Chicago is home to an incredible variety of things to see and do after a long day of tracking down exhibit booths in the NPE-decked halls of McCormick.
With museums galore, 551 parks, 31 beaches and 19 bicycle paths, Chicago has been a hub of culture and entertainment since its 1833 incorporation with a hefty population of 350 townsfolk.
Today, visitors have the world of Chicago at their fingertips. For a full menu of events, attractions and tours, check out these Web sites: www.chicago.il.org, www.digitalcity.com and www.ci.chi.il.us/tourism. These links, and others like them, can be found in the special NPE section of PlasticsNews.com.
After the NPE 2000 show closes each day, Chicago offers several special events for entertainment.
* The biggest is the Field Museum's unveiling of Sue, the largest, most complete and best-preserved T. rex skeleton ever discovered. The skeleton, named after the woman who discovered it, is 42 feet long and 90 percent complete. The museum is open daily, with extended summer hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Basic admission is $8; Wednesdays are free. Tel. (312) 922-9410.
* Chicago is playing host to a man-made beast — also cut down in its prime. "Titanic: The Exposition," at the Museum of Science and Industry, features a 25,000-square-foot exhibit of more than 200 artifacts from the wreckage, including one of the ship's portholes and a handwritten letter. The show costs $10, and is open weekdays 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The museum also offers an Omnimax Theater. Tel. (773) 684-1414.
* At the Alder Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, get a close-up look at the "New Views of the Universe Exhibition," an exclusive traveling exhibit that shows a view of the universe as seen by the Hubble telescope. The show runs daily beginning at 9 a.m. Tel. (312) 922-7827.
* Aside from its historic, prehistoric and cultural charms, Chicago offers extensive shopping. More than 350 area businesses have partnered to showcase Downtown Thursday Night. Every Thursday beginning at 6 p.m., the businesses extend shopping hours, offer discounts, promotions and special after-work programs. Tel. (312) 742-1171.
* Pier Walk 2000 at Navy Pier offers the opportunity to unwind with a stroll along the historic pier on Lake Michigan, while observing nearly 100 sculptures from internationally known artists. The event runs Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday until 10 p.m. Tel. (312) 595-7437.
* Finally, Chicago's rich devotion to the arts is showcased in "Lexicon: Lynda Lowe and Georgiana Nehl" at the Chicago Cultural Center. The exhibit features 100 small-scale paintings with a paper foundation and a single word encased in the vertical axis. The show runs Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday until 9 p.m. and Friday until 6 p.m. Tel. (312) 346-3278.
* During NPE week, baseball fans can watch the American League Central Division's top two teams (as of this writing) do battle for first place in Comiskey Park. The Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox play Monday through Thursday, with game time at 7:05 p.m. On Friday, the Sox take on the New York Yankees at 7:05 p.m.
For those coming to Chicago the weekend before the show starts, the Chicago Cubs will play the Montreal Expos on June 16, 17 and 18 at 2:20 p.m., 3:05 p.m. and 1:20 p.m., respectively, at Wrigley Field.
Museums & fish
* The Art Institute of Chicago houses a treasury of works dating from 3,000 B.C. through the 1990s. The museum, located north of McCormick Place, holds hours Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. — it stays open until 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Suggested donations are $8 everyday, but Tuesdays are free. Tel. (312) 443-3600.
* The only museum of its kind in the world, the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum showcases art that shows the war from soldiers' perspectives. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday and admission is $5. Tel. (312) 326-0270.
* Also one of a kind, the Shedd Aquarium features the world's largest indoor aquarium. Admission is $11. Tel. (312) 939-2438.
Chicago is known for its thriving night life and blues just as much as for its cultural and historical community. For the lowdown on jazz and blues clubs, see the www.chicago.il.org Web site.
* Blue Chicago on North Clark Street is a 1940s-style bar with nightly live blues music for a small charge. Tel. (312) 661-0100.
* The most well-known home for blues music, House of Blues, opens daily at 11:30 a.m. for lunch, dinner and concerts. Reservations are accepted. Tel. (312) 923-2000.
* While Chicago is the proud home of the blues, it cannot ignore its roots in jazz. Andy's Jazz Club features casual dining accompanied by jazz music. Tel. (312) 642-6905.
* For visitors who only have time for grazing the main sights, several in-town tour services focus on Chicago's highlights.
The main tour bus services include: Chicago Gray Line, tel. (312) 251-3107; American Sightseeing Chicago, tel. (312) 251-3100; and Chicago Trolley Co., tel. (773) 648-5000.
* Or, travel by water, via Lake Michigan or the Chicago River, on one of several charter and tour boats. Tours can last one or two hours; more elaborate cruises can include dinner. Among the boat touring companies are: Spirit of Chicago, tel. (312) 836-7888; Wendella Sightseeing Boats, tel. (312) 337-1446; and Shoreline Sightseeing Co., tel. (312) 222-9328.