Destination Information - Chicago, Illinois, USA
Famously known as the Windy City, Chicago is the capital of the US Mid-West. Sitting at the foot of Lake Michigan, if you wonder where it got its moniker from, it isn't from the breezes that waft over the lake, it was given to the city by a New York newspaper editor in 1893.
Chicago has never enjoyed the reputation as a tourist centre that the great cities of the seaboards have. While New York and Los Angeles are stalwarts on the international tourist's US itinerary, Chicago has remained the somewhat poorer relation, at least in people's minds. However, those that do make it here find themselves rewarded with a city with a lot to offer, and leave with their impressions changed forever.
Chicago's history is a fascinating albeit rather bloody one. In its earliest beginnings as a trading post and frontier fort it was completely razed to the ground by Potawatomi Indians and its residents massacred. Amazingly just 60 years after the original Fort Dearborn had been sacked, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 gutted what was already an established and thoroughly modern city. 1893 saw the rebuilt and revitalized city hosting the World's Columbia Expo, underlining its status as second only to New York in scale and wealth.
The 20th century brought notoriety rather than fame: during the Prohibition Era Chicago was the country's crime capital. Al Capone and John Dillinger both operated here, and movies such as the Untouchables and the musical, Bugsy Malone, mean that Chicago has been dining out on its ill-gotten reputation for decades.
But even if its most famous characters are gangsters, this is still a city of great craft and ingenuity. When you admire the Chicago River, consider that more than a hundred years ago, in 1900, the authorities actually reversed its flow, ensuring that the city's waste flowed into the Mississippi rather than into Lake Michigan. The Sears Tower here was for two decades easily the world's highest free-standing building, and is still arguably so depending on which criteria you use.
With a thriving arts scene underpinned with the Art Institute, you'll find Chicago a sensitive city, less brash than New York, less loud than LA, but still able to provide that "wow!" factor for international visitors that is intrinsic to a trip to the US.