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Top 10 Things You Must Do in Chicago by Someone Who's from There

Posted on Thu, Oct 16, 2014
Top 10 Things You Must Do in Chicago by Someone Who's from There

Chicago. The Windy City. The City with Big Shoulders. Home.

I've been gone from Chicago longer than I lived there, but on some level, it will always feel like home. For the past several years, I've gotten to go back for trade shows on a regular basis, and so I was very excited when I joined EmCare earlier this year and learned that I would be back again this October. Chicago is also a fitting location for an ACEP event-- I wonder how many of this year's attendees first became interested in a career in emergency medicine while watching the show ER, set in a fictional hospital in the Loop?

If you're not from Chicago, you might be wondering how to prioritize your time when you're not in sessions. We've got you covered. Following is my list of things you must do while you're in town.

You are already on track to visit one of the jewels of the city-- The closing event is at the Museum of Science and Industry (and the party is sponsored by EmCare don't miss it!). It's the kind of place it would be easy to get lost in for days. I've been there more than a dozen times and don't think I've seen it all.

  1. Take your picture at The Bean in Millennium Park. The guide books will tell you it's called "Cloud Gate", but everyone from here just calls it The Bean. As a centerpiece in Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue, the Bean (pictured above) draws crowds night and day. The sculpture is a giant mirrored, well, bean, that reflects the city scape in strange and lovely ways.
  2. Grab a hot dog at Portillo's (100 W. Ontario St). Most people associate Chicago with pan pizza, and there are definitely some good pizza places around.  But for real classic Chicago food, you're looking for hot dogs. There are lots of places that sell hot dogs, and lots of opinions about which ones are the best. You really can't go wrong (as long as you're getting Vienna Beef hot dogs, at least). But Portillo's gets the nods from natives as the place to go.
  3. Catch the view from the John Hancock Building. (Pro Tip: go to the restaurant on the 95th floor, not the observatory on the 99th). Some prefer the view from the Sears Tower (that is no longer the correct name for the building, but that's how everyone knows it), but the Hancock gives you a look up and down the Magnificent Mile, the lakefront, the Gold Coast area and into Lincoln Park – a better view, in my opinion.
  4. Make time for the Art Institute. Right along Michigan Avenue, the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the great museums in the world-- Trip Advisor rated it the #1 Museum in the US in 2013.  Featured exhibits: Veiled Architecture; Art of Byzantium; City Lost & Found- New York, Chicago & Los Angeles 1960-1980
  5. Take a skyline cruise along the river. The one thing here that is on my personal bucket list is to take an architectural boat tour up the river. Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper, and it remains a hub of innovation for building design.
  6. Red Head Piano Bar (16 W. Ontario). My daughter tells me that if you happen to be a red head, you will be treated like royalty here. But, you'll have a great time here no matter what.
  7. The Picasso statue at Daley Center. Your introduction to Chicago might have been watching the final sequences of the Blues Brothers movie. The chase ends up here, at City Hall. The Picasso statue is a thing of wonder and beauty. And given the time of year, there are Halloween festivities going on in the plaza.
  8. Billy Goat Tavern (430 N. Michigan Ave Lower Level) near Tribune Tower and the Wrigley Building. The original cast of Saturday Night Live featured a lot of actors who learned their craft with the Second City performing group in Chicago. One of the signature sketches from the early days of the show was a burger joint with an outspoken staff-- the sort of place that Seinfeld updated with the Soup Nazi episode in the 90's. The Billy Goat on Lower Michigan is the original article, a hang-out for reporters, columnists, politicians and ne'er-do-wells. Go for the history. Go for the atmosphere. "Go for a Cheezeburger-cheezeburger-cheezeburger- Pepsi, no Coke. Chips, no fries!"
  9. Navy Pier jutting out a mile into Lake Michigan. Navy Pier is destination that has a lot going on-- restaurants, music venues, shops and other attractions. It's a great place from which to view the skyline, and a great place to visit with the family.
  10. Stroll the Miracle Mile. When I polled my Facebook friends and family for recommendations for this list, this last one came up time and time again. Michigan Avenue from the river north to the Water Tower is known as the Magnificent Mile. It is Chicago's version of 5th Avenue in New York-- a place to shop, to browse, to see and be seen. I can't promise you'll find any great bargains, but you will love the walk.
Bonus for sports fans: Chicago is one of the all- time great sports towns in the country, and it's a great place to watch a game, no matter what sport you follow. It's October, so no baseball in Wrigley Field, of course (said the South Sider). That would have been a thing to see. So, instead, make your way to see one of the best teams in hockey. The Chicago Blackhawks play the Ottawa Senators on Sunday, October 26 at 6:00 pm.

Oh, you have to have a pizza? Giordano's. Trust me.

Click here to view photos of Martin's favorite Chicago landmarks!

heath-headshot-(1).jpgMartin Heath, FACHE, is EmCare’s marketing director. A native of Chicago, he has worked in hospitals, physician practices and other healthcare settings for more than 30 years.