the Chicago Skyline
you visit Chicago, you can't miss its remarkable skyline, dominated by
architectural wonders like the 1454-foot Sears Tower and the
still-futuristic-looking Marina City "corncobs" built in the
early 60's. The skyline jumps out at you from every window, leers over you
as you shop Michigan Street's "Magnificent Mile", and reaches up
at you from below when you ride up 100 floors to the observation level on
the John Hancock building. But under the skyline, under the streets even,
lies another city.
Boston and Indianapolis with overhead walkways connecting hotels to
convention centers to malls, Chicago connected its buildings underground.
If you go to a convention in Chicago, you're likely to find yourself in
the mammoth Hyatt Regency hotel, with over 2000 rooms, sitting right on
top of one of the an underground "mall", the Illinois Center.
Center stretches from Michigan Avenue, halfway to Lake Michigan. You'll
probably never eat at all of the restaurants, but if you're staying at the
Hyatt, you're just upstairs from their Stetson's Chop House, with
incredibly thick juicy steaks and hot sourdough bread. If you're located
in one of the Swissotel's 600+ rooms, you're at the east end of the
Illinois center. From there, you can catch an elevator to their
steak-house, the Palm, overlooking the Navy Pier.
maybe you'd like a little more relaxed atmosphere, like the Hyatt's sports
bar, Knuckles. Or maybe Hoolihan's, where you can enjoy dishes like their
original "Irish pot roast" -- a kind of an inside-out shepherd's
pie with a huge mound of seasoned mashed potatoes topped with pot roast
and mushroom gravy and surrounded by crisp veggies.
center has enough restaurants to keep you through any convention stay
you're likely to encounter. Christi's has seafood and pasta dishes in
generous helpings. Fakurr's Urban market's always close and always
popular, with dishes ranging from simple sandwiches to roasted meats.
Boudin's Bakery serves great sandwiches and salads, and Bennigan's is
always a decent choice for dinner and a beer.
too fancy? You can even find a Burger King, Sbarro's and Dunkin Donuts
inside the mall.
theory at least, you could take up residence in this city-within-a-city
and never be exposed to outside air. Live in the hotel, preferably in one
of the Hyatt's spectacular penthouse suites. Work in one of the connected
office buildings. Dine at the many restaurants. Relax at the spa. Buy
cameras and get your film developed in the mall. You can even shop for
Pop-Tarts and toothbrushes at a grocery hidden underground beneath the
Hyatt's half-acre glass-topped atrium.
other undergounds, Illinois center is technically above ground. People
exiting the Hyatt at "ground level" find themselves on a normal
street that's actually three levels above lake level. It looks and feels
like a normal street, and there is even an aerial walkway overhead
connecting the Hyatt's two 30+ story towers. One level below is the
"concourse level" which is part of Illinois Center. One more
level is the hotel's ballroom level. One more level down is the hotel's
huge exhibit hall at riverside level. But it's still a good six feet or
more above lake level. It's this odd arrangement that makes it possible
for you to start out underground at the Hyatt, wander through the Illinois
center, and then look out a window to see yourself one level above the
shops on Michigan Avenue.
now that you know that you're not really underground, you shouldn't feel
buried. Dig yourself out and go outside -- enjoy yourself. Here's a few
ideas on how to spend a day in the Chicago sunshine. Shop the
"Magnificent Mile". Take in a baseball game in Wrigley Field.
Walk to the shops, restaurants, and museums on the 3000-foot-long Navy
Pier, catch a water taxi to chill out with the beluga whales at the Shedd
Aquarium, and ride a cute little red trolley back. Or, if you can't resist
that skyline after all, take a tour-boat on the Chicago river, sit back,
and enjoy the scenery.
Convention and Tourism Bureau http://choosechicago.com
Hyatt Regency /www.hyatt.com/usa/chicago/hotels/hotel_chirc.html
The Navy Pier www.navypier.com
Shoreline Sightseeing www.shorelinesightseeing.com
Chicago's First Lady tour boat cruisechicago.com
Sears Tower www.the-skydeck.com