Canadians have cottoned on to Chicago of late, with 27 flights or so a day just from Toronto. I was there last spring and was wowed by the Art Institute, the food, the hotels, the architecture and more.
And now there are even more options. I caught up with Melissa McCarville of Choose Chicago this morning and got an update on the city's burgeoning restaurant and hotel scene and on some special events and emerging neighbourhoods.
"They're calling it Restaurant Row," said McCarville, outling such spots as Girl and the Goat by top chef Stephanie Izard (see photo at left) and Next. "It's become a real destination spot in what used to be a meatpacking area."
The new SOHO House Hotel is set to open in the region in the next year or two, and if it's anything like the SOHO Beach House in Miami I'm all in favour.
Also taking off lately is the Logan Square area, north of Wrigley Field. Again, there are new restaurants and hotels and cool shops, I was told.
Fairly new in town is the Hotel Lincoln, located in a historic building in Lincoln Park, just north of downtown. There's a rooftop bar with views of the park and the zoo and Lake Michigan, plus a restaurant called Perennial Virant that's said to be getting good reviews. Also new is the IVy Hotel downtown, a 63-room boutique property. Coming soon will be the Langham Chicago downtown and, they hope, Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Hotel Chicago, which has seemingly been delayed but could open in the next 12 months.
The Book of Mormon, Broadway's hottest musical, is in Chicago for a run that started in December of last year and continues until Sept. 8, 2013. Chicago Restaurant Week runs Feb. 1 to Feb. 10 with prix-fixe menus starting at $22. And the utterly fabulous Art Institute of Chicago will stage a Picasso exhibit, with more 250 items, from Feb. 19 to May 12.
Of course, you can't forget St. Patrick's Day in Chicago, where they dye the Chicago River green and party like it's 1999. McCarville told me they've petitioned the government of Ireland to proclaim Chicago as an official celebration city for St. Patrick's Day, and why not?
Oh, and in case you didn't know, I was told that Chicago is the birthplace of the Twinkie, the zipper, the Ferris Wheel, the mail-order business, the first pinball machine, the window envelope and the first all-colour TV station. Plus it's the birthplace of both Cracker Jacks AND the baseball All-Star Game (a perfect combo, doncha think?).
THAILAND ON THE RISE
The past year was an excellent one for tourism around the globe. The latest numbers I saw came from Thailand, which reports going past the 22 million mark in tourist visits for the first time ever.
Thailand officials said the 2012 number was up almost 16 per cent from 2011.
Who's going? Travelmole reports that six countries, five of which are within the Asia-Pacific region, are now producing more than one million annual visitor arrivals; those being Malaysia, China, Japan, Korea, India and Russia.
European visitors showed a good growth rate of 10.1 per cent to 5.6 million. The U.S. market jumped 12.5 per cent to 767,000-plus.
Tourism officials are predicting 24.5 million arrivals for 2013.
JAUNT.CA DEAL OF THE DAY
Jaunt.ca, a division of Torstar, has a deal on tap for a once-in-a-lifetime visit to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. The deal is priced from a very reasonable $2,324, including $325 in taxes.
- 10-day/9-night tour of Peru, including visits to Lima, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and more
- Includes round-trip flight from Toronto to Lima, domestic flights as per itinerary, and airport/hotel transfers in Peru
- Transportation throughout the tour via deluxe vehicle, domestic air, train, and bus
- Meals include daily buffet breakfast and two lunches throughout the tour
- Accommodations are double occupancy. Refer to itinerary for hotels (or similar)
- Includes accompaniment of an English-speaking guide and all required entrance fees (as per the itinerary)
- BONUS: June 20th departure date includes VIP access at Inti Raymi festival in Cusco
- You'll travel to Machu Picchu - one of the most famous sites in the world
- Spend some time travelling through amazing landscapes on a scenic train ride
- Tour includes accommodations, breakfasts, all transportation tickets and English speaking guides
- Valid for travel on the following departure dates: June 20, July 17, October 16 & November 20, 2013
- Option to upgrade train travel to Vistadome train service for additional $100. offers glass ceilings for better view of scenery, and meals on board. Call to upgrade: 1-855-GO-JAUNT
- Pricing (rates are per person, plus tax):
June 20, 2013
July 17, October 16 & November 20 , 2013
- Valid passport and Visa required for travel from Canada. Visa not included, but available HERE
- Flight information to be confirmed at time of booking
- Refunds available until 5PM EST on January 30, 2013. After that time, this offer is 100% non-refundable.