True wanderlusters are ready to hop a plane at a moment’s notice and Chicago is the perfect daycation to satisfy the travel bug. The Windy City’s O’Hare airport is one of the nation’s busiest for a reason but it also provides a convenient hub for travelers from both coasts because of its location at a nominated halfway point in the U.S. So, here’s a list of top things to see and do when all you have is 24 hours in Chicago:
1. Getting to the city from the airport – take mass transit. It is just insane to rent a car to drive to downtown. Both the traffic and parking costs will break you before you’ve had time to enjoy your first five minutes.
2. Navy Pier – head straight for the waterfront, no matter the weather. While the pier is full of kitschy shopping, it also hosts a small amusement park and ferry boarding points for everything from a tour of the Chicago skyline to an architecture tour from the river, which is not to be missed.
3. Chicago’s Museum Campus (near Soldier Field) – hosts the triumvirate of the city’s cultural sites, The Field Museum, The Adler Planetarium and The Shedd Aquarium. You might not have time to see all three in one day but some of these sites are often open into the evening, so you can plan your schedule based on your interests.
4. Dining – there is no shortage of great restaurants in Chicago. Most guidebooks will tell you where to try the best Chicago pizza but since I’m a Sicilian-American from New York, I wasn’t impressed. Instead, I would head to the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building. They may be a bit pricier than a slice of pizza but the food and the view are so worth it. Note: If you’re visiting Chicago on Sunday, don’t miss the Signature’s brunch buffet.
5. Shopping v. Sightseeing – Michigan Avenue is where you want to be if shopping is on the agenda during a girls’ getaway or a mother-daughter escape. True, it has everything from haute couture to budget friendly mall staples, but you can get these same shops in any major city. I would bypass the shopping and hop on a campy Gangster Tour of Chicago or just walk its city streets, getting lost amid the varied and amazing architecture.
6. Nightlife – if you are lucky enough to stretch your day-trip into the evening, Chicago is full of variety. There is theater destined for Broadway or just coming from there, comedy clubs and discos. However, what makes Chicago special is its blues scene. All of the greats of yesterday and today have called Chicago home at one time or another and its blues club scene is still a vibrant option for Chicago nights. My personal favorite is Buddy Guy’s Legends (700 So. Wabash Avenue), where you can often find Buddy holding court or jamming on stage.