Chicago is a city of captivating, often welcome, contrasts. With no nearby oceans to help tame the weather, for instance, you can experience a difference of more than 100 degrees from summer to winter. Boosted by the heat of the Great Plains, with added humidity, summer temperatures hit the high 90s, while the winter brings subfreezing cold from blasts of frigid air blowing in south across the Midwest’s flat terrain. The seasonal changes mean great summer paddle boarding on Lake Michigan and fun (if you can tolerate the chill) ice skating on unique rinks in the fall and winter.

Chicago, of course, has one of the country’s most famous high-end and boutique shopping strips—the Magnificent Mile, an upscale section of Michigan Avenue, running from the Chicago River to Oak Street on the Near North Side. That brings us to the other great disparity about this city: Young visitors are less interested in shopping and material goods than they are in amassing great experiences—and Chicago has plenty of those.

Below we present a sampling of some that we found most compelling.

Where to Eat

The Big Bowl is a favorite of ours when we visit Chicago. Healthy and flavorful options abound at this Chinese and Thai restaurant, with six other locations. We especially like the DIY dynamic of loading up a bowl with bok choy, carrots and other fresh, locally grown veggies at the Stir Fry Bar, then choosing a sauce (teriyaki is our go-to) and meat (flank steak, in our case), and letting the chefs work their magic in their woks.

We like our bowl with a side of vegetable fried rice (noodles are an option, too). On our last visit, we tried an appetizer of Cantonese ribs with a teriyaki glaze (can’t get enough teriyaki, especially when it’s done right) and scallions. Like that dish, there’s no shortage of plates that let you indulge. But there’s also plenty of healthful fare: cauliflower “rice,” for instance, and other vegetarian choices. We’ll be back to this wonderful eatery that puts the creativity in the hands of patrons, but the work in the hands of its chefs. 60 E Ohio St; bigbowl.com.