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Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is the major metropolis of America's heartland in northern Illinois. Around three million people live and thrive in a city of skyscrapers that appears to rise straight out of the waters of Lake Michigan.

Once a gangster's paradise, home to Al Capone and Bonnie and Clyde, the 'Windy City' today has a reputation as an international business and commercial capital with an eclectic mix of architecture, world-class theatre and art exhibitions, a fantastic local music scene, and thriving sports scene.

Chicago emerged after being destroyed in the Great Fire of 1871 when a large influx of immigrants in the early 20th century infused the city with diversity and the unmistakable sound of Chicago-style blues music. It now boasts soaring skyscrapers like Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), colorful neighborhoods, a lakefront business district, a re-energized downtown district, unbeatable shopping along the famed Michigan Avenue, and top-class sports teams.

What this city lacks in New York bravado and LA style, Chicago makes up for in the astonishing variety of its architecture, vibrant culture, and thriving art scene, all of which are highlighted by the Art Institute of Chicago. It is also a truly family-friendly destination, with world-class attractions such as the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium to delight the whole family.

With so much to see, it's worth getting a sense of perspective from the start. Visit the John Hancock Observatory or the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) Skydeck for views of the city from breathtakingly high up. Then check out Navy Pier for a 3D motion simulation of Chicago's fascinating history and exciting future. Afterwards, hop on a boat tour departing from the adjoining pier to explore the waterfront area.

It has been estimated that there are more than 6,000 restaurants in Chicago, representing just about every cuisine across every price range imaginable. Visitors can experience eating an authentic Ethiopian meal or a true south Goan curry under the shadow of the Willis Tower. While the city offers everything from haute cuisine to hotdogs with all the trimmings, its true specialty is the world-famous deep-dish pizza, invented at Pizzeria Uno in 1943, and now available throughout the city (though still served at its birthplace).

Chicago has been steadily earning a reputation as one of the cuisine capitals of America, with its concentration of award-winning chefs and highly acclaimed fine dining establishments. Around 25 restaurants in Chicago have earned Michelin stars, proving just how much fodder is available for discerning foodies. Top areas for dining include trendy Lincoln Park, China Town, Little Italy, and Pilsen, a Mexican neighbourhood.

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Travel guide by wordtravels.com © Globe Media Ltd.