Chicago's Favorite Places 2012: The Results Are In.

Chicago's Favorite Places 2012: The Results Are In.

Since mid-January, Show Me Chicago has been gathering information from Chicagoans and visitors about their favorite places in the city in honor of the city’s Dodransbicentennial Anniversary on March 4, 2012.  We have been overwhelmed by the passionate responses and the amazing variety of never ending choices that we received.  Today we reveal the top picks and wish a Happy 175th Birthday to the best city on the planet.

And the winners are…Drum-roll, please.

1. The Lakefront…Our crowning glory.
Not surprisingly, the number one choice over and over in various guises is….Chicago’s Lakefront.  The city’s glorious front yard stretching the entire length of Chicago and continuing along the north shore and south shore of the city’s suburbs is, hands down, the number one pick.  People love the view looking south towards the city from the Adler Planetarium; the skyline driving north along Lake Shore Drive; the beaches–from Hartigan Beach in Rogers Park to Rainbow Beach (75th to 79th) and everything in-between–official beach count…52–all free admission.

2. Millennium Park.
And to think that less than a decade ago this number 2 choice was home to the Illinois Central rail yards, and a tangle of parking lots.  Since, July 16, 2004 when Millennium Park opened to the public it has become the face of the city.  Favorites at the park include: The Crown Fountain; Lurie Garden  (Monroe and Columbus); Park Grill; the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the iconic Cloud Gate (aka, the Bean).

3. Food Glorious Food.
Not surprising, restaurants, food trucks and even dives took the number three spot. An eclectic mix of tastes flavored the choices,  Along with the usual suspects–deep dish pizza, Italian beef, and the Chicago-style hot dog, it seems sushi is coming on strong and as always burgers and steak abound.  Places with the most mentions include:  The Billy Goat Tavern, 430 N. Michigan; Pizzeria Uno, 29 E. Ohio; Margie’s Candies, 1960 N. Western; RA Sushi Bar, 1139 N. State, Lula Cafe, 2537 N. Kedzie in Logan Square; The Walnut Room (7th floor Macy’s State Street Store); The Italian Village, 71 West Monroe; Tank Sushi, 4514 N. Lincoln; High Tea in the Palm Court at the Drake Hotel, 140 E. Walton; Twin Anchors, 1655 North Sedgwick Street; Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark; Gibson’s Bar and Steakhouse, 1028 N. Rush and Ann Sathers with 4 city locations.

4. Summer.
Strange but true, even though this survey was taken in the most desolate part of winter, Chicagoans had summer on their mind. An optimistic group–SMC contributors were not thinking ice skating or snow sculpture competitions, they were talking summer.  Favorites include: The Air and Water Show, Theater on the Lake, The Grant Park Music Festival; the Ravinia Festival, Wrigley Field; Lollapalooza, (Aug. 3-Aug. 5 in Grant Park); fireworks at Navy Pier (Wednesdays and Saturdays, Memorial Day through Labor Day); Movies in the Park; Buckingham Fountain; The Cell and the many neighborhood festivals.

5. Bibliophiles Rule.
Guess what, Chicagoans love to read. A surprising number of book stores made the list. Those with multiple mentions include: Women and Children First, 5233 N. Clark; 57th Street Books, 1301 East 57th Street; Myopic Books, 1564 North Milwaukee Avenue; Quimby’s Bookstore, 1854 N. North Avenue and The Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton.

6. Museums.
With over 40 museums, the City of Chicago offers something for all tastes, interests and ethnicity’s. There’s the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago, 238 W. 23rd; the Polish Museum of America, 984 N. Milwaukee; The National Hellenic Museum, 333 S. Halsted, The National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th; The DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place; The Oriental Institute, 1155 E. 58th, The Spertus, 610 S. Michigan and The National Veterans Art Museum, 1801 S. Indiana.  The museums with the most mentions were: The Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive; Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore, The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Cannon Drive; The Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore; The Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore; and The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan.

7. Architecture.
Another, no brainer, Chicagoans like their architecture.  Some favorites include: The Chicago Board of Trade, 141 W. Jackson with Ceres the Roman goddess of agriculture on top; the Rookery designed by John Wellborn Root and Daniel Burnham, 209 S. La Salle; The Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive; The Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; Louis Sullivan’s iron work on the old Carson’s building (State St. and Washington); the Sullivan Stock Exchange Room in Art Institute; the Wrigley Building and the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Robie House in Hyde Park.

8. Theater.
With over 250 theaters in the city from small black box theaters to Chicago’s architecturally significant large downtown Theatre District venues, Chicagoans are fortunate to have world-class offerings at their finger-tips.  Theaters that received multiple mentions include: The Oriental Theatre; The Neo-Futurists; Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theater; the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier; and the Court Theatre in Hyde Park.

9. Art Happenings.
From Pilsen to Ravenswood and many places in-between, Chicago is an art lovers paradise. Art is available at any price point and style, from the neighborhood art fairs, to the student sales at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; Chicago’s Gallery 37, special art events and more.  Some favorites from the SMC survey are: The Old Town Art Fair (June 9 and 10, 2012); The 57th Street Art Fair (June 2 and 3, 2012); and the “2nd Friday Chicago Arts District Gallery Night” at Halsted and 18th–the second Friday of the month.

10. The City Parks.

What you may not know is that The Chicago Park District is the largest park district in the United States. The CPD oversees 552 parks on over 7,300 acres that include neighborhood parks, large parks and golf courses.  Of the parks with more than one mention, Lincoln Park was the overwhelming choice with the LP zoo a huge favorite; other multiple mentions include: Berger Park, in the Edgewood neighborhood; Indian Boundary Park in Rogers Park; Garfield Park and its architecturally  significant conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Avenue and Northerly Island.

Join the Celebration.

The city’s 175th birthday celebration continues throughout 2012 with 175 days of citywide events starting March 5, 2012.  Go to the city website “175 Days to Love Chicago” for a complete schedule of events.


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  • Your readers might be interested to know that the American Writers Museum Foundation is working towards a museum celebrating American writers and exploring their influences. Such a museum would align very nicely with picks 5 and 6!

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