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Globetrotting A to Z: Chicago

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Chicago is one of those cities that evokes a mystique, but remains down-to-earth. Like Minneapolis, Chicago is a place where Midwestern values prevail even in a hip and boisterous urban landscape.

Now, visiting Chi-town in winter may not be on your to-do list -- Angelenos, while you are enjoying 75 degrees today, Chicago's just warming up to 18! -- but start planning now for spring.

Many places to stay abound, but this Examiner recommends Club Quarters on Adams, for about $140/night. If your budget is more generous, by all means consider the luxurious Waldorf Astoria on E. Walton; homey B&B lovers should book the very English Wicker Park Inn (on Wicker Park Ave.)

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Top Tips from a Local:

A local offered a few helpful tips for your Chicago trip:

Gay-friendly bar: Sidetrack, in the heart of Boystown, is "known for playing showtunes at the bar," the Chicagoan says. They also allegedly sell the most vodka in the city!

Best bar for an amazing selection of beer: Hopleaf in the Andersonville section of town (5148 N. Clark St.), is always packed and attracts beer lovers from around the world.

Place for a run: The path around Lake Michigan. The local advises, too, "escaping to the Forest Preserve", which "is peaceful and conducive for long runs and bike rides." One can actually ride a bike along the forest preserve path all the way to the Botanical Gardens, then sit outside on the grass for a picnic lunch (or buy a sandwich or tuna nicoise salad from the Botanical Gardens Café). Note: if you can handle Chicago winters, the Gardens are worth a visit right now, whether that's a bird walk, scroll painting, or bonsai show. Tomorrow, the "Jewish Festival of Trees", called Tu B’Shevat, will be celebrated with free family activities.

Artsy movie theater- The Music Box. Plays lots of Indie films. It's on Southport Ave, which has several good resturants and boutiques for shopping.

Places for dogs: There are several designated dog beaches along Lake Michigan.

Neat thing to do: Hop on an inexpensive water taxi downtown and ride it to Chinatown for lunch. Then ride it back downtown. Probably about 20 minutes each way.

Must do: The Architectural Boat tour along the Chicago River is a charming cruise that boasts dozens of chances to view historical and architectural gems. Just wait till after Apr. 5, for like the rest of the city, right now the river is frozen!

What to avoid at all costs: Riding the new Divvy bikes downtown without a helmet. These are shared bikes that are similar to those in cities such as Boston, New York, DC and around Europe.

Other Tips:

  • Conceive of this. If you are trying to get pregnant and need a bit of help, take a spin over to the Fertility Centers of Illinois, which has a very kind and professional staff. They house eggs, embryos, etc. and offer the finest medical team in the county, treating both infertile couples and individuals as well as offering surrogacy services for gay/lesbian couples. Partner-less ladies of childbearing age (who can afford it) may want to freeze their eggs here.
  • Art lovers must check out the Art Institute of Chicago, centrally located at 111 Michigan Ave. American art featured includes more than 1,000 paintings and sculptures from the 18th century through the present day. James McNeill Whistler, Mary Cassatt, Georgia O'Keeffe, Edward Hopper and muralist Diego Rivera are standouts.
  • Hockey fans must go to a Blackhawks game at United Center at 1901 W. Madison. Standing Room Only tickets are just $27 a pop. (For directions/parking info, click here.)
  • Book in advance for spring. Waiting until the last minute means a significant price hike. For example, buying one round-trip ticket to Chicago from L.A. in mid-April will run you about $287.00 if you leave and return on a Saturday. Always try and fly Tues. or Wed. for the best savings.

So book now. Aren't you hungry for one of those killer deep-dish Chicago pizzas? Who knows, but you might just catch a glimpse of a visiting President Obama.

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