1. This is Jackson Park, the Columbia Basin, and the East and West Lagoons. This is a beautifully landscaped park, originally built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The Museum of Science and Industry was built for this show and was called the Palace of Fine Arts. Unfortunately, it is the only surviving building from that festival, but my god, it is gorgeous as is the entire park – designed by one of the world’s premier landscape designers, Frederick Law Olmsted, who left a legacy in Chicago as well in New York City.
The park, ideally, should be biked or walked to. One must visit the Japanese Gardens in the park on the Wooded Island in the lagoon.
2. Lower Wacker, Michigan and Columbus. The lower levels of these three streets (plus many intersection others) are very intriguing and unknown to most, if not all, visitors to the city. They can only be explored by walking or biking (except for Wacker which is too narrow and high-speed vehicle traffic makes it dangerous). It is home to loading docks for so many downtown buildings, and also to many homeless Chicagoans. For a short length, there is even a lower lower Wacker Drive. There are a handful of other things that can be accessed on these lower levels: the Randolph Street Metra station, an independent stage theater, and the city’s towing pound. Looking at the bigger streets above from below puts one in the scene of one of many futuristic movies. The support beams for the streets and skyscrapers show the importance of these lower levels of Chicago.
3. Not Millennium Park. The amusement park on the lake is quite a fantastic place. The Pritzker Pavilion could not have been better designed or featured in the city. However, Millennium Park is not a place in or of Chicago that makes the city what it is. It’s only been around for four year, but it’s also not something that city residents themselves are quick to brag about. The artistic playground is just one itty bitty parcel of the interestingness of the city.
4. Roosevelt Rd. bridge over the South Branch of the Chicago River. This bridge is the largest viewing platform for trains in and out of the city. Come rush hour on a summer weekday, you will spot Metra after Metra after Metra, all leaving Union and LaSalle St. Stations. It is a fantastic opportunity to fill up a camera’s memory card with train after train after train. There won’t be much variety of compositions or subject matter, but you will have enough practice time to get the perfect shot.
5. Madison St. after the workday is done. Madison St. just happens to be one way east of Des Plaines. It’s a major exodus route for buses, taxis and private vehicles. Its sidewalks are also teeming with commuters walking or rushing to the train stations. Ogilvie Transportation Center sits on Madison St., but Union Station also has a Madison St. annex, and the main platforms for the busier station are only two blocks south of Ogilvie. In a two-hour window, more than 100,000 people will make their way to either train station and take Metra home. It’s a fantastic sight to see so many people walking in the same direction to the same place. And it only happens once a day.