- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
It might have lost the world’s tallest building slot to Taipei 101 Tower in Taiwan, thanks to its enormous spire, but Willis Tower, formerly known as Sears Tower, is still the tallest in the United States, at 1,450 ft. Designed by Chicago firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the tower uses nine exterior frame tubes, avoiding the need for interior supports. For awesome 360-degree views of the city, head to the 103rd-floor Skydeck. From here you will also be able to access The Ledge, a series of enclosed glass boxes jutting from the Skydeck and providing a fascinating view straight down to the ground.
Founded in 1893 to display items from the World’s Columbian Exposition, and renamed in 1905 to honour its first major benefactor, Marshall Field, this vast museum offers fascinating insights into global cultures and environments past and present. Home to all sorts of cultural treasures, fossils, and artifacts, as well as to myriad interactive exhibits, make no bones about it: this natural history museum is one of the best in the country.
The University of Chicago
With Chicago’s expansion in the late 19th century, a major university was the perfect addition to an array of new cultural institutions. Funded by oil magnate John D. Rockefeller, (who deemed it his best ever investment) the forward-thinking institution opened in 1892. Today, the university is one of the USA’s most respected, boasting 82 Nobel Prize winners as students, faculty or researchers, as well as several on-campus attractions that are destinations in their own right.
Museum of Science & Industry
The cultural star of the city’s Far South, this museum was the first in North America to introduce interactive exhibits, with a record of innovative, hands-on displays dating back to the 1930s. More than one million visitors flock annually to this vast neoclassical building, which houses more than 800 exhibits and is a Chicago must–see, especially for families. Make sure you arrive rested, since it takes a whole day just to hit the top attractions.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Chicago’s second most popular attraction after Navy Pier, this menagerie is not only one of the oldest zoos in the country but also one of the last not to charge admission. Established in 1868 with just a pair of swans, its age helps to account for how well integrated it is with the surrounding North Side community. While small compared to lots of top US Zoos, it is a leading light for ape research, and its park setting, duck ponds, historic café and land mark red barn endear it to all who visit.