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Chicago — Big things are happening in the Windy City.

One of the biggest is Maximo, the skeletal cast of a long-necked titanosaur — the largest dinosaur species ever discovered — installed recently at the Field Museum of Natural History. Stretching 122 feet long and 28 feet tall, the massive sauropod from Patagonia is nearly triple the size of the Field’s longtime star, Sue, the world’s largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton.

Over on the Chicago River, the sleek new Chicago Architecture Center is another headline-grabber. Celebrating its grand opening Aug. 31, just in time for Labor Day weekend, it showcases “Building Tall,” an eye-popping exhibit of super-sized scale models of nine famous Chicago and international skyscrapers, including a nearly 40-foot tall model of Saudi Arabia’s world record-setting Jeddah Tower, scheduled for completion in 2020.

Citywide, new restaurants and craft breweries, a vibrant theater scene (including but not limited to the smash hit, “Hamilton”), public art projects, an expanded Riverwalk and multiple festivals make this a prime time to visit Chicago.

Here’s a sampler of what you’ll find on a getaway to this dynamic city with 26 beach-studded miles of Lake Michigan shoreline: 

Dinosaurs plus

          If you thought Sue the T-rex was big, wait until you see Maximo, the jumbo herbivore from Argentina that kicked the Field museum’s longtime favorite dinosaur upstairs. Fresh from a makeover, Sue will reappear in a refurbished exhibit on the second floor next spring, but Maximo now presides over the museum’s cavernous main hall, complete with a display of his actual eight-foot-long thigh bone.

        Museumgoers are encouraged to touch the replica cast. They also may go upstairs for an up-close encounter with the towering titanosaur. Maximo is so tall his bony skull peers into the museum’s second-floor balcony, perfect for a head-to-head selfie.

          But this fascinating fossil isn’t the Field’s only new dino. Through Jan. 6, a new exhibit, “Antarctic Dinosaurs,” explores scientific expeditions to the earth’s coldest spot through displays of modern and historic gear, actual fossils and lifelike sculptures of four dinosaur species, including the 25-foot long predator, Cryolophosaurus (“frozen crested lizard,” named for the bony ornamentation on its head) and a rhino-sized herbivore, Glacialisaurus.

         Two smaller species are sauropodomorphs — “dinosaurs that our visitors have never seen before and may not be familiar with, species that are new to science,” according to Tom Skwerski, exhibitions operations director.

Chicago Architecture Center

Chicago’s role as the epicenter of modern architecture is a cornerstone of the new Chicago Architecture Center, which is taking shape in an architecturally-significant building of its own. Located At 111 E. Wacker Drive, it was designed by the Office of Mies van der Rohe, the pioneering Modernist architect whose work includes Detroit’s Lafayette Park, the historic mid-century urban renewal district east of downtown.

Chicago Architecture Center also serves as the starting point for some 85 docent-led architecture tours by foot, bus, boat, bike and L train. A perennial favorite is the river cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady. With historic and contemporary skyscrapers looming on both banks, it’s a pleasant and informative way to learn about the city’s celebrated architecture and history.

On Oct. 13 and 14, the architecture center will sponsor a free festival, Open House Chicago, that provides access to 200 buildings -- skyscrapers, churches, repurposed mansions, opulent theaters, exclusive private clubs and offices -- in 20 neighborhoods across Chicago. Check architecture.org.

Theater scene

      “Hamilton,” playing at the CIBC Theater in the Loop, has been a magnet attracting Chicago visitors for nearly two years. While many ticket prices are in the stratosphere, a digital lottery awards 44 $10 seats before every “Hamilton” performance. Find out how to enter at luckyseat.com/hamilton-chi if you can’t wait until spring when “Hamilton" comes to Detroit and East Lansing.

           But “Hamilton” isn’t the only ticket in a town of 240 professional theater companies. “Dream Freaks Fall from Space” ends a long Chicago run Oct. 7 at The Second City. On Navy Pier, Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents the American premiere of “Nell Gwynn,” the 2016 Olivier Award-winner for best new comedy, from Sept. 20 through Nov. 4.

       The Tony Award-winning play about opera diva Maria Callas, “Master Class,” runs Oct. 25 through Dec. 9 at Timeline Theatre. Current and upcoming Broadway in Chicago productions include “Heartbreak Hotel” through Sept. 30; “Tootsie,” Sept. 11-Oct. 14; and “Hello Dolly!” from Oct. 23 through Nov. 17.

Riverwalk pursuits

          Chicago’s craft beer scene is hopping, fueled by about 150 craft breweries in the city and surrounding suburbs. One of the newest bar-restaurants, Chicago Brewhouse, debuted last month on the revitalized and expanding Chicago Riverwalk, a pedestrian walkway now stretching 1 ¼-miles along the south bank.

       Serving an array of local beers, coffees and teas and specialty sandwiches representing various city neighborhoods, the two-level outpost joins a riverside district replete with recreational options such as fishing, kayaking and party pedal boats.

           City Winery, accessible by foot and boat, offers preservative-free tap wines and casual fare on its popular patio that sprouts giant, climate-controlled bubble domes in spring and fall. Another patio hot spot, Beatnik on the River, serves creative cocktails and Mediterranean-influenced plates amid lush plants, comfy couches and great views. Sandwiches, coffees, juices and pastries are available at its all-day Café Bonhomme. Closer to Lake Michigan, live music rocks Island Party Hut, a Polynesian-style tiki bar.

          As part of ongoing enhancements, a large-scale permanent lighting installation called Art on the Mart is scheduled for an October debut on Chicago Riverwalk. The art, by local artists, will project across nearly three acres of the southern-facing façade of the historic Merchandise Mart building.

Smart art

“I Was Raised on the Internet,” an exhibit exploring the influence of digital gaming, entertainment, social media and smart phones, runs through Oct. 14 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Nearly 100 interactive artworks, from 1998 onward, revolve around the mythologized figure of the millennial, or digital native, and the generation of artists and audiences who speak a vocabulary unique to the digital age.

Another exhibit, through Dec. 30, “Picture Fiction: Kenneth Josephson and Contemporary Photography” focuses on a Chicago photographer whose work anticipated the rise of the selfie. 

Susan R. Pollack is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.

Other upcoming Chicago events

Chicago Air and Water Show, Aug. 18-19

Chicago Jazz Festival, Aug. 30-Sept. 2

Laver Cup (international tennis tournament), Sept. 21-23

Expo Art Week, Sept. 24-30

Expo Chicago (international contemporary art), Sept. 27-30

Chicago Gourmet, Sept. 26-30

For information, check choosechicago.com.

 

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