Pick up your hire car at Chicago airport and check out the sights, sounds and spectacular skyline of the Windy City.
"We are one of the world's busiest cities, with a positive work hard, play hard attitude. But look beyond the skyscrapers and you'll find green spaces, swanky waterfront neighbourhoods and one of the best man-made beaches in the world."
Chicago's iconic sights, world-class shopping and vibrant cultural scene mean it is an excellent place for an activity-packed break. Day-to-day life in the bustling metropolis is fast, but the city is unexpectedly welcoming with plenty of spots in which to unwind.
If Chicago had a toe, it would constantly be tapping. The city lends its name to a musical, is home to a multitude of jazz, rock and clubbing venues and is a great place to boogie.
Chicago's ethnically diverse population counts among its inhabitants one of the largest number of Poles living outside of Warsaw.
Chicago is called the Windy City for a reason. In winter the gusts are particularly cold and vicious, so be sure to bring your warmest jacket if you're travelling between November and February.
Chicago is famed for its deep-dish pizzas. If you fancy something a little more exotic, try a jibarito - steak, tomato, onion and lettuce sandwiched between twice-fried plantains - introduced by the city's Puerto Rican inhabitants.
President Barack Obama lived, worked and played in Chicago before his days in the White House hot seat.
The world's largest Tyrannosaurus rex resides in Chicago. Fortunately, the scary beast (affectionately referred to as Sue) has been dead for thousands of years. You can check out her perfectly preserved remains at the city's fascinating Field Museum.
" I set foot in this city, and just walking down the street, it was like roots, like the motherland. I knew I belonged here. " - Oprah Winfrey on her first day in Chicago
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Now known as Willis Tower, this 108-storey skyscraper is the tallest building in the US. Head up to the panoramic Skydeck on a windy day and enjoy spectacular views of the city and Lake Michigan while the building gently sways in the gusts.
There is a garage at 420 South Franklin Street, just minutes from the tower's entrance on Jackson Boulevard (between Wacker Drive and South Franklin Street).
Renowned for its collection of Impressionist works, the institute should be on the to-see list of any art buff. It also has spaces dedicated to photography, textiles and decorative arts.
Underground parking can be found at Millennium Park (enter at Columbus Drive and Monroe Street).
From Malayan sun bears to South African bushbabies, there are all sorts of weird and wonderful animals living in Chicago's zoo. Best of all, it's free to visit.
There is on-site car park, which costs $17 for a three-hour stay.
Visit the thriving Chinese community on Cermak Road and Wentworth Avenue, and you'll find a cultural celebration in the form of restaurants, temples, grocery stores and memorials.
Visitors can park at the Chinatown Parking Lot located on the north-east corner of Cermak Road and Wentworth Avenue).
Another building that dominates Chicago's imposing skyline is the John Hancock Center, America's sixth-tallest building. Be sure to visit the 94th-floor observation deck and, on the 44th level, the country's highest indoor swimming pool.
There are 750 on-site parking spaces, with entrances on East Chestnut Street and East Delaware Place.
If Chicago's urban shoreline leaves you wanting more, pop on your flip-flops and explore the surrounding waterside region, known for its stunning beaches.
Illinois Beach State Park is just an hour's drive from the city. Take the I-94 North to Route 173 East and follow signs to the park.
There are over 70 wineries in the state of Illinois and 15 of them lie within a two-hour drive of Chicago. Why not spend a night and enjoy award-winning wines within a beautiful rural setting?
Situated to the north-west of Chicago, many of the 15 wineries can be accessed from the I-90 West.
If the hustle and bustle of city life has left you looking for an escape to the wild, head to the canyons of Starved Rock State Park. Hike, fish and camp to your heart's content.
Just under 100 miles from Chicago, follow the I-80 West towards Iowa. Take exit 81 for the IL-178 and follow signs to Oglesby.
It gets pretty chilly in Illinois in winter, but this does have its perks. Visit Chestnut Mountain Resort and enjoy some of the Midwest's finest ski trails.
Take the I-90 West, turning off at the I-39 South/US-20 exit towards Rockford. The US-20 West leads to Galena and the resort.
" Someone once said, 'In the Windy City, looking for a parking space is like panning for gold', but I'm not sure if this is true. If you're heading downtown there are parking garages all over the place, but you have to be prepared to pay - a space can cost up to $20 or $30 per day. Driving around Chicago can be a bit scary if you're nervous behind the wheel - people who live here can change lanes very quickly so watch out for that. If you're thinking of taking one of the Interstate roads during rush hour, be prepared to sit in traffic, or better still, avoid using them between 6-10am and 3-7pm. "