Star of the Midwest: The Windy City’s Cultural Rise

Even when snow storms are keeping you away from strolling in Lincoln Park, dancing in the Millennium Park fountains, and splashing in Lake Michigan there is still tons to do in Chicago that do not require wearing a parka. Chicago is rapidly transforming from its rap as a hard-working, midwestern, grey cityscape, to a thriving metropolis and home to rising artists, musicians, chefs, museums, etc. Here are some great Chicago attractions that are on and off the normal tourist beaten path.

The Field Museum-Alright so this is not off the conventional wonderings in the least but it is still a Chicago classic that should not be missed by any newcomer, or anyone re-visiting for that matter. The Field Museum is very nostalgic to me and simply put, is a very fun, happy place. Currently the museum is exhibiting, Opening the Vaults: Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair. As someone who is completely enthralled in the history of the old World’s Columbia Expositions, this showing of fair relics was almost magical. The exhibit also told the story of the origins of the Field Museum itself-an outgrowth of Chicago’s Wold’s Fair glory days. Learning the history of the natural history museum was ironic in the most delightful way.

The art scene is growing in Chicago and while the Museum of Contemporary Art can sometimes be hit or miss it is worth perusing the current exhibitions to see if there is anything intriguing. Currently, the MCA does have a knockout exhibit, City Self, exploring how the city looks from the local and outsider perspective. The center piece of City Self is the film Chicago by artist and famed videographer Sarah Morris. Morris turns a very keen lens to the seemingly mundane aspects of Chicago’s urban life, searching for the soul of the city. Morris’ films are accurately described as “city portraits,” unlocking the fantasies within skyscrapers, factories, the bustling kitchen at NEXT, and so forth.

Another critical cold-weather destination is the Chicago Cultural Center. The architecture and design of the building itself are amazing and only heightened by the various art installations and mini shows tucked in every curious corner of the space. The view of Millennium Park is also very interesting, because you see a corner of the park just two stories above the ground so it feels intimate whilst still being a birds eye view. The mosaic tiling and Tiffany glass dome of the central ballroom are something to marvel at. The two exhibitions occurring while I was there are sadly gone but they were incredibly curated within the unconventional space and I’ll throw out the titles anyway for photographic reference– Paint Paste Sticker: Chicago Street-Art and SHIFT-A New Media Exhibit by Luftwerk. The Chicago Cultural Center is a perfect example of how the city is reshaping itself-taking a classically beautiful building and injecting it with new and inspiring modern art is the idea of fusion that make Chicago unique.

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The final Chicago treasure that I cannot emphasize enough is the city itself. Find yourself access to a tall building, anywhere doesn’t matter. You don’t have to pay money or go have a $30 drink on an observation deck, find any friend, relative, casual non-enemy who has access to a building downtown and take in the view. As cliche as it might be, you will not be sorry. (My views were captured from the top of the JP Morgan building, and they ain’t too shabby).

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