Travel by flight or motorcoach to Chicago, whose original name, Chikagu, means “Land of the Wild Onion” to the native Pottawattamie Indians. Chicago may be Frank Sinatra’s “kinda town,” but it’s also the Midwest’s largest metropolis. Its nickname, the Windy City, refers not to the weather but to the blustery politicians who made headlines here at the turn of the century. Upon arrival, meet your guide, who will accompany you throughout your stay. Have a walking tour of Chicago in the afternoon. On your walking tour, see this city’s most famous sights. Stroll along the Magnificent Mile, a browser’s paradise of boutiques and impressive department stores. View one of Chicago’s best-loved landmarks, the 1867 Water Tower, which along with its pumping station was the only public building to survive the Great Fire of 1871. When so much of it burned in the Great Fire, Chicago rebuilt itself with some of America’s most dazzling architecture - take a look around, you’ll be impressed. From Oak Street Beach, you’ll have a beautiful view of Lake Michigan, one of the area’s natural treasures. Thoughtful city planners who faced the challenge of redevelopment after the Great Fire preserved all 27 miles of Chicago’s shoreline as public property. In the evening, ascend the Sears Tower Observatory to its 103rd-story observatory and view the city’s sparkling lights from a height of 1,353 feet. This famous skyscraper shares local fame with the works of architectural giants like Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan and Mies van der Rohe.
An expert local guide leads a tour showcasing the sights of what was once the nation’s Second City. See the bustle of La Salle Street and the Financial Center, then follow Lake Shore Drive and the Lake Michigan shoreline to the Lincoln Park Conservatory, where 19 greenhouses shelter rare blooms. Continue on to Hyde Park, which in the 1950s became America’s first experiment in modern-day urban renewal; now, this neighborhood’s centerpiece is the Neo-Gothic campus of the University of Chicago, home of 18 Nobel Laureates in economics since the award was first given in 1969. You’ll also pass by Robie House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s poster Prairie-style home. Next, visit Chicago’s popular Shedd Aquarium. Its Oceanarium is the largest indoor marine mammal pavilion in the world and boasts an impressive population of dolphins, whales, sea otters, seals and penguins. Hundreds of fish shimmer in the entrancing 90,000-gallon coral reef exhibit-watch divers hand-feed them in this replicated natural setting. The Field Museum was originally founded as the Columbian Museum of Chicago to house the biological and anthropological collections assembled for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Renamed for its major benefactor Marshall Field in 1905, today the museum is part of a lakefront Museum Campus that includes the John G. Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium. Its exhibits focus on the natural sciences and cover a variety of topics such as diverse African environments, how species become endangered, secrets of Ancient Egypt and ceremonial life in China. This evening, take part in Chicago’s arts scene at a theater performance.
The Museum of Science and Industry is one of Chicago’s many treasures. Housed in the only building left from the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the museum has more than 2,000 interactive exhibits, including the fuselage of a Boeing 727 and the U-505, an authentic Nazi submarine. Descend underground into a replica of a Southern Illinois coal mine, or take a walk through a 16-foot model of a human heart. Learn how sound travels in the Whispering Gallery, one of the museum’s most beloved exhibits and one of its simplest. Stand in one spot in the oval-shaped gallery, and you can murmur to a person standing on the other side of the gallery - they’ll hear you loud and clear. Then discover the history behind some of Chicago’s best known buildings from a different perspective - from a boat along the Chicago River. Certified and licensed docents will explain how Chicago grew to one of America’s most important cities due to its location at the intersection of Lake Michigan and the river, while providing an overview of the architecture, urban planning, design and engineering of the Midwest’s most cosmopolitan area (Please note: The cruise is seasonal from April to October. Those traveling between November and March will participate in an architecture-themed walking tour instead.). Later, you’ll have free time to shop for souvenirs and enjoy the carnival - like atmosphere of Navy Pier. Extending one mile out into Lake Michigan, the historic Navy Pier was built in 1916 as an amusement park. After $200 million worth of recent renovations, it still remains a slice of pure Americana, with so much to do it could rival the attractions of Coney Island in its heyday. You might visit the shops, dine in the eateries, take a ride on the Ferris wheel, walk through a crystal garden complete with tropical vegetation, catch an Omnimax movie or board a sightseeing boat for a tour of the city by water. Tonight, travel to a place where chivalry still reigns. Experience the adventure and romance of the Middle Ages when you opt to attend a medieval dinner and tournament. After enjoying a decadent feast of royal proportions, witness a performance of horsemanship by expertly trained Andalusian stallions. Next, you’ll enjoy the medieval main event: the tournament of games. With the king and queen presiding, brave knights will battle each other with lances, maces, swords, alabardas and bolas - all for the affections of a fair maiden.
Considered by many to be one of the top museums in the United States, the Art Institute beckons even the casual art observer with its astounding collection. Students of pointillism will immediately recognize Seurat’s famous Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Other priceless works that call the Art Institute home include Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. In the afternoon, your tour guide assists with your departure via flight or motorcoach.