Travel blogger Mhde Askar continues his travels in Chicago filling in his readers on mistakes to avoid when visiting America’s “Second City.” Almost as important as figuring out what to do when you visit a new city is knowing what NOT to do. Here are Askar’s tips on the top six tourist mistakes that Chicagoans hate to see visitors make:
GOING OUT OF YOUR WAY TO VISIT NAVY PIER. Most tourists make the pilgrimage, but to the locals, this is Chicago’s answer to Times Square. Crowded, overpriced and overblown, this carnival attraction of a riverfront is actually slim on fun activities and really only exists to separate you from your money. Check out one of Chicago’s less glitzy, more satisfying riverfronts or beaches instead.
WAITING IN LINE TO CLIMB WILLIS TOWER. Formerly the Sears Tower, Willis Tower used to be the tallest building in the country. It has now been dethroned by One World Trade Center. With so many ways to fall in love the Windy City, do you really need to wait hours in line for a few minutes taking in a birds-eye view from the Observation Room atop the SECOND tallest building in the world?
EATING FAST FOOD BECAUSE YOU ARE ON A BUDGET. If your only solution to a light wallet is dollar menu at Mickey D’s, expect a lot of facepalming from the locals. With a little luck, one of them will set you straight — Chicago is one of the best places to eat on a budget. For just a few bucks you can snap into a famous Polish sausage, award-winning hamburger, or an all-beef Chicago dog with all the fixings. If you really brought the appetite, try the only-in-Chicago dripping goodness that is an Italian Beef sandwich. In Chi-town, even the broke eat like kings. Oh, and don’t put ketchup on the hot dog. It’s only on the condiments table as bait to expose the tourists.
GOING HOME AFTER A MIDNIGHT LAST CALL. Many venues have last call at midnight. Don’t despair — it’s not bedtime yet. The one-time capital of bootlegging is replete with bars and clubs that stay open until 4am or even 5am on the weekends. Check out Kingston Mines, Celeste, or East Room for an all-night party.
TAKING CABS. Talk about breaking your budget … This is not Los Angeles. Chicago is one of America’s few cities that has a world-class public transit system, including ubiquitous buses and the famous “L” train. Winding between skyscrapers and alongside the Chicago River, some L routes feature the best views in town.
FORGETTING YOUR SWIMSUIT. Maybe not in the winter. But hey, did you know Chicago is a beach town? Lake Michigan may not be the Pacific Ocean, but give it a chance. The blue vista stretches all the way to the horizon, and hot spots like Oak Street Beach are just as good as any ocean beach to take in some summer fun with a refreshing dip or some beach sports.