into a modern and dynamic city. Chicago's architecture is characterized by a unique blend of neoclassical and contemporary design, with historical landmarks nestled between grand works of modern art. Today, downtown Chicago is a thriving metropolis, replete with soaring skyscrapers, buzzing commercial districts and attractive residential areas. With so much to offer, choosing what to include in your tour of the city can be challenging. Here are three must-see attractions:Willis Tower SkydeckThe Willis Tower Skydeck – formerly known as the Sears Tower – ranks among the tallest buildings in the world. Instantly recognizable by its bundled tube structure, this magnificent building is one of the gems of downtown Chicago’s celebrated skyline. Perched on the tower’s 103rd floor, the Skydeck observatory offers visitors an incomparable view of the city, Lake Michigan and the surrounding areas. If you can muster the nerve, take a step onto a glass-floored balcony suspended over a sheer drop. It makes for a thrilling experience. On a clear day, visibility around the tower extends some 50 miles, making it possible to see four different states.Magnificent MileThis section of downtown Chicago certainly earns its name. Filled with high-end boutiques and flagship stores from renowned international designers, the Magnificent Mile is Chicago’s primary commercial thoroughfare and the perfect place to indulge in some retail therapy. Although big-name designers occupy most storefronts in the area, there are also charming independent shops.The Magnificent Mile is also home to several cultural attractions including the renowned Museum of Contemporary Art. This huge facility contains some of the most remarkable and stimulating art of the past 50 years and regularly hosts touring retrospectives featuring many of the world’s most famous working artists. On nearby Oak Street, the quaint Colletti Gallery showcases a variety of decorative art and antique posters from the late 19th century and early 20th century.Millennium ParkChicago’s Millennium Park was the brainchild of the city’s former mayor, Richard M. Daley. The ambitious project took seven years to complete and resulted in one of the most architecturally stunning public spaces in the world. Since its opening in 2004, millions of tourists have flocked to this park to behold magnificent works of modern art. Some of the park’s highlights include the BP Bridge and Jay Pritzker Pavillion, both created by renowned architect Frank Gehry, as well as Anish Kapoor’s famous bean-shaped metallic statue, Cloud Gate. The park's Lurie Garden offers a rare moment of tranquility set against the backdrop of the towering Chicago skyline.