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Chicago: The Quintessential American City

Updated on April 21, 2014

Chicago is sometimes called “The Quintessential American City,” because of its central location and influence on American and world culture. Many foreign visitors tend to overlook Chicago as a destination because of its distance from the coasts and reputation as a working town. But to really understand America, Chicago is a must-see destination.

At the dawn of the 19th Century, Chicago was nothing more than a marshy fur-trading settlement at the mouth of a tiny rivulet draining into Lake Michigan. By the end of the century, it was the second most populous city in the Western Hemisphere-- responsible for the invention of the skyscraper, meat packing, the international labor movement, and the modern supply chain. The rise of Chicago mirrored the growth of the United States from a crude agrarian nation into an industrialized World power.

Located on the banks of North America’s Great Lakes, few other cities in the world have integrated urban life with the water as well as Chicago. The skyscrapers and high rise apartment buildings along Lake Michigan provide Chicagoans with stunning water views, and large parks along the shore offer recreational treats for residents and visitors.

Chicago is a more affordable destination than many other American cities, and offers outstanding cultural amenities. The Art Institute of Chicago, The Second City, a thriving small theater scene, architectural tours, and music festivals are primary cultural attractions that rival any in the world. The city’s many residential neighborhoods are like unique small villages within a city, and often have strong ethnic and cultural identities as friendly arrival points for immigrants from all over the world.

Chicago is known for its architecture and use of the lakeshore and river.
Chicago is known for its architecture and use of the lakeshore and river. | Source
The Chicago Jazz Festival and other music festivals are free in Grant Park every summer and attracts top musical acts.
The Chicago Jazz Festival and other music festivals are free in Grant Park every summer and attracts top musical acts. | Source

International immigrants and African Americans from the South made Chicago an originator of many popular music styles, including jazz, blues, gospel, rock and roll, and House music. The city hosts many free summer music festivals and is home to the Lollapalooza and Pitchfork music festivals.

Chicago sports teams-- although not always at the top of the standings-- are among the most popular attractions in town. The city boasts two Major League Baseball teams (the National League's Chicago Cubs and the American League's Chicago White Sox), the NFL's Chicago Bears, the NBA's Chicago Bulls, and the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks. Just outside the city limits are horseracing, the MLS Chicago Fire, and minor league hockey and baseball. Within the city limits are four Division I colleges, and the Big 10's Northwestern University is just across the city's border in Evanston.

When visiting Chicago, some of the best places to stay are along Michigan Avenue in the heart of downtown. From the elegant Drake Hotel on the north end of the avenue to the massive Hilton Chicago on the south, there are more than a dozen hotels along Michigan Avenue within waking distance from top attractions, shopping, restaurants and transit.

Most Chicagoans are friendly, proud and knowledgeable about their city’s history, and they’re often eager to give advice on places of interest and things to do. If you’re thinking about visiting the United States, “The Quintessential American City” should be a top destination to consider.

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