February 1, 2019

Chicago: City by the lake

To really experience the breadth of what Chicago has to offer, you'll need to step outside the convention center and explore.

By DC Velocity Staff

Located by stunning Lake Michigan and rich in inspiring architecture, Chicago is more than just another big city. Besides its striking downtown area, which includes some of the tallest buildings in the world, Chicago has a distinctive coastline, hundreds of vibrant parks, and 77 unique neighborhoods. And Chicago's appeal isn't limited to its cityscape. The city is also renowned for its music, restaurants and award-winning chefs, theater, museums, and galleries. That unique mix of architectural and cultural attractions draws millions of visitors from all over the planet each year.

In fact, Chicago is such a popular destination that it was named the nation's #1 big-city travel destination in Condé Nast Traveler's 2018 Readers' Choice Awards. There's so much to do in Chicago, you could stay forever and never see it all.

Most of your time at ProMat will be spent at McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America with 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space. However, to really experience the breadth of what Chicago has to offer, you'll need to step outside the convention center and explore.

Consider taking a self-guided tour during your free time. One place to begin is along the Chicago Riverwalk. This past fall, the city welcomed Art on theMART, a first-of-itskind permanent digital art installation, projected across 2.5 acres of theMART's exterior river façade. Projections are displayed for approximately two hours a night, five days a week (Wednesday through Sunday), from March through December.

Just north of the Riverwalk is the Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue, a neo-Gothic structure built in 1925 that serves as a gateway to the Magnificent Mile, known as Chicago's epicenter of commerce. Across from the Tribune Tower is the Wrigley Building, an iconic Chicago visual from the 1920s modeled after the Gothic-style Seville Cathedral in Spain. Farther down Michigan Avenue is the historic Water Tower, one of the few buildings to remain standing after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, a dazzling relic of the city's architectural roots. Keep walking to see the John Hancock Center, a 100-story skyscraper that houses the 360 Chicago observatory on the 94th floor.

In the center of the city, stroll through scenic Millennium Park, home to the five-acre Lurie Garden and rotating public art installations, most notably "Cloud Gate," a polished stainless steel sculpture nicknamed "The Bean" because of its shape. Adjacent to Millennium Park are Maggie Daley Park (and its massive rock climbing walls) and Grant Park, a 319-acre landscape often referred to as Chicago's "front yard,"separating downtown from the Lake Michigan shoreline.

If the weather isn't conducive to outdoor activities, check out the dining, shopping, museums, and cityscape views at Navy Pier. You can even ride the Centennial Wheel, a fully enclosed and heated 15-story Ferris wheel modeled after the original Ferris wheel that was unveiled in Chicago during the World Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Chicago is well known for its history, but did you know the city plays an especially prominent role in the world of logistics and supply chain management? Founded at a site strategically located between the watersheds of the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, the city quickly blossomed as a center for moving goods—by canal, by rail, and later, by truck. The Illinois/Michigan Canal opened in 1848 and along with the railroads, helped the city rise to prominence in the cattle, hog, lumber, and wheat industries. Chicago is the birthplace of the first refrigerated railcar, the first steel railroad, and the first elevated railroad, known as the "L."

The city has also developed a reputation as a must-visit destination for diners. Chicago is one of only three cities in the United States to have its restaurants rated by the prestigious Michelin Guides. As one of the world's most sought-after dining destinations, Chicago boasts an incredible array of internationally recognized classics and highly regarded newcomers. One option for exploring the city's rich dining scene is to sign up for a food tour. Visit www.choosechicago.com to find a unique tour for you and your colleagues.


  • In 1779, Chicago's first permanent settler was Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, an African-American businessman from what is now Haiti. In du Sable's home, which he shared with his Native American wife, the first marriage in Chicago was performed, the first election was held, and the first court handed down justice.
  • The world's first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building, was built in Chicago in 1885. At 10 stories high, the building might not be considered terribly impressive today, but it represented a remarkable achievement at the time. Among other features, it was the first tall building to use structural steel in its frame.
  • The 1893 Columbian Exposition grounds were so strikingly attractive and popular that they launched the "City Beautiful" movement, which promoted the incorporation of parks, boulevards, and other green spaces into American urban planning.
  • In 1900, Chicago successfully completed a massive and highly innovative engineering project—reversing the flow of the Chicago River so that it emptied into the Mississippi River, instead of Lake Michigan. Each year, the Chicago River is dyed green to celebrate St. Patrick's Day; however, to celebrate the historic Chicago Cubs 2016 World Championship, the river was dyed blue for the first time.
  • Chicago's Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize. Brooks was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1950 for her volume Annie Allen.
  • The first televised U.S. presidential candidates' debate was broadcast from Chicago's CBS Studios on Sept. 26, 1960, between John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Richard Milhous Nixon.
  • Chicago native Sen. Carol Moseley Braun became the country's first female African-American U.S. senator in 1992.
  • The "Historic Route 66" begins in Chicago at Grant Park on Adams Street in front of the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • In 1931, Chicago's own Jane Addams, founder of the Hull House, became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The Hull House opened in 1889 to aid Chicago immigrants.
  • The term "jazz" was coined in Chicago in 1914. The city's native musicians included bandleader Benny Goodman and drummer Gene Krupa.