The New Chicago

Art parks, boutique hotels, a booming food scene, and a sitting President—the Windy City has come into its own recently. For an expat Chicagoan, it's all change he can believe in.

As the boat pulls away from the dock at the base of the Wrigley Building, heading west down the Chicago River, old and new commingle; the facts I knew are revised. Marina City, a set of twin corncob-shaped towers featured in a stunt sequence in Steve McQueen's The Hunter, is now home to a Smith & Wollensky steak house. When I used to give tours, I'd say, "The Merchandise Mart is so large it has its own zip code: 60654," but now Sarah, our tour guide, tells me that the zip code has incorporated some of its surrounding areas. The Apparel Center, which used to be a giant, largely windowless slab of a building, had more windows punched out of its sides to become the new headquarters for the Sun-Times. The gold-leaf-topped Carbide & Carbon Building is now...a Hard Rock Hotel. And, rumor has it, the black-steel-and-glass Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, will soon be painted silver by its new owner—all 1,450 feet of it. As we drift up the river, I realize that I am not reconnecting with Chicago. I am simply, after all these years, finally connecting with it.

LODGING

The Wit
201 N. State St., thewithotel.com, doubles from $179, drinks from $8

FOOD

The Wieners Circle
2622 N. Clark St., 773/477-7444, dogs from $3.50

Nightwood
2119 S. Halsted St., nightwoodrestaurant.com, entrées from $19

Avec
615 W. Randolph St., avecrestaurant.com, entrées from $14.50

ACTIVITIES

The Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Ave., artic.edu, $18

Office of Tourism Visitor Information Center
77 E. Randolph St., chicagogreeter.com, Chicago Greeter tours free

Wendella Sightseeing Co.
400 N. Michigan Ave., wendellaboats.com, tours from $24

NIGHTLIFE

Zed451
739 N. Clark St., zed451.com, drinks from $9

The Whistler
2421 N. Milwaukee Ave., whistlerchicago.com, drinks from $8

GROWN-UP CHICAGO

BACK TO THE FUTURE

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