Welcome to my place . . . Chicago
‘It costs nothing to ride up to the bar of the John Hancock building, but savouring the sun setting is worth the price of the beer’
Doireann Markham from Ballinlough, Co Roscommon now lives in Chicago. ‘Get thee to Firecakes Donuts for the sugar bump to beat that afternoon slump’
Doireann Markham is from Ballinlough, Co Roscommon. After graduating from UCD, she went to Chicago on the J1 work and travel visa, to experience life in the United States of America first-hand. She’s a content writer in Chicago and blogs about her American life at doireanninamerica.wordpress.com.
Where is the first place you bring visitors?
If the baseball is on, we’ll take in a game because there’s nothing more American than baseball (especially in this sports-mad city). Baseball goes on for ages and the atmosphere is super-relaxed, so while we’re ticking the ‘cultural activity box’, we’re also getting all the catching-up done. Living just blocks from Lake Michigan is the greatest joy of my Chicago life and if there’s no baseball on, we’ll dump the bags in the apartment and hit for the lake with a picnic. When we go downtown, we’ll take in one of Chicago’s walking tours to get our bearings and a sense of Chicago’s history. The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the finest cultural institutes in the world so I like to bring visitors on a whistle-stop tour of the art of the American dream, the Thorne Miniature Rooms (just because) and the trading room of the Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room which was saved from demolition and reconstructed there in the 1970s.
The top three things here that don’t cost money are. . .
Bringing your own picnic and a bottle of wine to the free orchestral concerts at Millennium Park during the summer. It costs nothing to ride up to the bar at the 96th floor of the John Hancock building, but savouring the sun setting over the lake and the city is undoubtedly worth the price of the beer or the cocktail. A walk by the lake is always free of course, as is getting caught in the spray of the majestic Buckingham Fountain as it shoots water sky-high at one o’clock every day - a welcome respite from the summer heat.
Where would you go for a meal that gives the flavour of Chicago?
For Chicago’s signature deep-dish pizza I’ve yet to come across better than the Chicago Classic at Lou Mantilla’s Pizzeria. For a good run at the day and the experience of eating in an old-time bustling American diner, join the queue for breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s diner near Union Station and try the banana pancakes. Get thee to Firecakes Donuts for the sugar bump to beat that afternoon slump.
Best place to get a sense of Chicago’s history?
Chicago is a city built on industry and commerce, and that story is told in the architecture and design of its rebuilding after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. An architectural tour - whether it’s the famed boat tour or a walking tour - is a must to learn how this forlorn outpost in the Midwest became a global hub. But it’s easy get caught up in Chicago’s industrial history and for a more rounded view, the Chicago History Museum offers exhibits on day-to-day life in the city, its railroad and labour history and the stories of those who persevered to achieve the freedoms and civil rights automatically granted others.
Keep room in the suitcase for…
There’s so much to be seen, done and experienced in Chicago that the best of shopping intentions can be waylaid by a stunning sunset, a few more minutes by the river, one more hour in any of its world-class museums or last-minute tickets for a show. Capture your experience instead with a print of Barry Butler’s brilliant photography of Chicago’s iconic skyline at sunrise or sunset. Toblerones from the airport will do for everyone at home.
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