Blown away by the Windy City

 Ever fancied spending a short break in Chicago? Well if you want to fly direct from Grand Cayman, Cayman Airways has a seasonal schedule to O’Hare International Airport, which runs from November through March.

The city, which is the former home of the 44th President of the United States, is awash with outstanding cultural institutions, parks and more.

So, whether you plan to jet away there for romance; a short family break or an extended shopping trip; Chicago has plenty to dazzle, delight and amuse –whatever your budget.

A smaller metropolis than, say, New York; Chicago nevertheless exudes a big city feel – an ideal short getaway destination – to relax, rev it up and play.

Iconic landmarks that are certainly well worth visiting, if for nothing else but bragging rights, are the Hancock Observatory; the Millennium Park and the Sears Tower Skydeck.

For a comprehensive guide to all the sightseeing opportunities the city offers, including seasonal festivals and hotel listings, visit Chicago’s official city guide (www.explorechicago.org/city/en.html).

For families
Families will love the city’s many indoor and outdoor attractions.

On most parents to do list, if you are taking along the youngsters, has to be the world famous Children’s Museum at Navy Pier with its interactive exhibits for toddlers up to 10 year olds and is a great place to while away an afternoon. Another must-do which, is fun and educational, is the Shedd Aquarium.

Check out their marine life and explore some of the treasures of the deep in the vast and fascinating aquatic centre. Continuing on the wildlife theme, do not miss the chance to get up close with the animals at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Another great place to take the kids is CoCo Key Water Resort. One of the city’s newest and at 65,000 sq ft. the largest of its water parks it is an indoor fun zone ideal for even the most sodden of Chicago days. Likewise Raging Waves at Chicagoland’s Family Waterpark is also a great family day out. With over a dozen rides with tempting names like the Crocodile Mile raft ride, the Platypus Plunge; the Cyclone and The Three sisters the entire family can find something that appeals.

And if you still have enough time and want to really blow them away then take them along to the Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey circus.

For couples
A couple’s trip to Chicago, depending on your ideas of what constitutes fun, could mean anything from taking in some of the sporting action that the Windy City is well-known for, to rocking out at a live concert or taking in a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Home to the Chicago Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and Cubs; grab some tickets and head off to a stadium in the city that has witnessed many epoch making games.

A city with so much going for it, visitors marvel at the beaches and parks that make Chicago one of the nation’s most upbeat leisure and recreation cities.

And if you have had your fill of walking then simply choose your tour and be guided through the obvious and more hidden gems by bus, trolley or boat.

Seadog speedboat cruises depart from Navy Pier and offer 30-minute Speedboat Lake and 75-minute River and Lake and Architecture tours. And if you really want to seal the deal then arrange a trip for the two of you on the Romance Spirit of Chicago dinner cruise: eat, drink, and dance while taking in the lights of the city.

Culture and history
Culture buffs have any number of art establishments to choose from. A firm favourite is the Art Institute of Chicago. With its top flight collections, encompassing the best in European and American work, it is well worth setting aside an entire morning or afternoon to do it justice. If your tastes run to the more avant garde and modern, take in the works and exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Immerse yourselves in the history of the city to understand its impact on the state of Illinois and indeed the nation. Popular sites include the home and studio of the internationally renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright; Union Station’s great hall, immortalised in so many photographs and films and Graceland Cemetery, final resting place of so many American luminaries.

Shop ‘til you drop
If mall hopping is your idea of heaven, indulge in some serious retail therapy by shopping with around 120 designer outlets to choose from. Stroll down Chicago’s well-known retail nexus the Magnificent Mile and drop by the Water Tower Place at 835 N. Michigan Avenue. This downtown shopping hub features over 100 stores and restaurants.

Another of the city’s popular shopping magnets is Chicago Place, an eight-storey retail centre anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue.

Restaurants, bars
Spoilt for choice, like all cities, Chicago has hundreds of restaurants and bars.

Lisa Arnett, nightlife producer for metromix.com, in Chicago, gives her round down of must-visit bars and trendy eateries:

The stock market-themed sports bar Bull & Bear (431 N. Wells St.), features six roomy booths with self-serve beer taps built right into the tables.

The Signature Room at the 95th (875 N. Michigan Ave), a cocktail lounge atop the John Hancock building, is a popular for sweeping skyline views of the city, and new kid on the block, Vertigo (2 W. Erie St.), is an indoor-outdoor lounge with a sophisticated retro feel on the top of the Dana Hotel.

Rick Bayless, the uber-popular chef behind Mexican restaurants Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, is getting a ton of buzz for his recently opened quick-serve restaurant Xoco (449 N. Clark St.). This is counter-service spot serves up crusty tortas and authentic Mexican hot chocolate.

And for Asian-with-a-twist cuisine with a side of scene, Sunda (110 W. Illinois St.), a steady favourite since opening early last year, is a popular stop for visiting celebrities.

For an easy, breezy getaway or business trip – Chicago, with its pizzazz and its world famous pizza, takes some beating. So, grab a slice of the Windy of City and enjoy!

Getting there
Cayman Airways offers direct four-hour flights to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport twice weekly on Wednesdays and Sundays (November through March). For up-to-date flight schedules and ticket prices, call the carrier on 949-1123 or visit caymans.com.

Fly to Chicago from Grand Cayman from April to October via a connecting flight from Miami or Tampa.

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