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Things to do in Chicago

Appreciate the street art in Pilsen

Any graffiti enthusiast must take a trip out to the Mexican neighborhood Pilsen, where the walls and doorways are daubed in some of the most extravagant and elaborate street art in North America. Get to 16th Street for the highest concentration of florid portraits and three-dimensional scenes.

Go canine crazy at Puptown

If an afternoon spent playing with adorable puppies sounds like a dream come true, take a trip out to Margate Park (tel: +1 312 532 0665; www.chicagoparkdistrict.com). It has a 16,000ft (4877m) area that is fenced and home to what the locals affectionately call 'Puptown'. Pack some treats.

Go to the Hemingway Museum

Most of us associate Hemingway with Florida's Key West or the Spanish flatlands, but he was actually born just outside of Chicago. Fittingly, his birthplace is also home to a museum (www.ehfop.org) dedicated to the great man, with over 2,000 artifacts from his life. There are also regular workshops, conferences and lectures.

Love your food at Green City Market

If fresh local food gets you out of bed in the morning, then set your alarm for a visit to Green City Market (tel: +1 773 880 1266; www.greencitymarket.org). Since 1998 it's been open all year round - November through April it's undercover - and as well as the finest meat, dairy, fruit, veg, flowers and baked goods, you'll also find chef demonstrations and tastings.

Take a supernatural trip to the other side

Each Friday night, underneath the city's Excalibur nightclub, local necromancer Neil Tobing takes audiences into the eerie belly of Chicago's supernatural underworld. Excalibur itself is famously haunted, though Tobin's one-man show (tel: +1 800 979 3370; www.supernaturalchicago.com) doesn't promise you a powwow with the undead.

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Wheeler Mansion

This 130-year-old mansion is an elegant, 11-room boutique hotel that offers a nice alternative to the big bustling hotels. Its lovely garden area, polished woodwork and special mattresses with goose feather duvets radiate warmth and comfort. Attention to detail is revealed in the property's original artwork and furnishings.

The Fairmont Chicago

This 37-floor, Rosetta-pink granite structure, which overlooks both Grant Park and Lake Michigan, has a spacious lobby that mixes contemporary furnishings with antiques and original art. Guests can relax after a busy day with a choice of candles, scents and bubbles in their drawn bath. The large and comfortably furnished rooms include premium mattresses, dressing areas, marble baths and built-in bars. Its chic Aria restaurant features a wide selection of wines and an interesting selection of regional American cuisines and its lounge has become a unique sushi bar.

The Drake

In a landmark building on the Magnificent Mile and across from Oak Street Beach, this Chicago original opened in 1920 and has been the premier place to stay ever since. The spacious guestrooms combine elegance with all the expected modern touches, from flat-screen HDTVs to iPod adapters. Some have views of the city skyline or Lake Michigan.

Ritz-Carlton Chicago

The Ritz has always been a symbol of luxury and the Ritz-Carlton Chicago is no exception. An award-winning dining room, oversized rooms with a view, L'Occitane bath toiletries, state-of-the-art business facilities and 24-hour concierge service are some of the reasons its reputation is deserved.

Four Seasons Hotel Chicago

At the Four Seasons, personal service, attention to detail and elegant appointments are basics. The opulent seventh-floor lobby has a French art deco look, while spacious guest rooms include 1940s French décor and, for viewing stunning city and lake vistas, some have leather window seats. Marble bathrooms are spa-like.

The James

Modern, sleek, compact and comfortable, The James is a nice departure from the big, glitzy chains. The narrow lobby has a clean and clubby look about it as does the adjacent, complimentary business centre and the J Bar. Rooms have minimalist decor, with platform beds and marble bathrooms, as well as a dining niche, plasma TVs and free Wi-Fi.