- Pick up a CityPASS for fast-track entry to some of the city's most popular places
- Check out Millennium Park's most famous landmark - 'The Bean' sculpture
- While away an afternoon at one of the oldest and largest art museums in the US
Chicago is quite the destination for gourmet travellers, and we're not just talking about deep-dish pizza.
And for those with an interest in architecture, the city on Lake Michigan is a goldmine of innovative design and spectacular skyscrapers.
The Windy City nickname is said come from the hot air bellowed by its boastful politicians in the late 1800s – well, Chicago has a lot to brag about now…
Make the Art Institute of Chicago (
) your first stop – it is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the US. You will want to spend a few hours exploring its extensive collection, which features classic pieces such as Grant Wood's American Gothic.
If you're planning to visit a few of Chicago's top attractions, you can save time and money by picking up a CityPASS (citypass.com) for $106 (NZ$150) – it offers fast-track admission to a handful of the city's most popular places.
For lunch, walk a few blocks west along historic Route 66 – the starting point is right outside the Art Institute – to Revival Food Hall (revivalfoodhall.com). Many of the best restaurants and casual dining spots in the city have an outlet there, so you will be spoilt for choice. Smoque BBQ (smoquebbq.com) is particularly popular.
Take a stroll around Millennium Park and discover its most famous landmark – Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate. Affectionately known as The Bean, the sculpture was inspired by liquid mercury and has to be cleaned daily to keep its highly reflective surface.
Make sure you walk along the footpaths running parallel to South Lake Shore Drive, to the east of Millennium Park, to enjoy some of the best views of Lake Michigan.
If you follow the road north, you will find Navy Pier (navypier.org), a Chicago landmark. Board one of the architectural cruises run by Shoreline Sightseeing (shorelinesightseeing.com); the narrated journey will give you a new appreciation of the eclectic collection of skyscrapers in the city.
If you can, try to time it for sunset so you get the best light to see the pier in all its glory when you get back on dry land. During the summer, there are firework displays at the pier twice a week.
For a special dinner, make a reservation at Alinea (alinearestaurant.com), which has been consistently voted one of the best in the world.
Meals are paid for in advance through its pioneering ticketing system, so you only pay for drinks on the night, and tips are also included.
Have a lie-in and then join up with the Chicago Food Planet's 3-1-Chew tour (chicagofoodplanet.com), which takes you around Bucktown and Wicker Park on foot.
In between learning about Chicago's history through the architecture of these two contrasting neighbourhoods, you stop for bites at local cafes.
There is also a chance to see one of the few remaining wooden homes in the city – buildings had to be built with fireproof materials following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. You'll want to skip breakfast before taking this tour, and you certainly won't need lunch afterwards.
It's time to see the city high up, and from 360 Chicago Observation Deck (360chicago.com), which is included in the CityPASS, you'll have views of most of the city and Lake Michigan's stunning beaches.
There's a bar and restaurant on the 94th floor if you just want to relax for a moment and enjoy the views.
For the brave, there's also Tilt, where you're dangled over the edge of the observation deck in a glass case to get a bird's-eye view of the streets more than 1,000ft below.
The stretch of North Michigan Avenue from 360 Chicago heading south is known as the Magnificent Mile – in essence, it's exactly where you want to be if you're keen to go shopping.
Afterwards, walk to The Purple Pig (thepurplepigchicago.com), near the Tribune Tower at the end of the mile, for dinner.
It's a small-plates restaurant from award-winning chef Jimmy Bannos Jr that is inspired by Spanish tapas.
Air New Zealand flies direct from Auckland to Chicago (
) with return flights from NZ$1,284
Rooms at the Loews Chicago Hotel (
) start at $170 (about NZ$237) a night.