CHICAGO, CHICAGO, THAT TODDLIN' TOWN
By Dan Schlossberg
Chicago was called "the Windy City" long before balls were flying over the fences at Wrigley
Charles Dana, editor of The New York Sun, first applied the tag in 1893 when he tired of
hearing long-winded politicians brag about the World's Fair held in the city that year.
More than a century later, Chicago has even more reason to boast.
A maze of architectural giants make Chicago's skyline the most distinctive in the Western
Hemisphere, Sammy Sosa and Oprah Winfrey are national icons, and both baseball teams
played so well this summer that there was actually talk of a City Series that meant something.
There's no doubt that Hollywood loves Chicago: hundreds of television and movie projects,
including What Women Want, When Harry Met Sally, and The Untouchables were filmed there.
The city supports losers as well as winners. Fans fill compact Wrigley Field, on the city's North
Side, no matter how much the Cubs struggle.
Insiders say they haven't been to a World Series since 1945 -- the longest drought among the
original 16 teams -- because management banned a goat's owner from bringing his pet
through the turnstiles.
William (Billy Goat) Sianis brought Sonovia to games throughout the '45 campaign but was
turned away with postseason space at a premium. He placed a hex on the club, saying it would
never make the Series again. The clips on the wall of the Billy Goat Tavern & Grill, established
in 1934, tell the tale.
Cub fans often have the tenacity of a goat: Wrigley Field remains the smallest, oldest, and
loudest ballpark in the National League. When the wind blows out, the long balls fly -- but the
shirtless Bleacher Bums throw non-Cub homers back.
To celebrate a big win or drown the sorrows of a tough loss, the best bet for all baseball fans is
Harry Caray's, a restaurant filled with memorabilia collected by the late broadcaster, a radio/TV
legend for half-a-century. Not far from the original newspaper announcing the 1920 sale of
Babe Ruth to the Yankees are photos of Harry kissing Hillary Clinton and three generations of
Carays broadcasting the same game.
Since Harry Caray's is also a special occasion restaurant, patrons can plan on hearing waiters
sing their birthday/anniversary version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Dutchie Caray,
Harry's widow, remains a regular patron.
The city has plenty of themed eateries: Planet Hollywood, where kids can compare their hand
prints to Sylvester Stallone's; the Hard Rock Cafe, with its celebrity guitars and gold records;
the original Rock 'n Roll McDonald's, home of Peggy Sue's red-and-white 1959 Corvette; and
Ed Debevic's, a '50s dinner known for wise-cracking waitresses and outrageous signs. One of
them -- over the urinal in the men's room -- says EXPRESS LANE: TWO BEERS OR LESS.
The atmosphere is decidedly different at Scoozi!, a bustling Italian trattoria where pizza, pasta,
and reasonable prices attract a steady crowd of young professionals, many of them
out-of-towners reacting to word-of-mouth recommendations.
Dining with a view is superb at Cite, perched high above the city on the 70th floor of Lake Point
Tower, a luxury condominium complex whose most celebrated resident is Sosa. He's come a
long way from his native Dominican Republic, where he once shined shoes for 35 cents a pair.
Cite sits high above the Sosa lair. Known for gourmet French cuisine and elegant service, it
offers a bird's-eye view of the skyline, the river, and the nearby Navy Pier, a 50-acre
entertainment mecca located just steps away. The first President Bush began his naval
training there in 1941, long before the pier's transformation.
If Al Capone were alive today, he'd love the low lights and intimate corners of Planet
Hollywood, but he'd be also be tempted to flaunt his celebrity status. Seventy years after his
heyday, city tourism officials treat Capone much the way Chicago cops did before the arrival of
Eliot Ness: they look the other way.
An Untouchables bus tour and a dinner theater called Tommy Gun's Garage, housed in the
last original speakeasy of the gangster era, are dismissed with a wink and a smile. But they're
as much a part of the city's history as the 1871 Chicago Fire.
Mrs. O'Leary's cow may have done the city a favor: architects anxious to contribute to the
rebuilding designed the world's first skyscrapers during the 1880s.
Today, the Chicago Architecture Foundation runs more than 50 guided tours, by foot, bicycle,
boat, and bus. The best is a two-hour Chicago River cruise on The First Lady of Chicago,
operated by Mercury Cruises. This slow-paced narrated voyage passes 53 points of
architectural significance, including the cylindrical Marina City towers and Chicago Sun-Times
buildings that served as the opening backdrops for the old "Bob Newhart Show."
The boat also passes the Wrigley Building, the first skyscraper with air-conditioning (1946); the
art deco Chicago Board of Trade (1930); the headquarters of the competing Chicago Tribune
and Chicago Sun-Times; and the serpentine reverse-S of the residential River City.
Tours of the Skydeck begin with a seven-minute multi-media show called "the Chicago
Experience." It's a good idea to allow extra time for the trip to the Skydeck there are often lines
for the elevators at both ends.
The view is also spectacular -- day or night -- from the top of the John Hancock Center, in the
heart of the posh "Magnificent Mile." After a 39-second elevator ride, visitors can see 80 miles
in all directions.
A block away is the venerable Water Tower, a stone structure that survived the Chicago Fire,
and the multi-purpose pumping station, which provides water for 400,000 people on the Near
North Side while hosting an hour-long show about the city.
For pure entertainment, Second City Comedy Club provides the best show in town. Satirical
targets range from the Republican Party to the Irish Republican Army, with the Clintons, the
Bushes, Yasir Arafat, and Ariel Sharon other frequent targets.
Borrowing its name from A.J. Liebling's derisive portrait of Chicago in The New Yorker, Second
City has long been first in satirical comedy. Its Chicago and Toronto branches have produced
Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Joan Rivers, Ed Asner, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, John and Jim
Belushi, Bill Murray, and John Candy.
Improv is also the staple of "Tony & Tina's Wedding," a largely-unscripted spoof that banks on
audience participation. Designed to look like the real thing, it takes the audience from bar to
chapel and reception hall -- while keeping them laughing with assorted mishaps, arguments,
malaprops, and mayhem. One local paper called it "an experiment in controlled chaos."
The same could be said about the city's rush-hour traffic, though mass transit is so good that
locals usually patronize the elaborate network of bus, subway, and rail lines.
Elevated trains link both airports, Midway and O'Hare, with the Loop -- the maze of tracks that
converge in the heart of downtown. The Chicago Trolley Company offers all-day passes,
allowing unlimited stops, on its double-decked buses. And cabs from "Magnificent Mile" hotels
to almost anywhere average $5 a trip.
Riding the rails beats the bus, which takes 45 minutes to make the trip from Sears Tower to the
venerable Museum of Science and Industry.
The 14-acre museum, opened in 1933, contains exhibits on communications, energy, the
human body, manufacturing, defense, and transportation. A ride in the F14 Tomcat simulator
seems much more frightening than the rush-hour cab ride back to the hotel.
Also at the museum are a coal mine, locomotive, submarine, virtual reality demonstrator, and
an elaborate space center containing an Omnimax theater.
Further north on Lakeshore Drive are the Adler Planetarium, oldest in the nation, and the
Shedd Aquarium, home of the world's largest indoor marine mammal pavilion.
When the weather agrees, locals like to ride along Lake Michigan on a dedicated bikeway that
stretches 18 1/2 miles and bisects five parks. Rentals are readily available in season.
When winter winds strike, the Chicago Cultural Center is a fine alternative. The 1897 Beaux
Arts Building houses numerous exhibits, including the Museum of Broadcast Communications.
Unsuspecting visitors who wander into Jack Benny's Vault may be startled when the siren goes
off. But they'll get a good laugh out of a brief biography of the violin-playing comic; it says
"Born 1894, Died 1974, Age 39."
Originally Benjamin Kubelsky of nearby Waukegan, Benny is enshrined in the museum's Radio
Hall of Fame, where live radio shows still originate on weekends. Museum archives contain
60,000 TV and radio broadcasts, available upon request.
History also comes to life at the Chicago Historical Society, the city's oldest cultural institution.
Located on the North Side near the Lincoln Park Zoo and Academy of Sciences, the building
houses exhibits on the Chicago Fire, Columbian Exposition, and other aspects of city and
A framed railroad poster reveals that the Rock Island Line offered a trip around the world in 80
days two years before Phileas Fogg of left London in Jules Verne's imagination.
While the museum is heavy on history, it misses many pertinent facts about the current state of
For example, nearly one-third of the total U.S. population lives within a 500-mile radius of
Chicago. The city's 2.8 million people (third in the U.S.) enjoy 29 miles of lakefront, 560 parks,
34 museums, 6,000 restaurants, and three of the world's 10 tallest buildings. With 66,000 hotel
rooms, there's plenty of room for visitors.
Chicago has given the world Schwinn bikes, Pullman railroad cars, coed high schools,
cafeterias, steel-frame skyscrapers, Ferris wheels, Wrigley's gum, Cracker Jack, Baby Ruth
candy bars, Playboy, Benny Goodman, and Carl and Ryne Sandberg (the poet spelled his last
name with a "u"). The word "jazz" was first applied to a Chicago sound and the local version of
the blues, like the local deep-dish pizza and the Chicago-style hot dog, has taken on a life of
The Harlem Globetrotters were the Savoy Big 5 when they sprang to life in 1926 and the
Chicago Bears were the first football team to broadcast on radio, practice daily, and publish a
team newspaper. George Halas, their first coach, also founded the National Football League.
Some out-of-towners come expressly to visit the Art Institute, one of the world's leading art
museums, or to shop at Marshall Field's, a department store so vast that it contains a
concierge to help plan itineraries for visitors.
In bad weather, expect big crowds at North Pier Festival Market, a one-time shipping terminal
that now contains three floors of unusual shops and restaurants near the lakefront.
Although it's a literate place with lots of newspapers and magazines, the city hides its best
bookstores in Hyde Park, near the University of Chicago (site of the first controlled atomic
The call letters of The Tribune's broadcast arm -- WGN -- stand for World's Greatest
Newspaper. While some might argue, no one can dispute the greatness of the company's
building. Its exterior walls contain pieces of The Alamo, Westminster Abbey, the Taj Mahal, the
Arc de Triomphe, and other famous structures.
The whole city is a living museum -- a tribute to Daniel H. Burnham's Chicago Plan of 1909. He
told civic leaders, "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood. Make big
plans. Aim high in hope and work."
Chicagoans have done that.
Because the city offers such a rich historical legacy, the best place to stay is the most historic
hotel, The Drake, a landmark since its opening in 1920. Perched near the Hancock Center at
the north end of the Magnificent Mile, the 537-room hotel is a haven for Hollywood types,
politicians, and visiting businessmen seeking a blend of luxury plus privacy. It's a relatively
short walk to the Red Line subway that links both ballparks as well as other Windy City
At the opposite end of town is McCormick Place, a vast convention center adjacent to a
modern, 800-room Hyatt Regency hotel. The METRA train provides a seven-minute link to the
heart of downtown.
No matter where they stay, street-smart visitors should buy a $49 City-pass for half-price
access to six top local attractions: the Hancock Observatory, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium,
Museum of Science and Industry, Art Institute of Chicago, and Shedd Aquarium. Coupling that
pass, good for nine days, with any of the multiple Chicago Transit Authority cards (all-day,
three-day, one week) will give any visitor a leg up on his visit to the Windy City.
Further information: Chicago Office of Tourism, Department of Cultural Affairs, 78 East
Washington Street, Chicago, IL 60602 (Tel. 312 744-2400, FAX 312 744-2359,
www.cityofchicago.org); the Drake Hotel, 140 E. Walton Place, Chicago, IL 60611 (Tel.
312-787-2200, www.thedrakehotel.com); or the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, 2233 S.
Martin Luther King Drive, Chicago, IL 60616-9985 (Tel. 312-567-1234, Fax 312-528-4000,
Follow the Yankees
One of the two remaining Yankee games at Comiskey Park this season is included in the
five-day, four-parks "Great Lakes" itinerary offered this summer by Sports Tours, Inc. The firm
offers game tickets, accommodations in team hotels, transportation to ballparks and between
cities, tour escort, souvenir, and welcome reception.
"Great Lakes" includes the Cleveland-Milwaukee game July 16, the Yankees-White Sox game
July 17, Colorado vs. the Chicago Cubs July 18, and Boston at Cleveland on both July 19 and
20. Autographs are easy to get because participants stay at the same hotels used by the
teams (the Westin in Chicago). Write Sports Tours, Inc., 195 Main St., Northampton, MA 01060
or call 800-722-7701.