Chicago is a spectacular, energetic city with the laid back charm typical of the Midwest. The unique architecture of its skyline rivals that of any world class city, with beautiful views of the blue Lake Michigan stretching out as far as you can see and a river the weaves through downtown. The city is clean and easy to navigate, and has a wealth of places to eat and drink. Here are some of my suggestions.
Logistics :: Go during the late spring or early fall; the winters are notoriously bitter and summers are hot and humid. (So plan accordingly when visiting during the off-season.) Many hotels are located near The Loop, the heart of downtown. The subway system, dubbed The L, is reliable and user-friendly, so renting a car isn’t necessary. Cabs are also readily available and easy to hail.
Eat :: Chicago-style pizza is a must here. Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s battle for the best deep dish; my vote goes to Lou’s. Go to the Bongo Room for an unforgettable brunch. Try the crazy creations for lunch at Little Goat or dinner at its sister restaurant, Girl and the Goat. Check out the 148 whiskeys at Longman & Eagle. The Purple Pig is great for a pork- and wine-filled lunch while The Slurping Turtle‘s ramen is a sure-fire hangover cure. One of my favorite Chicago meals was at Avec, a tiny wine bar serving small plates, but I’ll never forget a pistachio dessert I had at the Paris Club Restaurant.
Drink :: There is no shortage of places to imbibe in Chicago. Go to the Barrrelhouse Flat or the Violet Hour for mixologist-created cocktails, Theory or John Barleycorn for classier versions of a sports bar, the Wit or the Signature Room at the Hancock Tower for rooftop views, Pops for Champagne if you’re feeling bubbly (200 different kinds to be exact) or bar crawl through Wrigleyville for the rowdy, younger crowd.
Do :: First and foremost, take an architecture boat tour, where you’ll get beautiful views of the city and learn more than most locals about Chi-town’s history. Check out the famous pointillism painting from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (plus hundreds of other great works) at the Art Institute and visit the Shedd Museum for one of the country’s best aquariums. (Go on a weekday to avoid the several-hour line to get in.)
See a Cub’s baseball game at Wrigley Field or a Bears football game at Soldier Field. Shop along the Magnificent Mile that runs along Michigan Avenue, Chicago’s version of Fifth Ave. Stop by the Cloud Gate sculpture (referred to as “The Bean”) for a photo op. Chicago’s Opera is top notch and its Broadway features the best of the best from New York City.
Next time I visit Chicago, I’d love to see the Bears at Soldier Field (it’s on my bucket list!), spend some time on Lake Michigan, go to Au Chival for brunch, taste one of the 40 specialty cocktails at Ada Street and have the mind-blowing molecular gastronomy tasting menu at Alinea.
What are your favorite Chicago places to eat / drink / do? I’d love to hear in the comments!