Favorite Ride: Chicago, Illinois

May 9 2011 by Jason Fogelson
Comments (17)

iStock_000001501612XSmall.jpgI love a good ride through the countryside, a blast through the wide-open spaces that make America great.

But there's something to be said for the urban crawl. And one of the best places to ride, with some of the best destinations, is Chicago, Illinois.

Two things make Chicago a great riding destination: Architecture and Culture.

Chicago has arguably the best architecture of any city in the US, and much of it is visible from the seat of a motorcycle. Start with a ride along the famous Lake Shore Drive (US 41) for an overview of the city's skyline. Day or night, Lake Shore Drive is a beautiful ride, arcing along the shore of Lake Michigan. The lake is a constant presence in the city, with the best neighborhoods draped along its outline.

There are several "must-see" buildings in Chicago.

You can't miss the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower, completed 1973), the tallest building in North America. Park your bike in the building's garage, and take the elevator up to the Skydeck, 103 floors above the street. Explore the Ledge, a glass box that extends 4.3 feet outside the building -- I'll pass. Open 365 days a year, tickets for the Skydeck start at $11.00 for children, $17.50 for adults. 233 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606.

The Old Colony Building (completed 1894) was one of the first skyscrapers. Standing at the corner of South Dearborn Street and West Van Buren Street, the 17-story building made significant use of steel structure and glass. It was the tallest building in Chicago when it was built, and set off a design and building chase that led to bigger and sleeker skyscrapers popping up all over the city.

No architectural tour of the Chicago area would be complete without a visit to Oak Park, the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio. The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust runs tours of the properties, where the famous architect lived and worked during the formative years of his career. Just riding around Oak Park, with its high concentration of homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and his contemporaries, is an architecture buff's dream.

Chicago can also lay claim to one of the most vibrant theater scenes in the world. Chicago theater people like to argue that their actors, writers and directors are a breed apart, and the work seems to support their claim.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is top of the heap. The company incorporated as a non-profit in 1975, and boasts an ensemble of actors, writers and directors including Gary Sinese, John Malkovich, Terry Kinney, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts and Frank Galati. Works that have originated at Steppenwolf have won Tony Awards and Pulitzer Prizes, and measure up with the best the theater has to offer.

The Goodman Theatre is a premiere regional theater that has been producing and presenting great plays since 1925. The Goodman is more director and writer-driven than Steppenwolf (which is actor-driven), and is a more traditional venue than its chief rival. Great plays and great productions have originated at the Goodman, and innovative productions of classic plays grace every season.

The Second City has been the seat of improvisational comedy for 50 years. Many of America's brightest comedy lights have passed through its classrooms and performed on its stages, including Alan Arkin, Mike Nichols, Elaine May, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chris Farley, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carrell. The Second City almost always has a main show and a second show running, with scripted and improvised scenes interspersed to provide a unique experience at each performance.

The Field Museum was established in 1893, devoted to the "accumulation and dissemination of knowledge, and the preservation and exhibition of objects illustrating art, archaeology, science and history." There's almost always a fascinating special exhibit at the Field Museum, which sits on the shore of Lake Michigan near downtown. Plan to lose a day at the Field -- it's impossible to take in the whole place in one bite.

Speaking of bites, Chicago also excels in bikers' favorites like hot dogs and pizza. Don't be afraid of the deep dish! Embrace Chicago-style pizza, and you will be rewarded with delicious dough and sweet tomato sauce with gooey cheese. Just the fuel you need for your ride. A Chicago hot dog is served on a poppy seed bun, and topped with mustard, chopped onions, pickle relish, a pickle spear, peppers, tomato slices and celery salt. No ketchup, ever! Try one, you'll want two.

BEST WESTERN has 25 hotels in the greater Chicago area, including six BEST WESTERN PLUS properties. Why not plan a ride to the "City of the Big Shoulders" this summer?

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