Seven Wonders of Chicago

Emmet Sullivan

During one of those Googling-random-things-to-put-off-work-for-that-much-longer nights recently, my friend and I stumbled upon something we had never heard of. Chicago, as well as a few other major cities, offers a little thing called CityPass, which is a $50 ticket that gets you into five major attractions around the city. Needless to say, we were a bit geeked out by the idea of going to the Field Museum for the cool new dinosaur exhibit or seeing Chicago at night from the Hancock Observatory.

A problem, of course, was to convince a few other people to come with us. You may not have noticed it, but there are a few people at Northwestern who might have a small…superiority complex? Now you can be too good to go to the football games, or too good to go to a frat party or too good to go to discussion section, but a lot of people have never really experienced some of the greatest parts of Chicago – and no one’s too good for that.

So PLAY compiled a list of seven things you have to do in Chicago before you graduate (or hey, get ambitious and do them before the end of the quarter), and trust us, even if they might seem a bit tourist-y, you should be ashamed if you went four years and never did any of these.

1. Ride the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier

Do anything at Navy Pier and we’ll be happy. We just took a cruise over there (Odyssey cruises, check into it because it’s worth doing). But the Ferris Wheel has a special little place in our hearts. You see it every time you drive down Lake Shore, but how many of us have actually taken a ride on it? And if you are here over the summer, make sure to catch the fireworks show at Navy Pier (it happens every week). If you’re not here, then hurry up and get down now. You can always find something to do.

2. Go to a Cubs (or Sox) game

I’m going to let my North Side bias show a little bit and suggest the Cubs over the Sox, but even South Siders have to admit that Wrigley Field is an institution in Chicago, and something worth seeing. That said, you can root for either team, but both are good to see (I guess the Sox have won a little more recently, if you care about things like that). Tickets are also super cheap if you’re here during the summer and want to go in the middle of the day. Get a group of friends together and head out to either stadium to enjoy some Chicago baseball.

3. See the city from the Skydeck of the Sears Tower

Yeah, we know, it’s crazy expensive to get tickets up here, but seriously, if you have the chance, you need to take it. You can see three other states on a clear day (Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana, for those of you who may not have done well in American geography). On a windy day, the top of the tower sways a bit, and come on, that’s just cool. You might remember it from that scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The Hancock Observatory is a nice alternative, and a little less like a tourist trap, if you’re seriously worried about that.

4. Take the architecture tour

Now when I took this tour some six years ago, it was the middle of November and we spent the entire time below deck. But with the weather warming up, give in to your inner nerd (and we know you all have one) and take a 90-minute trip through the river to learn about some of the different buildings. For instance, did you know that the Chicago River, which has recently been upgraded to toxic, originally flowed the other way, and that a series of engineering feats at the turn of the century reversed the flow?

5. Visit all the museums/galleries/etc.

Okay, so maybe this one is a little broad. Maybe not all the museums. But there are some that you have to see. The Field Museum is good, but you may have seen it way back when freshman year at Fling at the Field, so spice it up and choose a different one. The Art Institute has random free days and is always a nice, educational and inspiring trip. The Museum of Science and Industry may seem out of the way, but it is manageable by Metra. The Shedd, the Planetarium, the Lincoln Park Zoo – all good choices, and you could probably spend the entire day at any of them. But get out an explore a little bit.

6. Eat at the Billy Goat Tavern

Dig a little into Chicago lore and you’ll hear about the Curse of the Billy Goat (the reason the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 is because the owner of a local tavern, Billy Sianis, tried to bring his pet goat to the World Series in 1945 and was thrown out; he therefore cursed the team). The tavern became a local icon, and gained special cult status when John Belushi referred to it in a sketch on Saturday Night Live. It’s a chain of taverns, but the one to go to is actually below the Mag Mile. Get to Tribune Towers (on Michigan heading south right before you hit the river) and head down to the lower level.

7. Walk around Millennium Park

I saved it for last because it’s the one most people will probably blow off, but here’s the deal. If you’re up for a good walk, take the intercampus shuttle to the Ward Building. Get off and go up to Water Tower. Now, head south (if you ever get confused about directions, just remember that the lake is east). And just keep heading south. The street you’re walking on is Michigan Avenue, and when you hit the river, look back. You just walked on Magnificent Mile. Head south more and you’ll wind up at Millennium Park. It has the giant silver bean thing – which actually has a real name, Cloudgate, or something majestic-sounding – and an amazing restaurant (Park Grill) and a semi-impressive garden that winds around the back. Not to mention the trippy amphitheater that you’d never actually go to a concert at, but is still fun to look at. Not the most exciting of Chicago tours, but pretty necessary to know the city. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Medill junior Emmet Sullivan is a PLAY assistant editor. He can be reached at [email protected]