Shopping, certainly. Music, yes. Dining, of course. But no visit to The Windy City would be complete without a tour of its historic and modern visual arts offerings.
Chicago’s downtown Loop features some of the most famous artwork in the city. The Chicago Loop Alliance provides several free "Loop the Loop" audio walking tours; the Art Loop tour features Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park (pictured here), Alexander Calder’s Flamingo at Federal Center Plaza and Mark Chagall’s Four Seasons, among others. Millennium Park also offers a free mp3 audio tour for downloading. (Tel: 312/782-9160. Web site: http://www.chicagoloopalliance.com.)
At the Museum of Contemporary Art, check out "Rudolf Stingel: Paintings 1987-2007" (January 27-May 20). A retrospective of the artist’s work, the show highlights Stingel’s interactive process of creating art. MCA is free on Tuesdays from 5-8 p.m. through Dec. 23. Make it a weekend trip with MCA’s First Fridays, modern art-spun happy hours held 6-10 p.m. on the first Friday of each month. Tickets, which include museum admission, live entertainment and Wolfgang Puck hors d’oeuvres, are $15 ($7 for MCA members); advance tickets are available for $10 ($7 MCA members). (Tel: 312/280-2660. Web site: www.mcachicago.org.)
Fans of art dealer Ambroise Vollard will delight in the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition, "From Cezanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant Garde" (February 17-May 13). The exhibit showcases works that Vollard had commissioned from artists such as Van Gogh and Matisse and celebrates his efforts in turn-of-the-century Paris. The museum is free on Tuesdays, so plan accordingly. (Tel: 312/443-3600. Web site: www.artic.edu.)
For those wanting to pay homage to the master of organic architecture, the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, in nearby Oak Park, offers tours on various aspects of the architect’s life and career. The 45-60 minute guided interior tours feature Wright’s experimentations on his own home and the first signs of his signature Prairie style in his nearby studio. $12; $10 youth. Tours run weekdays at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m.; weekends: approximately every 20 minutes from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Tel: 708/848-1976. Web site: www.wrightplus.org.)
Waiting until spring? Make sure to be in town April 27-30 for Art Chicago, an international exposition and citywide festival of modern and contemporary art. Details to come at www.merchandisemart.com/artchicago.
Getting Around: While Chicago is a highly walkable city, the Chicago Transit Authority Buses and Trains make it easy to get around as well. CTA’s train system is called the "L," short for "elevated." Fares are $2 per ride on bus and rail—exact fare only; no change returned. (Tel: 888/968-7282. Web site: www.transitchicago.com.)