Chicago: An Eco-friendly, Budget Friendly Guide

Chicago’s commitment to decreasing its environmental footprint is visible all over town. City Hall’s green roof, 315 miles of bike paths, a comprehensive bike share and excellent public transportation links make it the apple of the eco-conscious tourist’s eye.

Yes, it’s cold and windy in January (and February and March and maybe even April) but don’t let that deter you from a mid-winter getaway. Locals embrace the frosty season on bikes, skates and foot and you can too.

If the Midwest weather really doesn’t cooperate, there are enough top-notch indoor cultural attractions to rival any major city in the world.

Get ready to enjoy a heartland fling anytime of year.

Green Space

Millennium Park may well be America’s finest city park. This innovative green space provides a scenic eco-system in Chicago’s urban core.

Part of its allure lies in its avant-garde architectural gems. Anchored by a Frank Gehry-designed bandshell, the park also includes works by Renzo Piano and Anish Kapoor.

Don’t miss a photo-op under The Bean, the fabulous stainless-steel structure that reflects Chicago’s famed skyline in its shiny surface.

In winter, ice skate at McCormick Tribune Plaza. In summer, splash in the Crown Fountain, as you watch real-time images flashed on giant video screens.

Do

Chicago’s museums are a role model in eco-friendly practices thanks to the Green Museums Initiative, which aims to bring sustainable practices to the city’s cultural institutions. In 2005, a network of top museums banded together to make their building more sustainable, their business practices more environmentally friendly as well as to increase their green outreach, educational practices and exhibits.

There are many world-class museums in Chicago, but the Art Institute of Chicago is not to be missed. Treasures include the greatest Impressionist painting collection outside Paris and dazzling contemporary art bathed in natural light.

With a wealth of skyscrapers, getting high in Chicago is easy. Located 1,353 feet above the city, Skydeck Chicago presents views of four states. Daredevils will enjoy a thrilling stroll onto The Ledge, a series of glass boxes that extend out 4.3 feet from the tower’s 103rd floor, providing unobstructed views of the city—straight down.

Aquariums are on the black list of many environmentally conscious travelers. At the Shedd Aquarium, a passionate conservation message permeates every aspect of each exhibit. Visitors can meet 32,000 animals from aquatic habitats around the globe.

Nightlife

The Second City Comedy Club opened its doors on a snowy Chicago night in 1959. It has become the world’s premier comedy club, launching hundreds of successful comedic careers. Notable alumni include Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Chris Farley,

Tina Fey, Bonnie Hunt, Eugene Levy, Jane Lynch, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Catherine O’Hara, Gilda Radner and Harold Ramis, just to mention a few.

The talented actors offer improve shows every night. You never know if you might be seeing the next SNL cast member.

Eat

Food trucks are popular but when the temps dip, food halls are a tasty foul weather alternative. Chicago’s food scene is enriched by its multitude of pan-Latin residents. Latinicity Food Hall & Lounge brings this delicious melting pot of flavors together under one roof. Spearheaded by Chef Richard Sandoval, Latinicity provides a mouth-watering twist on Latin street food. It’s a multi-sensory experience featuring 10 innovative kitchens, a tapas restaurant, a coffee café, full bar, market and lounge.

Chicago is famous for its deep-dish pizza. More like a casserole than a New York slice, each hefty slice goes a long way. Whether you like the hearty proportions or not, take the when in Rome attitude and give it a try. Favorites include Gino’s East with its graffiti wall, Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s and Uno’s.

Drink

Tapster is Chicago’s first self-serve craft tasting room so no more trying to catch the eye of the bartender. Liquid options include beer, wine, cocktails and kombucha.

Stay

For the car-free visitor, Loews Chicago Hotel’s central location can’t be beat. This large yet personal property offers 400 rooms, an indoor pool and cozy fireplace in the lobby. Check the website for discount packages.

Save

If you’re an Illinois resident, each Chicago museum is required to have 52 free admission days annually. For the rest of us, there’s CityPASS.

CityPASS saves you 53% off admission to must-see attractions. Plus, you get to skip the ticket line.

The Chicago CityPASS ticket booklet costs $99.75 for adults (value $212) and $84.75 for kids 3-11.

Attractions included in CityPASS are the Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago and The Field Museum. In addition, pass holders may choose between admission to the Museum of Science and Industry and 360 CHICAGO as well as choose between admission to the Adler Planetarium or the Art Institute of Chicago.

Once activated, CityPASS booklets are valid for nine consecutive days, starting with the first day of use, so you won’t need to rush from attraction to attraction. Purchase online at CityPASS.com or at any of the participating CityPASS attractions.

Getting Around

Chicago is a fine walking town, laid out on an easy-to-navigate grid.

It has the second largest public transportation system in the country, including the famed above ground “L” subway.

Pedal around town with Divvy, Chicago’s bike share program, and you’ll get an authentic feel for local street life.

Chicago benefits from the aquatic beauty of both Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. In season, a river cruise is a relaxed way to take in the sites and there are plenty of options to choose from. In fair weather, a water taxi is a fun and fast way to connect the sites.

For additional information, visit www.ChooseChicago.com

Photo credits: Adam Alexander Photography, Clayton Hauck for Choose Chicago, Skydeck Chicago, Art Institute Chicago

 

 

 

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