On a crisp fall day, you can walk around downtown Chicago and often catch a whiff of cocoa-scented air making the trek to work just a bit easier. Unfortunately, large cities aren’t known for their sweet smells. Often pungent odors like trash, urine, and exhaust fumes come to mind when we think of the scents of a city. But oh no my friends, not Chicago. The Blommer Chocolate factory, which is not too far from the loop, has been manufacturing that rich, chocolaty goodness for 70 years. Within smelling range of the factory, it’s nearly impossible to find anyone who doesn’t enjoy the rich, brownie-like aroma as they trudge to the office.
And I’ve always been flummoxed as to why the Chicago Tourism Office does not incorporate this amazing fact into their marketing materials: ‘Chicago – it’s the city that smells like chocolate’ or ‘Chicago – a city dipped in chocolate’ or ‘Sweet Home Chicago – we mean that literally.’
There’s always been a buzz about Chicago with its sparkling downtown skyscrapers, the year-round flower-scaped shoppers’ paradise of Michigan Avenue and the tourist-drawing public art filled Millennium Park. But, now more than ever, the ‘city of big shoulders’ is a thriving, sophisticated, cosmopolitan metropolis filled with young urbanites proud of their town and ready to share why.
Why is Chicago American’s hottest city now? Besides rivaling New York and San Francisco for some of the world’s best restaurants and most diverse neighborhoods, there are some new reasons. The Chicago Cubs – okay, dare I say it… they almost went all the way… again. They have not won a world series in exactly 100 years, were number one in the national league and consistently stayed on top all season. Well, until they lost. “There’s always next year.”
The home to the world’s first skyscraper is breaking new records again. Just as Donald Trump’s new tower is being completed on the riverfront as the second tallest building in Chicago and North America, the construction of another momentous building is underway. Designed by world renowned Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, the new Chicago Spire, at 2000 feet and with 150 floors, will be the twelfth tallest freestanding structure in the world. The Spire will surpass Chicago’s Sears Tower to become North America’s tallest tower.
Now that the Beijing Olympics are a thing of the past, all eyes are on Chicago as one of the final contenders for the 2016 Olympics-a campaign the city and mayor Daley are fighting hard. In the event of Chicago being selected by the IOC, the 2016 Games will be the first Summer Olympics held in the Americas since the 1996 Atlanta Games. The final selection will be made on October 2, 2009. Currently, Chicago’s rival cities for the hosting of the Games are Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo. It is expected that Chicago’s significant infrastructure and public transport system, world-class architecture, renowned skyline, multi-cultural, historical, and pop-cultural contributions will be positive factors as the Olympics bid is weighed.
And to top it all off, Chicago’s home son, Barack Obama, will soon be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America. No matter what your political affiliation or whom you voted for in the election, this is an exciting and momentous time in the U.S. and in Chicago in particular. Nearly 100,000 Chicagoans gathered in Grant Park on Chicago’s lakefront on election night in hopes of hearing a victory speech – and they were not disappointed. After 2 years of hard campaigning Barack Obama won the election by a wide margin gaining 364 electoral votes to John McCain’s 174.
The world was watching from Japan to Kenya and Iraq to Vancouver. Now so many eyes are on Chicago and the Illinois Tourism Board is counting on it. In fact, the Chicago Tourism site offers visitors a glimpse of Obama’s Chicago. I was watching from an election party in France, where something like 95% of the population supported Obama. I was anxious and tired and the boring, very conservative CNN coverage (lest they fall into the premature projections like last time) was hard to keep the interest of my French friends. But then at 6am France time, we had a new president and history was made. The citizens of the United States had spoken and I felt such a pride that I have not felt in a very long time. The only thing missing was me… from Chicago.