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Chicago is an incredible city of museums, world-class restaurants, and endless shopping. While tourists visit these attractions regularly, Chicago also holds plenty of hidden gems that go unnoticed by most visitors.
Oakwood Beach features an eye-catching mermaid sculpture that has drawn the interest of both visitors and locals alike, while the International Museum of Surgical Science provides visitors with a deep insight into medical history in an elegant mansion setting. Singapore to Chicago flights are now available with Cathay Pacific.
The Secret Mermaid Sculpture
Chicago may be well known for its deep dish pizza and iconic skyline, but the Windy City boasts many lesser known hidden treasures that fly under the radar. From serene urban oases to avant garde performance spaces, Chicago offers something special for everyone; whether that be unique shopping experiences or unexpected scenic overlooks. These hidden gems will enhance any trip’s adventure!
One of Chicago’s most captivating hidden treasures is a stone amphibitress by Lake Michigan, crafted by four artists over nine days and nights in 1986 and left unnoticed until it was found during a shoreline revetment restoration project in 2000. Carved from rock, its serene smile belies her peaceful spirit. Now used as resting spot by weary joggers and fascinating subject for beach-going children alike. The mermaid went unnoticed until 2000 during shoreline revetment restoration project which revealed it.
Oakwood-41st Street Beach in Chicago now plays home to a permanent presence of Dianne Wassenich’s “Secret Mermaid,” who serves as an iconic photo opportunity and photo spot. However, visitors and locals must keep safety top of mind when visiting her; crowds can become congested quickly in this popular photo spot along the lakefront; there may also be undertows and rip currents present, so always heed warning flags and signs when visiting. Wassenich herself personifies her character by working to preserve and enhance natural beauty in her community by tending her flower gardens at The Price Center as well as being executive Director of San Marcos River Foundation.
If you want to avoid crowds, visit the Mermaid during weekdays or spring and autumn (autumn). Weekends tend to attract both locals and tourists; public transportation may become overcrowded; and finding her can be tricky at night in waters with strong undertows or rip currents.
Navy Pier is an iconic Chicago attraction, yet many don’t realize that it offers an incredible panoramic view of Chicago’s incredible skyline. Instead of waiting in line for souvenirs and photos, why not climb to the tower for breathtaking panoramic views at sunset instead? Plus you could make it an eventful night by dining and going to see a movie at Lincoln Square’s newly remodeled Davis Theater for dinner and movies – an excellent alternative to massive cineplexes downtown where after your movie you could spill into Carbon Arc Bar for drinks after your film!
The Palmer House
The Palmer House hotel stands as a testament to Chicago’s past and boasts one of the world’s greatest histories. First opened in 1871 and destroyed during the Great Fire of Chicago thirteen days later; hotel owner Potter Palmer immediately set about rebuilding it by taking out an enormous signature loan, becoming one of the finest hotels ever with electricity, telephones and fireproofing technology – one that remains one of Chicago’s premier landmarks today.
Hotel Palmer was a meeting point for Chicago’s wealthy elite and arts community, including Bertha Honore Palmer who amassed one of the largest impressionist painting collections outside France before she donated them to Art Institute of Chicago upon her death. Bertha decorated the hotel lavishly, adding frescos on its domed lobby ceiling that were painstakingly restored inch by inch by Lido Lippi – who also restored Sistine Chapel ceiling frescos!
Visitors included Oscar Wilde, Ulysses S. Grant, James Garfield, Grover Cleveland and William Jennings Bryan – as well as Mark Twain who delighted diners with his amusing anecdotes during dinner service at this landmark hotel in Chicago that played such a central role in its architecture and design.
Today, this grand hotel serves as the home for various dining and entertainment venues. Lockwood Restaurant provides garden fresh cuisine daily for brunch; while Potter’s provides an intimate yet lively venue where Lakeview burgers and cocktails can be enjoyed with drinks.
The historic Palmer House lobby, originally designed as a European drawing room, remains one of the world’s most elegant hotel lobbies. Famous entertainers including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Liberace have performed at this hotel over its history; other performers include Ella Fitzgerald, Maurice Chevalier and Lena Horne as well as numerous others. Conveniently situated near Loop business district offices, Art Institute of Chicago galleries and downtown theaters; visitors shouldn’t miss it while in Chicago!
The Art Institute of Chicago
As well as taking in iconic sights like The Bean and going on a Chicago river cruise, make sure your visit also takes in some lesser-known sites that reflect Chicago’s vibrant mix of history and modernity. These hidden gems highlight Chicago’s remarkable blend of history and innovation.
Since 1879, The Art Institute of Chicago has been one of the world’s preeminent museums and fine arts institutions. Committed to creating a future where art plays an essential role in society, its collection reflects both ambitions and tastes of its leaders, as well as evolving missions of the institute itself. Initial holdings included instructional objects-primarily casts of European sculpture-while later acquisitions became focused more heavily on masterpieces – reflecting their belief that civic museums should only feature exceptional works.
Today, the Museum holds an extensive collection of paintings, prints and drawings, decorative arts, photographs, textiles and arms and armor. Notable collections at the museum include 19th-century French painting and 20th-century American art collections from both periods; its fame extends well beyond its galleries as one of the world’s most visited museums; its Michigan Avenue building with two bronze lions is widely recognized around the world.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off may have made you aware of this ethereal painting from the museum’s Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection, unmatched anywhere else in the world, featuring works such as Vincent Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles and Self-portrait as well as Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat and more renowned works by Grant Wood, Edward Hopper Nighthawks, Mary Cassatt The Child’s Bath to name just a few works in this impressive collection.
Underneath the museum lies an amazing display created by Mrs. James Ward Thorne – commonly known by her married name Narcissa Niblack Thorne – featuring 68 miniature diorama rooms inspired by European and American interiors built at an incredible scale of one inch to a foot!
Since there’s so much to take in at The Art Institute, it is wise to plan your visit as though it were a military operation. Allow at least two hours for viewing must-sees and more time if art is your passion. Plus, this museum is great at providing seating so it makes a perfect place for people watching and taking your time exploring!
St. Ben’s Neighborhood
The North Side is an expansive neighborhood offering an eclectic variety of cultures and culinary offerings, from neighborhood restaurants and grocers to live music venues and kebab joints. Here are 16 eateries you shouldn’t miss in The North Side.
What to Eat
Situated at the heart of Roscoe Village is this charming bar with one of Chicago’s best patios for drinking and dining outdoors. Their menu boasts both vegetarian and vegan offerings so everyone can find something they enjoy here; their service is exceptional too!
River North may be known for its gangster history, but it also boasts some of the city’s most unique restaurants and bars. Locals regularly frequent this neighborhood – featuring dark cocktail lounges hidden behind Chinese takeout joints in Chinatown as well as dimly-lit steakhouses that have an old Hollywood charm.
Lincoln Square is known for its long history of immigration and luxury living. Home to Wrigley Field and boasting plenty of shopping and entertainment opportunities, Lincoln Square makes an excellent neighborhood choice for people who enjoy both independent shopping and delicious eating – featuring pizzerias, taquerias, Asian restaurants, German beer halls and much more!