Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 18, 2017

© City of Chicago

The Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park is home to a hopping summer concert series.

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Chicago

Hitting the high points and getting wild in the Windy City

Chicago may get billed as America's Second City (after New York, of course) but it doesn't play second fiddle to anyone. With work by some of the US's most renowned architects, much-lauded museums, hopping neighbourhoods and a restaurant scene that is giving the Big Apple a run for its money, there is plenty to vault Chi Town to the top of your travel list.

You also won't be short of options for a night out on the town. Chicago is known as the home of the blues, having fostered legends like Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters. Start at Rosa's Lounge (3420 West Armitage Avenue; rosaslounge.com). Less touristy than then well-known Buddy Guy's Legends (700 South Wabash Avenue; buddyguy.com) home of it namesake guitar hero, Rosa's is considered by many to have the most authentic blues lineup in town. For a dive bar that's popular with locals, pull up a stool at Lee's Unleaded Blues (7401 S South Chicago Avenue; leesunleadedblues.com).

Comedy lovers will have Second City (1616 North Wells Street; secondcity.com) high on their list. The granddaddy of improv opened in 1959 and launched the careers of Dan Ackroyd, Jim Belushi, Tina Fey and many other Saturday Night Live alums. Another staple of the scene is IO, aka, the Improv Olympics (3541 North Clark Street; chicago.ioimprov.com, which specializes in long-form sketch comedy. Fans of stand-up should check out The Comedy Bar (157 West Ontario Street; comedybarchicago.com) which attracts polished veterans three nights a week.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (220 South Michigan Avenue; cso.org) is regarded as one of the best in the world, but the whole classical scene (listings: chicagoclassicalmusic.org) here is booming, from opera to Baroque to chamber music.

Some of Broadway's most acclaimed dramas and hot-ticket musicals have gotten their first run in town. With more than 200 theatres, the city serves up dozens of productions on any given weekend. A must-see is the Steppenwolf Theatre Company (1650 North Halsted Street; steppenwolf.org), which puts on edgy and award-winning productions. Check out listings compiled by the League of Chicago Theatres (chicagoplays.com).

If you build it

Architecture isn't everyone's bag, but who doesn't love a skyscraper? Anyone hankering for amazing views should head to the observatory of the 100-storey John Hancock Building (875 North Michigan Avenue; jhochicago.com).

But the city has more going for it than height. It's actually a great primer on the evolution of skyscrapers: from the chutzpah of the 1893 Monadnock Building (53 West Jackson Boulevard; monadnockbuilding.com), a brick skyscraper with two-metre thick walls on the ground floor to carry the load of its 15 bay-windowed stories above, to the classic 1920s Wrigley Building (400 North Michigan Avenue; thewrigleybuilding.com) which takes Renaissance style to new heights, to the iconic 1951 glass-and-steel apartment towers by Mies Van Der Rohe (860-880 Lake Shore Drive) that blew open the tiny spaces and small windows typical of the era for a futuristic take on urban living.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation (224 South Michigan Avenue; architecture.org/tours; $38 boat tours, $15 cycle tours, $10 walking tours) offers everything from walking, biking or even Segway tours of some of the classic buildings. But one of the most memorable ways to see the sights is to join their boat tour on the Chicago River, which covers more ground and gives you a unique perspective on the canyon of skyscrapers around you.

True architecture buffs won't want to miss a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio (951 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park; gowright.org/visit/home-and-studio.html). One of the US's greatest architects, Wright started out in Chicago's tony Oak Park neighbourhood in the late 19th century, offering radically "modern" homes during the frenzy of overwrought Victorian design.

A moveable feast

If you've just spent an hour or two in the encyclopedic Art Institute of Chicago (111 South Michigan Avenue; artic.edu; timed tickets $23) — one of a handful of stellar art venues in town — pop in for some Barcelona-style tapas at Mercat a la planxa (638 South Michigan Avenue; mercatchicago.com). The bacon-wrapped dates and the lamb meatballs with sherry foie gras are popular options.

Heading to an outdoor concert at the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion (201 East Randolph Street; millenniumpark.org) in Millenium Park? Or just stopped at the nearby Cloud Gate sculpture (aka the Bean) to snap a distorted self portrait in its mirrored surface? Then make a bee line for The Gage (24 South Michigan Avenue; thegagechicago.com), a relaxed gastropub with high-end sandwiches and refined pub grub.

The chic gallery-and-shopping district of River North is the perfect place to stroll. When it's time for a break, the Slurping Turtle (116 West Hubbard Street; slurpingturtle.com) beckons; it's been getting raves for elevating ramen noodles to cult status, as well as for its inventive takes on Asian meat and seafood dishes.

Shoppers will need to keep their strength up to tackle the Magnificent Mile, and the affordable Bar Toma (110 East Pearson Street; bartomachicago.com) offers Italian fare, Slow-Food-style, from the chef behind the much-vaunted and pricey Spiaggia. This is also a good option if you've just come from the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 East Chicago Avenue; mcachicago.org).

For a splurge, the serene Alinea (1723 North Halsted Street; alinearestaurant.com) is hard to beat. One of the World's Top 50 restaurants on San Pellegrino's make-or-break list, it specializes in finely honed molecular gastronomy.

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