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By Bill Malcolm
If you love architecture, then a visit to Chicago is a must. The amazing array of varied wonderful architecture is incredible (see picture). You can take a walking or boat tour with the Chicago Architectural Foundation to learn about the buildings. In fact, they are having a Open House festival from Oct. 14-15 where 100 buildings will open their doors for tours.
Don’t like architecture? The City also has great museums including the Shedd Acquarium, the Art Museum, and the Field Museum of Natural History.
Getting there is easy. I took Southwest Airlines to close in Midway Airport (take the Orange Line to the Loop in just 25 minutes). You can take other carriers to O’Hare (and hop on the Blue Line).
Better yet, try Amtrak with three trains a day from the Detroit area (and once a day from Indy, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Seattle, and Minneapolis). Enjoy the new first class lounges, the Metropolitan Lounge and also The Legacy Club. Both feature free happy hours with appetizers.
Take the 151 bus to Diversey/Sheridan from Union Station to your Lakeview area hotel.
The Chicago Union Station is an architectural wonder even if you don’t take Amtrak and the nearby Ogilve Station features an incredible food court, the French Market along with local craft vendors.
I stay at the new Hotel Versey, 644 West Diversey Parkway (Brown Line train to Diversey or 151 bus from Amtrak) which is just south of Boystown (aka the Halsted). It’s got a rock n roll music theme and is near everything – the Landmark Century Centre Cinema and LA Fitness are around the corner in the Century Complex. It is a member of the Wyndham clan.
Trader Joes is across the street and nearby Mariano’s Market (on Broadway Avenue) has a great salad and hot food bar. You can also walk to the shops and theatres on nearby Halsted Street and Broadway Avenue.
Other lodging options in the Lakeview East neighborhood include the Best Western Hawthorne Terrace and The Willows.
If you have a car and are on a budget, try the Heart o Chicago Motel on Ridge Avenue just north of the other gayborhood, Andersonville (also home to incredible restaurants and several good bars). (CTA Bryn Mawr Red Line Station).
You will find the main gayborhood (aka Boystown or Lakeview) on Halsted Street north of Belmont. The Center on Halsted (3656 N. Halsted) is the community center for the LGBTQ and also has a Whole Foods. Enjoy the historical plaques placed along Halsted celebrating LGBTQ history.
I like Sidetracks,the nation’s orginal video bar where they throw napkins in the air when “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” plays. Stop by Sunday for the sing a long to the old show tunes with the Windy City Chorus.
Go for a walk or run along Lake Michigan which has a great bike trail that runs for miles north and south in either direction. The Frontrunners meet by the Totem Pole along the lake on Saturdays at 9 a.m.
Downtown (aka the Loop) there is a new trail along the Chicago River which also has some new restaurants. You can even rent a kayak or small electric boat.
Did I forget to mention shopping on Michigan Avenue where the holiday decorations will be up before you know it.
The food in Chicago is incredible. I liked Kohan, a Japanese restaurant east of the loop and south of Greektown (730 W. Maxwell). The $9.95 salmon bento box lunch special is a steal and excellent.
I also tried the Big Bowl which has Thai and other dishes (60 E. Ohio) just north of the loop.
The pizza in Chicago is excellent.I like Rosatis whcih can be found around the city.
Watch “Check Please” for more restaurant ideas on WTTW,their PBS station.
For more ideas on what to do, pick up a copy of Windy City Times (which publsihes my column online http://www.windcitymediagroup.com). Grab Magazine also has alot of fun ideas for the bar hopper.
The weeklies include The Chicago Reader and New City. The Red Eye also has great entertainment ideas.
Chicago is indeed the Paris of the Midwest and I always discover something new on every visit. You may want to bring your own Diet Coke for your visit, though, as they just slapped a new per ounce tax on soft drinks.