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Happening neighborhood: During the past five years, trendy bars, restaurants, clubs and boutiques have proliferated in the Bucktown/Wicker Park area.

If you only do one thing: Families should consider visiting Navy Pier, which offers a 15-story Ferris wheel, the Chicago Children's Museum and boat tours. With or without children, a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago is a must. Both Navy Pier and the museum are within walking distance of the Magnificent Mile, the stretch of North Michigan Avenue known for its elegant shops and restaurants.

What's new: The area known as the West Loop, or West Randolph, once home to meatpacking plants, is fast becoming Chicago's new restaurant row, where all the hot restaurants are opening.

Old-faithful restaurant: The Berghoff, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, holds the city's first liquor license, issued after Prohibition. The landmark restaurant is huge, serves a German American menu and draws business people, tourists and showgoers from the nearby theaters.

Of-the-moment restaurant: Blackbird (in the exploding West Randolph neighborhood) is so new that you may still be able to get a reservation there, but soon it will be impossible. Amazing food (American) and modern decor.

With the kids: The Chicago Children's Museum has an interactive waterways exhibit where kids don raincoats and learn how dams work; the Art Institute of Chicago also has galleries where children can create their own art. Afterward, take a taxi to Michael Jordan's restaurant, which has a kid's menu and is decorated with lots of Bulls and Jordan paraphernalia.

Side trip: Take a Chicago Neighborhood Tour, a half-day excursion through various parts of the city, from Andersonville, a Swedish neighborhood, to Chinatown.

Off-the-beaten track: Visit the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum on Chicago's South Side; Vietnam vets have created all the artwork on display.

Average per-night lodging rate: $225

Distance from airport to city center: From O'Hare International Airport: 17 miles; from Midway Airport: eight miles.

Information: 800/487-2446,

Chicago Calendar:
  • "Land of the Winged Horsemen: Art in Poland 1572-1764." The Art Institute of Chicago hosts this exhibition of 150 works of art from Poland's baroque era – including a crown and throne used by Polish kings and paintings of royalty. Through Sept. 6. Information: 312/443-3600.

  • Chicago Summer Dance. Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs has organized this series of free dances held at the Spirit of Music Garden on Michigan Avenue, July 15 through Sept. 26, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 6 to 9:30 and Sunday afternoons from 2 to 5. Information: 312/744-6630.

  • Chicago Jazz Festival. This annual event takes place on three stages in Grant Park, Sept. 2-5. The lineup includes such greats as Chick Corea, Count Basie's Orchestra and Phil Woods. Information: 312/427-1676.

    Recent Post Stories:
    Urban B&Bs: Recommended Inns in Five North American Cities
    Stuck at O'Hare? Try a Short Trip to the First McDonald's Restaurant or the Museum of Broadcast Communications
    Chicago's Water Ways: Architecture Tours on the River
    Kidless in Chicago: Two Mothers Take a Whirlwind Tour
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