Chicago is in the midst of a hotel construction boom, which is good news for visitors because it means increased hotel room quality and quantity. The newest hotels target the luxury traveler, but Chicago still has plenty of budget-friendly and mid-priced options. Whether you prefer a big downtown hotel, a small boutique hotel or a rental property, there's no shortage of comfortable and welcoming places to stay.
Chicago tacks a lot of add-on taxes to hotel bills, so budget accordingly.
Paying the daily parking fee at your hotel. Ditch your car, and take cabs or public transportation. Chicago's traffic is bad and parking is expensive.
Everyone knows Chicago is famous for its deep-dish pizza, hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches. And with good reason. But to focus only on those foods would deny you the chance to dine at Chicago's world-class restaurants, led by some of the nation's top chefs, or to sample the city's global smorgasbord of authentic, ethnic restaurants. Chicago loves its meat, and many steakhouses are institutions. A few even still have that Rat Pack vibe to them. Fun specialty food shops also dot the city, selling everything from Chicago mix (caramel-cheese) popcorn to gourmet coffee.
Ethnic restaurants are often a better value than downtown restuarants.
Be Sure to Sample:
Deep-dish pizza. Cliche, yes, but the quintessential Chicago experience.
There is always SO MUCH to see and do in Chicago, it will be a struggle for visitors to decide between the world-class museums, the miles (and malls-full) of shopping, the Broadway theater shows (or the famous Second City comedy) and the creative guided tours led on foot, bikes, boats and segways. Even if you just chill along the postcard-pretty Lake Michigan shore, or stroll through Millenium Park, you'll be awed by Chicago's beauty and charm.
Criss-crossing the city. Traffic and parking searches will eat up your time and money. Better to pick a neighborhood and explore it.
Seeing a lot of museums and sites? Get a Chicago City Pass to save money on admissions.
During Chicago summers, the hottest spots in town are the swanky, open-air rooftop bars and the large outdoor music venues. But when the weather's not so nice, it's the dance and live music clubs that dominate the city's nightlife. Above all, Chicago is a sports town, which is why visitors are drawn to its rowdy sports bars and friendly neighborhood taverns for game-watching.
Take It or Leave It:
The Park at Rosemont, near O'Hare Airport, is a new open-air mall filled with bars and other entertainment. But the sheer size and national-chain vibe is a little overwhelming.
Chicago's smaller clubs and bars are just as fun as the big ones.
Whether you prefer shopping at Tory Burch or Target, every imaginable store exists in Chicago. Chicago's most popular shopping area is "The Magnificent Mile" - block after block of well-known stores up and down Michigan Avenue, anchored by the Water Tower Place mall. But save some room on the credit card for the boutiques in Wicker Park, the trinkets in Chinatown and the expansive suburban malls.
Sales tax is a whopping 9.25 percent.
Best Local Souvenir:
Nothing says Chicago more than a jersey, hat or T-shirt from Chicago's sports teams or stars on the Bears, Bulls, Cubs, White Sox or Blackhawks.