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With the re-introduction of our seasonal route to Chicago, we're celebrating all the Windy City has to offer. Here are just three (big) reasons to visit:
As the birthplace of the skyscraper, Chicago's famous skyline is a big draw for architecture fans. Many of America's most influential architects built in Chicago, including Mies Van Der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Burnham, John Root and Louis Sullivan and the city is home to many of the world’s tallest buildings. Devotees will want to head straight for the area known as The Loop. Here you'll experience what happens when town planners give architects real freedom to express themselves.
As for our own particular favourites, Helmut Jahn’s post-modern James R. Thompson Center is an absolute must-see. The 17-storey glass structure on 100 W. Randolph Street serves as an office building but looks like a spaceship, and Jean Dubuffet's stunning sculpture out front is well worth a close look too. Our other most beloved building is Jean Gang's first ever skyscraper (we're sure it won't be her last) the Aqua Tower on North Columbus Drive, which stands out from its fellow giants with its rippled exterior and green roof.
The Chicago Blues
Following the Great Migration north from the Mississippi plains, the Chicago Blues flourished in the 1950s, developing the use of rhythm sections and amplification. The distinctive sound forged by Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf and Willie Dixon has inspired generations of artists from The Stones and Beatles onwards. To this day, blues clubs provide much of Chicago's lifeblood; here are some of the best the city has to offer:
An inspiration to the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and countless others, Buddy Guy opened his own club, Legends over 20 years ago. The timely relocation of this blues institution to South Walbash Avenue finds its inaugural celebrations bookended by tasters for both the Chicago Blues Festival and Clapton's Crossroads Festival. The venue can accommodate 400 people on the main floor with more space on the second, where you can view the performances on large screens. Book early to avoid disappointment.
Kingston Mines is the largest and oldest authentic blues joint in the city, celebrating its 42nd anniversary this year. It has played host to some of the most famous artists in the world and is committed to preserving and promoting the art form. The club has won the Chicago Music Awards prize for best blues venue for 13 consecutive years, so expect the real deal.
Rosa's Lounge is owned by an Italian immigrant, who as a blues drummer felt the irresistible pull of Chicago 25 years ago. He named the club after his mother, who can be found behind the bar most evenings. The club hosts a variety of blues performers from traditional to modern and has a warm, friendly family-run feel.
Also known as the "Main Street of America" and "The Mother Road", Route 66 is the quintessential American road. If you're planning a long stay in the States, take the iconic 2,448-mile journey from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, finishing in Los Angeles.
If you're adventurous, simply download a map from www.historic66.com, pick your weapon (an RV, a classic American convertible or even a Harley) and you're ready for the roadtrip of a lifetime. If you like things a little more organised, you can’t beat Virgin Holidays' 16-day flydrive tour, or alternatively the 5-night Taste of Route 66 tour is a great option for those strapped for time. Whichever way you choose to travel, we're sure you'll get your kicks…
Are you planning a trip or have you recently been to Chicago? Have you ever driven Route 66? If so, and you have any tips and suggestions to share, please leave them in the comments below.
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