The Sears Tower and the Loop seen from the near south side
Chicago is known as The Windy City—although people disagree about whether this refers to the severe winds that blow off the Lake Michigan or the hot air of Chicago's notoriously corrupt politicians. The nickname originated in an editorial in the New York Sun during the city's bid for the 1893 World's Fair, wherein the editor railed against the city's raucous boosterism: suggesting that no one pay attention to the "nonsensical claims of that windy city. Its people could not hold a world's fair even if they won it."
Chicago is also known as The Second City, referring to its historical position as the United States' second largest city, after New York City, though it has long since been surpassed in population by Los Angeles.
Finally, Chicago is sometimes known as The City That Works, which has more than a single meaning. It refers to the long labor tradition, but it mostly refers to the corruption in city government.
The Chicago Reader is a free weekly newspaper distributed beginning each Thursday. It includes extensive listings of local arts, music, and events.
The Chicago Tribune ("The Trib") is the Chicago area's biggest daily.
The Chicago Sun-Times is the other major daily.
New City is a weekly alternative arts and entertainment magazine, distributed every Wednesday.
The Chicago Defender is Chicago's biggest African-American daily.
The CTA trains cost $1.75 and at certain stations you can transfer to other train lines at no extra cost. Keep the card you purchase as you can add more money and reuse it for future trips.
There are plenty of taxis from both airports to downtown Chicago, but they can be quite expensive, especially during rush hours. Expect to pay around $20 or more. The CTA trains stop close to the terminal and are cheap. They are a strongly recommended alternative.
Chicago's Union Station is the hub of Amtrak's Midwest routes, making it one of the most convenient U.S. cities to visit by train. http://www.amtrak.com
I-55 will take you directly from St. Louis into downtown Chicago. I-90/94 comes in from Indiana to the east. I-90 comes in from Madison, WI to the west. I-94 comes in from Milwaukee, WI to the north. I-80 will get you to the city from Iowa.
Navigating Chicago is easy. Block numbers are consistent across the whole city. Chicago is divided east-west by State Street and north-south by Madison Street. Standard blocks are an 1/8th of a mile long. Each street is assigned a number, e.g. Montrose Av = 4400 N, which the address system is based on. Therefore, addresses can be used to estimate distances; in general a mile is equivalent to a street number difference of 800. The only exceptions are the distance between Madison St (0 N/S) to Roosevelt Rd (1200 S), and between Roosevelt Rd and Cermak Rd (2200 S); the distance between each is one mile.
Most CTA rail tracks are elevated above ground level and the CTA train system is known as the 'El' (short for elevated) or the 'L' (short for El)! The Red and Blue lines go underground in the downtown area and might be referred to as a "subway" there, but in general the whole system is known as the 'El', so avoid calling it the subway. All the El lines radiate from downtown. The circle of downtown train tracks is called the "Loop" (which has become another name for the oldest section of downtown).
The El runs fairly late, though different lines run to different times, and some lines don't run their full length late at night. The Red and Blue lines run 24 hours a day.
The CTA services use fare cards called transit cards which you can keep topping up with money and reusing. Transit cards are sold and charged up from vending machines at El stations. The fare for the El and buses is $1.75. At certain El stations you can transfer to other train lines at no extra cost, as once you're inside the turnstiles, you can get on and off trains without paying again. Once you have exited the turnstiles, the first time you re-enter a turnstile or board a bus within 2 hours of starting the first trip, it costs $0.25 and the third transfer is free. The system automatically knows you are using the card for a transfer within the 2-hour period.
There are also visitor passes for unlimited travel. These are very convenient but fairly expensive — you'll probably save money by using normal fare cards.
There's an attendant at every El station. They can't provide change or deal with money, but they can help you figure out where you need to go, or guide you through using the machines. The attendants are usually very bored and are happy to have something to do, so don't hesitate to ask them questions.
The cards and transfers work on the buses as well as the El, but cards are not sold on the buses. Buses also accept cash, but don't provide change, and if you want a transfer when paying cash you have to specifically ask (and pay) for the transfer.
Buses run on almost all the major streets in Chicago, and seldom run less frequently than every 30 minutes. The "major" streets are every 400 (400, 800, 1200, etc) in the numbering system, or every 1/2 mile. So you can get nearly anywhere with one transfer.
The El may be a source of ambivalence for most Chicagoans, but is most certainly a unique attraction in and of itself for visitors. To some, the short trip around the elevated Loop circuit may be worth every penny of the $1.75 fare. But you can also take a free Loop tour train with a guide from the Chicago Architecture Foundation - see the "Do" section below.
Downtown there are also free trolleys, used mostly by tourists. These are actually uncomfortable buses made to look like trolleys. They're a quick way to get around downtown. They use specially-marked bus stops, but they'll usually let you off wherever you want. They run every 20 to 30 minutes. Most run weekends only (Sa 10am-6pm, Su noon-6pm) except Jun-Aug when they also run M-F 10am-6pm. They also run weekdays at other holiday times. Navy Pier trolley now runs 7 days all year round during hours the pier is open. The official website has stops, times, and route maps.
If you travel by trolley, you might want an alternative for your return trip. The return trolleys may be full, late, not running at all, or you may just not want to get on them again (one trolley ride is enough for a lot of people). For alternatives you may want cab fare, a list of appropriate CTA routes and associated fares, or just walking directions.
If you have a larger group (three or four people) taxis become fairly affordable compared to the CTA. Taxis are easy to flag down on the street, even late at night (especially if you are in an area with bars or clubs).
By private car
Parking is a pain so public transit and taxis are recommended.
Good weather? Rent a bike from the North Avenue Beachhouse and pedal your way around the city. Chicago has many on-road bike lanes, and a scenic Lakefront Trail (trail map), which runs for 18 continuous miles along the city's beautiful shoreline. Bicycles can also be rented from several bike shops in the city. Chicago has a fine bicycle culture. Chicago is also completely flat—a boon for any bicycler!
Many streets have bike lanes on them, and the city has installed signs specifically pointing out directions to major bike routes. Bicyclists have to follow the same rules-of-the-road as autos; however, most bikers ignore stop signs, and many (unsafely) ride against traffic. In some areas of the city, primarily in the Lincoln Park and Lakeview areas, police officers write citations against bicyclists.
On top of that, CTA buses area all equipped with bike racks to carry up to two bicycles, and CTA trains permit bicycles except during rush hour, which is roughly between 7:00 and 9:30 A.M. and 3:30 to 6:30 P.M.
City of Chicago
A CityPass will get you in to 6 attractions within 9 days at a much reduced rate than paying for the attractions separately. The 6 attractions are Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Field Museum, Hancock Observatory, Museum of Science and Industry and Shedd Aquarium. $49 adult (save $44.45), $39 child (save $30.60). CityPass is highly recommended even if you only want to visit two or three of these locations -- the Pass allows you to cut to the front of lines and this alone can be worth the price.
Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr.  Every day except Thanksgiving Day and 25 Dec 9:30am-4:30pm, first F of month 9:30am-10pm. Admission and one show $13 adult. Additional shows $5. For other prices see the Adler's webpage.
Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave, +1 312-443-3600.  M-W, F 10:30am-4:30pm, Th 10:30am-8pm, Sa-Su 10am-5pm (Note: no longer open late on Tuesdays). One of the premier museums in the United States—definitely not to be missed. Famous pieces include American Gothic by Grant Wood—yeah, the one with that sour-looking farm couple. But there's lots of other paintings—one of the best collections of Impressionists in the world, and early 20th-century pieces – and other art covering 5000 years. Suggested donation: $12 ($7 children and seniors, free Tu).
Chicago Blues Museum, 3636 S. Iron St, 773-828-8118. Closed Monday. Phone to confirm hours.
Chicago Board of Trade Visitor Center is currently closed except for pre-arranged groups due to fear of terrorism.
Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.  M-Th 10am-7pm, F 10am-6pm, Sa 10am-5pm, Su 11am-5pm, closed holidays. Built in 1897 as Chicago's first public library, the building now houses the city's Visitor Information Center, galleries, and exhibit halls. The ceiling of Preston Bradley Hall includes a 38-foot Tiffany glass dome. Worth a visit to see the beautiful interior. Free.
Chicago Mercantile Exchange Visitors Center, lobby level, 20 S. Wacker Dr.  M-F, 8am-4:30pm. The 4th Floor Visitor Gallery is currently closed but the lobby level visitors center has displays on the history and role of the exchange. Free.
DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place, Washington Park (near the University of Chicago).  M-Sa 10am-5pm, Su noon-5pm. $3 adult, $1 child, free on Sunday.
Field Museum, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, +1 312-922-9410.  9am-5pm every day. Chicago's Natural History Museum—highlights include the largest Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton in the world as well as a great, kids-friendly Egyptian exhibit. $10 ($5 children, $7 seniors and students, Mo and Tu free seasonally).
Garfield Park. History-filled Chicago park 4 miles / 15 minutes west of downtown. It's in a rough neighborhood, though you can take the El (Green Line) right to the Conservatory-Central Park Drive Station in the park. Looking at the city from the El gives you a picture of a different part of Chicago. On the trip out, you might also notice the gentrification spreading West from downtown—there are startlingly rapid changes from gentrified to decayed neighborhoods.
Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave.  Every day 9am-5pm, except Th 9am-8pm. Amazing botanical conservatory, one of the largest indoor gardens in the world. Free admission and parking.
Grant Park. Park located between Lake Shore Drive and Columbus Drive. Home of the huge Buckingham fountain which runs 10am-11pm and is accompanied by music and colored lights 8-11pm, May-Sep. Millennium Park is to the north and the Museum Campus to the south, so there is a large area you can wander.
Hancock Observatory, John Hancock Center, 875 N. Michigan Ave.  9am-11pm. 360 degree views from the 94th floor. Rivals the Sears Tower Skydeck. $9.75 (plus amusement tax) adult, $6 (plus amusement tax) child, or for free you can visit the bar a floor below and order a drink or two, the view is almost as good and they have live jazz on the weekends.
Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St and Congress Parkway.  M-Th 9am-7pm, F-Sa 9am-5pm, Su 1-5pm. Chicago Public Library’s central library in a beautiful building. It holds exhibitions and has well-equipped free computer and Internet services which visitors can use on presentation of photo ID.
Lincoln Park. One and one-half-mile long park with nearly everything one could hope for. Take a free trolley when they're running or a CTA bus (routes 151 and 156 stop right at the zoo gate).
Chicago Historical Society, Clark St at North Ave (south end of park).  M-W noon-8pm, Th-Sa 9:30am-4:30pm, Su noon-5pm. Urban history museum. Suggested admission $5 adult, $1 child, free on Mondays.
Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N. Cannon Dr (Lake Shore Dr and Fullerton Parkway).  Every day 9am-6pm, winter 9am-5pm, summer weekends 9am-7pm. A great free urban zoo—one of the few remaining. Don't miss the penguins! Free.
Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2400 N. Stockton Dr (north end of zoo). 9am-5pm. Free.
Notebaert Nature Museum (Chicago Academy of Sciences), 2430 N. Cannon Dr.  M-F 9am-4:30pm, Sa-Su 10am-5pm. $7 adult, $4 child, free on Thur.
Millennium Park. Has modern sculptures in steel and glass. The Art Institute is immediately to the south and Grant Park to the southeast.
Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., +1 312-280-2660.  Tu 10AM-8PM, We-Su 10AM-5PM. Art of all types from around the world made since 1945. Be sure to check out what the current exhibit is—the museum can be rather boring when they are between exhibits. $10 ($6 student, free Tu after 5PM).
Museum of Contemporary Photography, 600 S. Michigan Ave., +1 312-663-5554  Mo-Fr 10AM-5PM, Th 10AM-8PM, Sa 12-5PM. The Museum is free and open to the public. A stimulating and innovative forum for the collection, creation, and examination of contemporary imagemaking in its camera tradition and in its expanded vocabulary of digital processes.
Museum of Holography. It'll only take you twenty minutes, but it's kind of interesting.
Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr and E. 57th St, Hyde Park (take CTA buses 2, 6, 10 or 28 or the Metra train).  Summer and holidays M-Sa 9:30am-5:30pm, Su 11am-5:30pm, other seasons M-Sa 9:30am-4pm, Su 11am-4pm. Spend hours upon hours there looking at really cool stuff you never even knew you didn't know about. So much to do, so little time. You can return for free the following day if you take your ticket to "Will Call" on the way out on your first day. Great for kids, with many hands-on exhibits; adults will enjoy the display of the German U-boat U-505. $9 adult, $5 child.
Navy Pier.  Summer, Su-Th 10am-10pm, F-Sa 10am-midnight, shorter hours other seasons. Home of the excellent Chicago Shakespeare Theater, a Children's Museum, an IMAX theater, a small stained glass museum, a wonderfully large Ferris wheel ($5 adult, $4 child) and shops. It is an easy place to entertain a child. Navy Pier has fireworks shows on summer nights: every Wednesday at 9:30pm and Saturday at 10:15pm.
View from Sears Tower Skydeck
Sears Tower Skydeck, 233 S. Wacker Dr.  10am-10pm May-Sep, 10am-8pm Oct-Apr. Avoid the worst of the crowds after 4pm. Higher than the Hancock Observatory. $9.95 (plus admissions tax) adult, $6.95 (plus admissions tax) child.
Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lakeshore Dr. +1 312-939-2438.  Located on the Museum Campus, the Shedd Aquarium is home to a large collection of marine life from throughout the world. The Pacific Northwest-themed Oceanarium features dolphins, whales and other animals from the region, as well as a panoramic view of Lake Michigan. The recently-opened Wild Reef exhibit offers floor-to-ceiling windows for an extraordinary view of a Philippine coral reef environment, complete with dozens of sharks. If you want to take pictures, bring an SLR camera with fast film or a good digital SLR so you don't need a flash. $23 adult, $16 child.
Spertus Institute, 618 S. Michigan Ave.  Su-W 10am-5pm, Th 10am-7pm (10am-5pm Jan-Feb), F 10am-3pm. A museum dedicated to Judaica. $5 adult, $3 child; free on Fridays.
University of Chicago, Hyde Park.
David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave.  Tu, W, F 10am-4pm, Th 10am-8pm, Sa-Su 11am-5pm. Free.
Oriental Institute Museum, 1155 E. 58th St —part of the University of Chicago. Tu, Th-Sa 10am-6pm, W 10am-8:30pm, Su noon-6pm. One of the best collections of ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern archaeology in the world. Free; suggested donation $5 adult, $2 child.
Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven, 2120 S. Michigan Ave (from downtown catch buses 3 or 4 on S. Michigan Ave). M-Sa, noon-2pm. Formerly the Chess Records studios where many Chicago blues and early rock and roll recordings were made.
McDonald's #1 Store Museum, 400 N. Lee Street (17 miles northwest of downtown), (847) 297-5022.  Open Memorial Day to Labor Day. This museum is a recreation of the first McDonald's restaurant. The original restaurant was demolished in 1984. You'll know you have seen it when you get to an old-looking McDonald's restaurant with a sign saying that they sell hamburgers for 15 cents. Free admission.
Bordering Chicago to the north and accessible via several CTA Purple Line and Metra stations, Evanston has many identities: family-friendly suburb, gateway to the wealthy North Shore, college town, dining destination and cultural center.
Northwestern University. One of the premier universities in the U.S., Northwestern maintains a parklike campus situated along the shore of Lake Michigan. In the 1960s, the university decided to expand the campus by filling in part of the lake with sand from the Indiana Dunes, creating an idyllic, tree-lined 84-acre area surrounding a lagoon. The campus also features an eclectic collection of architecture ranging from neo-Gothic to modernist. Tours are available from the Office of Undergraduate Admission, 1801 Hinman Ave.
Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe (25 miles north of downtown).  Every day except 25 Dec, 8am-sunset. Amazingly beautiful, and completely diverse. The 385-acre park, research, and art facilities are open year round for your visiting pleasure.
Only about 10 miles west of downtown, Oak Park is easily accessible by the CTA Blue Line, Green Line or Metra Train. http://www.oprf.com/
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. 951 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park, IL 60302.
Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home
Unity Temple. A National Historic Landmark. 875 Lake Street, Oak Park, Il 60302.
Oak Park Festival Theatre. The Midwest's oldest outdoor theatre. Performances June - August. Austin Gardens, Forest Avenue and Lake Street, Downtown Oak Park.
Park Ridge Music Concerts, a bunch of free Friday night concerts during the summer. Held in front of city hall. Always start at 8:00pm.
Ravinia Music Festival, usually just called "Ravinia". A summer-long festival featuring music of all types. The summer home of the Chicago Symphony. Other orchestras (like the Ravinia Festival Orchestra) play there also. You can either choose to sit in the pavilion (which costs a bit more), or bring a blanket and chairs and sit on its humongous lawn. It has a few places to buy food and drinks (including wine and beer). If you go, definitely buy some Ravinia ice cream (not the Dove stuff). If you sit in the Pavilion you get a special program. If you sit on the lawn, you'll have to go and find one of the green newspaper dispensers—they hold the lawn programs. Ravinia often hosts family and children's concerts, but for more sophisticated shows you should either leave the kids at the hotel, or make sure that they will be well behaved. Absurdly easy to get to via Metra; Ravinia has its own stop, which only operates on days with performances. Costs about $5.00 each way.
Old Long Grove. When someone says they've been to "Long Grove" they are usually talking about this. Old Long Grove is a historical street with a whole bunch of moderately expensive, yet very interesting, stores and restaurants located in the Northwest suburbs. Different festivals go on there during the year. Definitely visit the Long Grove confectionery. It's a great place to buy candy. It's best known for its chocolate-covered strawberries.
Architectural boat tour.  90 minutes of floating edu-admiration.
Loop tour train. Tickets at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E Randolph St at Michigan Ave. Departs nearby Randolph/Wabash station. Saturdays, May-Sep, 11:35 am, 12:15 pm, 12:55 pm and 1:35 pm. Free tour of the Loop on the El with a guide from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. You go around the Loop three times, taking 40 minutes. Highly recommended if you're at all interested in the El or Chicago architecture.
The Old-Town School of Folk Music. 4544 N. Lincoln Avenue.  773.728.6000 fax 773.728.6999. If you're interested in folk music from America or anywhere else in the world you should definitely plan to spend some time at the Old-Town School. There are classes ranging from beginners clawhammer banjo to advanced Flamenco dance. Even if you are just passing through town you should seriously consider stopping by to see a concert or just to check out the store which features a fabulous array of banjos, fiddles, guitars, and quite a few rare folk instruments from around the world, as well as recordings of just about every sort of folk music (and early jazz) you can imagine.
Blue Man Group.  Get tickets (well in advance) on the floor instead of the balcony.
Improv Olympic.  If the downstairs show is full, don't waste your time on the upstairs show.
Second City.  The origin point for Saturday Night Live and many of its stars, this Chicago fixture still features great shows on two stages.
Steppenwolf Theater.  The home of John Malkovitch, Gary Sinise, and many others, Steppenwolf features cutting-edge theater.
Lyric Opera of Chicago.  Famous theater for extraordinary shows.
Symphony Center. Winter home of the Chicago Symphony.
United Center. Chicago Bulls/Blackhawks stadium.
Soldier Field. Field of the Bears. Once a fantastically wonderful building; some find the new renovation hideous. The amenities, however, have improved by leaps and bounds.
Wrigley Field.  Historic Stadium of the Cubs. Now distinguished as a historical landmark, no more corporate conversions here.
US Cellular Field.  Formerly known as Comiskey Park, this south-side stadium is the home of the Chicago White Sox.
2003 Air & Water Show
Chicago will be the host of the 7th Gay Games in 2006.
Air & Water Show.
Chicago also hosts a fantastic Air and Water Show with the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds alternating each year. The Coast Guard also makes an appearance. The Chicago Air & Water Show is the oldest and largest free admission exhibition of its kind in the United States. Every year over 2 million spectators gather to watch this event from both land and water.
Great restaurants are scattered across the city, from the long established, traditional Greektown to the street-glam, edgy East Ukrainian Village, from the exotic Indian-flavored Devon Avenue in West Rogers Park to the eclectic Clark Street in Andersonville, where you'll find great Swedish, American, Korean, Persian, and Italian restaurants (to name a few) lined up in a row.
The Chicago Diner, 3411 N. Halsted. 773-935-6696. A fully vegetarian restaurant on Chicago's north side, the Diner's emphasis on quality has kept it around for more than 20 years.
The Handlebar, 2311 W North Ave. 773.384.9546. A vegetarian friendly restaurant in Chicago's hip Wicker Park, a home to Chi-town's bicycle culture.
Leo's Lunch Room, 1809 W Division. 773-276-6509. Leo's is sort of somewhere between being the perfect example of and the anti-thesis of an American Greasy Spoon diner. Its dining room, decorated with postcards of everything from beaches to punk-rock to country-and-western stars, is tiny, but you can almost always get a seat at the bar. The veggie chilli rocks, and the sandwiches are huge. If you are in the Wiker Park neighborhood at lunch time this is a must. $4-10 for lunch, more for dinner (BYOB).
Francesca's on Taylor, 1400 W. Taylor. Near the University of Illinois, Chicago campus. Excellent Italian restaurant in the "Little Italy" section of Chicago. Most evening reservation are desirable but if you eat early during the week, you often won't need them. Moderately priced and normally provides excellent service for large parties.
Mirai, 2020 W. Division Street, just west of Damen. Tel: +1 (312) 773-862-8500. Sushi has come to Wicker Park, in a setting that is possibly more about atmosphere than the food, which is still formidable.
Buffalo Joe's, 812 Clark Street, Evanston. Tel: +1 (847) 328-5525. For travelers visiting from outside of the Midwestern and northeastern US (buffalo wings hail from Buffalo, NY), we should probably explain that "Buffalo" wings are chicken wing segments which are either deep-fried (without breading) or baked, then tossed with a sauce. Traditional buffalo wing sauce in its simplest form is a buttery hot pepper sauce. Buffalo Joe's offers their wings at three heat levels—mild, hot, and "suicide" (topped with jalapeño peppers). People swear that this place has the best wings and burgers in the city, no contest.
Le Bouchon, 1858 N. Damen in Bucktown. Small, funky bistro with a limited but excellent menu of standard French fare. For peak dining hours you will need a reservation. Reasonably priced.
Mama's Fish and Chips, Red Line, Morse Stop. Total dive, fantastic fried chicken. Skip the fish.
Greek Islands & Santorini, at Adams and Halsted in Greektown. Two of the top Greek restaurants in the city. They sit on opposite sides of Adams on Halsted. Good standard Greek food ...Santorini specializes in seafood. Both excellent for the real Chicago Greek experience. Free valet parking! Reservations usually not necessary.
Gino's East. The best deep-dish pizza in Chicago. (Also try Giordano's for good Chicago deep dish.)
Vito & Nick's, 8433 S. Pulaski in Chicago. You'll probably want to drive here. Public transportation is not convenient. (Pulaski is a major thoroughfare 5 miles west of State Street.) This restaurant is widely regarded on the South side as serving the best thin crust pizza in the city. Contrary to reputation, the neighborhood is quite safe. Many Chicago police live in the vicinity.
Leona's. Good all-around Italian fare.
Potbelly Sandwich Works.  The best submarine sandwich chain in the city. Several downtown (State & Lake, Nordstrom's, CBOT), one on Lincoln, and one in Evanston.
Lou Malnati's. Great place to get real Chicago style deep dish pizza.
Pequod's. Great place to get caramelized/burnt crust Chicago style deep dish pizza, consitered a secret favorite.
Mity Nice Grill. +1 (312) 335-4745. Hidden behind Food Life on the second floor of the rear of Water Tower Place mall, 835 N. Michigan Ave., this establishment is one of the many Lettuce Entertain You restaurants scattered throughout the city. Billed as "1940's Style Bar and Grill". Even on busy nights, you won't wait long for a table, mainly because few people seem to know about it, but reservations are accepted. Fare includes steaks, seafood selections, pasta, and excellent recurring daily specials like meatloaf and a turkey dinner.
Hot Doug's. Roscoe and California. In a town known for its sausages (the Chicago-style hot dog), Hot Doug's is unique and nationally renowned. The restaurant only sells sausages, but amongst its menu you'll run across bacon sausages, venison sausages, ostrich sausages, and other sausages made from exotic game. These are always done with a gourmet flair, such as Guinness mustard or feta cheese. In addition, on Friday and Saturday, they offer French fries made with rendered duck fat; it's an interesting treat. However, you need to plan; the store's only open from 20:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
Quenchers Saloon. 2401 North Western.  Chicago's premier beer bar, with 200 different beers from around the world, 60 different whiskeys, and a decent bar menu. Reflecting the diverse neighborhood of east Logan Square/West Bucktown, everyone drinks together at this comfortable neighborhood bar.
The Map Room. 1949 N. Hoyne Ave. 773.252.7636.  Their motto is "Don't be lost," but you may as well give in to their disorienting collection of exotic beers. Their tap selection is one of the more extensive in the city, with surprises for even the most jaded beer drinker.
Hopleaf. Though it doesn't have the the biggest selection of beer, it has the most carefully chosen, with a surprisingly accessible menu for delving into the world of Belgians and local microbrews. The food is great (their steamed mussels are fantastic), but the beer is even better.
Delilah's. 2770 N Lincoln Ave. +1 773-472-2771.  This is the joint where Kurt met Courtney. No kidding. The booze selection is unbeatable, and recent almost-rock-stars spin the records.
B.L.U.E.S. (or B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted), 2519 N. Halsted St, Lincoln Park (walking distance from Fullerton station on the Brown Line), . Su-F 8pm-2am, Sa 8pm-3am. Small but dedicated Northside blues bar. On Sundays one cover charge gets you into B.L.U.E.S. and Kingston Mines across the road.
Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 S. Wabash Ave (cnr E. 8th St), South Loop, .
Kingston Mines, 2548 N. Halsted St, Lincoln Park (walking distance from Fullerton station on the Brown Line), . Su-F 8pm-4am, Sa 8pm-5am. The larger of the blues bars on Halsted. Has a great set-up with two stages and two bands every night. One band plays for an hour on one stage then the other band takes over on the second stage for an hour - continuous music all night from 9:30pm.
Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage Ave, . Blues bar.
The Velvet Lounge. 2128 1/2 S. Indiana Avenue. 1-888-644-8007.  (Probably take a cab). If you want to go to a bar that represents the real Chicago jazz tradition from Louis Armstrong right up to Pharaoh Sanders, then you must go to the Velvet Lounge. As owner/operator/saxophone player Fred Anderson points out, jazz at its best is nothing other than a black American folk music, and this bar is (one of) Fred's contribution to that folk tradition.
Heartland Cafe. 7000 N. Glenwood Ave. +1 773-465-8005. Live band or open mic almost every night.
The Double Door. 1572 N. Milwaukee (at Damen/Milwaukee/North intersection, right at the Damen Blue Line El stop). +1 773-489-3160, +1 312-559-1212. 
The Metro. 3730 N. Clark. +1 773-549-0203, +1 312-559-1212. 
The Hideout. 1354 W. Wabansia (just easton of Elston, just north of North Ave). +1 773-227-4433.  One of the finest drinking and hollering establishments in the U.S. of A., the Hideout hosts the best in alt-folk, bluegrass, Americana and just plain hillbilly music. The place is a bit hard to find, hidden as it is next to the city's main north-side refueling station for garbage trucks, but more than worth the trouble. Say "hi" to Maria.
The Empty Bottle. 1035 N. Western Avenue. +1 773-276-3600.  To Chicago as the Knitting Factory is to NYC, the Empty Bottle hosts a mix of touring indie-rock veterans, local bands, and on Tuesday and Wednesday nights the best in American and Dutch avant-garde jazz.
Green Mill. 4802 N. Broadway. +1 773-878-5552. Jazz and lots of it. Go on a Sunday evening for the weekly poetry slam. National talents Kurt Elling and Patricia Barber perform on weekdays.
Bottom Lounge. 3201 N. Wilton. +1 773-975-0505.  Venue for indie/underground rock bands. Calendar of all-ages, 18+, and 21+ shows. Booked by MP Productions, the people who used to book the Fireside Bowl. Drinks: less selection and higher prices than at comparable venues. Right around the corner east from the Belmont Red Line El stop.
Katerina's. 1920 W. Irving Park Road. +1 773-348-7592.  A small and intimate setting for music most nights and poetry, performance and movies when there isn't music.
As a major U.S. convention-hosting city, Chicago has plenty of places to stay, although most of them are in the mid or splurge ranges. The vast majority of hotels are either at the airport or downtown (Loop or Near North). If you want to explore the city, aim for the latter. Budget-priced places are usually pretty far from downtown, so when you're booking, remember that Chicago is vast, especially compared to European and east coast cities.
Days Inn, 644 West Diversey Parkway. Frequented by touring bands in town to play at one of the many big clubs on the north side. $98-$130 per night.
Clarion Barcelo Chicago Hotel, 5615 N. Cumberland Ave., (773) 693-5800.  Near Chicago O'Hare Airport (ORD).
Comfort Inn & Suites Downtown Chicago Hotel, 15 E. Ohio St., (312) 894-0900. 
Econo Lodge North Chicago Hotel, 2315 N Greenbay Rd., (847) 689-4500. 
Rodeway Inn Mid-City Plaza Chicago Hotel, 1 Midcity Plaza, (Madison at Halsted), (312) 829-5000. 
Hotel Allegro, 171 West Randolph Street at Wells (just across from the Clark and Lake stop on the Blue line), (866) 672-6143.  Open 365 days/year. This lovely hotel calls itself a boutique hotel, probably in reference to its friendly, full four-star service, designer decorated rooms and prices that are the same, or just a little bit more than you would pay for a blander three-star place just north of the river. $119-$229 per night (the $229 room has a double jacuzzi, as do the suites).
Hotel Burnham, 1 West Washington Street, +1 312 782 1111.  Another Kimpton Boutique hotel, like its sister hotel the Allegro.
Hotel Monaco, 225 North Wabash. +1 312 950 8500.  Like Monaco Hotels across the U.S. the Monaco Chicago provides a bit better than four star comfort at a bit less than four star prices, though they are a little higher than at Kimpton sister hotels like the Allegro or the Burnham. What you get for the extra money is a number of specialty services geared for business travelers, so if you are traveling for pleasure go for the Allegro.
Crowne Plaza Allerton Chicago Hotel, 701 North Michigan Ave., (312) 440-1500. 
Wyndham Chicago Hotel, 633 North St. Clair St., (312) 573-0300.  Friendly staff, decent rooms. Tip: register for the Wyndham ByRequest "frequent traveler" program: when you arrive, your favorite music will be playing in your room and a plate of fruit and iced tea (or whatever you choose) will be waiting for you.
The Peninsula, 108 East Superior Street (at North Michigan Avenue), (866) 288-8889.  Known as one of the city's most luxurious hotels, The Peninsula has been recognized by AAA with a Five-Diamond award. Located right off of the Magnificent Mile.
The Drake, 140 East Walton Place (at North Michigan Avenue) . +1 312 787 2200. fax: +1 312 787 1431. It doesn't get any more top-of-the-line than this in Chicago.
Free wireless Internet access (splash) and public terminals at the Chicago Public Library. Visitors without a Chicago Public Library card can present photo ID to use the library computers at the downtown Harold Washington Library Center or the suburban branch libraries.
As in almost the entire United States, dial 911 to get emergency help.
Dial 311 for all non-emergency situations in Chicago.