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Forbes City Guide Chicago 2010 (Forbes Travel Guide City Guide Series) Paperback – January 1, 2010
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About the Author
Kim Atkinson has written about travel for major publications including Boston Magazine, Ladies' Home Journal, and More Magazine. She has taught journalism and magazine editing at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Anna Roufos is an award-winning journalist who has written about travel for many publications, including the Detroit Free Press, Marie Claire, and Self. They both live in Chicago.
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They claim that the City Guide series offers "...a local perspective, in the form of a fresh, witty, insider voice," but I did not find this particularly true. In fact, many of the statements about Chicagoan vocabulary and habits were completely wrong, like they were reaching for quirks that don't exist. People here won't even blink at vocabulary like "soda" or "sneakers."
They were spot-on about asking for ketchup on your hot dog, though. Don't do it. Fair warning. :)
The sections on Attractions, Shopping, Arts & Culture, and Beyond were all great. Everything I'd take visiting friends to see was covered and described well.
As for Restaurants and Hotels and Nightlife, the guide mostly covered high-end options... which is fine, if that's all you're looking for. In my travel experience swanky hotels are pretty much the same everywhere. Almost all of the restaurant listings, too, were for famous, expensive venues -- the kinds of things you'd find in any major city. Very few quintessentially Chicago places were mentioned.
There's also a section on spas, which I can't much comment on, as the idea of going to a spa in Chicago seems crazy to this local, but I assume the guide points out the best ones.
The maps are a bit anemic, as well as the history, but you can find all that stuff online easily.
Overall, I think this is an excellent guide if you're planning a fairly short, big-budget visit to Chicago. You will definitely enjoy yourself. Just remember what I said about the ketchup.
First, as a history buff, I noted a couple of historical errors:
"Some aerospace scientists have even argued that the [Great Chicago] fire was caused by a meteor shower."
Not quite, the real theory is a bit more radical. As first suggested in Ignatius Donnelly's 1883 Ragnarok, or the Age of Fire and Gravel and more recently expounded upon in greater detail in Mel Waskin's 1985 Mrs. O'Leary's Comet: Cosmic Causes of the Great Chicago Fire, the theory is that large frozen chunks of a dying comet (Biela II) entered the atmosphere dumping large amounts of inflammable gases into the Lake Michigan region, which was already suffering from severe drought. While far from proven, this theory would explain the rather odd coincidence that had catastrophic fires of peculiar ferocity breaking out simultaneously (around 9:30 PM, October 8, 1871) in Chicago, Peshtigo, Wisconsin, and Manistee, Michigan.
In any event it is more plausible than blaming it on a cow kicking over a lantern.
A related error shows up in info about the fire surviving landmarks:
"the Old Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station were the only public structures left unscathed."
Not unscathed, the stone Pumping Station unfortunately had a wooden roof. When it burned and fell in, it stopped the pumps, which fed the fire hydrants, putting an end to the Chicago Fire Department's desperate attempts to battle the fire.
In addition to these historical nits, there are a couple of more serious problems. A few of the individual items for a specific restaurant, hotel, or night spot include page references to other items. Virtually all of these page references are wrong. Obviously, they rearranged this book at some point and neglected to update the page references. Of course, you can still look the name up in the index and find the correct page number, but in what is apparently not a prepublication copy, this is unacceptable.
Another annoyance is that there is no index to or table of contents for the lists of superlatives scattered throughout: "What are the can't-miss first visit sights?", "What are the best overall restaurants in Chicago?", "What are the most luxurious hotels?" A few of the items on these lists have the page number of the list included in their reference in the index, but many others do not. You will just have to page through each section in order to find them all.
Finally, as others have noted, this listing of only what Forbes considers the best of the best can get a little praiseworthy. An amusing experiment would be to count the number of times the word "sexy" is used; it got a little comical IMHO.
But as far as giving any real insight into the city, this guide is quite lacking. A prime example is the answer the the question "Where are the ethnic neighborhoods?" This section limits itself to mentioning Chinatown, Mexican-American areas (like Pilsen and Little Village), and a northern Swedish neighborhood; there's no mention of Devon's Little India, Greektown, Albany Park's Koreatown, or any of the African-American, Middle Eastern, or Polish neighborhoods, which is not just disappointing, but a giant lapse of information.
Similarly, the live music venue section leaves off Double Door, the sports section leaves off Chicago Fire (the soccer team), the best theatres section leaves off Lookingglass (though it does get credit for including the lesser-known (but equally mentionable) House Theatre).
Despite these drawbacks, as a quick guide to someone who's already at least slightly familiar with the city (I've lived here almost three years now) the Forbes guide is a pretty convenient little book to get a few quick notes on a restaurant, hotel, or art gallery that someone might mention. Even just as a collection of information about places you already know and love, it's a nice selection of snippets.
When combined with a book that has more maps and less information (like the Not For Tourists Guide) this book could serve useful. On its own, the maps included here are not very helpful at all.
Most recent customer reviews
Guide to restaurants, hotels, etc.Read more
It's very small, so bear that in mind. It's meant to hang in your pocket for quick reference. I like the photography.Read more