Chicago (i/ʃɪˈkɑːɡoʊ/ or /ʃɪˈkɔːɡoʊ/) is the third most populous city in the United States, after New York City and Los Angeles. With 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in both the U.S. state of Illinois and the American Midwest. Its metropolitan area, sometimes called Chicagoland, is home to 9.5 million people and is the third-largest in the United States. Chicago is the seat of Cook County, although a small part of the city extends into DuPage County.
In 1673, the first Europeans reached the land that is now Chicago. With the help of local Native Americans, Louis Joliet, a Canadian explorer, and Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit born in France, discovered the area together.
No one knows what sparked the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which started in Patrick O’Leary’s cow barn. Flames ravaged the city, destroying 17,450 buildings. Within six weeks, the people of the city had already commenced rebuilding 300 buildings.
One famous Chicago landmark is Buckingham Fountain. Built in 1927, it is one of the world’s largest fountains, and holds 1.5 million gallons of water. The four seahorses on the fountain symbolize the four states that touch Lake Michigan: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. Every 20 minutes, the fountain shoots a jet of water 150 feet into the air, and at dusk the display features lights and music.
The Sears Tower is 1,400 feet tall and has 110 stories. If you take the Sears Tower Sky Deck, you’ll ride the “Elevator to the Stars” and land on the 1353-foot high Sky Deck. From your view on the 103rd floor, you can see four states!
The first ferris wheel in the world premiered in Chicago at the 1893 Columbian Exposition, held to celebrate 400 years since Columbus discovered America. The wheel was 250 feet in diameter, and had a 45-ton axle. Dubbed “The World’s Greatest Ride,” the ferris wheel was reused in 1904 at the St. Louis Worlds Fair, and then promptly dynamited and sold for scrap metal.Frank Sinatra added to the immortality of the windy city in his lyrics, “…each time I roam, Chicago is calling me home, Chicago is one town that won’t let you down.”
Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837, near a portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed, and experienced rapid growth in the mid-nineteenth century. Today, the city is an international hub for finance, commerce, industry, technology, telecommunications, and transportation, with O’Hare International Airport being the second-busiest airport in the world; it also has the largest number of U.S. highways, and railroad frieght entering its region. In 2010, Chicago was listed as an alpha+ global city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, and ranks seventh in the world in the 2012 Global Cities Index. As of 2012, Chicago had the third largest gross metropolitan product in the United States, after the New York City and Los Angeles metropolitan areas, at a sum of US$571 billion.
In 2012, Chicago hosted 46.37 million international and domestic visitors, an overall visitation record. Chicago’s culture includes contributions to the visual arts, novels, film, theater, especially improvisational comedy, and music, particularly jazz, blues, soul, and the creation of house music. The city has many nicknames, which reflect the impressions and opinions about historical and contemporary Chicago. The best-known include the “Windy City” and “Second City.” Chicago has professional sports teams in each of the major professional leagues.
In 2012, Chicago attracted 34.07 million domestic leisure travelers, 10.92 million domestic business travelers and 1.369 million overseas visitors. These visitors contributed more than US$12.8 billion to Chicago’s economy. Upscale shopping along the Magnificent Mile and State Street, thousands of restaurants, as well as Chicago’s eminent architecture, continue to draw tourists. The city is the United States’ third-largest convention destination. A 2011 study by Walk Score ranked Chicago the fourth most walkable of fifty largest cities in the United States. Most conventions are held at McCormick Place, just south of Soldier Field. The historic Chicago Cultural Center (1897), originally serving as the Chicago Public Library, now houses the city’s Visitor Information Center, galleries and exhibit halls. The ceiling of its Preston Bradley Hall includes a 38-foot (12 m) Tiffany glass dome. Grant Park holds Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain (1927), and the Art Institute of Chicago. The park also hosts the annual Taste of Chicago festival. In Millennium Park, there is the reflective Cloud Gate sculpture. Cloud Gate, a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor, is the centerpiece of the AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park. Also, an outdoor restaurant transforms into an ice rink in the winter season. Two tall glass sculptures make up the Crown Fountain. The fountain’s two towers display visual effects from LED images of Chicagoans’ faces, along with water spouting from their lips. Frank Gehry’s detailed, stainless steel band shell, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, hosts the classical Grant Park Music Festival concert series. Behind the pavilion’s stage is the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, an indoor venue for mid-sized performing arts companies, including the Chicago Opera Theater and Music of the Baroque.
Navy Pier, located just east of Streeterville, is 3,000 ft (910 m) long and houses retail stores, restaurants, museums, exhibition halls and auditoriums. Its 150-foot (46 m) tall Ferris wheel is one of the most visited landmarks in the Midwest, attracting about 8 million people annually. Chicago was the first city in the world to ever erect a ferris wheel.
On June 4, 1998, the city officially opened the Museum Campus, a 10-acre (4.0 ha) lakefront park, surrounding three of the city’s main museums, each of which is of national importance: the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Shedd Aquarium. The Museum Campus joins the southern section of Grant Park, which includes the renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Buckingham Fountain anchors the downtown park along the lakefront. The University of Chicago Oriental Institute has an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern archaeological artifacts. Other museums and galleries in Chicago include the Chicago History Museum, the DuSable Museum of African American History, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the Polish Museum of America, the Museum of Broadcast Communications, the Pritzker Military Library, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and the Museum of Science and Industry.
In 2013, Chicago was chosen as one of the “Top Ten Cities in the United States” to visit for its restaurants, skyscrapers, museums, and waterfront, by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler.