The city really comes alive when the weather warms up enough for its residents to hit the Lakefront Path. Located east of Lake Shore Drive, the Lakefront Trail is an 18.5 mile linear path that stretches from the far north part of the city to the south side. Neighborhoods dot the path as well as notable cultural landmarks including the Museum of Science and Industry; the Field Museum of Natural History; Shedd Aquarium; Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum; the Chicago Children's Museum; the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum; Lincoln Park Zoo, and the South Shore Cultural Center. The paved path is very popular among walkers, joggers and bicyclists and it will and does get crowded during the warm weekends. Expect to slow down around Navy Pier, one of the most congested points on the trail. Still, the Lakefront Path is one of Chicago's best and free sightseeing attractions.
Want to watch Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, practice? For Free? Visitors can watch the practices, which are open to the public, for free at Johnny's IceHouse West, the professional hockey team's official practice facility and one of the country's state of the art ice rinks. Head up to the third floor for the shop if you're looking to sharpen skates, hockey supplies or some Johnny's branded apparel and accessories. Overlooking the ice is The Stanley Club, a full service lounge that offers burgers, Chicago-style Vienna hot dogs, pizza, popcorn and beer. For those who haven't been able to score tickets to a game at the United Center or want to watch NHL games with other hockey fans, The Stanley Club shows all NHL games on their screens, including all playoff games.Watch Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks, practice for free at Johnny's IceHouse West.
[Due to national security concerns, only pre-arranged group tours are allowed to visit the viewing gallery. The lobby visitor center is, however, open to the general public.] The Chicago Board of Trade, the largest exchange in the world, holds court in an impressive Art Deco building. Visitors may watch the frenzied action of futures and options trading from the 5th-floor viewing center and be enlightened by guides about the seemingly-cryptic gestures used by traders. A small museum and a film offer more insight into the business of trading. While you're there, note the rooftop aluminum statue of Ceres (Roman goddess of harvest) and look for the lovely painting of her that was once on the trading floor and now occupies a place of prominence in the atrium addition.
Named after the first female to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum pays homage to her work in social justice, education, immigration and child welfare. A quest for social reform and belief in equal opportunities for all community members were driving forces behind Addams' establishment in 1889 of a settlement house in one of Chicago's immigrant neighborhoods. Documents, furniture, and plenty of photographs tell the story of this remarkable woman. Entrance to the museum is free although donations are requested. There is plenty to read, view and touch (and some things you can't) as well as a short film depicting life in the late 19th century/early 20th century. Addam's actual bedroom is in the building where one can walk in and be surrounded by her desk, clothing, diaries, books and personal photographs.
Attempts to appear seedy only partially veil this club's polished interior and yuppies and tourists often show up. The mellow blues joint offers jam sessions on Monday nights and local acts perform Sunday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday showcase national talent. A plethora of memorabilia fills the cavernous room while pool tables and a Southern kitchen that's open till midnight serving sandwiches and po' boys and jambalaya keep patrons satisfied. (If you can't make it to a show, the venue offers lunch.) Despite its touristy reputation, the club is a great place to see live blues in comfort. Parking can be found in pay lots just south or around the corner.
Ever wondered if you have what it takes to make artisanal chocolates? Take a class with Uzma Sharif at her boutique in Pilsen: Chocolat Uzam Sharif. The chocolatier provides the same attention to detail to her chocolates (which bear ingredients such as chai and curry) as she does to her chocolate making classes. Her cozy retail shop is in the front while classes take place in the back. During the chocolate 101 class, students will learn how to prepare several different types of chocolate including original sin. It's BYOB so bring a bottle to enjoy while learning to make your treats.
Located in the heart of Chicago's Greektown, the National Hellenic Museum aims to interpret the American experience through the history of Greek immigrants and their contributions to the American landscape while celebrating their history and culture. A new building with new exhibits, it's slowly building its collections although several of the exhibits are well-done. The museum offers many cultural activities throughout the year for the community including teaching a group of students Greek dances. Free docent-led tours (with $10 general admission fee) of the American Moments Exhibition is available from 1-2pm every Sunday. The Museum offers a well-curated selection of gifts made by Greek and Greek American artisans.
Located in the heart of Little Italy, the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame fills visitors in on Italian athletes and their accomplishments, from well known greats like Rocky Marciano and Joe DiMaggio to Lou Retton, Ron Santo and Brian Boitano. Videos throughout also share information on the Italian immigration and overcoming adversity. Personal items are donated by many of the athletes and if you've every wanted to see the baseball bats and uniforms of Mike Piazza and DiMaggio, this is the place to visit. Head to the top floor patio to get a glimpse of some amazing panoramic views of the city's skyline.
The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood is home to more than 7,000 objects and its permanent collection is one of the largest of Mexican art in the country. The accredited museum is dedicated to preserving and facilitating knowledge about Latino life and history. Exhibits focus on Mexican culture as it's represented in the US and in Mexico, and the permanent collection includes folk art, ephemera, sculpture, textiles and drawings. Performing arts are also featured, and the center hosts special events throughout the year to advance the museum's objectives. Admission is free to everyone throughout the year and the Museum is located within a thriving Latino community so be sure to visit one of the nearby restaurants for authentic fare after viewing the exhibits.
Standing 1454 feet high, this skyscraper is easily Chicago's most dominant structure and still holds the title of tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Visitors can shoot to the top of the 110-story building via a 70-second elevator ride and catch magnificent views into Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin from the 103rd floor Skydeck. If you are looking for thrill, step out onto "The Ledge," glass boxes extended from the side of the Skydeck with views 1,353 feet straight down. Informational exhibits for both adults and children teach the history of Chicago, the construction of the tower and interesting "did you know" facts.