I am lucky to live so close to such an amazing city. Growing up, we took day and overnight trips to the ‘Windy City’ of Chicago frequently to visit all of the museums and lakefront. Side note, did you know that it isn’t called the Windy City because of the wind? It really has something to do with politics! But that’s another story. The city of Chicago has so many amazing things to offer and I thought it was about time for me to put together The Ultimate Chicago City Guide for your next visit! Or, you may want to plan and trip after my coverage because you’ll be longing for more.
Chicago is located right on Lake Michigan in Illinois. It was home to a great fire in the 1800s, showcased the very first Ferris wheel at their World’s Fair in the late 1800’s and is also home to some very notorious gangsters! But today Chicago is home to some amazing landmarks, beautiful museums, a world of food offerings and so much more! I’m going to walk you through where to stay, things to do, and where to eat in this post and give you a more in depth look at a handful of restaurants later this week.
Where to Stay
Chicago is slightly spread out but can be very walkable if the weather cooperates. You can certainly stay along Michigan Avenue to be in the middle of everything, or across from Millennium Park for beautiful views but my recommendation is the River North area at Hotel Felix. The location of this hotel is right in the middle of everything and is only a few blocks off of Michigan Avenue. It is also is rather close to the Red Line subway, making it easier to travel north and south within the city.
Back to Hotel Felix. Aside from the location, the amenities of this hotel are right on par. It features a lobby lounge, fitness center and a spa as well as a business center. The staff is more than friendly, offering up their help at any time. There is also a stylish French restaurant called Troquet on the main level and a cute coffee bar to get you on your way in the morning. Upon my arrival I was handed a few poker chips good for free cups of joe! I wasn’t surprised by any of this given that the name Felix means ‘happy’ in Latin.
Also notable is the fact that Hotel Felix holds a Silver LEED Certification thanks to their eco-friendly accommodations. Reclaimed items are featured around the building, earth friendly cleaning supplies are used within the hotel and tactics to reduce their water waste are utilized. My favorite part of this initiative was the fun recycled doorman that greeted me upon my arrival! ‘ Loren the Doorman’ was created out of found and reclaimed materials for the hotel.
Hotel Felix has great reviews on various travel sites and lives up to all of the hype. You’ll want to check it out the next time that you’re in Chicago for an amazing stay, convenient location and great customer service.
Things to do in Chicago
It doesn’t matter what you like, Chicago has something for you. They have sports, they have history, they have art, and boy do they have food! My #1 recommendation would be to pick up a CityPass if you’re planning to head to the museums or observatories. It will absolutely pay for itself if you use it twice. I’ve used CityPass in other cities as well and it’s the perfect way to skip the line at some of the top attractions in Chicago. For only $100 (less for children) you’ll have access to 5 attractions within the city. And again, you’ll get to jump all of the long ticket lines! On the particular weekend that I was in Chicago I used my pass to access the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and 360 Chicago on top of the John Hancock building. And I did it at night, which made for some beautiful views!
Here is my top 10 list of ‘must-see’ attractions in Chicago:
- Art Institute of Chicago – This is no ordinary art museum and features paintings, sculptures and more!
- The Field Museum – You’ll want to stop here if you’re into natural history and to get a glimpse of Sue, the largest, most complete T-Rex on display!
- Shedd Aquarium – This is a great place for the entire family, especially young children. Over 80 different aquatic habitats are on display!
- Skydeck Chicago – This observatory is on top of what was formerly known as the Sears Tower and offers an amazing glimpse of the entire city.
- Navy Pier – An attraction filled with food shops, a children’s museum and a giant Ferris wheel that towers the city.
- Millennium Park – This giant park features summer concerts, a gorgeous garden, ice skating in the winter and the world famous ‘bean‘ sculpture.
- Michigan Avenue – If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, stroll down the Magnificent Mile for a fun shopping experience.
- Wrigley Field – Take in a Cubs game if they are in town or schedule a behind-the-scenes tour of one of America’s oldest stadiums!
- Grab a Chicago-style Pizza – There’s much debate over who has the best, but grab your friends and dive into the deepest dish of pizza you’ve ever seen!
- Architectural Boat Cruise – If you visit in the summer, hop on one of these cruises for a great ride and knowledgeable guides that will walk you through the Chicago skyline!
Of course there are many more things in Chicago to do like the Lincoln Park Zoo, Museum of Science and Industry, Grant Park and the Buckingham Fountain to name a few. It will depend on how much time you have available and how much time you’d like to devote to each landmark. Personally I like to take 1 landmark per day and spend the rest of the time wandering the streets and stopping in the small boutique shops along the way.
If you happen to be over by Millennium Park and you’re looking for a little refresher, I recommend stopping by Columbus Tap for an amazing beer selection and the most delicious warm pretzels that you will ever eat. It’s a great location to catch a baseball game on television and rest your feet.
Where to Eat
Chicago offers some amazing restaurants and I was lucky enough to be in town right before the annual James Beard Awards. Over 100 restaurants around the city participated in the James Beard Eats Week by featuring JB inspired dishes. I’ll talk in more detail about restaurants later this week but I highly recommend Gibson’s Bar & Steakhouse if you’re celebrating something special, Blue Door Kitchen for an amazing brunch and Piccolo Sogno for a romantic evening.
If you live in the Midwest and need a weekend away, or are looking for a new place to vacation, consider Chicago. There is something for every member of your family and more than enough things to keep you busy. You can get more recommendations for food, activities and more at ChooseChicago.com.
Special thanks to Choose Chicago, Hotel Felix, Columbus Tap, Gibson’s Bar & Steakhouse, Piccolo Sogno, Blue Door Kitchen and Bar Siena for hosting Food n’ Focus while in town!