Before Chicago was officially discovered in 1673, by Jacques Marquette, a French missionary, and Louis Jolliet, a French Canadian mapmaker and trader. The area served as a centre of trade and seasonal hunting grounds for several Native American tribes, including the Miami, Illinois, and Pottawattomie. Villages kept close trading ties with the French, though scuffles with the Fox tribe kept the French influence at bay until 1779. That year a French trader, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable built a five-bedroom house by the mouth of the Chicago River on the shore of Lake Michigan. 


The city grew until 1871, when a fire in the barn of Catherine and Patrick O'Leary spread across the city, killing hundreds. A recent drought coupled with crowded wooden buildings and wood-brick streets allowed the blaze to take hold quickly, destroying 18,000 structures within 36 hours.


World War I changed the face of Chicago. Especially during the postwar and the Prohibition period, when there was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. The Torrio–Capone organization expanded its gambling and liquor distribution operations, consolidating its power during the violent "beer wars" from 1924 to 1930. Hundreds of casualties include the seven victims of the infamous 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre. In 1934 the FBI gunned down bank robber and "Public Enemy No. 1" John Dillinger outside the Biograph Theatre on the North Side, now a theatre venue and a Chicago landmark.

The Great War also led to the Great Migration, when African-Americans from the South moved to the northern cities between 1916 and 1970. World War I slowed immigration from Europe but increased jobs in Chicago's manufacturing industry. More than 500,000 African-Americans came to the city to find work, and by the mid-20th century African-Americans were a strong force in Chicago's political, economic, and cultural life.


The Daley dynasty began when Richard J. Daley became mayor in 1955. He was re-elected five times, and his son Richard M. Daley ran the city until opting out in 2011, when President Barack Obama's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, won.

The 1st Mayor Daley redrew Chicago's landscape, overseeing the construction of O'Hare International Airport, the expressway system, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a towering skyline. He also helped John F. Kennedy get elected.

Despite these advances, Mayor Richard J. Daley is perhaps best known for his crackdown on student protesters during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Americans watched on their televisions as the Chicago police beat the city's youth with sticks and blinded them with tear gas. That incident, plus his "shoot-to-kill" order during the riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and his use of public funds to build giant, disastrous public housing projects like Cabrini–Green, eventually led to the temporary dissolution of the Democratic machine in Chicago. After Daley's death, Chicago's first black and beloved mayor, Harold Washington, took office in 1983.


The thriving commercial and financial "City of Broad Shoulders" is spiked with gorgeous architecture and set with cultural and recreational gems, including the Art Institute, Millennium Park, 250 theatre companies, and 30 miles of shoreline. Approximately 2.8 million residents live within the city limits, and tens of thousands commute from the ever-sprawling suburbs to work downtown.

The last Mayor Daley gave downtown a makeover, with his focus on ecofriendly building initiatives that led to a green roof on City Hall and new bike paths throughout town. But parts of the South and West sides remain stuck in poverty and suffer the brunt of the gun violence that has made international headlines.

Chicago, Illinois, is today, the  largest city of the American Midwest, and most Chicagoans are fiercely proud to call the city home.

The Bean (Cloud Gate)
Chicago Water Tower
Field Museum of Natural History
Buckingham Fountain

With it's towering skyscrapers to the sweeping arc of its expansive lakeshore, there is a feeling of confidence and pride that radiates from the landmark features of Chicago and from the faces of the city’s inhabitants. The Windy City embodies the values of the American heartland. A trip to Chicago offers visitors the chance to see what an American city can accomplish through hard work and determination. The third largest city in the United States boasts a wealth of not to be missed attractions, many of which offer unique perspectives of the city’s memorable skyline.

1. Millennium Park

Aside from plenty of grass and open space, it has modern sculptures in steel and glass, including Chicago’s newest must photo for visitors, The Bean, properly known as Cloud Gate, and the Frank Gehry designed Pritzker Pavilion for outdoor concerts. An ice rink accommodates skaters in the winter and serves as an open air restaurant in the summer.

2. Willis Tower Skydeck

While some may argue that the skyscraper, renamed Willis Tower in 2009, has lost a bit of its swagger since it lost its status as the world’s tallest building, the Sears Tower remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Chicago. Completed in 1973, the 108-story structure features some of the fastest elevators in the world, covering as much as 1,600 feet per minute. A 70 second ride takes visitors to the 103rd floor Skydeck where they can feel the building sway beneath them on a windy day. The Skydeck offers sweeping views of Lake Michigan and glimpses of the states of Michigan and Wisconsin beyond.

3. Navy Pier

Chicago’s lakeshore playground, the Navy Pier includes gardens, restaurants and attractions. Built in 1916, the 1,000 meter (3,300 foot) long pier juts out of Lake Michigan and features a Ferris wheel, carousel and an IMAX theater. An ideal family destination, the site is also home to the Children’s Museum as well as the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, which features more than 150 pieces, including 11 Tiffany windows.

4. John Hancock Center

Standing 344 meters (1,127 feet) tall, this skyscraper is Chicago’s fourth-tallest building. The skyscraper offers panoramic views of the entire city. Completed in 1968, the 100 story structure boasts a number of records, including the world’s highest indoor swimming pool and ice-skating rink. Visitors can take a 40 second elevator ride to the Observatory on the 94th floor, which features an open air skywalk. On the 96th floor is a lounge where guests can sip a cocktail or beverage while enjoying the view.

5. Buckingham Fountain

Located in Grant Park, the Beaux Arts style Buckingham Fountain was designed by architect Edward Bennett after the Latona Fountain at Versailles. The font is famous for its grand size and for the height of its spray, which can reach as high as 15 stories. The fountain’s four water-spouting sea horse statues are said to represent the four states that surround Lake Michigan, while the fountain’s pool symbolizes the lake itself. The fountain was donated to the city by Kate Sturges Buckingham, a patroness of the arts who inherited her family’s massive fortune at the age of 32. Known as “Chicago’s Grandest Spinster,” she bequeathed the Buckingham Fountain to Chicago as a memorial for her brother in 1927 and established a trust fund for the fountain’s continuous operation as well.

6. Magnificent Mile

A section of Michigan Avenue that runs from Oak Street to the Chicago River, known as the Magnificent Mile, is considered one the best shopping districts in the world. The street got its nickname from real estate magnate Arthur Rubloff in the 1940s. The “Mag Mile,” as its sometimes called, also provides access to many of the numerous landmarks and tourist attractions in Chicago, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Wrigley Building and the Chicago Water Tower.

7. Chicago Riverwalk

In 1900, the city completed an incredible engineering project: reversing the flow of Chicago River. Through the installation of a series on canal locks, the water was directed to empty into the Mississippi River instead of Lake Michigan. Today, the mile long pedestrian Riverwalk that runs along the south bank of the river as it winds through the downtown district offers visitors a lush green space where they can stroll and take in the sights of the city. River cruises are available that offer visitors historical insight about the city’s most celebrated landmarks.

8. Shedd Aquarium

The John G. Shedd Aquarium is home to more than 1,500 species of sea life, including 32,500 fish, as well as an array of birds, insects and amphibians. Completed in 1930, the aquarium gets more than two million visitors each year, making it one of the most visited aquariums in the United States. Exhibits are organized in themed areas such as the “Caribbean Reef” and the award-winning “Amazon Rising.” The Oceanarium, which features dolphins and beluga whales, is one of the aquarium’s most popular exhibits.

9. Field Museum of Natural History

This museum owes its existence to the World’s Fair that was held in Chicago in 1893. Originally designed as way to showcase exhibits from the Fair, the museum quickly evolved into a collection of natural history artifacts and exhibitions. The collection was moved to its current location in Grant Park in 1921 and is part of the Museum Campus. Exhibits range from a taxidermy collection of large animals such as African elephants to an extensive collection of Native American artifacts. A 12 meter (40 foot) long Tyrannosaurus skeleton is the most popular exhibit out of the museum’s millions of specimens, and many visitors wouldn’t feel that their trip to Chicago is complete without viewing the dinosaur known as “Sue.”

10. Chicago Water Tower

Designed by architect William Boyington, the 47 meter (154 foot) tall turreted Chicago Water Tower once played a critical role in the city’s water system. In 1871, a fire that began in a barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary quickly spread and destroyed the city’s entire business district. One of the few surviving structures of the infamous Great Chicago Fire, the Chicago Water Tower is a symbol of the city’s resilience. Today, the beautiful limestone structure is home to the City Gallery, which exhibits works by local artists and photographers.

Chicago River
Willis Tower Skydeck
Views from Willis Tower Skydeck
Willis Tower
The Bean
City skyline from the Navy Pier
Chicago River walk
Chicago River
Chicago Water Tower
Navy Pier
City views from Navy Pier
Navy Pier
John Hancock Center
Willis Tower

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