Charlie Trotter’s on West Armitage is very expensive but also worth it: the epitome of New American gastronomy, punters are consistently dazzled by the freshness of the ingredients, the innovation of the daily changing menu, the exceptional wine cellar and the courteous and knowledgeable staff. It’s a touch over-formal but, after a few bottles, you’ll forget the stuffiness.
A tip: for the ultimate, sublime experience, get a reservation at the kitchen table. Also formal but utterly magical is TRU in Streeterville. A rather unique combination of gallery and eatery, this hip establishment houses two of Chicago’s most eminent chefs (Rick Tramanto and Gale Gand), sommelier Scott Tyree’s 1,400-bottle wine selection and an original Andy Warhol. From the moment you enter through the deliciously decadent black drapes, you’ll be stunned. Try the caviar, kobe beef and truffle-garnished scallops for a lasting memory. And don’t forget to wear a (louche) jacket.
Charlie Trotter's, 816 West Armitage Chicago, Illinois 60614 Tel: 773 248-6228
If you’re looking for food with a view, try The Signature Room at the John Hancock Centre. With better views than the building’s observation deck, this is Chicago’s brunch centre. The prices are reasonable and you’re guaranteed to wow your colleagues/clients. The service can be a little variable – it took the waitress 15 minutes to find me a fork – but the weekend live jazz more than makes up for the occasional shoddiness.
The Signature Room at the 95th® 875 N. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60611 Tel: 312.787.9596
For something completely different, try X/O in Boys Town. This ultra cool spot dishes a delightful variety of creative eclectic small plates – including tapas with a twist – and offers some of the city’s best cocktails. The champagne concoctions and martinis are as spectacular as the atmosphere – fuelled by a DJ with a Hoxton haircut at weekends. If you can, try to sit on the patio.
3441 N Halsted Street Chicago, IL 60613 Tel:(773) 348-9696
Fancy a boogie? Sound Bar and Enclave are your passes to the best late-night hedonism Chicago has to offer. The former has two levels and is invariably packed: downstairs plays hip-hop music and upstairs grooves to an unrelenting house beat. You can engineer your very own oasis of calm, though, by booking a table in the VIP room. The drinks are phenomenally cheap, you get waitress service and the chance to retreat if the music becomes too much or the people too raucous. Not the best club in the world, but a good laugh nonetheless. Altogether better is Enclave. This upscale location has undergone a full year of renovation: new floors, new (clean) bathrooms, new furnishings, impeccably styled bar areas, etc. And it’s been worth it. This is now the premier dance spot in Illinois, with beautiful people to match. Get a table in the circular, curtain-swathed VIP area and forget all about work.
If you’re looking for a post-dinner drink or two, the J Bar at The James is a good place to start. In harmony with the rest of the hotel, it’s sleek, sophisticated and very cool. The barmen fashion martinis with olive lollipops (so you can look like Kojak for the night) and the waiters provide appetizers from David Burke’s in-house restaurant. If you get there early enough, you might also get a seat on the attractive low-slung banquettes.
James Hotel55 East Ontario, Chicago, Illinois, 60611Website: jameshotels.com/chicago
Sears Tower remains the tallest building in the Western hemisphere and, as such, is worth a gander. Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears football team, is a local Mecca and if you can, catch a game while you’re there. Or, in the summer, Lake Michigan has to be destination numero uno: lie on the man made beach, play volleyball, swim or, if you’re into touristy attractions, hit Navy Pier and its 50 acres of parks, promenades, gardens, shops, eateries and more.
If you're in the mood for a bit of culture, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) is worth a visit. One of the largest facilities devoted to modern art in the US, the MCA offers exhibitions of (they claim) “the most thought-provoking art created since 1945”. The MCA documents contemporary visual culture through painting, sculpture, photography, video and film, and performance. It’s easy to get to, has a passable restaurant, a fab 300-seat theatre, and a terraced sculpture garden with a great view of Lake Michigan.
220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611 Tel: 312.280.2660Website: mcachicago.org
The Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue is a remarkable homage to consumerism. With four enormous malls and a host of favourite designers – from Gucci to Prada and Levi’s to Ralph Lauren – it’s the ultimate “one-stop-shop”: you can find the perfect birthday, anniversary or Christmas presents here. And there’s shopping outside the Mile, too – in the shape of some fabulous little specialist boutiques. Try Sam & Willy’s for everything a dog could want; or the H.I.M men’s clothing boutique; or Unique So Chique Tea & Chocolat for a glittering array of bath and body products, cards and stationery.
BMI fly direct to Chicago from Manchester. Don't forget regional airports when flying abroad - when you take into account heavier congestion around the London airports, it may prove to be quicker to fly from the regions.
The Art Institute of Chicago is well worth a visit. The arts are not usually my thing, but the collection here is very varied and packed with works from numerous well-known artists. As a relative novice when it comes to art appreciation, the audioguide proved a real boon for getting the most out of the visit. The building is light and airy, and situated in a wonderful spot on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Art Institute of Chicago111 South Michigan AvenueChicago+1 (312) 443-3600www.artic.eduNearest metro stations: Van Buren/Millennium
Make sure you catch a morning flight to Chicago - you'll arrive in time to catch an afternoon architecture tour of the city, by river boat. Chicago's the home of the skyscraper, and you get some awesome views of some of the world's first, and finest, tall buildings from the river. From Trump Tower to the Wrigley dynasty's HQ, you'll feel like you know the city a lot better at the end of the tour. The guides are great - typically friendly mid-Westerners keen to share their enthusiasm for one of the world's great cities.
RePOP is a treasure trove/vintage museum chock full of everything from mid-century modern furniture at cutting edge prices to marvelous curiosities like cast iron doll molds and retro figurine lamps.
Fabulous local artisan jewels line the walls as does the work of up and coming artists Ellie Balk and Dominic Albo. Before or after heading over to the much buzzed about Brooklyn Flea, located five blocks away, this well hidden boutique (with new merchandise arriving weekly) bears all the rarities and designer goods you ever needed to make your day of vintage/antique scavenging a success. Open six days a week and well worth the trip.
RePOP 68 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11205 www.repopny.com.
Located near the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Clinton Hill/Fort Greene. The nearest train is the G or C at Clinton/Washington.
I think the best American road trip book ever is John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley, a non-fiction book Steinbeck wrote in 1964 about his country-wide wanderings with his standard poodle Charley in his converted truck - not so much about the places as the people and always through Steinbeck's most excellent plain-spoken and plain-seeing lens. Many truths about American humanity therein...
Business centres provide temporary office space, and meeting rooms for rent in New York City.
I recommend it because the locations are great, you may book office space by the day, and meeting rooms by the hour, so it is very flexible in terms of time.
Great for business travellers looking to hold their conference in a business setting.
1040 Avenue of the Americas
New York NY 10018
Nearest Station: 42nd Street & Bryant Park, Times Square
A few miles outside Bishop, California on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas, in the Inyo National Forest, there's a place called the Schulman Grove, which is the site of some of the oldest living things on planet earth - the 4000-year-old Great Basin Bristlecone Pine trees.
The oldest known one (which is not marked, to protect it) is nearly 5000 years old. At about 10,000 feet altitude, look for the Schulman Grove visitor center, about an hour's drive outside Bishop.
Without a doubt, this is the most magical place I have ever been in my life. If you stay for sundown and don't camp, be prepared for a really windy, dark drive down the mountain.
If you're trying to make sense of all the boutiques that New York has to offer, you might want to check out www.storeadore.com. It's the online shopaholic's bible! It contains profiles of all the best boutiques in New York and you can search several different ways and even make shopping maps for yourself. It's great for planning a day of shopping, but it also saved me a lot of time when I was travelling and just wanted to find a shop nearby that carried the boutique brands that I like. I highly recommend checking it out. They cover stores in other U.S. cities as well!
When this hostel advertised how close to sandy South Beach they were, I must admit I was sceptical – but when I arrived I was soon corrected!
A mere block from the fun and sun of the beach resort, they are also ideally situated for the shops, restaurants and nightlife in the Art Deco district which attracts travelers from all over the world.
Dorm beds are surprisingly cheap considering all rooms have their own bathroom and staff are friendly and helpful.
There’s also a lot going on here…tours in the day, events at night and other travelers chilling out in the bar. So much so that you could enjoy Miami without even leaving the hostel.
This Italianate Palace was actually built at the beginning of the twentieth century even though it looks much, much older!
A really interesting place to visit with its architecture and elaborate detail – and fascinating to try and work out just how they managed to make it look so genuinely 16th century.
The beautifully landscaped gardens compliment the style and offer a nice respite from the bustling city of Miami around.
3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL
A cultural niche within the city of Miami, Little Havana, or Calle Ocho, is THE place to people watch in this fascinating city.
A combination of older gentlemen rolling their (lovely) Cuban cigars and hip youngsters hanging out outside the McDonalds, this is the sort of place that needs to be seen to be believed.
Soak up the culture further by enjoying a specialty Cuban cocktail and a ‘media noche’ sandwich (pork, ham, cheese, pickle and mustard – tastier than it sounds!) at one of the bodegas.
Southwest 8th Street, Miami, FL
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