Chicago, Illinois, is the third-largest city in the United States and one of the country's leading industrial, commercial, financial, and transport centres. It extends some 29 miles (47 km) along the south-western shore of Lake Michigan on a plain crossed by the Chicago and Calumet rivers - linked by canals with the Illinois and Mississippi rivers making Chicago the connecting point between the Mississippi Valley, the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence Seaway. The city's rapid growth was due in large part to its location, with ready access to markets and raw materials.
Chicago has one of the world's most beautiful lakefronts backed by a skyline of soaring skyscrapers. Probably landing at Navy Pier you will find a combination of Coney Island, Crystal Palace, stained glass museum and festival marketplace stretching out into the the lake. With the exception of a few miles of industry on its southern extremity, virtually the entire lakefront is devoted to recreational uses, with beaches, museums, harbours, and parks, which include Grant Park opposite the city centre, Lincoln Park to the north, and Jackson Park to the south. The central part of the city has several of the world's tallest buildings, including the Sears Tower, which at 110 storeys high is the tallest in the United States.
Chicago contains several distinguished museums. These include the Art Institute of Chicago (1879), one of the country's largest art museums; the Field Museum of Natural History (1893); and the Du Sable Museum of African-American History. In Hyde Park are the Oriental Institute and the Museum of Science and Industry (1893). In Lincoln Park are the Chicago Academy of Sciences (1857) and the Chicago Historical Society (1856). Also notable is the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1891, is considered one of the world's finest.
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