Chicago! It's the New York of the Midwest. It's the LA of the Midwest. It's the only city anyone has ever heard of in the Midwest!

We have the Windy City to thank for skyscrapers, roller skates, Cracker Jacks and zippers- what would we do without those clever Chicagoans?

This global city is a thriving center of international trade and commerce, art and theatre, music and history, and, with one of the world's busiest airports, there are plenty of flights in.

Come see for yourself why Chicago is consistently ranked one of the best places to live in and visit in the United States.

Friday:

Strike

Strike a pose under The Bean (FLICKR/ Tara Sturm)

Afternoon

Go to Millennium Park and take a picture of yourself taking a picture! Chicago's famous 'bean' sculpture is the perfect opportunity to act like a tourist- because you're supposed to. Lay under the reflective metal, take a picture and use it for your Christmas card. Everyone will be so jealous.

Visit the Art Institute of Chicago's modern wing to add some culture to your trip. The collections of 20th and 21st century art in the second largest art museum in the US include modern European painting and sculpture, contemporary art, architecture and design, and photography.

Don't like art? Head to the Museum of Science and Industry and brush up on your physics, biology or chemistry (way more fun than the high school classes I promise). Check out their interactive space exhibit, or get up close and personal with the only German submarine in the United States.

This

This thing is huge! (FLICKR/ Jeffrey Tastes)

Night

Go to 'the game.' The term is really ubiquitous in Chicago, as there is some sporting event to see all year round. The Bears, the Bulls, the Cubs, the Blackhawks- there is a team for every season, so take your pick! If you care more about scoring sales than touchdowns, The Magnificent Mile offers 460 stores in eight city blocks. Choose from delectable restaurants, unique shops, and a Bloomingdale's Fashion department store with six levels of upscale retailers, several restaurants, a full service salon and spa, and a state-of-the-art fitness facility.

If all that shopping and cheering worked up an appetite, grab a slice of Chicago's famous deep-dish style pizza. If you've never had deep-dish before, it's unlike any pizza you've ever seen- and you'll probably need a fork to eat it.  Pizzeria Uno and Lou Malanati's are both institutions in Chicago's pizza past and continuously battle it out for the title of Chicago's best pizza. I'll let you be the judge.

Saturday

A

A perfect view from the skydeck (FLICKR/ Dan Perry)

Morning

Lions and parrots and zebras, oh my! The Lincoln Park Zoo is the nation's oldest public zoo and one of only three free major zoos in the country. With hundreds of animals and exhibits including an African safari, a swan pond and a farm animal zoo, it's a great way to spend the day with your family or on your own.  You're never too old to love the zoo!

Afternoon

Step out for a breathtaking view with SkyDeck Chicago's The Ledge, from 1,350 feet above the ground! The Ledge offers a unique vantage point of the surrounding cityscape in glass boxes protruding from the 103rd-floor Skydeck Chicago, formerly the Sears Tower Skydeck. As the tallest building in the United States and fifth tallest building in the world, the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is a true architectural phenomenon.

Next, visit the Chicago Botanical Gardens and take a relaxing stroll around the unique and beautiful flowers. The flora changes with the seasons, so it's a perfect place to take a walk any time of the year. Enjoy the Greenhouses, dine at the Garden Café, or stop by the farmer's market .

Night

Hit the town! From multi-level dance clubs and celebrity hot spots to popular watering holes and jazz clubs, the local nightlife scene is one of the best in the U.S.. If you want to dance, clubs like Bon V and Enclave keep the music loud until the wee hours; if bars are more you're thing, Green Door Tavern and The Underground Wonder Bar are both great places to grab a drink and enjoy the ambiance.

Not into the bar scene? Navy Pier has been a Chicago landmark since it opened in 1916. Eat at one of the many restaurants, window shop and get some live entertainment. The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is perfect for spending a sophisticated night out.

Take

Take a walk along the water at the Pier (FLICKR/ Bernt Rostad)

Sunday

If you've seen all of Chicago, but want to see some more of America, the historic Route 66 begins right here. Pack up and take a road trip out west (i promise it's not all cornfields).

To start planning you trip today, visit http://www.explorechicago.org