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Laura Schofield's Chicago Recommendations

Updated on December 10, 2012

Talk to a Chicagoan for the best tips on what to do and see in the windy city

There are tons of publications about what to see in Chicago. There are all the old stand-bys. I mean, who doesn't know about Willis (Sears) Tower and the Shedd Aquarium? BUT, do you know how to see Chicago on a budget? Where are the child-appropriate things to do and places to eat? Where can you eat if you're a vegan and into local or organic food? Where are the coolest neighborhoods? I'm a young-at-heart, vegetarian, locally-minded, 38-year-old mother of 4 kids. If you like the things I write about, chances are you might be interested in some of my favorite places in Chicago too!

If you're in the area, planning a trip to Chicago, or even live in the city and are just trying to do something different for . You might even show me a new place!

Important Chicago Phone Numbers

Everything from the CTA Chicago Transit Authority, major airlines serving Chicago, the Police & Fire Departments and more

Just in case you have an emergency in Chicago or just are in need of some official information, refer to this handy listing of Chicago phone numbers.

Culture - History and Art Museums - From World Class Museums to Local History

Chicago has plenty of museums. Here is a listing of museums dealing with local history, world history, art and culture.

Greek Town - In Chicago's West Loop

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Shopping - From the Magnificent Mile to Chicago's Neighborhoods

Chicago has plenty of shopping, world-class shops and independent boutiques abound. Check here to see what is where.

You're probably a local if you'll want to see a film while in Chicago. I find it handy to know where to look up what's playing and prices for movie theaters. If you're coming in to town to visit family with children, this could be ideal. AND, tourists would definitely enjoy a trip to the IMAX theatre at Navy Pier. So maybe movie listings and times isn't such a bad idea. Here it goes!

Cool Places to Eat - Unusual or Not-To-Be-Missed Restaurants

Sometimes you eat at one restaurant, then walk past one a few blocks down that you wish you would've stopped at instead. Here's a listing of unique Chicago restaurants - some for their location, some for their history, and some for their food.

Chicago Cruises - Even though you're not on a coast, you can still get nautical.

Whether you opt for a tour down the Chicago River, a dinner cruise on Lake Michigan or a quick water taxi ride, there are cruising options available in Chicago. Here's a listing.

If you're on holiday, Chicago's public transportation is the best option for getting around the city. During the summer, the city even provides a free "trolley", transporting people between museums and sight-seeing attractions. Two companies independently serve Chicago's public transportation: the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) and the Metra (longer journeys connecting the city with the suburbs or Union Station and Amtrak trains for further travel).

Both sites below have interactive functions where you can plan your journey when giving a starting and ending location, system maps, information on buying tickets and more. Even as a local, I use these resources regularly.

ChicagoNow even has a blog on the CTA trains by line as well as covering the bus. Its called Going Public. Check it out to find out about delays, reroutes, new cars, goings on at the station, trivia and more. Seriously, it is useful and interesting.

Parking in Chicago - Determined to drive?

Don't say we didn't warn you! Chicago has horrible problems with traffic. That being said though, if you need to be somewhere by a specific time, driving is probably your best bet. While the public transportation is good here, its not regular. If you can't afford to be late, you'd better drive.

Parking in Chicago is expensive and in short supply at any of the public garages or car parks. Be careful if parking in any residential areas too - many require a permit to park there for ANY amount of time, and you WILL get a ticket (meter maids are all over the place here - they're quick too!). 'Permit Only' areas are marked with signs - have a look around.

If you still haven't been swayed to take a bus, train or taxi, read on to explore your parking options.

Amusement Parks - Something for the kids or the young at heart.

Chicago's weather is brutal in the winter. During the late spring and summer, and going through Halloween usually, amusement parks are open though. Here are some of the more popular ones.

Get a few guidebooks - Something to take with you

The internet is a great resource for planning your trip. Things like guidebooks and pocket maps are indispensable though when you actually hit the road. Shop eBay and find some Chicago guide books.

What is there to do in your city?

Sign up at Squidoo and be a tour guide for your own city! What are the hot spots and not-to-be-missed attractions in your neck of the woods? Believe me, its easier to put together a Squidoo lens than you'd think. Compile your favorite things to do and share it with your friends all over the world - online.

If I waited to publish this lens until I covered everything Chicago has to offer, it would never get done! Please let me know if I've left anything out that you think just can't be missed. Maybe you'd like more advice on parking options, getting around the city, hotel recommendations, etc...

Or - maybe you think I've done a good job so far... Whatever you want to say about this insider's guide to Chicago - here's the place! Leave a quick note for all to see by just submitting it below.

Contact Laura Schofield

*If you would like to suggest any links or have your own photos and / or stories published, please send me an email. I can be contacted through my personal homepage, If you enjoy the work I've done here, I do offer professional copy writing, photo restoration / manipulation, search engine optimization and web design services. I can again be contacted for any of these services through my website.

What did you think? - Chicago is a big town, and maybe this lens needs to grow too!

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    • profile image

      Sippriano 5 years ago

      Never been to Chicago, but with your lens I feel like I have. A lot to do in Chicago. Nice.

    • datecheats profile image

      datecheats 7 years ago

      Wonderful Lens

    • northamerica profile image

      northamerica 7 years ago

      Well done! Thumbs up on this lens.

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 8 years ago

      Great lens, very comprehensive! Thanks for joining the All Things Chicago group at

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I love Chicago! 5*

    • drifter0658 lm profile image

      drifter0658 lm 8 years ago

      Very nice..I really loved that town. Is that German restaurant still out on Halstead?

      And thanks for the congrats ;)

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 9 years ago

      Very comprehensive! I've never been to Chicago, but would like to visit someday. Welcome to All Things Travel.

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Lovely Lens 5* and a favourite and welcome to Travelmania Group

      Tapir Travel