what to do in Chicago?


Dear 'necters,
As part of a three weeks' tour around the East Coast of the USA,  I'll be in Chicago coming weekend (Thursday until Sunday). I've never been there before, and thus aren't too familiar with the city, of course. Surely, I'm planning on visiting some of the "classics". But other than that, I haven't really thought about what to see and do. It doesn't necessarily have to be arch.-related, any nice tips would be highly appreciated (also for bars, restaurants, shops etc). Or is there anybody in the area interested in having a coffee / beer with a Dutch architect (living in Switzerland)?

May 6, 13 4:23 am

navy pier, ESPN zone, museum of science and industry, shedd aquarium, Lincoln park zoo, brook field zoo, millennium park, sears tower, john Hancock, uno's pizzeria, a dirty polish sandwich in jew town, greek town, china town, rock & Roll McDonalds, rainforest cafe, House of blues, just downtown period!!!

May 6, 13 11:14 am
boy in a well

and there's always suicide if you get stuck in the rock n roll mcdonalds..

May 6, 13 11:16 am

I've never been to Chicago, but one thing I've wanted to do for some time now is go get a nice, easy lunch, then go eat it in Millennium Park, specifically underneath the trellis at the Prtizker Pavilion.

May 6, 13 11:50 am
vado retro

avoid tourist traps noted above with the exception of a skyscraper or two and the millenium park. one good experience involving architecture is the boat tours and visit the caf. art institute also. all right in the same area. also here's what the locals do...

May 6, 13 12:38 pm

Some recommendations and questions (this will probably be long):

- Rent a bike and ride around, especially along the lakefront.  Seriously, getting around in Chicago by bike is (in my opinion) the best way to get around.  You get places quickly, inexpensively and you see/experience a lot.  I ride year-round (it is my only method of transportation) and I love it, even in snowy, cold weather.

- This Friday is the Pilsen East monthly art open house near 18th and Halsted in Pilsen.  Years ago, it was a better monthly event, but artists have moved out of the area in the last couple years so it isn't as highly populated.  If you in the area for this, go to dinner at Nightwood, which is a couple blocks south.  It is one of the best restaurants in the city and Jason Vincent (executive chef) just won an award for his work.  Every day is a new menu made with local, fresh ingredients.  Kind of expensive but very much worth it.

- It's baseball season!  Go to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field or a White Sox game at U.S. Cellular field.  Both teams are not very good right now.  But Wrigley Field is a little more of an "experience," especially for people from out of town.  White Sox games would be less expensive, but they are more sparsely attended and a little more insular.

- Coffee Shops:  Big Shoulders Coffee, Intelligentsia, Gas Light Coffee Roasters, Filter, Ipsento, Metropolis, Sip...all local places (there are tons more).

- Ultimately, it is going to depend on what exactly you like and what experience you are looking to get out of it.  For restaurants/bars/clubs, do you like quieter, smaller places or do you like busier/louder places?  River North is more or less (for better or worse) the nightclub/bar epicenter of the city.  However, the Fulton Market district (west of the Loop) and Randolph Street have some of the country's best reviewed and popular restaurants.  Logan Square has some great restaurants as well (Northwest side).  What kind of music do you like, if you are interested in seeing live music?  There is the Metro for more rock-based music (a Chicago institution, really) and Smart Bar, which is right below the Metro, for some of the city's most progressive electronic music and DJ's.  The Mid in River West is another place for progressive dance music.  There is also the Green Mill for jazz on the North Side, Empty Bottle on the west side for a variety of music, The Shrine on the near South Side for mostly Hip Hop.  Schubas, Lincoln Hall, The Vic, Logan Square Auditorium, Double Door, Subterranean, Park West, Congress Theater, Riviera Theater and Aragon Ballroom are all other places to see concerts at that have a variety of acts.

- Go down to Hyde Park/Kenwood.  Great old architecture as well as new architecture, specifically at University of Chicago.  I would recommend being a little careful where you venture down there, though; it is easy to get out of the neighborhood and find yourself in some not-so-great areas of the city.  It isn't bad for people who are used to it and keep an eye out and can navigate situations like that, but you would want to be careful because you aren't too familiar with the area I am assuming.

- Walk Milwaukee Avenue.  You could start essentially at the southern end of it (Kinzie), or you could start at Division.  Between Kinzie and Division, there are kind of empty sections (or less dense or interesting), but between Division and Logan Blvd. there is a ton of activity and a variety of things to experience.

- You are coming here at a time of year when the weather is, in my opinion, the greatest.  Mid-Spring and Mid-Fall in Chicago are my favorite times of year.  Unfortunately, it looks like it might be a bit rainy and colder than usual (hopefully it will get better).  I would recommend, weather permitting, to spend as much time outside.

- Chinatown and Bronzeville:  cool history of Chicago in those neighborhoods.

- As mentioned above, Chicago Architecture Foundation tours, Boat Taxi on the river, take the L-train around, Art Institute, Museum of Contemporary Art, North Michigan Avenue, etc.

- Chicago is still a highly segregated city, both racially and economically (issues that are kind of intertwined due to city history).  If you are interested in history and you are exceptionally adventurous, you can try going around to some less-traveled parts of Chicago that still show very much the economic issues we have.  North Lawndale, Garfield Park, Washington Heights, Bronzeville - these places have a very important place in the history of civil rights in our city and country but they are also more dangerous because of gangs, drugs and the sour state of the economy.  There are places in the city that are magnificently gilded, and only a couple miles away places of extreme poverty and desolation.

Sorry for the length of the post but there is so much to give as options.  Good luck and have fun!

May 6, 13 3:34 pm

Thecyclist... just south of the Art Institute on michigan ave, there is a garden with this sunken gravel landscape... that is where you want to have your lunch....  

I always recommend heading to the Adler Planetarium... you don't have to go inside, thought the expansion is nice... but it's more for looking back at the city.

If you don't go on a walking or boat tour, I'd say you should hit up the Monadnock, Rookery, Inland Steel & Reliance buildings.   You're naturally going to be drawn to some of the newer wiz-bang stuff (Aqua, Spertus), and the tall stuff (Marina Towers, Hancock), and you can't help but run into Mies (IBM, Federal Center.)  It's worth heading down to IIT to see the Meis, Jahn, and Koolhaas, pop over to the burnt down Pilgrim Baptist Church. (Do they still have those walls rigged up?)  Oh, I guess you should stroll by the Carson Pirie Scott building too.

Recommended food and drinks in this town will take a few more posts.

May 6, 13 4:02 pm

Hancock Tower Observatory for drinks. Get there before sundown on a clear evening.

May 6, 13 6:21 pm

Does anyone in Chicago seriously call the Sears Tower the Willis Tower?  Who's Willis, anyway?  Bruce?  I hope not.  That guy is a typecast douche.

Loved the observation decks at both the Sears Tower and John Hancock.  That museum or aquarium (Shedd?) out at the point on the lake is also cool, whatever that point is called.

Food?  Good food everywhere.  Of every kind.  It's hard to get bad food in Chicago. 

May 6, 13 7:02 pm

There isn't too much more to add to this, but go check out the Poetry Foundation building by John Ronan. One of the great new works in the city. It is right off the Chicago Red Line stop on Superior. 

On Milwaukee Ave, I'd do Division to Logan. Stop at Myopic Books. 

May 6, 13 9:01 pm

I forgot to mention the merchandise mart, water tower, & im not certain whats happening at the mcCormick place this time of year

May 6, 13 10:08 pm
Spelled w•i•l•l•i•s, pronounced sir•z.

Seriously, archinect and Chicago and no mention of oak park? Robbie house etc?

Also, IIT has some of the best van see Rowe stuff.

Anyways, millennium park, sears (observation balcony has a glass floor over the city), Hancock, and water tower. Wrigley building, also tribune tower (has an interesting rock collection embedded in its wall).

Lastly, skyline best viewed from the water, take an architectural boat tour from navy pier.
May 6, 13 11:39 pm

Some of the downtown touristy stuff is definitely worth doing (Chicago Arch. Foundation boat tour on the river is nice), but I really like the neighborhoods.

Lincoln Square (not Lincoln Park) is a nice ride on the brown line,  you get to see the city from the train - once there, good restaurants, Louis Sullivan's last commission, a little music store, and the Old Town School of Folk Music, which has lots of excellent concerts, and not just folk music.

Observant says that it is hard to get bad food in Chicago, but I've had some lousy meals downtown. I think that the restaurants are better and more interesting outside of the loop.

May 7, 13 1:22 am

Thanks for all the great tips - that'll probably be more than enough to enjoy some nice days over there. Let's see how far I get on my list of "things to see/do"...

May 7, 13 8:23 am

Explore some neighborhoods (Avondale, Logan Square, Lincoln Park, etc.), by foot and train. Grab a Chicago dog!

May 8, 13 10:55 am

Wrigley is getting a major renovation after this season, so maybe go to a game!

May 8, 13 10:58 am

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