Chicago, host to the American Academy of Ophthalmology's 2005 annual meeting, has so much to offer including world-class museums, entertainment, shopping, dining, and recreation. There is something for everyone.
If this is your first visit to the "Windy City," you might consider a stop at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington Street; 312/742-1182), home of the city's Visitor Information Center. This architectural gem, designed in the beaux-arts style by a Boston firm, was originally the site for the Chicago Public Library from 1897 until 1991. Now it offers hundreds of programs and exhibitions annually by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. The Center has eight exhibition spaces, two concert halls, two theaters, a cabaret performing space, a dance studio, café, and shop, in addition to the visitor's center. It is open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For an early morning workout before the meeting day starts, consider a run/walk through Millennium Park (downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe Streets). This award-winning, 24.5-acre park opened in July 2004, offering art, music, architecture, and landscape design to its many visitors. The welcome center (201 E. Randolph Street), found in the Northwest Exelon Pavilion, offers maps of the park and program schedules. Some key features include the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor concert venue designed by Frank Gehry that can accommodate 4,000 in fixed seats and 7,000 on its lawn; the interactive Crown Fountain created by Jaume Plensa; the Lurie Garden by the design team of Kathryn Gustafson; and the Cloud Gate sculpture on the SBC Plaza by Anish Kapoor. For a self-guided audio tour, stop by the Chicago Shop at Millennium Park (second floor of the Northeast Exelon Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph Street) to rent the program or download the tour with your MP3 player at http://www.millenniumpark.org/generalinformation/.
Special exhibits include East Asian Ceramics: Then and Now (July 2 to Nov. 6) in Gallery 109, including works from China, Korea, and Japan; Paris: Photographs from a Time That Was (August 13 to Nov. 6) in Galleries 1 and 2, highlights some of the greatest photographers of Paris from the 1850s to the 1950s.
For families, visit Fantasy, Facts, and Furry Friends: Caldecott Medal and Honor Books, 2001-2005 (April 30 to Oct. 30) in Galleries 10 and 16, featuring original illustrations by artists who received the Caldecott Medal of Honor Award in the last 5 years. The Art Institute of Chicago is open Monday to Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with extended hours on Thursday till 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays are free.
Contemporary art lovers should visit the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 East Chicago Avenue; 312/280-2660), which houses more than 6,000 works of art dating after 1945. A special exhibit of Dan Flavin's work is on display, including the re-creation of his 1967-68 exhibition "alternating pink and gold." Most of his presentations consist of large fluorescent tubes in 10 colors and five shapes. The museum is open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (free from 5 to 8 p.m.) and Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Mondays.