Chicago, aka ‘The Windy City’ -or- ‘Chi-Town’, is on Lake Michigan in the state of Illinois. Chicago is among the largest cities in the United States. In 2014, Chicago had 50.2 million international and domestic visitors among those, 11 million domestic business travelers alone.

The city is an international hub for finance, industry, technology, telecommunications, and transportation. Chicago was named the fourth most important business center in the world according to the MasterCard Worldwide Centers of Commerce Index.

Major sections of the city include the central business district, locally called ‘The Loop’, and the North, the South, and West Sides. The city of Chicago is also home to twelve Fortune Global 500 companies and seventeen Financial Times 500 companies.

Famed for its bold architecture and sculpture (a photo-op with the 110-ton metallic ‘bean’ is a must), the city is also renowned for its numerous museums, including the Art Institute and Shedd Aquarium.

Population

2.7 million

Airport & Transportation

Chicago is served by O’Hare International Airport, the busiest airport in the world when measured by aircraft traffic. The City of Chicago is the world headquarters for United Airlines, the world’s third largest airline.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) handles public transportation in the City of Chicago. Metra, the nation’s second-most used passenger regional rail network, operates an 11-line commuter rail service in the city of Chicago and throughout the suburbs. Amtrak long distance and commuter rail services originate from Union Station. Chicago is one of the largest hubs of passenger rail service in the nation.

Currency & Tipping

U.S. Dollar / Generally, tips vary between 15% to 20% or it may be a flat amount near the appropriate percent.

Time of Year to Visit

Spring and autumn are ideal seasons that are mild with low humidity. Winters are cold – the normal January high is just below freezing. Summers are hot and humid. The city can experience both extreme winter cold waves and summer heat waves that last for several consecutive days.

Hotels & Convention Center

Most conventions are held at McCormick Place, just south of Soldier Field. Comprising four state-of-the-art buildings, McCormick Place offers a combined total of 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space -nearly 1.3 million square feet on one level – making it the nation’s largest convention center!

3-star hotel rooms average $170 per night, 5-star hotels averaging $450.

The luxurious history and elegant feel of The Drake Hotel has been inspiring guests since 1920. The Drake Hotel has 20 meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 600 people with 8 meeting rooms featuring views of Lake Michigan – making up 33,500 square feet of event space.

Hyatt Regency Chicago has dedicated $168 million to a revamp and overhaul all aspects of the hotel and guest experience. Their large meeting space (more than 228,000 square feet) offers a variety of space options equipped with state-of-the-art technology.  American Craft Kitchen is friendly to the laptop wielding bunch and DaddyO’s Pub and Game Room is ideal for post-meeting debriefing and unwinding.

Local Culture

Upscale shopping is featured along the Magnificent Mile and State Street.

Chicago lays claim to a large number of regional specialties that reflect the city’s ethnic and working-class roots. Included among these are its nationally renowned deep-dish pizza and the loaded Chicago-style hot dog.

The River North Gallery District features the nation’s largest concentration of contemporary art galleries outside of New York City.

Renowned Chicago theater companies include the Goodman Theatre in the Loop; the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Victory Gardens Theater in Lincoln Park.

Historical Sights

Since its completion in 1991, the Harold Washington Library has appeared in Guinness World Records as the largest public library building in the world.

The historic Chicago Cultural Center (1897), originally serving as the Chicago Public Library, now houses the city’s Visitor Information Center, galleries and exhibit halls. The ceiling of its Preston Bradley Hall includes a 38-foot Tiffany glass dome.

Activities for Groups

Atop the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, Skydeck Chicago is a one-stop experience featuring museum quality interactive exhibits. Dare to stand out on the 103rd floor while enjoying 360 degree views spanning up to 50 miles and 4 states. The 1,353 feet straight down, with glass boxes extending out, provide never before seen views. Offered on-site are multi-language audio-visual tours, a separate group entrance and team building activities.

Festivals

Annual music festivals feature various popular acts, such as the alternative music mainstay, Lollapalooza, and the Labor Day weekend spectacular, the Chicago Jazz Festival. The oldest of Chicago’s free (!) music festivals, the Chicago Jazz Festival brings jazz music to several stages in downtown’s beautiful Millennium Park.

The lakefront festival, Taste of Chicago, highlights chefs combined with entertainment for all ages and several thousand tasting servings of favorite Chicago bites. Taste (as it’s known to the locals) highlights the booming restaurant scene and culinary experts are showcased at daily cooking exhibits.