Chicago – it’s that funny old town most of us associate with pizza, musicals and the phrase ‘the Windy City.’
When you arrive you may think it’s obvious how it got this name (bring a very warm hat, coat and gloves), although some of the residents insist it’s called The Windy City because of its wind bag politicians.
Whichever is true, this is a fascinating American city with a grit and attitude all of its own.
It’s streets are wider and cleaner than New York, but its skyscrapers as impressive.
It’s a big, bustling city in Illinois yet Chicago also possesses a lake, a beach, a beautiful river and huge, American as apple pie malls.
Here’s 10 reasons why Chicago should be your next US holiday.
1. It has a Saved By The Bell-themed cafe
Saved By The Max is a dream come true for every 90s child who grew up crushing on Zack or wishing she had Lisa Turtle’s store credit.
It’s pop up to go to if you want classic American food including biscuits and gravy (a seriously acquired taste, like a scone covered in thick, sweet sauce).
Or a Bayside Burger (much safer ground), poutine (chips with lumps of cheese and gravy), fried chicken on waffles or grits (a delicious corn-based dish that reminded me of macaroni cheese but with, as the name implies, a gritty texture like no other dish in the world).
They serve brunch (10am-1pm) and dinner and sometimes even have special guest appearances from members of the original Saved By The Bell cast.
You can either book online or, as I did, queue for an hour before it opens to be guaranteed a table.
The average meal, without drinks or sides, such as The Bayside Burger, costs $14 (£11).
You can get cocktails at brunch.
2. The architecture
Gaze in wonder/horror at the Trump building – a beautiful structure comprising hotel and flats – utterly cheapened by the ever-modest 45th president’s name emblazoned on the side in 6m (20ft)-high letters.
After Trump was elected, Chicago residents protested outside chanting ‘not my president’ and ‘my body, my rules’.
For a sky-high view of the city, if you can bear the queue (when I went there was a three-hour wait), go to Skydeck Chicago on the 103rd floor of Willis Tower (formerly called Sears Tower).
You can buy tickets online in advance for $22 (£17.50) or you can buy a Go Chicago Card for $92 (£73).
The card includes entry to Skydeck as well as to 360 Chicago Observation Deck (another great view, from the 94th floor of the John Hancock Centre).
You also get access to museums and The Art Institute Of Chicago, housing, among others, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, and hop-on hop-off bus tours (although it’s a bit of a faff getting to The Hard Rock Cafe just to get your bus ticket validated).
3. The history
You may already be aware of Chicago’s dark gang land past under Al Capone and Johnny Torrio during the roaring, blood-soaked 1920s Prohibition era.
You may also want to learn more about the current state of affairs – it has more shootings than New York and LA combined – although the central tourist area in which I stayed felt far safer than the big apple.
For some interesting insights into the making of Chicago and beautiful views take an architectural boat tour down the Chicago River (yes, that’s the same one they dye green on St Patrick’s Day).
First Lady Cruises‘ Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise costs just over $50 (£40).
4. Millennium Park
You can’t go to Chicago without at least one selfie by Cloud Gate – the stunning sculpture created by our very own Anish Kapoor.
Chicago residents call it The Bean, for obvious reasons.
After you’ve wandered around it trying to spot your reflection (not as easy as it sounds among the crowds), take some time to admire the rest of the park.
5. The shopping
From stocking up on cut-price Kate Spade bags to Twinkies for the kids and the office, nobody comes to America without cheerfully accruing major credit card debt.
If you’re based in the city centre the obvious choice is the Magnificent Mile – a broad, stunning high street.
The former is a classic indoor shopping centre 40 minutes from Chicago with 300 stores including Macy’s, Apple, Nordstrom and the Cheesecake Factory, because it turns out that’s a real place an not just somewhere The Big Bang Theory made up as Penny’s workplace.
The latter is an outdoor shopping centre which makes for a fun day out if you’re after savings on labels such as Coach, Vans, Converse and Ralph Lauren, plus there’s legendary US department store Saks.
The highlight at Woodfield Mall is Level 257 – a Pac-Man-themed restaurant, shop, games arcade and bowling alley including the world’s biggest Pac-Man game and the game on level 255.
There’s 24 draft beers available, mostly from regional breweries, plus cocktails with themed names like Inky Blinky Dot.
7. The food
In terms of brunch Yolk is well worth the queues – I had their Red Velvet French Toast – while Kanela Breakfast Club and Bang Bang Pie Shop, with its (American) biscuits and pies also come highly recommended.
Other famous Chicago dishes include the Italian beef sandwich (which may sound like a euphemism but is thinly-sliced meat in a soggy, gravy-soaked roll), hot dogs (from a stand) and tacos (Big Star was recommended).
8. The nightlife
Visit blues club Kingston Mines for live music and ribs.
Wicker Park is basically Chicago’s Shoreditch and Logan Square is its Dalston.
In Wicker Park, head to The Violet Hour for cocktails.
Remember your ID (a driving license or passport) as you won’t get in anywhere without it. Most places close at 2am (except The Owl in Logan Square).
You can flag a taxi almost anywhere but make sure you have address of places you want to go.
9. The baseball
Go Cubs! Chicago’s baseball team is on a high, this year (2016) winning the World Series – a huge result as the last time they did it was in 1908.
Wrigley Field is their home stadium and you can’t get more USA than watching a game, hotdog in hand, cap on head.
Where to stay
I stayed at the Loews Hotel in downtown Chicago, rooms cost from $279 (£221) per night.
It has the largest roof deck in the city and, in summer, a bar up there.
The indoor pool, with its views, is a highlight, and, on Saturday nights a film is projected at the end of the pool so you can watch and swim.
It’s also known for its Argentinian steakhouse, Rural Society.
How to get there
British Airways flies to Chicago O’Hare International Airport every day, non-stop, return from £709.