The days of gangsters and bootleg booze are long since gone, with a phenomenal live music scene keeping the city’s pulse going these days. The bustling downtown financial district, the Loop, has little for visitors and is best skipped for the city’s premier shopping strip, known as the Magnificent Mile. Chicago’s real charm however can be found in the myriad ethnic neighborhoods that lie in between the Loop and suburbia.

Chicago’s main highbrow attractions are concentrated in the downtown area, making it convenient to see a lot in a short period of time. Lake Michigan makes up the eastern flank of the city, and a cruise along the Chicago River is a great way to soak up the zest of this welcoming city.

Chicago attractions

Sears Tower: dominating the skyline is this 110-story status symbol, once the tallest structure in the world.

Art Institute of Chicago: you could spend days exploring this world-class museum and its renowned collection of Impressionist, European and American contemporary art.

Field Museum of Natural History: nine acres of floor space means there’s a daunting amount of amazing artifacts to check out, but you’ll have a hard time missing Sue, the world’s most complete T-Rex skeleton.

John G Shedd Aquarium: the world’s largest indoor aquarium is a real treasure, offering a truly comprehensive look at the world’s watery environment.

Lincoln Park Zoo: free and absolutely beautiful, this combination botanical Eden and wildlife habitat is one of Chicago’s big draws.

Museum of Science and Industry: don’t let the name fool you; this high-tech center is the mother of all interactive exhibit museums, with 2,000 fun and fascinating things to see.

Six Flags Great America: one of Midwest America’s largest theme parks, its collection of famous roller coasters and nearly 100 fun rides will get your heart beating faster.