Photo: A sculpture sitting in front of high-rise buildings

Though artist Anish Kapoor entitled his oblique, metallic sculpture “Cloud Gate,” ask any Chicagoan about the legume-shaped steel and they’ll tell you what it really is: the Bean. The 110-ton sculpture provides an abstract reflection of Chicago’s skyline and all those who visit it.

Photograph by Ryan Bailey, My Shot

Poet Carl Sandburg immortalized Chicago as the “City of the Big Shoulders,” paying tribute to Chicago’s formative brawn. The self-made, industrious town rebuilt after a devastating 1871 fire, nurturing new styles of architecture and distinct flare for innovation. A green apron of lakefront parks buffers the city’s 29 miles (47 kilometers) of Lake Michigan shoreline from which 77 neighborhoods unfurl westward spanning the downtown Loop, the elegant Gold Coast, the bohemian Wicker Park, and deep ethnic pockets such as Chinatown. The combination of grit and grandeur here is somehow purely American. Loving Chicago, said author Nelson Algren, is “like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real.”

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