Traveling can be a whole lot more if we open ourselves into discovering not only its tourist’s attraction but also the story beyond every place we visit. Since every city has its own history, a historical background that has helped made a great impact with its present condition, travelling and learning at the same time can be a fun-filled activity. Read more “Istanbul: Then and Now”
Most of the people would rather take the boat right in front of them floating in the water, rather than creating adventures by finding other means of transportation to cross a certain sea. Read more “Tokyo – When Past, Present and Future Coincides”
There is always something new to explore and visit, may it be inside the country or outside. For a person who wants to travel deciding on where to go is not really a problem, but when to go is an entirely different thing especially when you have a job to consider and family to ask permission from. Now that you’re retiring you have all the time in the world to use and spend at your expense. But where to go is the next question.
Once known as the second largest city in the United States, Chicago dropped to third place during the 1980s as its population decreased by about 7.5%. Its name is derived from a French interpretation of the Native American word shikaakwa translated as “wild onion” or “wild garlic”. In 1871, just as Chicago was emerging as a major city, a great fire swept through the city causing 100,000 people homeless and damages amounting to millions of dollars. The city then underwent a rebuilding program using stones as replacement for wooden buildings and creating one of the first modern fire departments in America. It has been the seat of Cook County since 1931.
Filled with incomparable landmarks and rustic characteristics, the many facets of Chicago will definitely take your breath away.
World’s Fifth Busiest Airport
Almost all visitors enter the city through the O’Hare International, the city’s major airport and the fifth busiest in the world. It is located in the northwestern-most corner of Chicago, Illinois.
Its construction began in 1942 as a manufacturing plant for Douglas C-54s under the Douglas Company. The site took the name Orchard Field Airport but was renamed O’Hare International Airport in 1949 to honor Edward O’Hare, the U.S. Navy’s first flying ace and Medal of Honor recipient in World War II.
The airport offers different activities that will always keep its visitors busy while waiting for their trips; from art exhibits, bookstores and restaurants to arcades for the kids, boutiques, gift shops and history and aviation exhibits. The place also has an urban garden, an aeroponic garden that supplies fresh products to airport restaurants. It contains 26 plant towers as well as an exhibit that explains the importance of the system.
Chicago’s Front Door
From the airport, every visitor’s first stop is the Buckingham Fountain. Formally known as the Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain, it is considered as the city’s front door located in Grant Park, known as the city’s front yard.
The fountain was donated in 1927 by Kate Buckingham to honor her brother, Clarence Buckingham, and is said to be a representation of Lake Michigan. Each of the bronze seahorses that surround the fountain symbolizes the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana sculpted by Marcel F. Loyau. The design on the other hand is modeled after “Bassin de Latome” at the Palace of Versailles near Paris.
Measuring almost 300 feet in diameter, it is considered as one of the largest fountains in the world. It is best seen at night when the hourly 20 minute water display is accompanied with music and magnificently animated with computerized patterns of colored spotlights.
Another top tourist attraction that should not be missed by visitors is the Navy Pier, a large dock located along Lake Michigan near Streeterville. Originally known as Municipal Pier #2, it is one of the piers developed by Daniel Burnham in 1916. The other pier was never built.
The pier was built mainly as a receiving space for steamers as well as a site for shipping and entertainment. In 1927, in honor of the veterans of the World War it was renamed Navy Pier which turned out as a prophetic name as it was used as a naval training facility during the second World War.
The dominant features of the area are the Headhouse and Auditorium designed by Charles Summer Frost. The Headhouse is a brick and terra cotta building with two noticeable towers that holds huge liter tanks for the fire sprinkler system. At present it is the home of Chicago’s Children Museum. The Auditorium, also known as the Hall, has a magnificent grand ballroom with a high half-domed ceiling.
Other attractions are a Ferris wheel, musical carousel with 26 hand-painted animals, Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows that is used as an ice skating rink during winter and a theater during summer, the 7 storeys Shakespeare Theater, the navy Pier Aero balloon, miniature golf course, a funhouse maze, beer garden and an IMAX Theater.
Pamper yourself and see the city’s panoramic view on board the Navy Pier’s pleasure boats. The boats offer speedboat and water taxi rides, dinner cruises with dances and live entertainment along Lake Michigan ̶ an experience you won’t easily forget.
Considered by many locals as the city’s crowning glory, the Millennium Park offers state of the art facilities, unequalled public artworks and gardens to its visitors. Originally built to celebrate the millennium, it is bordered by Michigan Avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the east, Randolph street to the north and Monroe street to the south.
The centerpiece of the park is the Pritzker Pavilion, a bandshell designed by Frank Gehry. The outdoor concert area seats 4,000 with an additional room for 7,000 on the Great Lawn. It has a modern sound system that makes it a perfect venue for concerts and other events. The Harris Theater on the other hand is an indoor concert venue for a more intimate event such as ballets and chamber concerts.
Outdoor fanatics will also enjoy the Crown Fountain named after the Crown Family and designed by the Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. The fountain consists of a black granite reflecting pool placed between two 50-foot glass brick towers. The tower displays diverse Chicagoan faces spitting out water through their mouths in reference to the traditional use of gargoyles. Not far from the fountain is the 2.5 acre Lurie Garden featuring a 15 foot high “shoulder” hedge representing Carl Sandburg’s description of Chicago as the “City of the Big Shoulders”.
Complementing the Pritzker Pavilion is the BP Pedestrian Bridge that connects the Park with the Daley Bicentennial Plaza. The stainless steel panels that line the sides of the bridge blocks traffic sounds as it crosses the Columbus Avenue while the hardwood deck serves as easy access for visitors with disabilities. It is often referred to as the “Snake Bridge” due to its curving form. Another stainless steel structure that all architecture buffs will envy is the Cloud Gate, a bean-shaped artifact designed by Anish Kapoor. Inspired by liquid mercury, it is considered as one of the largest sculpture in the world. The 12-foot arch in the middle serves as a gate that entices visitors to admire their distorted reflection.
Visitors likewise shouldn’t miss the Millennium Monument where the Millennium fountain is found, the McCormick Tribune Plaza and Ice Rink and Chase Promenade.
Stadium and Arena
Chicago offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience to its sports inclined visitors. A game played and watched in the Soldier Field and the United Center will surely make its supporters shout out loud and jump at their seats.
Soldier Field, an American Football stadium, has been home of the National Football League’s Chicago Bears since 1971. It is the oldest and second smallest stadium in the NFL. Designed in a Greco-Roman architecture in 1919, it was first named as Municipal Grant Park Stadium changing only to Soldier Field on November 11, 1925. The field serves as a memorial to American soldiers who died during the wars.
Named after the United Airlines, the United Center, an indoor sports arena, is home to the Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League (NHL). On the east side of the arena are statues of Michael Jordan, known as “The Spirit”, Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita while on the north lays the statues of different players of the Blackhawks.
Hotel and Tower
Aside from the famous stadiums and arenas, hotels and towers also dominate the city’s landscape. Two of the popular structures are the Water Tower, located at the center of the Magnificent Mile, and the Trump International Hotel located in downtown Chicago.
Built in 1869 using big limestone blocks, The Water Tower and the nearby pumping station were the two buildings that survived the 1781 Great Chicago Fire which swept the city to the ground. Designed by William W. Boyington, its neo-gothic towers are often mistaken as a small European castle rather than a water tower.
Constructed mainly for the purpose of providing clean water to the city, it was chosen by the American Water Works Association to be the first American Water landmark and has become one of the most iconic historical attractions of the city symbolizing Chicago’s resilience.
Going downtown, the Trump International Hotel or Trump Hotel is a skyscraper condo-hotel named after the billionaire real estate developer Donald Trump. In 2009, it became the second tallest building in the western hemisphere after the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower. It surpassed the John Hancock Center with highest residence in the world until the completion of Burj Khalifa. As of November 2012 the Trump Hotel stands as the twelfth tallest building in the world.
The hotel includes a retail space, parking area, hotel and condominiums, restaurants and a 23,000 sq. foot spa named The Spa at Trump. The spa offers a gemstone-infused oil massages, a rob menu, hydrating masques, exfoliating salts and the Deluge Shower.
Save the best for last, so they say, because Chicago’s downtown is worth seeing especially when the night falls and the lights from the different buildings and street lamps illuminate the area. It is affectionately known as The Loop, derived from the cable car, particularly the two lines sharing a loop bounded by Madison, Wabash, State and Lake, intertwined in the central business district.
Surrounded on the west and north by the Chicago River, on the east by Lake Michigan and on the south by Roosevelt Road, it is the seat of Chicago and Cook County’s government as well as the city’s historic theater and shopping district. Notable buildings include the Home Insurance Building, considered as the first skyscraper but was demolished in 1931, Willis Tower, Chicago Board of Trade Building, National Historic Landmark and Aon Center, Chicago’s third tallest building.
Shopping destinations include the Loop Retail Historic District, Magnificent Mile, Marshall Field and Company Building and the original Sullivan Center Carson Pirie Scott. The Loop also presents outdoor sculptures such as Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Marc Chagall and Alexander Calder by Pablo Picasso. The Chicago River also adds to the area’s beauty as it provides entertainment and recreational activities.
The Loop also is the seat of cultural theaters such as the Art Institute of Chicago, The Goodman Theater, Civic Opera House Building, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the famous Chicago Theater located on North State Street.
The Chicago Theater, constructed in 1921, was originally known as the Balaban and Katz Chicago Theater. It is a seven storeys structure with a French Baroque interior influenced by the Second French Empire. The grand staircase is patterned after the grand stairs of the Paris Opera House that ascends to the balcony levels. The theater performs stage plays, magic shows, comedy, concerts and speeches every day.
Learn, Stay Put
When all things are said and done perhaps the best part in any trip to Chicago are its people. Well-disposed and candid, the locals have very high regard for their people especially to their courageous soldiers who fought and died in the wars. Learn to stay put, sit on a bench, talk to the locals of the city and you’ll learn how life is by the lake and how it should be lived.
As the saying goes “no man is an island” what more fun to visit a certain place and get to know their culture and spend your retirement days with people from other state. Create good memories in Chicago – the kind that even if years passed by every time you hear the word Chicago you’ll blurt out “Fun times”.
Had enough of old structures and buildings? Tired of visiting museums and historical places? Ever wanted to escape to someplace where you can walk in a glass floor, shop in a glass ceilinged structure, cruise in a beautiful luxury yacht and spend the night in a hotel just a few kilometers from a waterfall? Then now is your chance to visit Toronto, the capital city of Ontario, where modernity is at its best. With its iconic features mixed with contemporaneousness, no wonder a lot of people want to stay and spend their great escape in the city.
Being the most populated, Toronto is the largest city in Canada and is located in southern Ontario. Its history began in the 18th century when the British crown purchased the land from the Mississaugas of the New Credit; a Mississauga Ojibwa First Nation located near Brantford in south-central Ontario. The British established a settlement called the Town of York and made it the capital of Upper Canada. In 1834, it become a city and was renamed Toronto.
Although the city was damaged by fire in 1849 and 1904, over the years, it has risen into one of the world’s most diverse cities offering wide range of activities, spectacular sceneries and depicting progressive lifestyle. Sleek, mystifying and innovative. There’s always too much to say about Toronto but never enough words.
Great Shopping Destination
If shopping is what you’re looking for then Eaton Centre is the right place for you. Located at the heart of the city, it is a historical landmark originating from Timothy Eaton’s dream to change the Canadian retail industry. With more than 285 retailers, restaurants and services, it stands now as the third largest mall in Canada attracting approximately 50 million visitors annually.
Experience first class shopping that defines luxury living. The centre modeled after Milan, Italy’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, is composed of six floors with a glass domed ceiling. Its gleaming state-of-the-art building system, urban ambiance and excellent amenities is unequalled by any other shopping centre in downtown Toronto. One of the attractions inside the place is the Centre Court’s famous fountain and Michael Snow’s sculpture of Canada geese entitled “Flight Stop”.
Although Eaton Centre is a place unlike any other, there is still another shopping destination that visitors from every walk of life should not miss. Extending along Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West, Toronto’s Chinatown is said to be one of North America’s largest Chinese district.
The place is home to a diversity of Asian culture from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam and Thailand. Take a stroll in the streets lined with barbecued pork, duck, steamed buns and other exotic food. And get a chance to eat authentic Chinese cuisines at a cheap price in the different Chinese restaurants around the area.
Toronto’s second Chinatown is located in the Gerrard Street East between Broadview Avenue and Carlaw Avenue while the others are located in the suburbs.
Sophisticated Political Buildings
Aside from shopping destinations, two of the most notable buildings in Toronto are its political structures. Toronto City Hall and Legislative Building are different in many forms, while the former is modernist in architectural style, the latter on the other hand is in Richardsonian Romanesque style.
A symbol of power and a progressing city, Toronto City Hall’s unusual design, consisting of a short round building surrounded by two semi-circular tall buildings, was pictured by its architect, Viljo Revell, as an eye; the center building as the pupil and the two tall buildings as the upper and lower eyelids. Residence of Toronto affectionately calls it ‘the UFO’ or “the burrito’.
The Hall of Memories, a scale model of the city showing its different attractions and forthcoming renovations, are found on the first floor of the main building. Also “metropolis”, a unique mural fashioned from nails, made by David Partridge is found in the building. In front of the City Hall is the Nathan Philips Square filled with flower gardens and fountains during the summer.
Far more different than the City Hall, Toronto’s Legislative Building is the fifth home of Ontario’s provincial parliament. Situated in Queen’s park, near the University of Toronto, it houses the vice regal suite of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the Legislative Assembly and offices for members of the provincial parliament.
Roam the Legislative Building’s front yard adorned with statues of Queen Victoria, King George V, John A. Macdonald, the first prime minister of Canada, and John S. Macdonald.
Glistening Bodies of Water
If what you’re looking for is the pristine, blue bodies of water, Toronto also has one. The Humber Bay is where the Niagara Falls, the top tourist attraction to go to, is, as well as where the Humber Bay Arch Bridge lies.
With a total length of 139 meters, the Humber Bay Arch Bridge or the Gateway Bridge is a pedestrian and bicycle arch bridge built to protect the environmental integrity of the waterway. The bridge, with a foundation consisting of concrete-filled caissons which go down 98 feet below to the bedrock, was constructed with high-strength steel pipes, bent into twin arches that rise 70 feet above.
Interestingly, the bridge presents Masonic characteristics. On each of its four buttresses, hidden from the public, is a large metal inset portraying a serpent that is said to be a symbol in the ancient mystery religion associated in masonry. To the other side is Queen Elizabeth Way’s Monument, erected to commemorate the visit of the Queen and King George VI, who was a freemason, in Canada. The monument is said to be a large Masonic cult symbol.
While the Humber bay is located between Ontario Place on the east and Mimico Creek to the west, the Niagara Falls on the other hand serves as the international border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the U.S. state of New York.
Popular for its natural beauty and valuable source of hydroelectric power, Niagara Falls is a collective name for the three waterfalls namely; the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The Horseshoe Falls is the largest and lies in the Canadian side while the American Falls, separated by Goat Island, and the Bridal Veil Falls, the smallest, lies on the American side.
Tour the fall on board the Maid of the Mist boat cruise and witness the beauty of the Niagara Falls from the best possible view. Get a chance to walk behind the falls in the Journey behind the fall tour. Visit the historic town on Niagara-on-the-lake and take a picture at the Niagara Falls Floral Clock.
In 1860, Charles Blondin, a French tightrope walker and acrobat, walked a tightrope across the Niagara Falls for the third time. Stopping midway, he cooked an omelet on a portable grill and asked a marksman from the Maid of the Mist boat to shoot a hole through his hat.
Heart of Toronto’s Waterfront
If you haven’t had enough of water, then your next stop is the Harbourfront, the heart of Toronto’s waterfront. Situated along the shores of Lake Ontario, the ten-acre centre offers limitless activities for its visitors. An excellent way to spend the day, from water related sights and activities to shopping and dining to the most elegant restaurants and shopping malls.
Visit and see the detailed production of sugar in the Redpath Sugar Museum located in the enormous Redpath Sugar Refinery. Be a musician in the Toronto Music Garden that represents the interpretation of Bach’s “First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello”. Witness the different modern dances and theater performances from around the world in the Premiere Dance Theater. Experience ice skating during the winter, at Canada’s largest artificially-cooled outdoor skating rink or ride a bicycle during the summer, at the Martin Goodman Trail.
Be a sports enthusiast at Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball team. Also known as the Sky dome, it has a retractable roof that allows playing games in all kinds of weather. If what you want is Hockey then visit the Air Canada Centre which hosts different games such as the Toronto Maple Leafs Homes games and the Toronto Raptors Basketball games. The arena also hosts Toronto’s large concerts.
Shop at the Queen’s Quay Terminal, a large shopping and condo development area located in a beautiful art deco warehouse. Dine and taste classic Canadian food in Sobey’s and Loblaws located inside the Queen’s Quay Terminal. Cruise in a private yacht in the Temptress Cruises. And spend the night in the Westin Harbour Castle and the Radisson Admiral Hotel offering indoor and outdoor pool, fitness centre, bars and restaurants.
The place is also buzzing with concerts and festivals during the summer.
If you’re someone who’s afraid of heights or any elevated places now is your time to conquer your fears. Known as the world’s fifth tallest free standing structure, the CN Tower is the envy of all architects from every part of the world. Literally the highlight of the city and possibly the highlight of every visitor’s journey to Toronto, CN Tower offers a breathtaking view as well an unforgettable experience to locals and tourists alike.
With a height of almost two thousand feet, it serves as a concrete observation, telecommunication and attraction site in downtown Toronto. It held the title for the world’s tallest free-standing structure and world’s tallest tower for 34 years until the completion of Burj Khalifa and Canton Tower in 2010. Its name CN stands for Canadian National, the railway company that built the tower. In 1995, it was declared one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The Tower has basically three attractions; the sky pod, the glass floor and the lookout level. The glass floor is one of the visitors’ favorites. Here tourists can literally walk in a floor made up of more than 2 tons of glass. With the height of one thousand feet, you can see all the way down to street level. The lookout level, contains the IMAX, two flight stimulators, night club and a revolving restaurant. The last and the highest is the Sky Pod formerly known as the Space Deck, from here visitors can see all the way to the city of Rochester across Lake Ontario in the United Sates, the mist rising from the Niagara Falls and the shores of Lake Simcoe.
The CN Tower also shows a 15-minute documentary about the building entitled “To the Top”.
Another must-try for tourists and the best mode of transportation for locals is the Toronto Subway and RT. Operated by the Toronto Transit Commission, it is a rapid transit system consisting of an underground and elevated railway lines. The subway was Canada’s first completed subway system and up until today has expanded to become the country’s largest and busiest rapid transit rail network.
Not only is the subway a mode of transportation, it has also become a hidden art gallery. One of the art pieces found in the College Station is Charles Pachter’s “Hockey Knights in Canada”. In Yorkdale Station, a sculpture called “Arc-en-Ciel”, French for “Rainbow” is found but was now removed. At Bayview Station, “Trompe-l’œil”, depicting shadows of common objects such as apples and ladder,s are screened to the walls. In Museum Station, columns that resemble Osiris, First Nations house posts, Doric columns found in the Parthenon, China’s Forbidden City columns and Toltec warriors dominate the area.
When all the great things in life such as work, school and other activities become a burden to the point that you can’t find the fun in it or you have forgotten the reasons why you’re even interested in doing those things, then it’s just fine to escape, even for just a while. Be away; go to a place far more different from your usual surroundings. Have a day-off, relax and enjoy other things aside from your routinely activities.
Find new things that may interest you. But, when you’ve rested enough and have energized your boring life again, don’t ever forget to go back because at the end of the day the things that make your life difficult are the things you’ll miss the most.
Go find your great escape, just a little piece of advice: if what you’re looking for is a place for the brave hearted a place where you can appreciate and use your architectural prowess, and a place where you can be in touch with modernity then I know where exactly it is. I triple dare you to go find your great escape in Canada, in the province of Ontario, in the city of Toronto.
There are cities that are meant to be seen during the day, when you can observe the towering turrets of castles and churches from afar, walk along the historical streets while talking to fellow tourists, and dine at expensive restaurants.