Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
Global Travel Risk Summit Europe, April 2023,
3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
Chicago may have only been founded in 1830 but today it is the US' third largest city, with a population of more than 2.7m, a vigorous city of world-class status, sitting on the edge of Lake Michigan.
The city is the official US entrant for the 2016 Olympic Games with a fine chance of success. Asia (Beijing) is set for 2008, Europe (London) 2012 and, in theory at any rate, The Americas for 2016. Whilst a Middle Eastern state could easily host the event from a technical point of view, the lack of spectators in Doha for the recent Asian Games reduced the atmosphere for most of the events.
ABTN paid a lightening visit to the city last week. Chicago in the spring offers blue skies and a temperate climate. Chicago in the winter is said to be cold and far from welcoming, and the same source says it is perhaps a little too hot in the peak summer months. The spring and autumn (fall) are the best for a leisure visitor to make the most of the many offerings to hand.
Chicago O”Hare may have lost the top spot as the world”s busiest airport (to Atlanta) but it is certainly a welcoming place. Everyone is smiles, even immigration and customs, easily the fastest experienced in recent times in the US. The Airport Transit System (ATS) is a quick, convenient and economical way to get between the three domestic terminals, the international terminal, long-term parking, and both the railway and bus stations. The airport is 17 miles from downtown, about 30 minutes when the traffic is flowing well.
Just to prove how friendly it is, the ”Chicago Greeter” is a voluntary organisation that supplies very knowledgeable guides for a two/four-hour visit to one of the many neighbourhoods and themed areas. A tour that is not in the official guidebook is ”The Untouchables”. This is something that, formally at least, Chicago does not want to be reminded about. Al Capone and the bootleggers of the 1920 prohibition era are literally dead as far as the modern city is concerned. Great fun though for a couple of hours and not arduous.
Arguably Chicago is the birthplace of modern building. Certainly the architecture is stunning, ranging from the art d”cor of the 1920s, the Sears Tower (1973), at 1,450ft (435m), tall dwarfing New York”s Empire State Building, to a proposed new colossus, a structure with (literally) a twist in it, reaching up more than 2,000ft. The probable name is the Fordham Spire, the Fordham Company supplying the finance.
Chicago never stops building. Perhaps the best way of seeing the skyline is to take a boat trip on Lake Michigan. What you observe is awe-inspiring, reminiscent of Boston or perhaps Hong Kong. Make sure your boat ride also takes in the Chicago River which winds its way under bridges and past the spectacular buildings of the last 100 years.
In recent times Chicago lured Boeing, transferring its headquarters from Seattle, its new building sitting by the riverside. It is a very Irish city too, as every year on St Patrick's, Day the river is dyed green!
ABTN always recommends a city tour ”hop-on hop-off” bus ride as a quick way of seeing a destination and getting to grips with what to take in for a more detailed exploration. For Chicago we suggest something different. Take a Segway PT (personal transportation).
And you may ask just what is a Segway? It is best described as a two-wheeled, electric powered, self-balancing transportation device. The name Segway is an Americanism for the Italian ”segue” (a smooth transition). Don”t be put off by the indemnity you have to sign, nor the crash helmet, or the 20-minute briefing.
One soon gets the hang of the device, leaning forward to go in that direction and backward for careful reversal. A twist on the handlebar takes you left or right. Maximum speed is six miles per hour but learners are limited to something less. A one-day city tour in a group costs $60, but your reporter limited himself to a 60-minute trip around Millennium Park, a fine combination of New York”s Central Park and London”s Hyde Park, and itself a part of the much larger Grant Park sitting by the waterside. Like most of central Chicago it”s flat too.
Find half a day at least to visit Chicago”s Museum of Science and Industry. To your scribe at any rate it seemed more attractive than Washington”s Smithsonian. Currently there is a Boeing 787 interior mock-up, especially produced for the Virgin Atlantic purchase announcement, and literally hanging from the roof in one of the halls is a former United Airlines Boeing 727.
If you thought that the aircraft on show were large, indoors of course, is U-505, a German submarine captured in the Atlantic. Train buffs can see the Silver Zephyr which in May 1934 raced from Denver to Chicago, just over 1,000 miles non-stop, at an average speed of 77.5 miles per hour (mph), reaching speeds of 112.5 mph. Travel time was just over 13 hours. The museum is not just for the boys (and girls with a transport interest). It is a real family place with plenty to interest the younger elements.
Chicago has its own theatre district and a vigorous night life, although we are not sure how the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament fits in. Still, the sword fights were great fun, if not the sort presumably, associated with Native Americans. For reasons we cannot fathom out, many of the Chicago museums and exhibitions are in a quasi-Roman style. As noted, the city was only created in 1830!
No problem with hotels, as all the major brands are represented at prices way under present New York levels. Taxis are also cheap and the CTA rail system is excellent, although now somewhat dated. Out of town, the Botanic Gardens is a must, but once again easily assessable by train. Maybe one week is not enough for a visit. Two days was pushing it a bit.