When visiting a large city for the first time, many people know the major destinations – those sights that you simply must see, like the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Statue of Liberty. But inanimate objects don’t represent the spirit of a city. If you want to fully enjoy a destination, you’ve got to dig a little deeper and learn more about its people.
In Chicago, you’ll find plenty of things to do. But if you want a truly memorable experience, visit one of the following sites to learn more about the city’s culture, and the people who make Chicago the pride of the Midwest.
Shalom Chicago is an exhibit at the Chicago History Museum that highlights personal stories of the city’s Jewish immigrants and their descendants. The exhibit includes first-person accounts from some of Chicago’s earliest Jewish citizens and compelling information about how Jewish immigrants shaped the city’s culture and commerce. Musical performances, plays and family activities are also regular features at Shalom Chicago.
The DuSable Museum of African American History
The mission of the DuSable Museum is to preserve and display information that furthers the appreciation and understanding of the contributions of African Americans in the United States. Exhibits include the art of famous Chicago citizens such as Thomas Miller and Robert Witt Ames as well as information about political activists and policy makers like Harold Washington, the city’s first African American mayor. A current exhibit entitled “Red, White, Blue and Black: A History of Blacks in the Armed Services,” highlights the patriotism of more than 14 million black women and men who bravely served their country – many before they were even recognized as legal citizens.
Food is often a uniting medium when immigrants gather in a new country. Many of the first Greek immigrants to arrive in Chicago made their living as food peddlers; the most successful among them opened restaurants that catered to everyone, often introducing Greek cuisine to a new clientele. From these humble culinary beginnings Greektown was born, concentrating in the areas around Harrison, Halsted and Blue Island neighborhoods. Today Greektown still serves delicious Greek specialties to Chicagoans and visitors to the city, and there’s no better way to learn about the culture than to visit its cafes and shops. The National Hellenic Museum sits at the heart of Greektown and features exhibits that highlight the history of Greece, and the migration of Greeks to the U.S. and Chicago.
DANK Haus German American Cultural Center
DANK Haus is the place to visit if you want to learn more about the German culture and German-focused events happening in Chicago. DANK House sponsors social gatherings like the 2012 New Year’s bash featuring a polka band and traditional German beers. The center also offers art exhibits and free tours of Chicago’s German cultural sites and welcomes anyone interested in learning about German culture.
With so many different cultures contributing to the great city of Chicago, it’s difficult to know where to begin. But if you’re planning to visit traditional locations like the Sears Tower, Lakeshore Drive or Wrigley Field, make a few side trips to some of the vibrant cultural districts in the Midwest.