America’s third-largest city is celebrating its 175th birthday, and the year-long party means there are even more reasons to visit. Chicago is well-known for its mercurial weather, but September and October offer mild, sunny days, so pack your bags! Here are the five best ways to enjoy this dynamic destination.
1. Hit the Streets
Chicago is a great city for walking. Whether you join a guided tour or find your own way, enjoy attractions such as Millennium Park, home of Lurie Garden and the famous silver “bean” sculpture; Navy Pier, a bustling area complete with restaurants, shops, an IMAX movie theatre and a 150-foot Ferris wheel; diverse neighbourhoods such as Little Italy, Greektown and Chinatown; Art Deco skyscrapers; buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; and much, much more.
Connect: Your smartphone can be your city guide. Explorechicago.org and chicagomag.com offer event and restaurant listings and downloadable apps for walking-tour routes, public transit maps, attractions info and more. To avoid pay-per-use charges, get an affordable and worry-free Roaming Data Pass before you leave. Monitor your data usage with free, near real-time text alerts sent to your device. Roaming Data Passes have built-in safeguards so you will never pay overage fees and enjoy complete cost certainty. To add a Pass, text TRAVEL to 7626 and click on the link, or visit rogers.com/roaming.
2. Take in a Show
Chicago’s dazzling live entertainment rivals Manhattan’s. Whether you’re looking for Broadway musicals, plays, comedy, improv, performance art, operas, dance or even a circus, this city has it all. Catch the side-splittingly funny comedians at The Second City, enjoy the work of emerging playwrights and actors or the intimacy and intensity of a poetry slam, and indulge in a splashy, Broadway-quality musical (upcoming shows include Kinky Boots, Les Misérables and Sister Act). You can also take advantage of free shows in Millennium Park as part of Chicago’s birthday celebrations.
Connect: Skip the lineups and order tickets with your smartphone or tablet. Browse listings at broadwayinchicago.com or chicagoplays.com, or download Broadway in Chicago’s free iPhone app. You can score half-price seats to select shows through hottix.org. Remember that apps use data, so be sure to close the app after you are done with it so you don’t use up data unnecessarily.
3. Enjoy the Fall Colours
Illinois trees put on a dramatic show in the fall. See the colours up close at Humboldt Park, on Chicago’s west side; or wander the walking trails at the Morton Arboretum, a 1,700-acre nature preserve in Lisle, 25 miles west of the city – you can rent bikes and enjoy live theatre there, too. For details and fall colour reports, visit mortonarb.org. Other great day trips from Chicago: Chicago Botanic Garden, Starved Rock State Park and the charming little town of Naperville.
Connect: The Leafsnap app (iOS) identifies tree species from photos of leaves you upload. Android and iPhone users can also download the Enjoy Illinois app, which has an itinerary tool and info about the state’s attractions. Preparing for vacations can be hectic; let Rogers make things a bit easier. Once you’ve booked your trip, text ALERT to 4766 to sign up for a travel reminder text alert. Before you leave, you’ll get a text message reminding you to add a roaming offer so you can save and stay in control of your usage. Options for affordable airtime, messaging and data are all available so you can stay connected any way you’d like.
Chicago offers incredible eats, from classic hot dogs and ethnic cuisines to Michelin-starred restaurants such as Alinea, Charlie Trotter’s and Ria. Make tracks to Pizzeria Uno at Ohio and Wabash – it’s the birthplace of the city’s iconic deep-dish pizza. If you’re in town Sept. 28–30, don’t miss Chicago Gourmet at Millennium Park. More than 100 of the city’s top restaurants, chefs and sommeliers will showcase their craft through demos, seminars, book signings and, of course, tastings. This is a popular event, so buy your tickets early via illinoisrestaurants.org. You can also indulge with Dine Around, an extension of Chicago Gourmet; dozens of restaurants offer special prix-fixe menus for the whole month of September.
Connect: Splurge on a second dessert, not roaming charges! It’s easy to stay in touch with friends and family without blowing your budget. Share photos, visit your Facebook page or update your blog with the help of affordable U.S. Roaming Data Passes. For phone calls and texting, check out the Rogers wireless U.S. Combo Travel Pack: it includes 40 minutes of airtime and 100 outgoing texts for the competitive one-time fee of $40, and it’s good for a whole month. (If you exceed the allotted airtime and texts, don’t worry – you’ll enjoy the discounted rate until your one month is over.) To order the Pack, text TRAVEL to 7626 or visit rogers.com/roaming.
5. Soak Up Some Culture
The Art Institute of Chicago (right) is one of the top museums in the U.S., housing a vast catalogue of paintings, photography, prints, drawings, sculpture, installations, textiles and new media. The collection includes works by luminaries such as Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, David Hockney, Edward Hopper and hundreds more. Don’t miss the world-famous collection of Impressionist art and the thrilling contemporary art gallery. Wrap up your visit by picking up art-themed souvenirs at the well-stocked museum shop. Great deal: get into the Art Institute and other attractions, such as the Shedd Aquarium (right) and Adler Planetarium, for half-price by ordering a Chicago CityPASS (citypass.com/chicago) in advance.
Connect: Android and iOS users, download the lovely app titled French Impressionism at the Art Institute of Chicago (about $4), which features high-resolution images of more than 100 works from the museum’s collection, plus bonus content from the curators. Artists include Monet, Degas, Cézanne, Manet, Gauguin, Renoir, Toulouse- Lautrec and others.
Chicago at a Glance
Population: 2.7 million
Climate: Mild, sunny weather in September and October. Cold from November to March. Mixture of sunshine and rain in April and May. Summers can be hot and humid.
Time Zone: UTC/GMT -5 hours
Transit: Take a ride for US$2.25 or buy an unlimited ride card, starting at US$5.75 per day.
For more information on travelling with your phone, head over to rogers.com/travel.