Doing Business In Chicago?

After the meetings, nix the hotel and take in The Windy City

If you’re headed to Chicago for a business trip: beware. The Windy City offers so much diversity in entertaining places to wind down, cultural sites to see and natural beauty to enjoy, visitors are often tempted to stay longer. This is the scene for the melancholy blues, frenetic house music, museums, shopping and major sports teams. And if you travel there during the warmer months, you might even be able to sneak in a lakefront swim at the close of a deal.

After dark, the House of Blues (329 N. Dearborn St.; 312-527-2583) is a popular spot for star-power concerts like Erykah Badu’s and the professional set’s parties. There’s plenty of bopping to the sounds of live jazz at the Green Dolphin Street restaurant (2200 N. Ashland Ave.; 773-395-0066). Club Inta’s (308 W. Erie; 312-664-6880) is a perennial choice for the after-work crowd on most Fridays. And All Jokes Aside Comedy Club (1000 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-922-0577) is sure to deliver a few laughs with stand-up acts five nights a week.

Many restaurants also serve up local flavor. A recent upscale soul food arrival is the Shark Bar (212 N. Canal St.; 312-559-9057). If you can’t snag a Bulls ticket, Michael Jordan’s Restaurant (500 N. LaSalle St.; 312-644-3865) is a trendy place to watch a game on the big screen at the bar or have dinner. The Signature Room at the 95th (875 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-787-9596) is, as the name implies, 95 floors atop the John Hancock Center, serving up sumptuous French-American fare and a divine 360-degree view day and night. The lengthy waits are worth it at Gino’s East (160 E. Superior at Michigan Ave.; 312-943-1124) to try delicious deep-dish pizza.

Downtown Chicagoans and visitors alike frequent the designer stores on the Magnificent Mile of N. Michigan Ave. and nearby Oak St. On the lake, the restored downtown Navy Pier has shopping, a Ferris wheel, IMAX theater and several dinner cruise ships year-round.

If you have time to take in some cultural sites, leave the downtown area and head to the South Side’s famed Bronzeville section, also known as the Black Metropolis. The section runs along 35th and State streets and has been restored by a $10 million city, state and federal arts project. Bronze plaques outline a walk of fame where visitors can read a brief history of the events and people of its heyday from the 1920s-50s. For further information, call the Black Metropolis Convention and Tourism Council at 773-548-2579 or go to their site at www.interman.net/bronzeville.

African Americans have thrived in Chitown, as it is affectionately known to locals, ever since a black man, Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable, founded a trading post in 1782. The legacy continued through this century’s great black migration from the South, which brought millions of blacks, including Joe Louis, Mahalia Jackson and Elijah Muhammad, to the South and West Sides. The DuSable Museum of African American History (740 E.56th Place; 773-947-0600) commemorates this age of prosperity and more with some 12,000 artifacts and works

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