This view of "the Loop," Chicago's downtown commercial district, shows how massive skyscrapers and Lake Michigan dominate the city's skyline. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, middle-class workers and small businesses were forced out of the Loop, making it possible for big businesses to redesign the lakefront property.

Photograph by Christina Brunette, MyShot
  • Lake Michigan dominates the eastern half of this aerial photograph of downtown Chicago, Illinois, taken in 2008. The densely populated cityscape in the photo is home to half-a-dozen of Chicago's 77 official community areas or neighborhoods, including the Loop and the Magnificent Mile.

    The Chicago River placidly flows through the lower right of the image. The black skyscraper near the river is Willis Tower, formerly known as Sears Tower. When it was opened in 1974, Sears Tower was the tallest building in the world. Today, the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, holds that honor. However, Willis Tower remains the tallest building in the United States, at 572 meters (1,729 feet).

    The spit of sand and lush green park in the north of the image mark Chicago's South Lagoon. This area is home to parks and biking trails, as well as the Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the United States. (It was founded in 1868.)

    The building with the tall white antennas is the John Hancock Center, another of Chicago's multi-use skyscrapers. The John Hancock Center is home to offices, restaurants, and residences.

    The jetty jutting into Lake Michigan is Chicago's most popular tourist attraction, the Navy Pier. The Navy Pier, which includes amusement park rides, restaurants, theaters, and museums, is dominated by white-roofed buildings on the south side of the jetty. The rectangular ponds of the Jardine Water Filtration Plant, the largest water-filtration plant in the world, are visible just north of the Navy Pier.

    The glistening, silvery skyscraper at the center of the image is the Aon Center, a busy office building.

    Just south of the Aon Center is Millennium Park, a public facility that includes gardens, a music pavilion, and walking trails.

    The square white roof of the Art Institute of Chicago is visible just south of Millennium Park. The Art Institute of Chicago has one of the finest collections of art in the United States, from Impressionists such as Claude Monet to Modernists such as Edward Hopper.

    The bright red building is the CNA Center. While not nearly as tall as the John Hancock Center or Willis Tower, the CNA Center's bright color makes it instantly recognizable in the Chicago cityscape.

    The enormous series of green areas along the lakefront are all part of Grant Park, nicknamed "Chicago's Front Yard."

    Just south of Grant Park is the stately white Field Museum of Natural History. This museum is home to exhibits as diverse as ancient Egypt, Native Americans, and Sue, the world's largest and best-preserved fossil of a T. rex.

    East of the Field Museum, on the shore of Lake Michigan, is the John G. Shedd Aquarium, home to more than 25,000 saltwater and freshwater fish.

    Finally, our journey ends at Soldier Field, in the southeast corner of this image. Soldier Field is home to the Chicago Bears, the city's professional football team. It has also been the site of music concerts and political rallies, including one led by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1966.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    aerial photograph Noun

    picture of part of the Earth's surface, usually taken from an airplane.

    amusement park Noun

    recreational facility with games, food, and mechanical rides.

    ancient Egypt Noun

    civilization in northeastern Africa, lasting from 3200 BCE to about 400 CE.

    antenna Noun

    structure through which electromagnetic signals are received.

    aquarium Noun

    a container or tank where aquatic plants and animals are kept, or an institution that keeps such containers.

    cityscape Noun

    view or landscape of a city.

    community Noun

    group of organisms or a social group interacting in a specific region under similar environmental conditions.

    densely Adverb

    heavily or crowded.

    dominate Verb

    to overpower or control.

    dozen Noun

    a group of 12.

    filtration Noun

    process of separating solid material from liquids or gases.

    fossil Noun

    remnant, impression, or trace of an ancient organism.

    Encyclopedic Entry: fossil
    glisten Verb

    to sparkle or reflect light.

    jetty Noun

    structure protecting a harbor or inlet from a larger body of water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: jetty
    jut Verb

    to protrude or stick out.

    Loop Noun

    commercial center of downtown Chicago, Illinois. Also called the Chicago Loop.

    lush Adjective

    abundant and rich.

    Magnificent Mile Noun

    large downtown shopping district in Chicago, Illinois.

    museum Noun

    space where valuable works of art, history, or science are kept for public view.

    Native American Noun

    person whose ancestors were native inhabitants of North or South America. Native American usually does not include Eskimo or Hawaiian people.

    neighborhood Noun

    an area within a larger city or town where people live and interact with one another.

    Encyclopedic Entry: neighborhood
    pavilion Noun

    a low-lying, open, semi-permanent shelter.

    placid Adjective


    public Adjective

    available to an entire community, not limited to paying members.

    river Noun

    large stream of flowing fresh water.

    Encyclopedic Entry: river
    sand Noun

    small, loose grains of disintegrated rocks.

    shore Noun


    skyscraper Noun

    very tall building.

    spit Noun

    narrow point of land extending into water.

    stately Adjective

    dignified and imposing.

    tourist Noun

    person who travels for pleasure.

    T. rex Noun

    (Tyrannosaurus rex) large carnivorous or scavenger dinosaur.

    zoo Noun

    place where animals are kept for exhibition.

    Encyclopedic Entry: zoo