Trip Coach: July 8, 2008
Karla Zimmerman, the main author of "Lonely Planet Chicago (2008)," answered your questions on Chicago.
Karla Zimmerman: Hi, Karla Zimmerman here, ready to chat with you about Chicago. Let's get started, shall we?
Mission Viejo, Calif.: We are going to be in Chicago in August with 2 teenage girls. Do you have a top 5 list of "must-see's"? We have done the Sears Tower before.
Karla Zimmerman: OK, must-see No. 1: Millennium Park. You gotta' walk through and see The Bean sculpture and human-gargoyle-style Crown Fountain. The park also hosts concerts, yoga and dance classes—all for free. See the website for schedules and a do-it-yourself mp3 audio tour. No. 2: Art Institute, vast and magnificent. It's free on Thursday and Friday eves. No. 3: the lakefront. Stroll along it, or better yet, bike it with a rental from Bike Chicago's Navy Pier or Millennium Park outlets. No. 4: Chicago architecture, best appreciated via a tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The 90-minute river cruise and the Historic Skyscraper walking tour are both winners. No. 5: Shopping. Check out the Magnificent Mile stores or trendy boutiques in Wicker Park (about a 10-minute El ride from downtown).
Griswold, Conn.: My former college roommate and I are planning a reunion and girlfriend's weekend in late September. Since we will only be there a couple of days, what are the must-see, must-do attractions, spa experiences, dining options, shopping etc.? We want to have time to catch up and relax, but also experience the Windy City. Thanks for your suggestions!
Karla Zimmerman: See my answer to Mission Viejo's question, above, for Top 5 attractions. For spas, there's the Aveda Institute a bit north of downtown. For all-out pampering, there's the Four Seasons Spa, where caviar-and-pearl facials await. For dining, Wicker Park and Lakeview are two neighborhoods holding rich veins of restaurants. The Chicago Reader and Time Out Chicago both list restaurant reviews by neighborhood on their websites, so check there for further ideas.
Bellaire, Mich.: What are 3-5 good places to eat in the Lakeview area of Chicago? I will be there in September.
Karla Zimmerman: I like Mia Francesca, a popular Italian restaurant. Lines are usually out the door, but move fast. PS Bangkok dishes up tasty Thai chow. Orange wins raves for brunch. The Chicago Reader and Time Out Chicago have more listings.
Oregon, Wisc.: I travel to Chicago every 6 weeks to take my 95-year-old, wheelchair-bound "Aunt" out of her nursing home. We've gone to "Wicked," the Brookfield Zoo, the chocolate fest at the conservatory, the races at Arlington Park, the botanic gardens, shopping on Michigan Ave, a lake-front cruise, the Scarecrow Festival, and several other summer-time outdoor events. I'm starting to run out of ideas for daytime adventures. Can you help?
Karla Zimmerman: I'm impressed! You've already been very creative. You could try a baseball game. Both Wrigley Field and US Cellular Field offer special wheelchair seating. If your aunt likes art, you could try the Art Institute which is wheelchair accessible throughout.
San Antonio, Tex.: Hi! I'm a mom taking her 13-year-old daughter to acrobatic gymnastics National Championship in Des Moines at the end of the month. As a treat, I'm taking her and her 10-year-old sister to Chicago from July 30 to August 2. Where should we stay? We want to go to Hancock Tower on Wednesday night to see sunset and fireworks and "Wicked" on Thursday. Not really into American Girl Dolls. Would love to see appropriate art museum for budding 10-year-old artist. Would love to see cool stuff for 13-year-old...how things work...tours of big company manufacturing or TV show production. Thanks!
Karla Zimmerman: Take the budding artist to the Art Institute. Its Kraft Education Center provides activity books and programs to help kids of all ages interact with the collection. Check the museum's website under the "Families" heading for more info. As for where to stay: the Embassy Suites Downtown is popular with families.