Dominating this region is Illinois' premier metropolis, Chicago. Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, the city's many features include the Sears Tower Skydeck Observatory, the world's tallest building; and the The University of Chicago, among the top-ranked research universities. The Board of Trade is the world's busiest futures exchange and the Chicago Oceanarium is the world's largest indoor marine mammal exhibit. Other attractions include the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere with three floors of exhibits on astronomy, space exploration, telescopes and navigation. The Chicago Cultural Center, known as the "People's Palace," is a treasured National Historic Landmark that offers more than 500 free performances annually, as well as art exhibitions and building tours.
The surrounding area, called Chicagoland, also offers numerous attractions. The African American Heritage Museum in Aurora is a sculpture garden depicting this ethnic group's experience dating from slave ships to current events. From Aurora to Crystal Lake, more than 35 miles of trails comprise the Fox Valley Park District. In Batavia, the famed Fermilab possesses the highest-energy particle accelerator in the world. Tours can be arranged. Explore rare architecture in the historic downtown district of Elgin. The entire district of 660 homes is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A housewalk is offered every September. An Evanston attraction is the Grosse Point Lighthouse and Lakefront, featuring a maritime museum.