Thanksgiving is a crazy time for Americans, they take this holiday seriously, sometimes even more so than Christmas. Like the more holly-jolly holiday, Thanksgiving is about taking time to share a meal and be with family and friends, but since Americans are pretty spread out, this often requires a quick (or maybe not so quick) flight. If you’re lucky enough to live within driving distance of your family, you can sit back and smile at the rest of this article, taking satisfaction in the fact that you won’t be one of the millions who must brave the following 10 busiest airports over Thanksgiving (as reported by Orbitz travel data):
10. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International -Atlanta, Georgia
2015 marks the first year that Atlanta’s international airport has landed on the ‘most busy’ list for the Thanksgiving travel period and with travel during this holiday period up an estimated 6% over last year, Hartsfield is likely to stay in the top 10 for a while.
9. Dallas-Fort Worth International -Dallas, Texas
Another newcomer to the top 10 list, Dallas-Fort Worth is sure to see its infrastructure put through a pressure test. Recent years have seen more than two million passengers served by this airport during the entire Thanksgiving holiday period.
8. Newark Liberty International -Newark, New Jersey
New Jersey’s Newark airport is a frenzy of activity on a good day, let alone one of the busiest travel times of the year. Last year during the entire month of November, Newark saw a total of nine million travelers through its doors and this year that number is only going to rise.
7. Orlando International -Orlando, Florida
Orlando airport is also making its debut on the top 10 list and enters as the 7th most busy airport in America for the Thanksgiving travel period. Perhaps with air fares dropping, more travelers are taking advantage of visiting relatives in the country’s warmer southern states.
6. John F. Kennedy International -New York, New York
New Yorkers have a bit of a reputation for being impatient but for those that plan to travel through JFK airport during Thanksgiving should expect to have to wait, and wait, and wait. JFK is the 6th busiest airport in the country for this travel period, so maybe opt for LaGuardia instead since it’s not in the top 10 list.
5. Boston Logan International -Boston, Massachusetts
Be prepared for delays and make sure your travel plans are somewhat flexible if you’re using Boston’s Logan airport this Thanksgiving. Previous years on-time data for this travel period show that only about 30% of all flights into the airport land on-time.
4. Denver International -Denver, Colorado
Of all the new additions to this years top 10 list, Denver International Airport makes the biggest splash as it enters the charts as the 4th busiest in the country. Last year the airport released a statement of “Tips for Navigating Denver International Airport This Thanksgiving Holiday” advising travelers to bring carry-on luggage only, arrive hours early and check-in online ahead of time. All pretty much common sense.
3. San Francisco International -San Francisco, California
With a total of 38.8 million residents no one should be surprised to see a California airport on this list. One way that San Francisco airport is helping passengers cope with the stress of holiday travel is with their Yoga Room in Terminal 2. The Yoga Room offers complimentary mats and pillows so passengers can chill and get a little more aligned while waiting for their flights.
2. Chicago O’Hare International -Chicago, Illinois
Chicago’s O’Hare International airport is going to be the second busiest in the country during Thanksgiving, but this airport has taken into consideration the fact that Thanksgiving is all about family time, meaning lots of children are going to be taking to the skies as well. Families can enjoy the Kids on the Fly play area inside Terminal 2 which features child-sized model planes and an air traffic control tower to keep them occupied while awaiting departure.
1. Los Angeles International -Los Angeles, California
The number one busiest airport in the country for Thanksgiving will be none other than LAX, and this probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise, however this airport has taken a creative approach to helping passengers cope with the stress. LAX PUPS which stands for Pets Unstressing Passengers is a dog therapy program where dogs and handlers are positioned at various gates to give love to stressed out travelers. Because after all, who can resist those puppy eyes.
Every single one of the American States has its own quirky food scene and signature dish. Whether you are devouring a fresh lobster roll or chewing on a piece of saltwater taffy; these foods all have a history that ties them to a particular state. From the west coast to the east, from delectable marionberry pies to the famous Louisiana gumbo; these 10 foods and states go hand in hand, and it wouldn’t be a visit to any of these states without trying these foods.
10. Marionberry Pie, Oregon
This hybrid berry is responsible for this awesome pie that Oregon is so greatly known for. The Marion blackberry, marketed as the marionberry is a cross between the ‘Chehalem’ and ‘Olallie’ blackberry and was developed by the USDA ARS breeding program in cooperation with Oregon State University. The berry has somewhat of a tart flavor, larger, sweeter, and juicier compared with an evergreen blackberry. Oregon produces between 28 million and 33 million pounds annually of these berries and the result is some incredible pies. There are thousands of recipes out there for these pies but the best have been handed down generations and every year at the State Fair there is a Marionberry Pie Contest. Many people are now adding cream cheese to the pie in addition to the berry filling, to add a little something extra. It wouldn’t be a trip to Oregon without filling your belly with at least one slice of this delicious pie.
9. Philly Cheese Steak, Pennsylvania
The Philly cheese steak is a passionately defended local institution, and rightfully so as this gooey sandwich is absolutely delicious. The cheesesteak was developed in the early 20th century but the identity of the inventor and exact process is the subject of spirited debate but Philadelphians Pat and Harry Olivieri are often credited with inventing the sandwich by serving chopped steak on an Italian roll in the early 1930s. Today the sandwich consists of a crusty roll filled with juicy thin-sliced beef and topped with fried onions, peppers, and Cheez Whiz. The best two places to get yourself one of these amazing sandwiches are either Pat’s King of Steaks or its rival Geno’s, they have been across-the-street rivals for nearly 50 years.
8. Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, Illinois
Whoever invented deep-dish pizza, we wish they were alive today so we could give them a big old hug, or at least a high five. It was the year 1943 when this style of pizza was invented. Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo opened Pizzeria Uno in Chicago’s North Side neighborhood and served up a new style of pizza with a deeper dish, crunchier crust, and inverted layers. The deep-dish style pizza was invented and Chicago and the rest of the American world never looked back. What exactly goes into this process though? The cake-like pan in which the pizza is cooked is first coated in olive oil and then topped with a flour dough mixture. Before hitting the oven, a layer of sliced mozzarella is covered with vegetables and meats, typically Italian sausage, and then topped with a sweet layer of crushed tomatoes. The inverted layers of ingredients prevent the cheese from burning, while the meat, vegetables, sauce, and crust marry their flavors, leading to one incredible pie.
7. Crab Cakes, Maryland
The Chesapeake Bay is known country-wide for its sweet-fleshed blue crabs and crab cakes quickly became the state food here. Before they became popular though, crabs were not widely eaten as they were considered too dangerous and difficult to eat. However as time went on fisherman began to master the technique of getting the meat out of the shell, and thus crab meat was in abundance. The term “crab cake” was first coined by Crosby Gaige in the 1930s. In his cookbook titled, New York World’s Fair Cook Book, he finally gave the popular recipe a name: “Baltimore Crab Cakes”. This fishcake is composed of crab meat, bread crumbs, milk, mayonnaise, eggs, seasoning, and may contain red or green peppers. The cake is then sautéed, baked, grilled, or broiled, turning it into a delicious seafood treat.
6. Lobster Roll, Maine
Maine lobster is celebrated from sea to table all over the state and one of the favorite ways to eat this delicious seafood is in the famous sandwich, the lobster roll. Like a lot of other incredible dishes on this list, the history of who actually did the lobster roll first is under much debate. Many locals view Bayley’s Lobster Pound at Pine Point as the inventor of the famous seafood sandwich. Then there are the out-of-state claimants. Some say that Harry Perry first offered lobster rolls out of his Milford, Connecticut, restaurant in the 1920s. Others claim the Nautilus Tea Room in Marblehead, Massachusetts, as the original purveyor of lobster rolls. Lobster rolls in Maine have several distinct characteristics starting with the bun. The roll is baked slightly different from a hot dog roll, the sides are flat so they can be buttered, lobster meat is actually served cold in the roll and there is a light spread of mayonnaise either spread in the roll or mixed in with the meat.
5. Hotdish, Minnesota
This interesting variety of casserole is actually produced as “hoddish” and is commonly found at large gatherings and family events. What makes up a hotdish is a variety of ingredients including potatoes, ground beef, green beans, corn, and canned soup. The potatoes can either be hash browns, potato chips, or the most widely used tater tots. Usually served with a side of ketchup, this dish remains popular, to everyone’s surprise, that doesn’t live in this state. The history of the hotdish goes back to when budget-minded farm wives needed to feed their own families, as well as congregations in the basements of the first Minnesota churches. Since then, the state has embraced this dish and even runs an annual hotdish competition.
4. Salt Water Taffy, New Jersey
Salt water taffy evokes the Jersey Shore, more than any other candy or food out there. Considering the ingredients in this candy include things such as sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup, glycerine, water, butter, salt, natural and/or artificial flavor, and food color; it is astounding that this candy has remained the food we associate with New Jersey. Joseph Fralinger is said to be the one who popularized the candy when he started boxing it and selling it in Atlantic City. Shriver’s, the oldest business on the Ocean City boardwalk – it opened in 1898 – offers a staggering 70 flavors of taffy, with chocolate the overwhelming bestseller. Funny enough, the entire salt water taffy business in this state is owned by one family. In 1947, four brothers named Glaser bought James and in 1990 they bought Fralinger’s. Today, the two famous taffy names are made in the same production rooms, with red collecting pans marked “James” and gray pans marked “Fralinger’s.”
3. Chimichanga, Arizona
The history of how the chimichanga became a dish is much debated. According to one source the founder of the Tucson, Arizona, restaurant “El Charro”, Monica Flin, accidentally dropped a pastry into the deep fryer in 1922. She immediately began to utter a Spanish curse-word but quickly stopped herself and instead exclaimed chimichanga, a Spanish equivalent of “thingamajig”. Woody Johnson on the other hand claims he invented this dish in 1946 when he put burritos into a deep fryer as part of an experiment at his restaurant, Wood’s El Nido. This delicious deep-fried monster is made up of a flour tortilla filled with a wide range of ingredients, most commonly rice, cheese, machaca, carne adobada, or shredded chicken. Fold it into a rectangular package, drop it in the deep fryer and serve it up with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.
2. Gumbo, Louisiana
Of all the dishes in the repertoire of Louisiana cooking, gumbo is absolutely the most famous and one of the most loved dishes of the state. Gumbo is found in the houses of both the rich and the poor, across restaurants, and at every single special event. Generally speaking, gumbo is a thick, dark soup containing a mixture of rice, vegetables, and meat or seafood. Yet when it comes to ingredients, the one constant in gumbo is variety. There are just two hard and fast rules: a gumbo must always contain rice, and it must always be thickened with something. The history of this dish is quite a mystery as it has been a staple in Louisiana kitchens long before written records of the dish existed. No one is certain whether the dish is Cajun or Creole in origin, but only one thing really matters; how delicious it truly is.
1. Shrimp and Grits, South Carolina
Shrimp and grits are the typical breakfast for many of the Charleston area fishermen during the shrimping season, which ordinarily runs from May through December, but was discovered as a dish long before these fishermen started eating it. Grits actually originated from the Native Americans and were used as a way to communicate with the white people before they learned how to speak the same language. An important event happened in 1584 when Native Americans gave some of their grits to Sir Walter Raleigh and centuries later, in 1976, grits were declared the official state food of South Carolina and noted for their vital contribution to the culture and the economy of South Carolina, as well as to the sustenance of the people living there. Essentially this dish is Grits (thick ground corn) that form a bed for fresh-from-the-sea shrimp and other mix-ins, like bacon, garlic, and lemon.
Chicago is more than just a windy city with a bustling downtown metropolitan area, it’s also a great place to raise a family and build a home in the suburbs. The suburbs in Chicago are more than just rows and rows of houses, there’s so many great things to do within the community, some areas even have temples, zoos and theme parks! There’s no shortage of fun for the family in this city. Here are eight of the best experiences to enjoy in Chicago’s northern suburbs:
8. Six Flags Great America – Gurnee
Open since 1976, Six Flags Great America is the Chicago metropolitan area’s go-to theme park. Situated in Gurnee, a town 25 miles to the north of downtown Chicago and only a few miles south of the Wisconsin border, the park features 14 rollercoasters, a handful of carnival games, a water park and more. Six Flags Great America is home to X Flight, one of the world’s first winged coasters that simulates flying through the air, and Raging Bull, a sleek coaster with a near 180 degree drop. There are family rides, live entertainment and dining options, as well as, in what is perhaps its biggest draw, an adjoined water park called Hurricane Harbor. The Chicago climate forces the park to close after the annual Fear Fest-a Halloween theme that runs through all of October-so be sure to visit before then. The Gurnee Mills mall, one of the largest in the country, is right next door, so even if the winds and rain prevent you from enjoying the park, you can spend a day of shopping just down the road.
7. The Grove – Glenview
The area surrounding Lake Michigan, and essentially the entire Midwestern region of the country, is rich indigenous landmarks. All around Chicago, there are nods to the area’s first settlers-streets named after indigenous tribes, city names that derive from indigenous languages. The city of Chicago itself comes from the Potawatomi word for “wild onion.” The Grove, a feature of the Glenview Park District, is perhaps the area’s foremost historical landmark pertaining to its indigenous roots. Located just off Milwaukee road (the namesake of the native Milwaukee tribe), The Grove is 143 acres of prairie that is full of the plant and animal species the native tribes used to subsist off of. Aside from the natural beauty, there are original log cabins, Native American longhouses, and a schoolhouse. Walk one of the nature trails or learn about native species at the Interpretive Center. Whether you’re from the area or just visiting, The Grove is sure bring you closer to the land on which you’re standing.
6. King Spa & Sauna – Niles
Niles, a city just north of Chicago, is home to a sizeable population of Koreans. As a result, there are a number of Korean restaurants, markets, churches, and other small businesses. Located in a strip mall adjacent to H-Mart, a giant Korean and Japanese grocery store and food court is a true gem-King Spa & Sauna. It’s ancient Korean tradition to go to the sauna (or, Jjim-jil Bang), especially in the wintertime. King Spa & Sauna recreates that experience in the suburbs of Chicago, and quite well at that. The largest Asian spa in the United States, King Spa is home to nine saunas, all with different themes and purifying minerals-from the Fire Sudatorium to the Ice Room. You can get an acupuncture massage and eat at the food court as well, which serves traditional Korean cuisine (including an egg that’s cooked in the hottest sauna). There are overnight rooms available, a dance studio sized room with yoga mats to sleep on, and hot baths in the locker rooms. Come during the summer or the winter and enjoy a Korean tradition a few miles out of Chicago.
5. Baha’i Temple – Wilmette
Just off the shoreline of Lake Michigan sits a towering domed structure that seems like it should be among the most revered houses of worship in the world, and in fact, it is: the Baha’i Temple. It’s the oldest surviving place of worship for the Baha’i faith in the world, and the only one in the United States. It features a beautiful reflection pool and garden, as well as the main attraction: the House of Worship, with its 138-foot high dome. The Baha’i Faith sprung up in the 19th century, in Persia, as a monotheistic belief system that emphasizes the spiritual unity of all of humankind. Only eight temples where the Baha’i Faith is practiced have been constructed throughout the world, and as unlikely as it sounds, the oldest surviving one is here in Wilmette, just south of Evanston and the city of Chicago.
4. Brookfield Zoo – Brookfield
Many of America’s best zoos are centered in major cities: San Diego, Washington D.C., Bronx. Chicago has two, the better of which is just outside the city in a town called Brookfield. A zoo often ironically can have the claustrophobic feel of caging its human visitors, though Brookfield, being outside the city limits in a leafy suburb, hardly feels that way. There are 22 different areas, with themes such as: Hoofed Animals, Big Cats and Pinniped Point. The zoo hosts a number of interesting events throughout the year, so be sure to check the calendar for when you’ll be visiting. There are interactive events, backstage access to the zoo’s shows, and even options for a sleepover. While the Lincoln Park Zoo, with its central location and proximity to the downtown area might be better known by tourists, it’s Brookfield, with its selection and variety of animals and it’s quieter suburban locale that takes the cake as Chicago’s finest zoo.
3. Gillson Beach – Wilmette
Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes, has borders in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. Chicago sits just off the shore, and is thus home to a number of beaches in and around the city. Gilson beach, in Wilmette (where this writer grew up), is undoubtedly one of the best. The beach is apart of the Wilmette Park District, and is nearly 60 acres of sand and surf (good luck catching waves out here). There are tennis courts, volleyball courts, public parks and fields dotted around the area, a dog beach and an ice rink in the winter. It’s a perfect spot to watch fireworks on July fourth, which are launched a few miles north along the shore at Navy Pier, which can be seen, along with a great skyline view of the entire city, from Gillson Beach. It’s a prime location for other nearby activities. The Northwestern campus is right around the corner in Evanston, as is downtown Wilmette and the Baha’I Temple, which also occupies a slot on this list.
2. Ravinia Festival – Highland Park
In this leafy, affluent suburb of Chicago, is one of the area’s-including downtown-most enjoyable concert halls. Ravinia is the oldest outdoor music festival in the entire country, with legendary acts-from Joan Baez to the Beach Boys-have played the venue since its opening in 1906. Throughout the summer season, which runs through Labor Day (there are performances throughout the year as well, though much more sporadically), rock, blues, jazz and pop acts play at one of the festival’s three pavilions. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the best in the world, also appears at least once per season, as well as other symphony orchestras and classical musicians. If you can’t scoop up tickets for the main stage seating, grab some food from one of downtown Highland Park’s tasty eateries and picnic on the lawn.
1. Chicago Botanic Garden – Glencoe
Aside from its few major metropolises, many people equate the Midwest with rolling cornfields and miles of farmland. In many places, this is accurate. But just a bit north of Chicago, in the northern suburbs, lush forests and gentle streams coalesce around tributaries of the Chicago River. Here at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, over an area that includes a number of the northern suburbs, there is miles of bike trail that leads all the way downtown, as well as forest preserves, and at the main site, greenhouses, herb and flower gardens, a Japanese garden and much more. There’s a butterfly sanctuary and a model train set that is a favorite with the kids, and is one of the more popular attractions, especially in the winter, when the snow coats the trains as they chug along the miniature track. If there was one reason to venture north out of the city of Chicago, and there are many, the Botanic Gardens is number one.
With a long history as an industrial manufacturing hub, the U.S. Midwest also is home to some of the nation’s finest hotels. But just as the fortunes of the region’s business barons have risen and fallen over the decades, so have many of its longest-standing hotels. Some of the Midwest’s most revered, historic hotels narrowly escaped fires, the Great Depression, and the wrecking ball, but today, they are better than ever thanks to a new generation of forward-thinking preservationists. Here are 10 amazing historic hotels in the Midwest that are still open for business, and the stories behind them.
10. Palmer House Hilton (Chicago, IL)
The iconic Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago got off to a most inauspicious start when the elegant hotel fell victim to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 only 13 days after its grand opening. But, business magnate and owner Potter Palmer quickly rebuilt the 1,641-room hotel which opened in late 1873 and has been a landmark ever since. Palmer’s wife Bertha decorated the hotel with opulent chandeliers, paintings, and other art inspired by her French heritage including a majestic ceiling fresco by painter Louis Pierre Rigal. The decadent hotel has hosted everyone from Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde to U.S. presidents, and top entertainers such as Liberace, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald performed in its Golden Empire Room. A $170 million renovation has ensured the Palmer House’s place among the top hotels to be found anywhere. Afternoon tea in the lobby is not to be missed.
9. Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza (Cincinnati, OH)
Some hotels stand the test of time as a stunning architectural design achievement, like the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, an Art Deco masterpiece that’s a registered National Historic Landmark. Elaborately decorated with rare Brazilian rosewood paneling, two-story ceiling murals, and original German silver-nickel sconces, the circa 1931 hotel in downtown Cincinnati is one of the world’s finest examples of French Art Deco style. Its Orchids at Palm Court is among the most beautiful restaurants in America, made even more memorable by Chef Todd Kelly, named the America Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year (2011-12). The opulent Hall of Mirrors ballroom has been at the heart of Cincinnati’s business and social scene for over 80 with its two-story ceilings, mezzanine, and original light fixtures. The Netherland Plaza is connected to the 49-story Carew Tower which opened in 1931 and has an observation deck with sweeping views of the Ohio River Valley.
8. French Lick Resort (French Lick, IN)
The mineral spring waters that abound in French Lick were once thought to be the elusive Fountain of Youth due to their reported restorative and healing qualities. This attraction gave birth to the luxurious French Lick Resort that opened in 1845 and continues to be a destination for travelers seeking memorable accommodations. The 443-room hotel was restored to its original grandeur via a $382 million restoration and expansion project that added a 42,000-square-foot casino and restored and reopened the historic “Hill” golf course that originally opened in 1917. Prior to the restoration, the hotel had declined under several different owners. Over the years, it has hosted numerous dignitaries and historic events including the 1931 Democratic Governors Conference where Franklin D. Roosevelt secured support for his party’s presidential nomination. Today, the opulent resort has an array of amenities including a 27,000-square-foot, world-class spa with 24 treatment rooms.
7. Westin Book Cadillac (Detroit, MI)
The story of most buildings that stand idle for a quarter-century rarely ends well, especially a luxury hotel like the Westin Book Cadillac in downtown Detroit. Originally opened in 1924 as the tallest building in Detroit, the 33-story Hotel Book-Cadillac played host to eight U.S. presidents and the likes of The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Babe Ruth, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during its heyday. It boasted more than 1,200 rooms as well as three ballrooms and various restaurants and shops. Its Italian Garden and Venetian Ballroom incorporated architectural elements from Europe, and the hotel was featured in “State of the Union” in 1947, starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Alas, it closed in 1984 as Detroit’s own fortunes began to wane, only to be reborn in 2008 after a $190 million project restored it. Today, it features 455 hotel rooms and 67 luxury condos.
6. Hilton President Kansas City (Kansas City, MO)
Known as the Hotel President when it opened in Kansas City in 1926, the Hilton President Kansas City has lived up to its name. The 453-room hotel hosted the 1928 Republican National Convention where Herbert Hoover received the party’s nomination. Three other U.S. presidents—Eisenhower, Truman, and Nixon—have either stayed or visited the opulent hotel. Its Drum Room lounge became equally famous after opening in 1941, hosting the likes of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis, Jr. The hotel closed in 1980 but soon was reborn as a smaller, 213-room luxury hotel following a $45 million restoration. Located in Kansas City’s vibrant Power and Light entertainment district, the Hilton’s immaculate lobby and mezzanine were meticulously restored, and its elegant Congress Ballroom features the original terrazzo floors installed in 1926. It’s Walnut Room restaurant features original stained glass and majestic wood columns as well.
5. West Baden Springs Hotel (West Baden Springs, IN)
Some hotels are famous for their history or their uniqueness and a few like the West Baden Springs Hotel are noted for both. The current West Baden Springs Hotel opened in 1902, but a hotel has occupied the site since 1855. In 1888, it was upgraded to a grand resort for the elite, complete with a casino and opera house. It burned to the ground in 1901 and was rebuilt just a year later with a spectacular circular design topped by an awe-inspiring 200-foot, a free-span dome that was touted as the eighth wonder of the world. The Depression forced the closure of the hotel in 1932 and it later served as a seminary and private college. It reopened in 2007 as part of a special casino district in Indiana after a massive restoration. The luxurious, 246-room hotel now features a formal garden, an 8,000-square-foot spa, and a 12,000-square-foot indoor pool.
4. The Pfister Hotel (Milwaukee, WI)
When the Pfister Hotel opened in downtown Milwaukee in 1893 at a cost of nearly $1 million, it created quite a stir with unheard of features like individual thermostat controls in each guestroom and electricity throughout the hotel (imagine that). Sporting a Romanesque Revival style, the Pfister also had two billiard rooms (one for both sexes) and a private bar for men only. Owner Charles Pfister utilized the hotel bearing his name to showcase his extensive art collection. Today, the Pfister’s priceless Victorian art is among the world’s top hotel art collections. In 1962, theater operator Ben Marcus purchased the aging hotel at auction. He restored the grand dame of Milwaukee hotels and added a 23-story guestroom tower. The 307-room hotel is now better than ever, with a top-notch spa and a 23rd-floor martini and wine bar with great views of Lake Michigan.
3. Omni William Penn (Pittsburgh, PA)
The Omni William Penn Pittsburgh was once the largest hotel between Pittsburgh and Chicago, with 1,600 guestrooms, when its 600-room, Grant Street Annex addition opened in 1929. The original hotel, opened in 1916 at a cost of $6 million, was industrialist Henry Clay Frick’s dream to build a Pittsburgh landmark to rival the Old World elegance he saw in European hotels. He hired noted architects Franklin Abbott and Benno Janssen to design the hotel, and he spared no expense. The Grand Ballroom on the 17th floor of the original hotel has been lavishly restored. With huge crystal chandeliers and opulent gold and white décor on two levels, the large ballroom looks like a scene from “The Great Gatsby.” Traditional afternoon tea is served at the William Penn, which recently received a multi-million-dollar renovation. It now has 597 guestrooms, 52,000 square feet of function space, and multiple restaurants.
2. Renaissance Cleveland Hotel (Cleveland, OH)
Hotels have occupied the corner of Superior and Public Square in the heart of downtown Cleveland since 1812. Its current occupant, the Renaissance Cleveland, opened in 1918 as a 1,000-room luxury hotel with vaulted ceilings, high arched windows, and an impressive marble fountain in the lobby. It is connected to the Terminal Tower building that opened in 1930 as the city’s rapid transit center. Today, the 52-story Terminal Tower is known as Tower City Center and features shops, restaurants, cinemas, and casinos. After going through several names and owners over the years, the original Hotel Cleveland remains a luxury hotel with 441 guestrooms with marble bathrooms, 50 suites, and three ballrooms among 64,000 square feet of function space. Its aptly-named Grand Ballroom can seat 2,900 people. Its San Souci restaurant features fine dining in elegant surroundings including pastoral murals and wood columns.
1. Omni Severin Hotel (Indianapolis, IN)
The Omni Severin Hotel is one of the last original buildings standing in the Indianapolis Union Station Wholesale District. Built by Henry Severin, Jr. with help from the founders of the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the hotel originally opened in 1913 as the Grand Hotel of Indianapolis. It thrived as a daily stream of train passengers arriving at adjacent Union Station needed a place to stay, and it continues today as the city’s longest-running luxury hotel. Severin’s history is on display throughout the hotel. The original marble staircase remains, as does the crystal chandelier hanging outside the Severin Ballroom. The original 1913 mailbox serves as a working mailbox today, and original furniture from the hotel rests outside the elevator on each floor of the 424-room hotel. Completely modernized while retaining its historic charm, the Severin is connected via skywalks to the downtown Circle Center Mall and Indianapolis Convention Center.
The Windy City is home to wide range of foodie favorites and local specialties like the Italian beef sandwich, Chicago dog or of course the ever present deep-dish pizza. Chicago was responsible for starting these favorite foods on their journey to stardom and while this city was once the only place you could find such specialties, Chicago has been an incubator for a number of chains who’ve branched out around the country. The following chains all originated in Chi-town but can now be found in other cities around the country, spreading the good word (and the good taste) of these local Chicago specialties.
6. Garrett Popcorn
Now an international chain, Garret Popcorn is and always will be-in the hearts of those who are from the city, a Chicago institution. Their sweet caramel kernels have warmed many a Chicago winter. Garret pops a wide range of flavors that build off the basic cheese, plain and caramel templates, with combinations from Macadamia CaramelCrisp to Cashew CaramelCrisp. Shipped in tin gallons as ubiquitous as the popcorn, Garret’s popcorn can be enjoyed either in-store or at home. Its flagship store opened in 1949 on Madison Street in the heart of the city’s downtown and is now flanked by a number of the city’s hottest tourist attractions. Garrett’s is a perfect snack to combat the sharp, windy winters and a finger-licking treat to compliment the sticky city summers.
5. Harold’s Chicken Shack
Harold’s Chicken might be the only food chain on this list to be name checked by musicians, most notably, Chicago-born rapper Kanye West. Other rappers from the area have also mentioned the beloved fried chicken chain in their songs. With locations dotted around the city’s South Side, Harold’s sprung up in 1950 as a young entrepreneur, Harold Pierce, sought to serve residents of African-American communities that were being ignored at the time. Harold’s wings, breasts and drumsticks are deep fried as orders are being placed. That means slightly longer wait times than other places, but it also means a more fresh, delicious piece of chicken. Only slightly less famous than the chicken itself, is Harold’s mild sauce, which is tangy and spicy and a perfect complement to a succulent bite of chicken.
If Chicago is known as a foodie city, then one of its staples is the Chicago-style hot dog. Though it has since expanded to serving cities beyond Chicago, Portillo’s, which opened its first store in the Chicago area in 1963, is the place for Chicago’s best dog. Founded by Dick Portillo, the chain that bears his name serves a variety of delicious fare: chili cheese dogs, burgers, chicken sandwiches, pasta dishes, and in what might be the menu’s highlight: Portillo’s famous chocolate cake. What began as Mr. Portillo’s pet project-then known as “The Dog House”-has expanded to 33 locations around Chicago and a handful of others in Arizona, California and Indiana. For an authentic Chicago experience, a heck of a hot dog and mouthwatering chocolate cake to top it off, Portillo’s is the place to be.
3. Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria
Chicago is a blue-collar city, steeped in family values that started with the first wave of European immigrants to the second and third generation families that live there today. It’s also a pizza city and Lou Malnati’s is arguably the front-runner of Chicago’s best deep-dish pie (its stiffest competition is also on this list). Lou’s, as locals affectionately call it, opened the first of 42 sites in March of 1971 by Mr. Malnati and his wife in Lincolnwood, a neighborhood in the north side of town. The current menu is stocked with other Italian staples, and the thin crust pizza is also quite good, but it’s the Chicago-style deep-dish that has kept customers coming back since its inception. What’s the secret? Flaky crust, plump tomatoes from California, and of course, mounds of cheese imported from Chicago’s neighbor to the north, Wisconsin.
2. Al’s Italian Beef
By now, a theme connecting the food establishments on this list has emerged: Italian families have formed the bedrock of Chicago food culture as it stands today. Al’s Beef, another benefactor of a recipe that sprung out of an Italian family’s kitchen, is the Windy City’s premier spot for Italian beef sandwiches. Like Tesla is to the light bulb and Abner Doubleday is to baseball, Al is to the Italian beef sandwich. He and his sister birthed the idea for the now iconic sub in their Chicago home during the Great Depression. Scarce ingredients forced them to slice the beef thin atop thick Italian bread and the rest is history, as they say. Al’s beef is dry roasted in a blend of spices before being layered onto Italian bread. It’s then topped with “Gravy” (really just a light, flavorful sauce), either lightly, drenched, or somewhere in between. The menu features other standard fare, but the Italian beef sandwich is the real draw.
1. Giordano’s Pizzeria
Around 200 years ago, in a small Italian village near Torino, Mama Giordano would churn out her “Italian Easter Pie” and serve it to the community every Easter holiday. In 1974, Italian immigrant brothers Efren and Joseph Boglio opened a restaurant in Chicago that would bring their Mama’s famous Italian pie quite a lot of notoriety. Today, Giordano’s serves up what is widely considered by some (NBC, CBS Chicago, New York Times) to be one of the absolute best pizzerias in city that specializes in the dish. What separates Giordano’s from all the rest is its buttery, cheese stuffed crust, a creation that Mama Giordano invented. The debate about which of Chicago’s pizza chains is the best has been around for as long as the dish itself, but Giordano’s, with its tasty stuffed crust, might just take the cake… or should we say, the pie.
The great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright once wryly observed that “The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.” Following his death in 1959, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) designated 17 of his buildings for special merit and preservation. Almost 50 years later they commissioned a public poll to list the Top 150 Favorite Works of Architecture with Wright placing seven. In 2015, the FLW Conservancy nominated 10 of his buildings to be added to UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites. This kind of recognition shows the enduring relevance and popularity of the man who the AIA called, “one of the greatest architects of all time.” He never was or will be nominated for Miss Congeniality but he was a great innovator and pioneer, a passionate American nationalist, disparaging about American fashion for Things European. He was the master of “organic architecture” which preached the harmonization of building with environment. Wright expressed its First Commandment like this:” No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.” Without further adieu, we present the 17 greatest works of Frank Lloyd Wright:
17. Hanna Honeycomb House (1936) -Stanford, California
Imagine a house with no right angles, not even its furniture. Wright’s design used only hexagonal shapes and the six-sided pattern so resembled a honeycomb it was nicknamed as such. It was actually called Hanna House after the Stanford Professor Paul Janna and wife Jean. It also contained several signature Wright characteristics, including being built with local materials; San Jose brick and redwood. As the National Park Service describes it, “The house clings to and completes the hillside on which it was built” as his ‘organic’ architecture believed. It was also a template for his dream of creating affordable housing for the middle class down to ensuring the wood assembly could be done by a carpenter, not requiring high-priced experts. Of course, he ran over budget and this middle class template ended up costing the Hannas the equivalent of over $600,000 dollars today. Such was the Wright bravado, he built it right over the San Andreas Fault. He didn’t live to see it badly damaged in the earthquake of 1989.
16. Frank Lloyd Wright Residence (1889) -Oak Park, Illinois
The oldest remaining of Wright’s buildings was built with $5000 which the rising architect borrowed from his boss. It was here that he began leaving his indelible mark on the architecture of the twentieth century. The Chicago suburb remains the largest enclave of his work with 25 various structures designed and built from 1889-1913. It established his first big innovation, in the Prairie School of Architecture, glorifying and refining the ground hugging structures of early settlers in the American west, a tribute in Wright’s view to the fundamental American values of hard work and perseverance. The materials and design are far beyond what any settler could have dreamed of. The Children’s Playroom is one of the most notable rooms in any of his creations, famous for the prisms of light that come through the specially designed windows and skylight.
15. William H. Winslow House (1893) -River Forest, Illinois
Bargain hunter alert! Check this real estate listing: “A most exceptional/livable home, great for entertaining with generous rooms sizes. 4 bedroom/3.5 bathroom Coach House with live-in apt. Original details remain intact: art glass windows, bronze/iron, furniture and built-ins, hardwood floors, 4 fireplaces. Meticulously maintained” And a price tag of just $1.55 million, a full million off the original asking price. One of Wright’s few properties with rooms one can actually imagine mere mortals living in. But then comes the achingly beautiful detailed woodwork, the ridiculously gorgeous dining room and you quickly realize that this residence is anything but ordinary. Winslow House is considered historically important in that it was Wright’s first independent commission after leaving his mentors at the architectural firm of Adler & Sullivan.
14. Ward W. Willits House (1901) -Highland Park, Illinois
This outwardly sedate-looking suburban home was a political statement and the true beginning of an architectural revolution. It was an emphatic rejection of the designs featured at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair which projected the rebirth of the city with towering ornate works of Greek and Roman grandeur. Midwest architects, Wright among them, objected to the old European influence insisting on and creating a new truly American style. This became known as the Prairie School, with which Wright first experimented in Oak Park as a precocious 22 year old. Its horizontal orientation reflected the American experience of the wide open prairie as opposed to the urbanized vertical clutter of the Old World. The AIA calls Willits House “the first house to embody all the classic elements of the Prairie style,” which included the absence of doors to mimic the ‘wide-open space’ of the prairie long before the concepts of local sourcing and sustainability were on trend, Wright was using locally sourced material. Here his ‘organic’ style took hold, the idea that buildings should look like they grew out of the landscape. In return, a hundred leaded windows, the use of which Wright pioneered, firmly integrated the interior living space into its natural surroundings.
13. Unity Temple (1904) -Oak Park, Illinois
When Oak Park’s Unitarian Church burned down in 1905 Wright sought the commission to replace it. What he came up with according to the church website “broke nearly every existing rule and convention for American and European religious architecture.” There were few things Wright liked more than breaking rules in his work and life. It looks fortress-like from the outside but inside the space soars with geometric patterns and stained glass in earth tones to denote again the connection to nature. It was there Wright said that he realized that a building’s space was more important than its walls. It has been a national Historic Site since 1971. It was also, as the AIA declares, the “first significant American architectural statement in poured concrete.” The Church’s trustees thanked the architect by resolving that “We believe the building will long endure as a monument to his artistic genius and that, so long as it endures, it will stand forth as a masterpiece of art and architecture.”
12. S.C. Johnson Administration Building (1936) -Racine, Wisconsin
Thirty years after his Unity Church triumphant exercise in design and space, Wright ventured to his home state of Wisconsin to create what has been called one of Wright’s most “astonishing” spaces, the S.C. Johnson Administration Building. Yes as in Johnson’s Wax. The family owned company’s ambitious leader S.C Johnson sought out Wright in the midst of the Great Depression because, he explained, “I wanted to build the best office building in the world, and the only way to do that was to get the greatest architect in the world.” Wright had an uncanny knack to design places that look like sets from Star Date 2317.9 on Star Trek. The Great Workroom features 43 miles of Pyrex glass tubing, so-called birdcage elevators. The “lily pad” columns are 18 ½ feet wide at the top and just 9 inched at the bottom but still incredibly durable. Wright also designed dozens of pieces of furniture.
11. S.C. Johnson Research Tower (1944) -Racine, Wisconsin
In the same vein a few years later, another Johnson wanted a research facility that looked as cutting edge outside, as the research was inside. It was here that iconic consumer brands like Raid, Glade, Off! and Pledge were developed. The result was a structure about as far from the Prairie School as could be imagined. In his book on the project author Mark Hertzberg called it one of the most significant landmarks in modern architecture. “The fifteen-story skyscraper is the only existing example of Wright’s ambitious taproot design. Like limbs from a tree trunk, alternating square floors and round mezzanines branch out from the weight-bearing central core—a truly revolutionary idea at the time and an engineering marvel today.” No longer in use, it is open to the public, the labs inside restored as they would have appeared when it opened in 1950.Wright did build a Prairie style home for the Johnsons called Wingspread which was said to be the “epitome of organic architecture” which is now a conference center.
10. Unitarian Meeting House (1947) -Shorewood Hills, Wisconsin
The Church of Tomorrow was at first a country church, though now in a Madison suburb. This was a rare labor of love for Wright. His father was one of the group’s founders and he himself was an off and on member. When money ran short, he charged a modest fee and organized fund raising events. Parishioners hauled tons of stone from a nearby quarry. He accepted the commission at the age of 78 and would turn 84 by its completion. Again, the compact exterior hid the space inside and Wright returned to the relationship in his mind of the geometric and the spiritual. According to the AIA Wright believed that light and a “geometric type of space” allowed a structure “to achieve the sacred quality particular to worship.” And like the Unity Church in Oak Park, traditional religious form, spires and bells, were absent. At its dedication Wright declared that “This building is itself a form of prayer.”
9. Price Company Tower (1952) -Bartlesville, Oklahoma
With the exception of the Johnson Research Tower, Wright’s reputation rested on intricate, innovative low rise structures. By the mid twentieth century, with the country’s increasing urbanization, the action had moved to the art of the high-rise and Wright’s ego compelled him to follow the trend. Fortunately he found an equally ambitious and wealthy oil magnate with a bank account to match his ego named H.C. Price. The original commission was for office space in New York in the 1930’s after the sensational debuts of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. The Great Depression forced a long delay, but Wright finally took up the challenge late in life. Though a 19 story building could hardly be called a skyscraper in New York City, it certainly was in Bartlesville in 1956. The AIA praised the concept as having the “organic ideal of the tree. A tap-root foundation solidly anchors the building to its site, and cantilevered floors hang like branches from the structural core.” It can still be seen for miles on the Oklahoma prairie and is open to the public.
8. Beth Sholom Synagogue (1954) -Elkins Park, Pennsylvania
A late tour de force by an architect who was 86 when he accepted the commission struck by the Rabbi’s request to build “a new thing—the American spirit wedded to the ancient spirit of Israel.” Wright responded with a design laden with symbolism, a tent like structure in glass walls whose interior as the AIA says “allows the sanctuary to soar to a height of 100 feet without internal supports.” The peaked front represents Mount Sinai, the beige carpets are the sands the chosen people had to cross. It is almost more spectacular by night as interior light seems to make the glass walls glow with an otherworldly energy source. He wrote he wanted to make the “kind of building in which people, on entering it, will feel as if they were resting in the hands of God.” The formal opening and dedication of Beth Sholom (House of Peace) was held in the fall of 1959, five months after Wright died.
7. Frederick C. Robie House (1906) -Chicago, Illinois
The final seven structures on our list are the ones that also made the AIA’s Top 150 favorite pieces of architecture according to the public poll “America’s Favorite Architecture” conducted by The AIA and Harris Interactive. At #138 on their list is The Robie House, considered Wright’s masterpiece of the Prairie Style. The Institute notes how “Concealed steel beams create long, uninterrupted spaces that extend through windows onto porches and balconies, making walls disappear,” echoing his belief that spaces are more important than walls, and that more than a century before the locally sourced philosophy became a mantra of the creative class, Wright had invoked it as his. Even the wood he used was left in a natural state, unvarnished, unpainted. Its open space inside astonishes after viewing the squat and sturdy horizontal. The attention to detail in furniture, art, glass and windows is mind-boggling but manages to seem truly artistic rather than lavish.
6. Hollyhock House (1917) -Los Angeles, California
Number 131 on the Favorites List, built from 1919 to 1921, interior rooms connect to gardens with rooftop terraces affording spectacular views of the Hollywood Hills and Pacific Ocean. It was Wright’s first west coast project and he developed a style specific to the region that he called California Romanza, though from some angles it resembles a Mayan temple. The eclectic Wright admired the Mayan ‘mighty, primitive abstractions of man’s nature.” It was commissioned by oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, a pioneer in the realm of Avant garde theater, a fervent feminist and radical activist for social justice who knew Emma Goldman and was watched by the FBI for decades. Barnsdall and Wright bickered constantly so the full project was never finished. Barnsdall donated the house (said to be named for her favorite flower) to the city. The house was nearly turned into a sports center and fell into such disrepair it was nearly razed. Eventually it was become the artistic center that Barnsdall always wanted and is now open to the public.
5. V.C. Morris Gift Shop (1948) -San Francisco, California
Perhaps the smallest gem in the Wright firmament. The formidable looking exterior seems hardly appropriate for a retail space, yet something about its precision and detail beckons, especially the futuristic look of the lighting grilles beside the arch. The effect is created by losing every second brick and filling the space with back lighting. The dazzling interior features the stark contrast of black walnut furniture and the white reinforced concrete of the spiral ramp. It’s known for being the precursor to the grand design of the Guggenheim Museum of 1956. When the owner questioned the absence of storefront windows, Wright, imperiously replied, “We are not going to dump your beautiful merchandise on the street, but create an arch-tunnel of glass, into which the passers-by may look and be enticed. As they penetrate further into the entrance, seeing the shop inside with its spiral ramp and tables set with fine china and crystal, they will suddenly push open the door, and you’ve got them!”
4. Taliesin West (1937) -Scottsdale, Arizona
Ranked as 123rd on the Most Popular list, Taliesin West was Wright’s winter home and is now home to a school of architecture and the FLW Foundation. It is a national historic monument and is perhaps his greatest achievement in his beloved organic architecture as it seems to be not so much built onto the desert mountain landscape but rather to emerge from as part of it. The AIA praises it as “most dramatic assimilation of a building into a natural environment.” It’s named after his Wisconsin home (ta-LEE-son), the name of renowned 6th century Welsh Poet and translates as “Shining Brow.” Wright and his apprentices personally built and maintained this much beloved home, which Wright called “the top of the world.” It personifies the Wright creed that everything from the grandest design to the smallest detail were equally important parts of the organic whole. “It is quite impossible”, he said,” to consider the building as one thing, its furnishings another and its setting and environment still another,” he concluded. “The spirit in which these buildings are conceived sees all these together at work as one thing.”
3. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1956) -New York, New York
Not only at 74th on the Popular List, the iconic Guggenheim Museum is also one of nine Wright creations nominated for status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for “creating a new paradigm for the museum…the imagination, daring form, new construction techniques, and resonant symbolic shape.” A staggering masterpiece full of staggering masterpieces, and perhaps Wright’s best know work. The whirling dervish exterior is actually derived from the “ziggurat” motif of ancient Babylonian temple design from the 6th century BCE. The stubborn architect insisted on a location near central park to anchor it in nature. The Museum website calls the interior “a symphony of triangles, ovals, arcs, circles, and squares.” He even brought his cardinal rule of open space eschewing walls and compartments, his radical concept takes visitors straight to the top and then lets them wander down a spiral ramp sort of surfing the galleries on the way down to the floor of the spectacular rotunda. Once criticized for overshadowing the Guggenheims’ incredible collection of art.
2. Taliesin East (1911) -Spring Green, Wisconsin
The Wright family home after the Chicago years, and 30th most Popular. It has been described as the architect’s “autobiography in wood and stone.” It has a dour exterior but as usual the inside explodes with a celebration of space, light and integration with nature as the Wisconsin River Valley fills every window. There is a fascinating 3D HD tour of the house that is the next best thing to being there, the perfection, the astonishing look of “everything just so”, right down to the single horseshoe over one of the fireplaces. Local wood and stone somehow cohabit in harmony and balance with exotic statuary and huge Japanese prints. The thought suddenly occurs, “What is keeping this place up? The absence of walls and visible beams suggests an insight into Wright’s Byzantine thoughts, that is his tribute to the wide open spaces, the Frontier, which until the intrusion of the automobile defined the American psyche and its expression was a distinctly American style of architecture.
1. Fallingwater (1935) -Mill Run, Pennsylvania
The 39th Most Popular is audacious, outrageous genius, just like its creator. The Kaufmann’s were a wealthy Pittsburgh family whose department store was a huge success. They wanted a summer home on their patch of land 67 miles southwest of the city featuring their favorite view of the 30 ft. waterfall. They reach out to Wright who at his point was at the lowest point of his life, down and just about out. The Great Depression and Wright’s own erratic sometimes offensive behavior had left him without commissions, friends or money. Someone in his position might be expected to bend over backwards to please his life-saving client. But true to form, Wright shocked his patrons with a design that placed the home on top of the beloved falls whose view they were so looking forward to. It went the 1938 version of viral when unveiled as a magical place that appeared to be built on thin air jutting out over the falls. Wright said he wanted them to live with the falls, not just occasionally look at them. Deeply influenced by Japanese architecture while on a project in Tokyo, he was proud with the resulting harmonic coexistence of man and nature (although the risky design would lead to chronic problems requiring constant repair.) Wright seized his out of the blue chance at redemption and created his ultimate masterpiece, cementing his legacy as the greatest American architect of all time.
Chicago is a world-class city, home to great food, architecture, sports and music. One of Chicago’s finest attributes, however, is its wide selection of museums and other cultural institutions, among the best in the world. Museums are great places to learn about art, culture and history first-hand, and can often feel like you’re stepping back into time to experience the things that interest you most. Museums often have a reputation for being “boring”, but Chicago’s best offerings will keep you busy and engaged for days. Whether outer space, ocean life, indigenous cultures or fine art, Chicago’s museums have it all.
10. Children’s Museum
Hidden within one of Chicago’s most well known attractions, Navy Pier, is a lesser known gem of a museum: Chicago Children’s Museum. Ban the iPads and gaming devices and take the kids here for a day of imagination and exploration. There’s the tinkering lab, a giant workshop with all the building materials and tools needed to create whatever your kids dream up. Next stop is the dinosaur expedition exhibit, where your child’s inner paleontologist can get hands-on experience, digging for bones in a recreated dig site. For the younger tykes, try the treehouse trails exhibit, a forest-like setting where they can climb around and imagine they’re in the woods (minus the bug bites). Unlike most museums, the Children’s Museum is all hands-on, so please do touch!
9. Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Escape from the skyscrapers and hectic city for a day and check out Chicago’s Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Internationally recognized for its butterfly haven exhibit which boasts 75 different species and 1,000 total butterflies -the museum is the perfect way to learn about the region’s natural history. Located in one of Chicago’s hottest neighborhoods, Lincoln Park; this museum operates as a hands-on learning center and a conservatory, collecting and documenting thousands of insects, plants and other life. Aside from the center attraction; the butterfly haven, other highlights include an interactive exhibit about bees and a 1/3 of a mile outdoor nature trail. Admission is relatively cheap at $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, and free for children under 3. So if you’re looking for a refuge from the city life, stop here for a peak into what life used to look like, in a time before museums like this even existed!
8. Illinois Holocaust Museum
Number eight on this list is not located in downtown Chicago, but in a city just outside, Skokie. It’s easy to get to if you’re staying in the city, and equally as easy if you’re in the suburbs. It’s also a must visit if you’ll be in the area. Holocaust museums can be depressing affairs, you certainly won’t be joyously snapping photos, but this one is beautifully built and designed, and that alone is worth your time. The architecture of the building alone warrants a visit, it’s light and dark sides symbolizing the darkness of the Holocaust and the hope that came with its end. The Skokie area has distinct ties to the event-outside of Israel, Skokie had the largest amount of survivors per capita. The museum was founded in the late 1970’s, in response to neo-Nazis who threatened to march in Skokie.
7. Museum of Contemporary Art
This museum boasts a collection of 2,500 pieces of visual art, and exhibits that rotate every 6 months or so. Surrealist art, minimalist art, and conceptual art, some by world-renowned artists and others by Chicago area artists are among the works shown here. The Museum of Contemporary Art is located just off Michigan Avenue, a few blocks down from the Water Tower Place. Come with an open mind and be prepared for some seemingly bizarre pieces, as contemporary art can sometimes be quite experimental in both form and content. If you’re hungry for more than art, the museum has a great café that serves excellent food, cocktails and coffee.
6. Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
Chicago and its surrounding towns have a deep history of Native American settlement. Many city and street names are borrowed from native tribe names and languages. In Evanston, the northern neighbor of downtown Chicago, the Museum of the American Indian is one of the nation’s only centers dedicated to the culture and history of the country’s original inhabitants. Permanent exhibits include a replica wigwam (a tee pee like shelter) and a tour through America’s five geographic regions and the native cultures that thrived there; the woodlands, the plains, the Southwest, the Northwest coast and the Arctic. Admission is $5, and the museum is small enough to cover in no more than a few hours. Afterwards, head over to the Northwestern campus or grab a bite to eat at one of Evanston’s trendy restaurants and cafes.
5. Adler Planetarium
Founded by Chicago businessman Max Adler in 1930, the Adler Planetarium is one of the world’s only museum and research facility dedicated to astrophysics and astronomy. The planetarium is located on the museum campus, also home to the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry (keep reading for more on these!) and features domed theaters and a variety of space related shows and exhibits. Cosmic Wonder takes viewers through an immersive experience that chronicles the story of time from the beginning of the cosmos to the elements that led to the formation of planet Earth. Explore the solar system and beyond without leaving Chicago at the Adler Planetarium. Other highlights include hands-on activities, thrilling live shows and a design lab. Adler was the first planetarium in America!
4. Museum of Science and Industry
Offering exactly the kind of content you’d guess based on its name, this museum, also located on Chicago’s museum campus, is dedicated to the discoveries and wonder of science and the might of industry. You’ll find interactive exhibits on robots, whales, trains and the future of energy. There’s even a spot that details the science behind storms. Did we hear you say bicycles are your thing? There’s an exhibit on those too. The Museum of Science and Industry is the kind of place to satisfy any curiosities. It’s the kind of museum you could lose track of time in, and stay from opening to closing. There are so many things to do and see, you might need to block out two whole days of your schedule for it. General entry is $18 for adults and $11 for children, but the Explorer packages will grant you admission to all that the museum has to offer (which is a lot). The uptick in price for those is well worth it.
3. Shedd Aquarium
The Shedd Aquarium is a perfect place to escape the heat in the summertime and cool off while learning about marine life. There are 32,000 animals to see (and some to touch) and exhibits with different ecological themes: Amazon Rising, Caribbean Reef, Waters of the World and many more. You’ll see beluga whales, octopus, jellyfish, penguins, sharks and more. The aquatic show is a must see attraction, where beluga whales, dolphins and sea lions interact with the trainers and splash the audience. As an added plus, the Shedd hosts Jazzin’ at the Shedd every Wednesday during the summer. Enjoy live jazz, cocktails and fireworks on the deck overlooking Lake Michigan.
2. Art Institute of Chicago
Voted the #1 museum in the world in 2014 by Trip Advisor, Chicago’s Art Institute is city’s premier home for the finest art form around the world. The Institute’s collection of pieces ranges from Ancient & Byzantine and Asian, to American and European. Exhibitions cover either a specific artist’s work or a specific theme, such as an exhibition celebrating the art of puppetry, or one that displays the sculptures of Charles Ray. Two bronze lion statues flank the museum’s front entrance on Michigan Avenue, guarding the treasure within. The Modern Wing houses classics of Picasso, Matisse and Magritte, as well as design galleries featuring the works of Frank Lloyd Wright and other renowned architects. Opened in 2009, the Modern Wing makes the Art Institute the second largest museum in the country.
1. Field Museum of Natural History
For various reasons, The Field Museum takes the top spot as Chicago’s best museum. Its mix of culture, science and history, and variety make it hard to beat in terms of scale and quality. Permanent exhibitions include Sue, the largest and most complete T. Rex skeleton in the world, and the Hall of Jades, a 450 piece collection of China’s most revered stone. The Field Museum takes great pride in its conservation work as well, and visitors can peak through the glass to watch as scientists and conservationists work to preserve fossils and ancient artifacts. Spend hours slipping back in time and experiencing old cultures like ancient Egypt and New Zealand Maori culture. The Field Museum introduces ancient cultures and artifacts to new technologies to create Chicago’s top cultural institution.
There is a world of variety in what different belief systems find sacred, some have passages of rites, others have sites of worship or holy animals and without a doubt all have a list of defining principles to follow. Great thinkers have struggled with the definition of the truly sacred. But it should be safe to say that in the multicultural melting pot of the United States, there are places of impossible beauty that are undeniably sacred, no matter what your religious background is, these sites will instill a feeling of awe at being in the presence of a higher power. Whether man-made or a natural wonder, they can be considered sacred because of what history has unfolded there or simply the depth of faith their natural beauty displays.
10. Sakya Monastery -Seattle, Washington
Sakya, meaning “grey or pale earth”, is one of four major branches of Buddhism. The monastery was a Presbyterian Church from 1928 until converted in 1975. The name resonates with the original Sakya monastery now in China, built in the 13th century containing some of Tibet’s greatest art works. The saffron robes, beaming Buddhas and the gentle teachings give it an aura of peace. Its devotion to the preservation of Tibetan heritage and culture in the face of the overwhelming power of the Chinese government is striking. The Head Lama has reflected that “the changes in Tibet are an example of the true nature of human existence: all is impermanent, and everything changes” adding to the sense of being in the presence of a heavenly power far beyond anything a mere earthly superpower can muster.
9. Cahokia Mounds -St. Louis, Missouri
Over a millennium ago, Cahokia was a huge settlement cross the river from what is now St. Louis. With an estimated 40,000 people in and around it, it is believed by many to have been the largest city in the world at that time, certainly the biggest in North America before Columbus. The High Priest literally ruled over the center of Mississippian Native culture from Monk’s Mound (so named by Trappist monks centuries later) where the Sacred Fire burned. In shades of England’s Stonehenge Monk’s Mound and the burial site of the Ruler-Priest are aligned by the stars. In fact, a circle of wooden poles nicknamed Woodhenge was used as a solar calendar. There are dozens of mounds once used for ceremonies, burials, sacrifices and with them the tingling feeling that ancient spirits still roam over them.
8. Unity Temple -Chicago, Illinois
The renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built the Temple after the Unitarian Church of which he was a member was struck by lightning and reduced to ashes in 1905. Its replacement, too, appears to be an act of God, like no other church on the face of the earth with a complete absence of anything resembling tradition liturgical shapes and textures. Instead of soaring domes and gold leafed chapels there is a mesmerizing geometric precision. Wright saw it as a “democratic’ religious space for the worship of God and a “meeting place, in which to study man himself for his God’s sake.” Like a late Mozart symphony, it seems like a masterpiece that could only have been achieved with the help of the angels. Modern and unconventional it may be, but it still induces a powerful urge to fall on one’s knees in wonder. It is designated a National Historic Landmark and attracts visitors from around the world.
7. Crater Lake -Medford, Oregon
With a depth of 1,949 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest in the country and Top Ten worldwide. It is an underappreciated scenic gem with one-tenth the four plus million visitors the Grand Canyon gets. The Klamath nation still regards it as a sacred site, created long ago by a terrible battle between the Chiefs of the Above and Below Worlds that completely destroyed the mountain that stood there. Scientists believe that Mount Mazama imploded some 8,000 years ago after a series of cataclysmic eruptions to form a caldera or volcanic depression, which became the lake with an unforgettable shade of blue seen only here. New Age spiritual adherents believe that the lake is a major vortex site and the source of positive energy from the earth’s natural power grid.
6. The Islamic Center -Washington, D.C.
The mosque and cultural center has been ensconced on Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue in downtown D.C. since 1957. It was one of the earliest mosques in the country and for a time was the largest in the Western hemisphere. The interior is lush and imposing, recalling the legendary works of the great Ottoman architect Sinan, called the Muslim Michelangelo. In happy historical coincidence, it was in fact built by an Italian architect. There is something about great mosques that are piously humbling but artistically uplifting. It was there that President George W. Bush read the Koran just six days after the terrorist attack of 9/11: “In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule”. As the place the President of the United States reached out to a shaken Muslim community, invoking the words of the Prophet and the souls of the victims, in the name of peace, this must forever be a hallowed, sacred place.
5. Mount Shasta -Mt. Shasta, California
Part of the Cascade Range in northern California, Shasta is central to the Creation story for local Native Americans and remains a sacred place for them. They have lived there for 9,000 years and though their numbers have dwindled shockingly, descendants still conduct ceremonies in its honor. The towering extinct volcano, once an active part of the notorious Pacific Ring of Fire, stands over 14,000 feet. No other mountain on the continent has been ordained by so many groups with mystical significance. As with many Native American sacred sites, its spirituality has been adopted by contemporary belief systems. Buddhists built a monastery there with the belief that it is one of the Seven Sacred Mountains in the World. Many New Agers believe it to be a vortex emitting earth’s subterranean energy. More than a few believe it to be a refueling base for UFO’s. Some of it may seem sacrilegious, but in a way underline the beauty and power of a place whose beauty has been put here by a Creator for a higher purpose.
4. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary -Baltimore, Maryland
Maryland was founded as a safe haven for Catholics persecuted in England, but the pious Puritans took up the persecution in the New World to the point that in some places Catholics could be sentenced to death. It took 145 years after the Declaration of Independence to build this Cathedral in Baltimore, so when the Basilica opened its doors in 1821, it was a major landmark for the country. It is sublimely warm and welcoming inside. Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II have blessed it. He called it “the worldwide symbol of religious freedom”. In a sense it can be said that people died for this to be realized and so remains a moving testament to their faith and conviction in the face of intolerance.
3. Devil’s Tower -Crook County, Wyoming
It is as much as 70 million years old. A stunning geological formation, from a volcanic eruption, it has been shaped and scarred by a millennium of erosion. Known in contemporary culture from the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, some twenty Indian tribes have said to had close and sacred encounters with this natural beauty for thousands of years. It is also known as Bear Lodge and Bear tipi. There are many different legends of how it was created by the Great Spirit Legend. The crevices down its side are said to have been left by a bear sliding down in futility after his erstwhile victims found refuge on top. It was the first site declared a National Monument in 1906 and is still a place for Sun Dances, vision quests and other ceremonial customs. Its commanding presence juts out of the Black Hills looking down on its domain- does it have a supernatural power and in its mystery lies the questions by the grace of whom?
2. Touro Synagogue -Newport, Rhode Island
The English settled Jamestown in 1607 and the Puritans landed famously at Plymouth Rock in 1620. The first Jewish settlers found their way to New York in 1654 and to Newport Rhode Island in 1658, likely fleeing persecution (as their ancestors and descendants have) in the Caribbean. The community thrived and decided it was time for a synagogue in 1759, so they chose Peter Harrison, who was considered the colonies’ greatest architect of the 18th century. Its interior is exquisite like a small English palace. Intensely symbolic, it was built so that people inside face east to Jerusalem and the number 12 is a recurring theme honoring the Twelve Tribes of Israel. It too is a historic site, but moreover it is a symbol of the devotion of a tiny group who lit a torch of hope for their ill-treated people in the New World.
1. Bighorn Medicine Wheel -Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming
They are scarce, with only a hundred or so remaining set in starkly, spectacular, settings. medicine wheel’s are intensely spiritual, places that were made for worship. The Bighorn is the grandfather of all medicine wheels, though its 10,000 foot elevation makes it a daunting destination. Its intricate celestial significance is captivating. It’s a circle with 28 spokes, the number of days in the lunar calendar and a sacred number to many tribes. The spokes point to the rising and setting places of stars near and distant, the Sun at summer solstice, Rigel in Orion, and Sirius, the Dog Star (whose apogee in August gave rise to The Dog Days of summer) in Canis Major. Medicine wheels are the New World’s Stonehenge. Despite their name, they were not used for medical purposes. They should more appropriately be called ‘sacred hoops’ honoring the gods and seeking divine wisdom to guide them in every facet of tribal life.
The Midwest is known as the heartland of the country. Not only because of its location, but because of the values its citizens possess. With their stereotypical thoughtfulness and businesses that help hold down the fort – with “fort” being our country, that is – the Midwest is often seen as the glue that helps hold America together. They’re that important. And did we mention they have some pretty good food? With such a broad span across the nation and roots that stick where they land, the Midwest has become home to some incredible dishes. Whether you’ve visited or are considering a trip just so you can test out the flavors, here are some Midwestern resident faves:
6. Deep Dish Pizza
Hailing from Chicago, the largest town in the entire Midwest (and one of the largest cities in the nation), this pizza is as filling as it is delicious. And when they say deep, they mean it. The crust is enough to fill you up on its own, let alone with all the toppings of choice. Just don’t be alarmed when it comes out red, sauce is traditionally placed on top, rather than underneath the toppings. Stop along a street stand for a slice on the go (though, in all reality, you’ll need a knife and a fork … and multiple napkins), or seek out a local favorite sit-down stop. Just know that, for the best stops, you’ll likely be waiting more than an hour!
5. Family-Style Meals
Because they’re known for families – often big ones – the Midwest is home to the “family-style meal.” This means large servings in bowls or large containers. Where dishes are all brought out at once and folks serve themselves … just like you’d eat at home. This can be found at both sit-down and fast-food restaurants, and is often a better deal for your buck. Generally you can choose the number of eaters, and a few sides as well, that way you’re getting a side sample, but still have a pick of your family’s (or friends’) favorites. Casseroles and salads – lettuce or otherwise – are often popular choices.
4. Wisconsin Cheese
They’re known for it, you’ve heard of it, and thousands eat it every year. And for good reason. This state offers up their favorite dairy dishes in all types of flavors and consistencies, and it’s delicious. If you haven’t yet graced your taste buds with their masterpieces, it’s high time you give it a try. There are even dairy tours for newbies to test out! So much cheese, and so much flavor; if you’re so inclined, pack some crackers for your tasting pleasure.
3. Loose Meat Sandwich
Often known as a sloppy Joe, the Midwest takes this classic dish to a new level. Which is to say they take out the tomato sauce, but not the mess. Depending on who’s cooking, the meal can come with various seasoning and breads, though it’s generally served on a bun, hamburger style, and served with traditional burger fare. Like pickles and onions. Brave your version and eat with your hands, or go the safe route (so as to not lose any food) and stick to a fork instead.
2. Juneberry Pie
Dark in color and very blueberry-esque, the Juneberry is a Dakota classic. They’re produced in the summer – hence it’s “June” name – and call for some seriously delicious pies to be made. (Other pastries are created, though pies remain as the local favorite.) Traditional Juneberry crust is made with almond flavoring for a nutty contrast with each bite. The real stuff even calls for almond slices for added texture and garnish.
1. Cincinnati Chili
Chili is known in all regions with its respective differences, and in Cincinnati, that means noodles. Much like spaghetti, the chili is topped with a heavy helping of pasta. Chili flavors and add-ins vary from cook to cook, but are most often topped with a handful of cheddar cheese to help send the dish home. Personal favorites, such as jalapeno slices or sour cream, and oyster crackers are also welcome.
There are few things more American than baseball, and there’s little more enjoyable than staking out a spot in the bleachers to bask in the sun while the players get put through their paces. The key, though, is knowing which ballparks are the best for catching a game. It’s not just about which teams are leading their division. Consider which stadiums have the best sightlines to catch all the action, which offer up spectacular views of their surroundings, and which have unique amenities. We’ve considered all these points and come up with a list of the top 10 Major League Baseball stadiums to visit around the country:
10. Kauffman Stadium (Home of the Kansas City Royals)
Kauffman Stadium, just outside Kansas City, Missouri is actually one of the oldest in the major leagues, but you’d never guess it was built in 1973 just by looking. Extensive renovations completed in 2009 make this one of the best places to watch a game. Gaze into the outfield to watch the stadium’s signature feature, the magnificent fountains, and enjoy the feeling of being among some of the friendliest fans in the country. And while you’re in Kansas City, take a trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which charts the progress of the Negro Leagues and hosts a large collection of artifacts from the period.
9. T-Mobile Park (Home of the Seattle Mariners)
T-Mobile Park Park might have a chance to pull itself higher up the list if the Mariners ever manage to become relevant. But even without any hope of the team challenging in the American League West, Safeco Field remains a beautiful spot to catch a game, particularly on a summer’s evening. Grab a craft beer and a box of sushi, then angle your view toward the Puget Sound for one of Seattle’s gorgeous sunsets. If Seattle’s frequent rain makes this an impossibility, worry not: T-Mobile Park is one of just two stadiums in the world with a retractable roof, meaning you’ll stay dry no matter the weather.
8. Target Field (Home of the Minnesota Twins)
The Twins’ new home, located in downtown Minneapolis, is the newest ballpark in the United States. Even lovers of history won’t miss the crumbling concrete Metrodome, especially once they snuggle up to the fire pits in the left field and gaze out over the city skyline. The sightlines are clean and the stadium feels cozy, and because of Target Field’s location, fans can easily walk or take the light rail to the nearby station – especially important after the stadium installed the major leagues’ first self-serve beer stations.
7. Petco Park (Home of the San Diego Padres)
Take a stroll through San Diego’s Gaslamp District and you’ll be sure to stumble upon Petco Park. The Padres’ humble home suits the team – a quietly lovely stadium that doesn’t seek to overshadow its neighbors, instead of using its stucco façade to blend in. The sightlines are nearly perfect and it’s practically impossible to get stuck with a bad seat. Even sitting in the “Park in the Park” above the outfield isn’t a hardship, especially for just five dollars. Choose to sit in the bleachers instead, and you’ll have a beautiful view out over San Diego Bay and Balboa Park.
6. Fenway Park (Home of the Boston Red Sox)
If you’re a fan of any baseball team not named the Red Sox, you’re likely sick of fans in your hometown who’ve hopped on the Boston bandwagon after the team finally won another World Series title in 2004, but hanging out with the diehards at Fenway will give you a whole new appreciation for the team. The fans that routinely sell out the stadium are knowledgeable and devoted to their boys, and thanks to the closeness of the seats, you’ll quickly feel like one of them. The packed-together atmosphere is just part of the stadium’s charm, along with the hand-operated scoreboard and the Green Monster.
5. Busch Stadium (Home of the St. Louis Cardinals)
There are few things more quintessentially American than taking in a baseball game at Busch Stadium on a summer’s day. Named after Anheuser-Busch, headquartered in the city, you’ll certainly have a chance to down a few cold lagers. Even better though, is that you might get invited to a tailgate party happening before the game even starts. Then you’ll move into a packed stadium, filled with fans all proudly wearing red and take in the view of St. Louis Arch rising above the city skyline. Or you can even stay outside, watching the game from the sidewalk with other like-minded souls.
4. Camden Yards (Home of the Baltimore Orioles)
In 1992, Camden Yards forever changed the course of history. The Orioles moved out of Memorial Stadium, a multipurpose arena like so many others used by baseball teams at the time, and into their new retro-chic home. From the brick outside to the incorporation of the old B&O Warehouse in the right field to the regional food served on the concourses, Camden Yards was meant to glorify its locale. Other baseball teams followed suit, and almost every stadium built or renovated since the opening of Camden Yards gives a nod to this game-changing stadium.
3. PNC Park (Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates)
Do you want to be close to the baseball action? PNC Park is your best bet. This intimate stadium, opened in 2001, boasts that its highest seats are a mere 88 feet from the field, and it certainly has the best sightlines of any major league park. You’ll also get tremendous views of the Pittsburgh skyline’s distinctive architecture, and on game days the Roberto Clemente Bridge is closed to traffic so fans can walk along the Allegheny River to the game. Locals bring their boats and kayaks alongside the stadium, hoping a foul ball will splash into the water nearby.
2. Wrigley Field (Home of the Chicago Cubs)
For fans wanting the best old-school atmosphere, nothing beats a day game with the bleacher’s bums at Wrigley. The park opened in 1914, meaning it’s never seen a Cubs championship, but that doesn’t mean the fans have given up on their home team. Groups congregate on nearby rooftops to watch the games, while kids hope to catch a home run ball out on the sidewalk. The ivy on the outfield walls grows so thick that sometimes players lose a ball they’re chasing, while the enormous scoreboard remains hand-operated. Bypass the seats and put your own bum in the bleachers, where the wonder of Wrigley is best experienced.
1. AT&T Park (Home of the San Francisco Giants)
Was it this stadium opened in 2000, that led to the Giants capturing three World Series titles since moving in? Considering they didn’t manage even one championship in the 40 years spent at the drafty dungeon of Candlestick Park, this theory might not be too much of a stretch. Their new home is a gorgeous tribute to their city, from the kayaks waiting to fish balls out of McCovey Cove to the delicious local eats. The giant Coca-Cola bottle, complete with slides, and the enormous glove behind left field add whimsical touches, as does the foghorn that blares each time the Giants hit a home run.