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(Reuters) - Ask any Midwesterner, and they will tell you to hurriedly pack your bags – the season to visit Chicago is nigh.
The Windy City, notorious for its bone-chilling winters and months-long deep freeze, blossoms in the late spring to become a beautiful, breezy, cultural and culinary paradise, where the world basks in the sunshine and people amble by the lake.
So with winter skin newly shed, it is prime time to jet set into this happening hub.
First, a place to doff your hat and rest your head. It is been a hot year for design-led hotels in Chicago, with the likes of the world-class Langham group making its mark in a star-chitectural, Mies van der Rohe-designed building, complete with an outpost of the international Chuan Spa chain.
Meanwhile in the West Loop, funky London members’ club Soho House has arrived in rustic, shab-chic style, with a 60-foot rooftop pool and patio. Gold Coast bigwig The Peninsula is revamping its rooms in lush navy hues, keeping its perch-perfect city and lake views.
But now, onto what you really came to the city for: the food. Ask any self-respecting gourmand in the United States and they will cite Chicago for its cuisine -- a rich, vibrant melting pot that is much more than deep-dish pies and all-beef frankfurters (or any ballpark snack ‘n’ pop, for that matter).
The food scene continues to evolve with a forensic attention to detail, resulting in restaurants such as the mighty molecular den 42 Grams, where chef Jake Bickelhaupt dishes up New American morsels. At Southern-style BBQ spot Green Street Smoked Meats, sliced brisket finds a home in an atmospheric, tea-light-strewn barn-meets-warehouse.
Another recent standout is Beverly Kim’s Parachute, a modern Korean eatery giving K-town street food classics an all-American twist, and what we consider the epitome of Chicago’s exciting, genre-defying culinary DNA.
In any city this serious about its fare, no doubt you will find top-notch tipples to pair. Special occasion to toast? Get snookered, as the locals like to say, at RM Champagne Salon, a cobblestoned courtyard shrine to bubbles; or head to homegrown vodka producer CH Distillery for a behind-the-scenes tour followed by craft cocktails over dinner.
In clement weather, settle on a summer rooftop -- we like J. Parker overlooking leafy Lincoln Park, or Drumbar on the Gold Coast for a swanky downtown panorama. Just make sure to arrive early and secure a coveted spot, or risk rubbing elbows with the legions.
Once you have wined and dined, you had better get out on the big, beautiful body of water that gives Chicago life: Lake Michigan. If this city has a quintessential summer activity, it is a weekend stroll or cycle along the lake.
Grab a set of wheels at Divvy Bike with rental stands all along the waterfront, and put the wind in your hair. All that is left? Stopping for a cup of chai at Palm Court to round off a splendid, sunny afternoon.
(This article was contributed by LUXE City Guides. The opinions expressed are their own. www.luxecityguides.com)
Editing by Michael Roddy and Alison Williams