CHICAGO — Compared to many cities its size, Chicago is considered new.
Guides and architects credit the famous fire that destroyed much of the heart and the near north side in 1871 with helping it to rebuild better. It took decades and continues to this day.
Much of the city was redesigned, attracting architects from all over the world. They planned it to be coming of age, looking toward the future.
Now the buildings, large parks and trails help not only to embrace the past, but continue to meet the future. Several areas of the city have more than one level of traffic and pedestrian walkways.
I recently had an opportunity to tour the city with my family. I had not visited it for at least 20 years. Along with more cautions to tourists from Uber and taxi drivers and waiters about being careful after dark and not going to certain parts, the biggest change was more skyscrapers.
Among the newest buildings are the Trump Tower and St. Regis Chicago, which are both impressive and unusual.
The Trump Tower is located where the Sun-Times building had been. It was designed in a way that makes it staggered, with various parts stopping at floors 16, 29 and 51 to “acknowledge neighboring buildings,” we were told.
The St. Regis Chicago was designed by a woman. As one gets closer to it, one can see that it’s curvy and includes two floors that are open toward the top to help with wind resistance. How steel and concrete can be curved and still function is beyond me.
One of the best pieces of advice my family and I received was to see Willis Tower by day and the John Hancock building at night.
The Willis Tower, which many older Chicagoans still call the Sears Tower, opened in 1974. While the World Trade Center in New York is 1,776 feet tall, we were told by a guide that the Willis Tower is taller as far as floors where you can walk — not spires. It is 110 stories and was the tallest building in the world for nearly 25 years.
The John Hancock Center is amazing because it is so unusual. While it is 100 stories tall and still mammoth, its distinctive shape and X braces that provide stability give it a unique look.
There are so many impressive buildings that it can be overwhelming. At times, I just wanted to stop and look up at everything, but it is too crowded with pedestrians.
While it would be easy to spend days in Chicago doing many things, examining the architecture and buildings is tough to beat for a Nebraska kid who grew up thinking 80-foot-tall legs on grain elevators were impressive.
If you go, make sure to purchase a “CityPASS,” which provides a tremendous savings to seeing some of the most impressive buildings, museums and art centers that Chicago offers.