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Baseball

Until 2016, the Chicago Cubs hadn't made a World Series appearance since 1945 and hadn't been world champs since 1908. That finally changed when the lovable losers finally won the World Series against the Cleveland Indians. But win or lose, historic Wrigley Field is always worth a visit, with its ivy-covered outfield walls, its hand-operated scoreboard, its view of the shimmering lake from the upper deck, and its "W" or "L" flag announcing the outcome of the game to the unfortunates who couldn't attend. After all the strikes, temper tantrums, and other nonsense, Wrigley has managed to hold onto something like purity. Yes, Wrigley eventually installed lights (it was the last major-league park to do so), but by agreement with the residential neighborhood, the Cubs still play most games in the daylight, as they should. Because Wrigley is small, just about every seat is decent.

No matter how the Cubs are doing, tickets ($15-$90) go fast; most weekend and night games sell out by Memorial Day. Your best bet is to hit a weekday game, or try your luck buying a ticket on game day outside the park, when you'll often find some season ticket holders looking to unload a few seats.

Wrigley's easy to reach by El; take the Red Line to the Addison stop, and you're there. Or take the no. 22 bus, which runs up Clark Street. To buy tickets in person, stop by the ticket windows at Wrigley Field Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm, Saturday from 9am to 4pm, and on game days. Call tel. 800/THE-CUBS [843-2827] for tickets through Tickets.com (tel. 866/652-2827 outside Illinois); you can also order online through the team website.

Despite their stunning World Series win in 2005, the Chicago White Sox still struggle to attract the same kind of loyalty (despite the fact that they regularly win more games than the Cubs). Longtime fans rue the day owner Jerry Reinsdorf replaced admittedly dilapidated Comiskey Park with a concrete behemoth that lacks the yesteryear charm of its predecessor. That said, the current stadium, U.S. Cellular Field, 333 W. 35th St. (tel. 312/674-1000; www.whitesox.mlb.com), in the South Side neighborhood of Bridgeport, has spectacular sightlines from every seat (if you avoid the vertigo-inducing upper deck), and the park has every conceivable amenity, including above-average food concessions, shops, and plentiful restrooms. The White Sox's endearing quality is the blue-collar aura with which so many Cubs-loathing Southsiders identify. Games rarely sell out -- an effect, presumably, of Reinsdorf's sterile stadium and the blighted neighborhood that surrounds it. All of this makes it a bargain for bona fide baseball fans. Tickets cost $20 to $68 and are half-price on Monday.

To get Sox tickets, call Ticketmaster (tel. 866/SOX-GAME [769-4263]), or visit the ticket office, open Monday through Friday from 10am to 6pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm, with extended hours on game days. To get to the ballpark by El, take the Red Line to Sox/35th Street.

Field of Dreams -- Built in 1914, Wrigley Field is the second-oldest major-league ballpark, after Boston's Fenway Park, and remains one of the only surviving old-time baseball stadiums in the country (no luxury boxes here!). Known as the "friendly confines," Wrigley Field was the site of Babe Ruth's "called shot," when Ruth allegedly pointed to a bleacher location in the 1932 World Series and then hit a home run to that exact spot. For an intimate look at the historic ballpark, take one of the behind-the-scenes tours offered almost daily throughout the summer; stops include the visitors' and home team locker rooms, press box, security headquarters, and, yes, a walk around the field itself (be sure to check out the original scoreboard, built in 1937). Some dates do sell out, so buy tickets ($25) in advance online, if possible. Keep in mind that if you take a tour on a game day, some areas (such as the locker rooms) will be off-limits. Call tel. 773/404-CUBS [2827], or stop by the box office at 1060 W. Addison St.; you can also buy tickets online through the Cubs website (www.mlb.com/chc/ballpark/wrigley_field_tours.jsp).

Basketball

When it comes to basketball, Chicagoans still live in the past, associating the Chicago Bulls (tel. 312/455-4000; www.nba.com/bulls) with the glory days of Michael Jordan and the never-ending championships of the 1990s. The fact that Jordan chose to remain in town after his playing days were over -- a decision almost unheard of in professional sports -- has only burnished his image here, and locals are still wowed by occasional Jordan sightings. The downside is that he's a constant reminder of our ever-more-distant winning past.

Although the current players don't inspire the same city-wide fervor, the Bulls have rebounded somewhat from the dismal seasons following Jordan's departure and even made some respectable showings in post-season play. The Bulls don't consistently sell out, which means you might be able to catch a game at the cavernous United Center, 1901 W. Madison St. (tel. 312/455-4500; www.unitedcenter.com). Yes, the space is massive and impersonal, but the pre-game buildup, with flashing lights and thumping music, is undeniably dramatic. Most tickets run $20 to $100 through Ticketmaster (tel. 312/559-1212), although be aware that the cheap seats are practically in the rafters. If money is no object, you can usually score good seats through local ticket brokers without much advance notice.

Football

The Chicago Bears play at Soldier Field, Lake Shore Drive and 16th Street (tel. 847/295-6600; www.chicagobears.com), site of a controversial renovation that added what looks like a giant space ship on top of the original stadium's elegant colonnade. Architecturally, it's a disaster, but from a comfort perspective, the place is much improved -- although that doesn't impress longtime fans who prided themselves on surviving blistering-cold game days and horrifying bathrooms. The Bears themselves have been inspiring high hopes -- most recently, winning a trip to the Super Bowl in 2007. But even during losing seasons, tickets are hard to come by. (Most are snapped up by season ticket holders long before the season starts.) If you plan ahead, individual tickets run $45 to $300; expensive seats are usually available through ticket brokers or online sites.

The Northwestern Wildcats play Big Ten college ball at Ryan Field, 1501 Central St., in nearby Evanston (tel. 847/491-CATS [2287]). Unfortunately, Northwestern grads are not particularly loyal to their long-suffering team. In fact, fans of the visiting team often outnumber NU supporters in the stands.

Hockey

The Chicago Blackhawks have devoted, impassioned fans who work themselves into a frenzy with the first note of "The Star-Spangled Banner," but for years, they had to put up with mediocre play and less-than-stellar management. Over the past few seasons, though, the team that once boasted legends such as Bobby Hull and Tony Esposito has made a comeback, winning the Stanley Cup in 2010. Going to a Hawks games has once again become a rousing -- and sometimes rowdy -- experience. The Blackhawks play at the United Center, 1901 W. Madison St. (tel. 312/455-7000; www.chicagoblackhawks.com). Tickets cost $15 to $100.

For a more affordable and family-friendly outing, catch the semipro Chicago Wolves at Allstate Arena, 6920 N. Mannheim Rd., Rosemont (tel. 847/724-GOAL [4625]; www.chicagowolves.com). The team has been consistently excellent over the past few years, and the games are geared toward all ages, with fireworks beforehand and plenty of on- and off-ice entertainment (tickets $13-$30).

Horse Racing

Thoroughbreds race at Arlington International Racecourse, 2200 W. Euclid Ave., Arlington Heights (tel. 847/385-7500; www.arlingtonpark.com), in the northwest suburbs. Live local bands and DJs add to the party atmosphere on Fridays and Saturdays from Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day, starting at 2:30pm. For more details, The Chicago area's other major racetrack, Hawthorne Race Course, 3501 S. Laramie Ave., Stickney (tel. 708/780-3700; www.sportsmanspark.com), is located in the southwest suburbs, about a half-hour drive from downtown.

Soccer

Chicago's Major League Soccer team, the Chicago Fire, plays at its own 20,000-seat stadium in suburban Bridgeview (about 12 miles southwest of downtown). The season runs from late May through October (tel. 888/MLS-FIRE [657-3473]; www.chicago-fire.com). Games have a family feel, with plenty of activities for kids and affordable ticket prices ($15-$60).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.