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CHICAGO


FAR LEFT: Chicago beachfront CENTRE: Helicopter tour ABOVE: Salon and spa at the Kimpton Gray Hotel


New hotels include the chic Kimpton


Gray, named for the original Georgia Gray marble in the lobby. Then there’s the city’s first Conrad, a classically elegant choice for business travellers. This autumn sees the Viceroy open in the glitzy Gold Coast neighbourhood, while the new Ace Hotel Chicago caters to moneyed millennials. There are endless opportunities to splurge. Clients can take a champagne helicopter tour, shop for Louis Vuitton luggage on Michigan Avenue’s ‘Magnificent Mile’, or linger over nine impeccable courses at three-Michelin- starred Grace restaurant. All this could easily go to a city’s head.


Yet the city oozes down-to-earth, Midwest charm and generosity of spirit. From my first strides around The Loop


(central business district), face tilted upwards to gawp at the towers, I felt the entire city wrapping me in a welcoming blanket.


Chicagoans love their city so much, they want to tell you everything. Take the Chicago Greeters, locals who show visitors around for free, like a welcome gift. The scheme has been curated by Choose Chicago, the destination’s official marketing organisation.


My guide, retired businessman David Dresden, takes me to Wicker Park, one of Chicago’s oldest neighbourhoods and currently the hippest. We pass former furniture factories that are now record stores, pho restaurants and vintage emporiums, before ascending to The 606, a 2.7-mile-long elevated park on a former


railroad. The paths are bordered by fragrant grasses and wildflowers, and dotted with sculptures. “Ah, Chicago is a great city,” sighs David.


WEIRD AND WONDERFUL


Few are as enthusiastic about their neighbourhood as Margaret Hicks, who founded Elevated Tours. And few neighbourhoods are as strange as hers. The comedian has a passion for


the Pedway, a subterranean network of tunnels linking some of The Loop’s famous buildings. She guides me past a gallery of stained glass underneath Macy’s towards the Marriage Bureau, where photographer Ed waits patiently to hawk his wedding portraiture.


Margaret is planning to launch a aspire september 2017 — 71


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