After exiting the revolving doors of our relatively small and quiet hotel, I am astounded by how quickly the scene shifts right in front of me. The neat, single-file lines that were behind the front desk are long gone. They are replaced by a large mass of people moving left and right, up and down, this way and that. But, that is to be expected. Much like any other large metropolitan city in the world, Chicago would not be the same if it weren’t for its diverse community of citizens strolling its streets, taking its taxis, and browsing its department stores. Amongst the enormous sea of people, I can already spot those of African American, Asian, Latino, European, and countless other descents. It is like a “mini melting pot,” a cultural hub of the Midwest, harmonizing the flavors and spices of the ethnicities being expertly tossed around in it.
I decide to join the crowd, putting my hands in the cozy pockets of my North Face jacket that I wish was just a tad bit warmer. As if right on cue, a sharp but refreshing gust of wind blows onto my face, sending chills down my spine and waking me up to my surroundings. Festive lights wrap around the bare branches of the trees, causing them to twinkle in the distance. The familiar scent of freshly made hot chocolate wafts through the sidewalk, inviting even more people to enter the Ghirardelli chocolate shop that is already about to burst because of how many people are in it. There are happy couples holding hands on either side of me, fascinated tourists snapping photos of virtually everything in sight, pink-cheeked children clutching early Christmas presents from American Girl Place and The Disney Store. Everything looks, tastes, and smells like winter, and this is the season that Chicago wears best.
I walk onwards, careful not to slip onto the dark sludge oozing its way onto the sidewalk. I look to my right and notice that the whole Lake Michigan has frozen over entirely. It still has guests though; the more rebellious and carefree ones skate around it in imperfect circles. Suddenly, the comforting and smooth sound of jazz sails through the air from a nearby location. Someone is playing the saxophone. I follow the music and find a young man dressed in a khaki colored suit standing in the corner, his cheeks inflating and deflating as he passionately blows into the instrument. I reach into my pocket to find a few quarters to throw into his velvet-lined case. He smiles and nods in my direction before starting a brand new melody with a brand new beat.
The best part of walking through “The Windy City” is probably getting to see all the buildings up close. They come in all shapes and sizes, with thousands of miniscule windows littered onto their sides. One has to tilt their head backwards to see the very tops of the tall skyscrapers that look like they’re poking the puffy white clouds above. Looking up and not knowing the exact height that they all reach gives one insight on the endless hours of planning and designing architects had to go through to produce the gems that are so essential to the Chicago skyline today. In this city, opportunities are truly limitless.
Some people claim that Chicago is too immense of a city, with unbearably cold weather, excessive traffic, and too long of distances. They say that visiting the city will make one cold, tired, and/or stressed. They are wrong. Visiting Chicago and walking through each one of its bustling streets will make a person feel alive. And once a place does that for someone, it’s no longer just important — it’s sacred.