Sweet home, Chicago. Baby don’t you wanna go? If you’re a fan of 1980’s musical classic the Blues Brothers, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The two kids grew up in an orphanage in the American Midwestern city of Chicago, and as adults, it’s their job to save it. The city has a rich musical heritage, so you can see why they set the film here. Another 80’s classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, was also set in this wondrous city in the summer time. With such great advertising, why would you not want to visit this iconic and unique city?
Now, you may be wondering where the weird name “Chicago” comes from. Despite what you may think, it’s not Italian. It actually comes from a French mangling of the Native American term “shik-aa-kwa”, which roughly means something like “wild onion” or “wild garlic”. The French pronounced it like “Checagou”, and thus the Windy City’s name was born. Fun fact about this nickname, whilst we’re on the subject – it’s not actually because it’s windy. It is windy, but no more so than New England or the East Coast. It’s called the “Windy City” because other Americans grew tired of people from Chicago boasting about how great their city was! Although, if you lived in such an awesome place, you’d probably be boasting about it too.
However, as awesome as the city might be today, it’s had a very shady past. Chicago was particularly famous in the Prohibition era (after the First World War to the early 1930’s) where the US government banned the sale of alcohol completely. You might think of the “Roaring 20’s” as the party era, the Gatsby era, but all the alcohol here was provided by gangsters in what they termed “bootlegging”. Chicago was famous for this, with criminal gangs coming from Irish, Italian and even German immigrants. Perhaps America’s most famous gangster – Al Capone – had his most notable escapade in the city of Chicago. You might have heard of the Valentine’s Day Massacre, when Al Capone’s gang murdered members of a rival gang, as part of the fight for control of the city. If you go on a whistle-stop bus tour, they’ll take you round to this area, as it’s become something of a tourist destination.
Once you’ve taken a look at all the famous gangster spots of the city, take yourself back to the modern day, and walk around the city’s pleasant centre. You can get around by using the “L” railway system, which unlike many other metros, runs on elevated bridges across streets and things – a super way to see parts of the city you wouldn’t usually see! You can travel to the top of the Willis (or Sears) tower, which was the world’s tallest building from 1973 to 1998. It’s still the USA’s second-highest building, so still really impressive! With excellent views of the city all round, it’s certainly worth the trip, even if you’re frightened of heights. You couldn’t be safer in one of these megastructures.
When the excitement of the city and the buzz of life in the centre makes you grow weary, travel to the edge of Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes and the one Chicago lies right at the bottom of. Though it is a lake, the yellow beaches give it the look of being a city by the sea, and the calm waves also add to this picture! In the summer, you’ll see people enjoying it in the warm sun, even though they are just a few metres away from one of the USA’s biggest cities. An unusual but charming mix of atmospheres, Chicago is sure to have something for everybody.
Image from: http://events.nationalgeographic.com/locations/city/chicago/