Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chicago: An urban jewel

I started reading a new book today—The Time Traveler's Wife—and it immediately took me back to an idyllic two weeks spent in Chicago back in 2001. On page one, the book's main characters (the time traveler and his wife) meet in Newberry Library, a place I spent a couple of days during those two weeks.

Since then, I've always thought of Chicago as one of the few big cities in the U.S. I'd like to live. I confess this feeling is in part biased by the fact that the weather during those two summer weeks was near perfect (in a city known for temperature extremes). But I am acquainted with that area's cold weather too, having spent two months during Navy boot camp in Great Lakes, north of Chicago, in the middle of a bitter winter.

No, what enchanted me most during that short stay in Chicago was the city's culture, not its weather. The city boasts the most amazing and diverse museums that I've encountered in the U.S. The food was outstanding—my visit coincided with the annual "Taste of Chicago" festival (a tradition that many cities have since copied), and I sampled the most succulent calamari that I have yet eaten anywhere. The nightlife offered some of the best blues you'll hear outside of Tennessee. The lake shore and river provided ample waterfront property for outdoor activities like bike riding and walking, especially the fantastic (and long) bike path along Lake Shore Drive. And, as you'd expect in a big city like Chicago, the public transportation was excellent.

Now that I've lived in New York City for a year, and have experienced what real urban life is all about, my desire to live in Chicago has waned a bit. Frankly, I'm not a city boy at heart. But as far as big cities go, I'd have to call Chicago one of America's crown jewels.



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