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Guidebook for Chicago

Michelle

Guidebook for Chicago

Food Scene
If you can appreciate a gourmet donut, this place is the real deal. There's a handful of locations in Chicago but this one is closest to the apartment (just down the street). Always service with a smile and a selection of killer donuts; everything from old fashion and glazed to sugar, red velvet, maple long johns with bacon, PB&J, chocolate, cream filled, lots with sprinkles and toppings ... Baked fresh daily, decadent and great with coffee.
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Glazed and Infused
813 West Fulton Market
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If you can appreciate a gourmet donut, this place is the real deal. There's a handful of locations in Chicago but this one is closest to the apartment (just down the street). Always service with a smile and a selection of killer donuts; everything from old fashion and glazed to sugar, red velvet, maple long johns with bacon, PB&J, chocolate, cream filled, lots with sprinkles and toppings ... Baked fresh daily, decadent and great with coffee.
If you're looking to impress a date, and to take in one of Grant Achatz's highly rated restaurants, Roister is the more casual entry in Alinea Group's offerings. The kitchen is the dining room, so you can see everything being made right at the bar. Located in the Fulton Market area, this is a hip spot especially when the weather is nice and the patio area opens up to the outside. Roister serves actual food in case you're wondering how similar this would be to Alinea. The pretensions are mostly put aside, and there is still that nice attention to detail without all that fuss and foofoo that you see in Chef's Table.
Roister Restaurant
951 W Fulton Market
If you're looking to impress a date, and to take in one of Grant Achatz's highly rated restaurants, Roister is the more casual entry in Alinea Group's offerings. The kitchen is the dining room, so you can see everything being made right at the bar. Located in the Fulton Market area, this is a hip spot especially when the weather is nice and the patio area opens up to the outside. Roister serves actual food in case you're wondering how similar this would be to Alinea. The pretensions are mostly put aside, and there is still that nice attention to detail without all that fuss and foofoo that you see in Chef's Table.
If you're a coffee connoisseur and foodie, you may have heard of latte art champion, Hiroshi Sawada, and Chicago's famous Brendan Sodikoff, or at least one of his restaurants. When the two come together, a miracle of a shop is born. Of course, get the military latte, which is quality Japanese matcha powder, vanilla syrup, chocolate, and espresso with milk. If you don't like very sweet things, ask for half sweet. Yea it's about $6 but it's huge. Other drinks have multiple sizes but the Military Latte is one large size so you could even share it. If you're going to pay $4 for a random so-so latte anywhere else like Starbucks, this is definitely worth the extra $2 experience.
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Sawada Coffee
112 N Green St
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If you're a coffee connoisseur and foodie, you may have heard of latte art champion, Hiroshi Sawada, and Chicago's famous Brendan Sodikoff, or at least one of his restaurants. When the two come together, a miracle of a shop is born. Of course, get the military latte, which is quality Japanese matcha powder, vanilla syrup, chocolate, and espresso with milk. If you don't like very sweet things, ask for half sweet. Yea it's about $6 but it's huge. Other drinks have multiple sizes but the Military Latte is one large size so you could even share it. If you're going to pay $4 for a random so-so latte anywhere else like Starbucks, this is definitely worth the extra $2 experience.
Beatrix is an easy option and open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and weekend brunch with healthier than average fare. The coffee bar features house-made pastries, suitable for dining in or grab-and-go. There is also a great outdoor patio. Try the fresh-squeezed juices and poke bowls.
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Beatrix
834 W Fulton Market
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Beatrix is an easy option and open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and weekend brunch with healthier than average fare. The coffee bar features house-made pastries, suitable for dining in or grab-and-go. There is also a great outdoor patio. Try the fresh-squeezed juices and poke bowls.
Get in line early...They usually run out of donuts by 10am. The menu is simple and to the point. They don't offer as many flavors like other doughnut stores, but that's kinda the charm. Saves the stress of having to pick and choose which ones to get. Try the buttermilk old fashion, and it's the bomb with the perfect crunch. The place is tiny, can only fit like 4-5 people in there at once. There's no seating inside so you have to wait to eat them or just devour them outside of the store like we do.
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Doughnut Vault
401 North Franklin Street
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Get in line early...They usually run out of donuts by 10am. The menu is simple and to the point. They don't offer as many flavors like other doughnut stores, but that's kinda the charm. Saves the stress of having to pick and choose which ones to get. Try the buttermilk old fashion, and it's the bomb with the perfect crunch. The place is tiny, can only fit like 4-5 people in there at once. There's no seating inside so you have to wait to eat them or just devour them outside of the store like we do.
I bit of a trek from the neighborhood, but we've been eating here for at least 10 years now...It is our go-to Italian restaurant for when we're being really, really bad. The food and the service are amazing!!! Portions are huge - which is a bonus because there is always enough left over for dinner the next night. My fave is the chicken parmigiana with homemade rigatoni and Marc's is the lasagna. Also be sure to order the green bean salad...I know that doesn't sound special, but if you like garlic and basil, you'll love it.
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Caro Mio Italian Restaurant
1833 West Wilson Avenue
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I bit of a trek from the neighborhood, but we've been eating here for at least 10 years now...It is our go-to Italian restaurant for when we're being really, really bad. The food and the service are amazing!!! Portions are huge - which is a bonus because there is always enough left over for dinner the next night. My fave is the chicken parmigiana with homemade rigatoni and Marc's is the lasagna. Also be sure to order the green bean salad...I know that doesn't sound special, but if you like garlic and basil, you'll love it.
A cool restaurant in hipster land with one of the best outdoor patios in Chicago. It's a bit of a trek from the neighborhood, but totally worth it for the ambiance and frozen negroni slushi drinks. Like the restaurant name say,s Parson's Chicken & Fish: the Amish chicken is fried to a perfect crispness with great seasoning. The battered fish delicious and fried with a light battering to a perfect crispness. Try the carrot habanero dipping sauce. So good!!!
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Parson's Chicken & Fish - Logan Square
2952 West Armitage Avenue
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A cool restaurant in hipster land with one of the best outdoor patios in Chicago. It's a bit of a trek from the neighborhood, but totally worth it for the ambiance and frozen negroni slushi drinks. Like the restaurant name say,s Parson's Chicken & Fish: the Amish chicken is fried to a perfect crispness with great seasoning. The battered fish delicious and fried with a light battering to a perfect crispness. Try the carrot habanero dipping sauce. So good!!!
It's easy to overlook this restaurant, since it is just off of Randolph's restaurant row and on an obscure side street. Anyway, it's the real deal, with all the classic French comfort foods, impeccably prepared. It's really the small details that make the difference: the warm, crusty French bread and sweet butter served before you even order; the exactly correct Dijon mustard that accompanies the country-style house-made terrine of pork pate; the croutons on your Salad Lyonnaise that have obviously just been toasted; the perfect crust of gruyere on the French onion soup; and of course the right ambiance and soundtrack to accompany a classic French bistro meal. Go on Tuesday night!
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La Sardine
111 North Carpenter Street
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It's easy to overlook this restaurant, since it is just off of Randolph's restaurant row and on an obscure side street. Anyway, it's the real deal, with all the classic French comfort foods, impeccably prepared. It's really the small details that make the difference: the warm, crusty French bread and sweet butter served before you even order; the exactly correct Dijon mustard that accompanies the country-style house-made terrine of pork pate; the croutons on your Salad Lyonnaise that have obviously just been toasted; the perfect crust of gruyere on the French onion soup; and of course the right ambiance and soundtrack to accompany a classic French bistro meal. Go on Tuesday night!
I'm a sucker for hidden gems and this ramen spot passes every check on my list of defining super cool & different. What's so different about it? The restaurant shares a space with two other joints (a coffee shop and a bar/restaurant) and the main entrance is from inside Green Street Smoked Meats. With no real sign, you follow the line down the basement to put your name on the list. With only 16 seats, the wait can run anywhere from 30 minutes - 2 hours depending on what time you go. As the name suggests, ramen is the main draw...definitely also try the coconut drink to cool off between slurps of spicy ramen!
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High Five Ramen
112 North Green Street
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I'm a sucker for hidden gems and this ramen spot passes every check on my list of defining super cool & different. What's so different about it? The restaurant shares a space with two other joints (a coffee shop and a bar/restaurant) and the main entrance is from inside Green Street Smoked Meats. With no real sign, you follow the line down the basement to put your name on the list. With only 16 seats, the wait can run anywhere from 30 minutes - 2 hours depending on what time you go. As the name suggests, ramen is the main draw...definitely also try the coconut drink to cool off between slurps of spicy ramen!
My favorite upscale sushi place in Chicago. They have their fish flown in daily so it's still fresh (and makes for a pricey meal). The food and drinks are all creative and delicious. Definitely try some of the sashimi and a noodle dish. The Monk's Journey is my favorite drink. Service is always great. The atmosphere is romantic with dim lighting throughout. Also check out the downstairs bar for a before or after dinner drink. Be sure to make a reservation at least 1 week out.
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Momotaro
820 West Lake Street
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My favorite upscale sushi place in Chicago. They have their fish flown in daily so it's still fresh (and makes for a pricey meal). The food and drinks are all creative and delicious. Definitely try some of the sashimi and a noodle dish. The Monk's Journey is my favorite drink. Service is always great. The atmosphere is romantic with dim lighting throughout. Also check out the downstairs bar for a before or after dinner drink. Be sure to make a reservation at least 1 week out.
This is where you'll find me Saturday mornings this summer! There is so much to look at and a great variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. First stop: the smoothie tent. Fresh strawberry/blueberry smoothie is like sipping on sunshine. Then wander around to pick out your favorite goods. Tomatoes (green, red, yellow), asparagus, lettuce, squash, squash blossoms, potatoes, strawberries, peas...a nice array. There's also cheese, pasta, salsa, pickled veggies, meats and seafood to purchase as well. Hungry? There's grilled cheese, crepes, artisan pizza, tamales, etc. for purchase. And there is also a kids section--Club Sprouts--where they offer kids activities and food tastings.
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Green City Market Lincoln Park
1817 North Clark Street
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This is where you'll find me Saturday mornings this summer! There is so much to look at and a great variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. First stop: the smoothie tent. Fresh strawberry/blueberry smoothie is like sipping on sunshine. Then wander around to pick out your favorite goods. Tomatoes (green, red, yellow), asparagus, lettuce, squash, squash blossoms, potatoes, strawberries, peas...a nice array. There's also cheese, pasta, salsa, pickled veggies, meats and seafood to purchase as well. Hungry? There's grilled cheese, crepes, artisan pizza, tamales, etc. for purchase. And there is also a kids section--Club Sprouts--where they offer kids activities and food tastings.
A Chicago Institution! The only place in Chicago that is like a NYC deli. Order the corned beef or pastrami sandwich and thank me later! A typical cafeteria setting, so grab a tray and proceed down the line choosing food as you go...just don't take too long or the old guys (they've all worked there 20+ years) will give you attitude! They have all sorts of food like short ribs, mac'n'cheese, stuffed cabbage, pie, pot roast, etc...all good for your soul, not your waistline! I always try to try something new but always end up getting a pastrami. The atmosphere is very casual...Good for eating on a budget. Take an uber...Not much else going on in this neighborhood.
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Manny's Coffee Shop & Deli
1141 South Jefferson Street
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A Chicago Institution! The only place in Chicago that is like a NYC deli. Order the corned beef or pastrami sandwich and thank me later! A typical cafeteria setting, so grab a tray and proceed down the line choosing food as you go...just don't take too long or the old guys (they've all worked there 20+ years) will give you attitude! They have all sorts of food like short ribs, mac'n'cheese, stuffed cabbage, pie, pot roast, etc...all good for your soul, not your waistline! I always try to try something new but always end up getting a pastrami. The atmosphere is very casual...Good for eating on a budget. Take an uber...Not much else going on in this neighborhood.
A bit off the beaten track, but totally worth the trek for the PEKING DUCK DINNER (not on the menu, but just tell the server what you want). Great place for big parties - birthdays, family reunion, etc. The duck dinner comes with one full duck (w/ 6 baos + veggies), a big bowl of soup (made from the bones of the duck), and duck fried rice (made from the extra meat on the duck). It is about $40 for the combo but you can easily split it between 3-4 people for a good value. Also, the egg rolls are fantastic. BYOB with a $10 per bottle corkage fee.
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Sun Wah BBQ
5039 North Broadway Street
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A bit off the beaten track, but totally worth the trek for the PEKING DUCK DINNER (not on the menu, but just tell the server what you want). Great place for big parties - birthdays, family reunion, etc. The duck dinner comes with one full duck (w/ 6 baos + veggies), a big bowl of soup (made from the bones of the duck), and duck fried rice (made from the extra meat on the duck). It is about $40 for the combo but you can easily split it between 3-4 people for a good value. Also, the egg rolls are fantastic. BYOB with a $10 per bottle corkage fee.
Open early, and serving breakfast and lunch menus 7-days, there are certain things patrons of Lou's have come to expect: being greeted at the door with a hot donut hole, being expediently served by a professional and happy staff, complimentary Milk Duds on the table, an orange slice and a single prune as an "amuse," and an offer of free ice cream upon the completion of your meal. Expect quality ingredients, meticulous preparation, and large servings of the menu items. Be sure to include Lou Mitchell's on your "must" list...Especially for those who pine for a time when things were "better" in America, Lou Mitchell's will transport you there.
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Lou Mitchell's
565 West Jackson Boulevard
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Open early, and serving breakfast and lunch menus 7-days, there are certain things patrons of Lou's have come to expect: being greeted at the door with a hot donut hole, being expediently served by a professional and happy staff, complimentary Milk Duds on the table, an orange slice and a single prune as an "amuse," and an offer of free ice cream upon the completion of your meal. Expect quality ingredients, meticulous preparation, and large servings of the menu items. Be sure to include Lou Mitchell's on your "must" list...Especially for those who pine for a time when things were "better" in America, Lou Mitchell's will transport you there.
This is a great place in a not so great neighborhood. However going here for lunch is a great option. This is a small carry out/cash only establishment. Besides the various fried delights such as fish, oysters, scallops, smelt, etc. They had a variety of smoked fish by the piece. You can pick the size of the piece you want from the display case. The smoked garlic pepper trout is excellent as is the garlic pepper salmon and sturgeon. They also offer smoked shrimp, which you rarely see, and several other types of fish. The smoking is done on premises. The only place to eat besides your car is a couple of picnic benches outside. Not bad if the weather is nice!
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Calumet Fisheries
3259 East 95th Street
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This is a great place in a not so great neighborhood. However going here for lunch is a great option. This is a small carry out/cash only establishment. Besides the various fried delights such as fish, oysters, scallops, smelt, etc. They had a variety of smoked fish by the piece. You can pick the size of the piece you want from the display case. The smoked garlic pepper trout is excellent as is the garlic pepper salmon and sturgeon. They also offer smoked shrimp, which you rarely see, and several other types of fish. The smoking is done on premises. The only place to eat besides your car is a couple of picnic benches outside. Not bad if the weather is nice!
$7.99 per HALF pound of bulk candy. It's very easy to overlook that tiny, yet significant detail until you get up to the register and see your total...Anyway, what a fun place! There's two floors packed full of bright and sparkly creations ranging from classic jelly bellies, sugar free candies, hard to find candy bars, to gummies in every shape and flavor you can think of. They also have an impressive selection of novelty items including a super cute gingerbread play tent, chocolate bar shaped sleeping bag, backpacks, phone cases, tshirts, and toys. There's even a party room upstairs where I assume you go to get candy wasted! Definitely worth stopping by to fulfill your sweet tooth.
Dylan's Candy Bar
663 North Michigan Avenue
$7.99 per HALF pound of bulk candy. It's very easy to overlook that tiny, yet significant detail until you get up to the register and see your total...Anyway, what a fun place! There's two floors packed full of bright and sparkly creations ranging from classic jelly bellies, sugar free candies, hard to find candy bars, to gummies in every shape and flavor you can think of. They also have an impressive selection of novelty items including a super cute gingerbread play tent, chocolate bar shaped sleeping bag, backpacks, phone cases, tshirts, and toys. There's even a party room upstairs where I assume you go to get candy wasted! Definitely worth stopping by to fulfill your sweet tooth.
Great local spot in Wicker Park for breakfast/brunch. Long waits during peak weekend breakfast times, but that's pretty common in Chicago. When you come here, regardless of what you actually order you need to also add the white chocolate caramel pancake to your meal. It's rich, it's sweet, it's heavy, and it's amazing. What a great place to come to, sit, relax and have a great meal with great service. And please don't forget the white chocolate caramel pancake.
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Bongo Room
1470 N Milwaukee Ave
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Great local spot in Wicker Park for breakfast/brunch. Long waits during peak weekend breakfast times, but that's pretty common in Chicago. When you come here, regardless of what you actually order you need to also add the white chocolate caramel pancake to your meal. It's rich, it's sweet, it's heavy, and it's amazing. What a great place to come to, sit, relax and have a great meal with great service. And please don't forget the white chocolate caramel pancake.
An authentic Mexican restaurant with heart and soul, La Josie. While located in the trendiest of Chicago spots at the moment (West Loop), it retains its home-grown charm. The interior and rooftop are nicely decorated and modern, but the food has it's Chicago heritage in El Solazo, near Midway, and Taqueria Los Comales at 63rd and Albany. And really it all goes back to the family's roots in Jalisco, Mexico. Start with the of guacamole along with the classic mezcal margarita...The menu contains all the Mexican/American classics to leave you comfortable and satisfied. Prices are a bit high, but welcome to Restaurant Row!
La Josie
740 W Randolph St
An authentic Mexican restaurant with heart and soul, La Josie. While located in the trendiest of Chicago spots at the moment (West Loop), it retains its home-grown charm. The interior and rooftop are nicely decorated and modern, but the food has it's Chicago heritage in El Solazo, near Midway, and Taqueria Los Comales at 63rd and Albany. And really it all goes back to the family's roots in Jalisco, Mexico. Start with the of guacamole along with the classic mezcal margarita...The menu contains all the Mexican/American classics to leave you comfortable and satisfied. Prices are a bit high, but welcome to Restaurant Row!
fun, cheap sushi (try the thai dishes!)
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Butterfly Sushi Bar
1139 West Grand Avenue
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fun, cheap sushi (try the thai dishes!)
mediterranean menu...fantastic wine list
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The Purple Pig
500 North Michigan Avenue
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mediterranean menu...fantastic wine list
I love the location of City Mouse. Nestled in Fulton Market District, it's convenient to walk around before or after for a drink or just look around the area. FYI: a great bar across the street called Prairie School. Located inside the ACE hotel, there is an L shaped bar when you walk in to the right, and perfect to have a drink while you're waiting. Definitely try the avocado toast. Yum!
City Mouse Chicago
319 N Morgan St
I love the location of City Mouse. Nestled in Fulton Market District, it's convenient to walk around before or after for a drink or just look around the area. FYI: a great bar across the street called Prairie School. Located inside the ACE hotel, there is an L shaped bar when you walk in to the right, and perfect to have a drink while you're waiting. Definitely try the avocado toast. Yum!
Do-Rite Donuts & Chicken
181 N Morgan St
IMHO, the best Indian restaurant in Chicago! There are few dishes that are as game changing/life altering than the Gobi Manchurian at Rangoli. If you think you've had Cauliflower, think again. This place is seriously as good as it gets on a number of accounts and the food is just where it should be when rating a resty. At the very tip top. The Extraordinary garlic naan and equally delectable Chicken Biryani are almost an afterthought to the Gobi ManC! Don't even think about missing this one.
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Rangoli Classic Indian Dining
2421 West North Avenue
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IMHO, the best Indian restaurant in Chicago! There are few dishes that are as game changing/life altering than the Gobi Manchurian at Rangoli. If you think you've had Cauliflower, think again. This place is seriously as good as it gets on a number of accounts and the food is just where it should be when rating a resty. At the very tip top. The Extraordinary garlic naan and equally delectable Chicken Biryani are almost an afterthought to the Gobi ManC! Don't even think about missing this one.
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Beatnik - West Town
1604 W Chicago Ave
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honeygrow
179 N Morgan St
Drinks & Nightlife
We've been to the Cobra Lounge for more shows than we can count and visited it for the food and beer on several other occasions. Great place to see a show, good food and great craft beer they brew in-house. Food service can be a little slow but just take your time. Worth visiting even if you aren't going to a show.
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Cobra Lounge
235 North Ashland Avenue
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We've been to the Cobra Lounge for more shows than we can count and visited it for the food and beer on several other occasions. Great place to see a show, good food and great craft beer they brew in-house. Food service can be a little slow but just take your time. Worth visiting even if you aren't going to a show.
Maria's has hundreds of different beers, including dozens on tap. They have very knowledgeable bartenders. You can get great food from next door (and... other food from all around the neighborhood) delivered inside the bar. It can get kind of loud in here, because everyone is having such a great time and because there's often a DJ. Great patio during the summertime. This is a cornerstone of the south side.
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Maria's Packaged Goods and Community Bar
960 West 31st Street
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Maria's has hundreds of different beers, including dozens on tap. They have very knowledgeable bartenders. You can get great food from next door (and... other food from all around the neighborhood) delivered inside the bar. It can get kind of loud in here, because everyone is having such a great time and because there's often a DJ. Great patio during the summertime. This is a cornerstone of the south side.
RM Champagne is such a neat spot...perhaps the most romantic bar in the entire city. The dim lighting, candles, and French inspired decorations really make it unforgettable. The outside patio area is also beautiful. It is nice to sit outside on a summer night. The outside area closes at midnight on Saturday but you can head inside and stay until 2am. I have tried several different champagnes and have never been disappointed, they are always excellent. The bartenders are friendly. If you like strong drinks, definitely try my favorite drink called the Great Scott, which is their take on the classic Old Fashioned. Also, 5-8pm on Tuesdays, oysters are just $1.
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RM Champagne Salon
116 North Green Street
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RM Champagne is such a neat spot...perhaps the most romantic bar in the entire city. The dim lighting, candles, and French inspired decorations really make it unforgettable. The outside patio area is also beautiful. It is nice to sit outside on a summer night. The outside area closes at midnight on Saturday but you can head inside and stay until 2am. I have tried several different champagnes and have never been disappointed, they are always excellent. The bartenders are friendly. If you like strong drinks, definitely try my favorite drink called the Great Scott, which is their take on the classic Old Fashioned. Also, 5-8pm on Tuesdays, oysters are just $1.
If you like meat and games and beer, Kaiser Tiger is for you. Their outdoor patio area is an awesome spot for group hangouts / day drinking! It's located at the end of west loop and just across the street from Union Park. -Excellent outdoor area (First come, first serve. All ordering done from outside bar) -Pretty good canned beer selection from outside bar (also noticed they had quite a tap selection at the inside bar) -Plenty of games to play. Giant jenga, cornhole, and two bocce ball courts. PLUS curling in the winter months -Food is just OKAY
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Kaiser Tiger
1415 West Randolph Street
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If you like meat and games and beer, Kaiser Tiger is for you. Their outdoor patio area is an awesome spot for group hangouts / day drinking! It's located at the end of west loop and just across the street from Union Park. -Excellent outdoor area (First come, first serve. All ordering done from outside bar) -Pretty good canned beer selection from outside bar (also noticed they had quite a tap selection at the inside bar) -Plenty of games to play. Giant jenga, cornhole, and two bocce ball courts. PLUS curling in the winter months -Food is just OKAY
Travel back to the 90s! Great spot to go to with a big group of people. This is the typical "adult arcade". It has a ton of games, a wide variety of beers, and good music.
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Emporium Wicker Park
1366 North Milwaukee Avenue
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Travel back to the 90s! Great spot to go to with a big group of people. This is the typical "adult arcade". It has a ton of games, a wide variety of beers, and good music.
Arts & Culture
If you're bringing kids to Chicago, the Museum of Science & Industry is a MUST! The exhibits are interactive and they present the information in a friendly manner. This museum is one where you can spend the whole day and not get bored, maybe brain exhausted, but definitely not bored. They've got everything and thought of everything. Legos, planes, trains, spaceships, IMAX movies, dioramas, mirror mazes, etc.
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Museum of Science & Industry
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If you're bringing kids to Chicago, the Museum of Science & Industry is a MUST! The exhibits are interactive and they present the information in a friendly manner. This museum is one where you can spend the whole day and not get bored, maybe brain exhausted, but definitely not bored. They've got everything and thought of everything. Legos, planes, trains, spaceships, IMAX movies, dioramas, mirror mazes, etc.
Chicago's Art Institute is indeed one of the best museums in America and perhaps even the world! It is famous for its French Impressionism collection, but that's definitely not the only notable sections of its vast permanent exhibits. While you should still admire the masterpieces from Van Gogh and Monet, you must also explore the other sections of the museums! To name a few, you will find an expansive Hellenistic collection spanning the its whole time frame, an impressive Asian collection with enough works to fill a grand temple, and an awesome European weapon collection befitting for an army. Anyway, plan to stay here for at least a half day because the Art Institute is full of treasures.
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Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
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Chicago's Art Institute is indeed one of the best museums in America and perhaps even the world! It is famous for its French Impressionism collection, but that's definitely not the only notable sections of its vast permanent exhibits. While you should still admire the masterpieces from Van Gogh and Monet, you must also explore the other sections of the museums! To name a few, you will find an expansive Hellenistic collection spanning the its whole time frame, an impressive Asian collection with enough works to fill a grand temple, and an awesome European weapon collection befitting for an army. Anyway, plan to stay here for at least a half day because the Art Institute is full of treasures.
Just off the Magnificent Mile, the Museum of Contemporary Art routinely delivers interesting, thought-provoking experiences. While not the largest museum in the city, it is always good for a couple of hours' entertainment. The exhibits never fail to provoke conversation. A wide variety of artists are presented, and the object labels are always well considered and helpful when viewing works of art that can, at times, be challenging. All that, and they have a fantastic museum store!
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Museum Of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 East Chicago Avenue
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Just off the Magnificent Mile, the Museum of Contemporary Art routinely delivers interesting, thought-provoking experiences. While not the largest museum in the city, it is always good for a couple of hours' entertainment. The exhibits never fail to provoke conversation. A wide variety of artists are presented, and the object labels are always well considered and helpful when viewing works of art that can, at times, be challenging. All that, and they have a fantastic museum store!
This is an awesome natural history museum with a vast display of animals, landscapes and cultures. I would add this to anyone's list of must-visit places in Chicago, especially if you have young kids who love dinosaurs. It makes for an excellent educational experience for people of all ages and allows you to appreciate the hard and unique work paleontologists, anthropologists and others do to bring these beautiful displays available to the public.
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Field Museum
1400 South Lake Shore Drive
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This is an awesome natural history museum with a vast display of animals, landscapes and cultures. I would add this to anyone's list of must-visit places in Chicago, especially if you have young kids who love dinosaurs. It makes for an excellent educational experience for people of all ages and allows you to appreciate the hard and unique work paleontologists, anthropologists and others do to bring these beautiful displays available to the public.
Space buffs must go to the Adler Planetarium to enjoy the exhibitions and the movies. I definitely recommend Destination Solar System....both interesting and educational. Outside the planetarium on the river edge there is a telescope and you climb this platform and you are able to see the sun and its solar flairs live... It's beautiful and amazing and free! So, if you are planning to visit Adler Planetarium, don't forget to check it out this telescope outside the building at the lake edge while getting a fantastic view of the city skyline. It's worth it!
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Adler Planetarium
1300 South Lake Shore Drive
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Space buffs must go to the Adler Planetarium to enjoy the exhibitions and the movies. I definitely recommend Destination Solar System....both interesting and educational. Outside the planetarium on the river edge there is a telescope and you climb this platform and you are able to see the sun and its solar flairs live... It's beautiful and amazing and free! So, if you are planning to visit Adler Planetarium, don't forget to check it out this telescope outside the building at the lake edge while getting a fantastic view of the city skyline. It's worth it!
Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is a very unique and a wonderful place to spend a couple hours with young children. It offers several different areas for them to explore and discover. My favorite place to go visit is the butterfly exhibit where you can walk around and literally be around live butterflies flying all around you! There are also exhibits for older children to be able to read and discover about animals and nature. There's also a section with a treehouse and a playground area for younger ones. It's located across the street from Lincoln Park Zoo and near the beach...in case you want to combine visits.
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Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
2430 North Cannon Drive
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Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is a very unique and a wonderful place to spend a couple hours with young children. It offers several different areas for them to explore and discover. My favorite place to go visit is the butterfly exhibit where you can walk around and literally be around live butterflies flying all around you! There are also exhibits for older children to be able to read and discover about animals and nature. There's also a section with a treehouse and a playground area for younger ones. It's located across the street from Lincoln Park Zoo and near the beach...in case you want to combine visits.
Located on Navy Pier, this is our country's most acclaimed Shakespeare theatre. The productions are world class on every level. If you haven't seen a play here, you're missing out on a great evening. It's not the boring Shakespeare you were forced to read in high school. The plays come to life on this main stage. There are major action sequences, lightning and thunder, canons, music, and even singing and dancing. And they feature award winning directors and actors. Tickets are surprisingly affordable...If you're under 35, you can buy two tickets for $20 each. And even regularly priced tickets are not expensive. Parking at Navy Pier is discounted for you as well.
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Chicago Shakespeare Theater
East Grand Avenue
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Located on Navy Pier, this is our country's most acclaimed Shakespeare theatre. The productions are world class on every level. If you haven't seen a play here, you're missing out on a great evening. It's not the boring Shakespeare you were forced to read in high school. The plays come to life on this main stage. There are major action sequences, lightning and thunder, canons, music, and even singing and dancing. And they feature award winning directors and actors. Tickets are surprisingly affordable...If you're under 35, you can buy two tickets for $20 each. And even regularly priced tickets are not expensive. Parking at Navy Pier is discounted for you as well.
The National Hellenic Museum is housed in a modern building on Halsted, the main drag of Greektown, just west of downtown Chicago. The four-story building opened in late 2011. Adult admission is $10 and the museum is closed on Mondays. It is supposedly the largest Greek museum outside of Greece. Artifacts help to illustrate Greek cultural history as well as the Greek-American immigration experience. There are some flatscreens that show a scrolling stream of mesmerizing images of the beautiful scenery in Greece, and these images will make you want to book a trip to Greece right away. A must-see if you happen to be Greek...along with a stop at Greek Islands Restaurant across the street.
National Hellenic Museum
333 South Halsted Street
The National Hellenic Museum is housed in a modern building on Halsted, the main drag of Greektown, just west of downtown Chicago. The four-story building opened in late 2011. Adult admission is $10 and the museum is closed on Mondays. It is supposedly the largest Greek museum outside of Greece. Artifacts help to illustrate Greek cultural history as well as the Greek-American immigration experience. There are some flatscreens that show a scrolling stream of mesmerizing images of the beautiful scenery in Greece, and these images will make you want to book a trip to Greece right away. A must-see if you happen to be Greek...along with a stop at Greek Islands Restaurant across the street.
Chicago has a fascinating and unique history. The exhibits are well-curated so plan to spend at least two hours here. You can begin by watching the short film in the theater on the first floor. Usually, museum films are mediocre at best, but this one featured the adventures of Roger and his babysitter, Jean, as they explored Chicago through various eras (Jean "hearts" history). It's fun, engaging, and informative. The second floor is dedicated to the history of Chicago and also has a grand section on Abraham Lincoln.There are also other informative exhibits on issues that have impacted American history - slavery, terrorism, immigration, etc. Not a bad place to spend an afternoon!
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Chicago History Museum
1601 North Clark Street
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Chicago has a fascinating and unique history. The exhibits are well-curated so plan to spend at least two hours here. You can begin by watching the short film in the theater on the first floor. Usually, museum films are mediocre at best, but this one featured the adventures of Roger and his babysitter, Jean, as they explored Chicago through various eras (Jean "hearts" history). It's fun, engaging, and informative. The second floor is dedicated to the history of Chicago and also has a grand section on Abraham Lincoln.There are also other informative exhibits on issues that have impacted American history - slavery, terrorism, immigration, etc. Not a bad place to spend an afternoon!
Sightseeing
This is such a nice (and free!) attraction to walk through. It's beautiful day and night, and you get a fabulous view of Lake Michigan and the downtown Chicago skyline. Along the pier there are restaurants, a ferries wheel, gift shops, and even a beer garden where small concerts are performed. If you're looking to do some of the extras, it can get a bit pricey. One ride on the ferries wheel cost about $20 for one person. There's also a children's museum if you have kids with you. This ones a must if you're visiting the city!
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Navy Pier
600 East Grand Avenue
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This is such a nice (and free!) attraction to walk through. It's beautiful day and night, and you get a fabulous view of Lake Michigan and the downtown Chicago skyline. Along the pier there are restaurants, a ferries wheel, gift shops, and even a beer garden where small concerts are performed. If you're looking to do some of the extras, it can get a bit pricey. One ride on the ferries wheel cost about $20 for one person. There's also a children's museum if you have kids with you. This ones a must if you're visiting the city!
The Fine Arts Building, located on Michigan Avenue across from Grant Park, is one of Chicago's lesser known architectural gems. It maintains much of its nostalgia with the old-fashioned elevator operators (Where else will you experience the thrill of bouncing up and down vigorously to get to the right floor level, jostled by a friendly old guy operating a lever?!). The monthly Second Friday's of the month are a great opportunity to tour the many unique studios, meet and mingle with the artists, purchase jewelry and artwork, and listen to performing artists. A must-see if you're in the neighborhood...if only for the manual elevators!
Fine Arts Building
410 S Michigan Ave
The Fine Arts Building, located on Michigan Avenue across from Grant Park, is one of Chicago's lesser known architectural gems. It maintains much of its nostalgia with the old-fashioned elevator operators (Where else will you experience the thrill of bouncing up and down vigorously to get to the right floor level, jostled by a friendly old guy operating a lever?!). The monthly Second Friday's of the month are a great opportunity to tour the many unique studios, meet and mingle with the artists, purchase jewelry and artwork, and listen to performing artists. A must-see if you're in the neighborhood...if only for the manual elevators!
Such a fun way to spend a sunny morning in Chicago! The views along the way can't be beat! You'll love marveling at the buildings and architecture, watching boats of all shapes and sizes (from kayaks to yachts) pass by, and admiring the public art installations (don't miss the giant deer by Wacker). You can also stop for a cup of coffee or glass of wine at one of the little shops along the way. You could easily spend a whole day on the river walk!
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Chicago Riverwalk
Chicago Riverwalk
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Such a fun way to spend a sunny morning in Chicago! The views along the way can't be beat! You'll love marveling at the buildings and architecture, watching boats of all shapes and sizes (from kayaks to yachts) pass by, and admiring the public art installations (don't miss the giant deer by Wacker). You can also stop for a cup of coffee or glass of wine at one of the little shops along the way. You could easily spend a whole day on the river walk!
The Buckingham Fountain is in between Millennium Park and the Shedd Aquarium. You won't appreciate its enormity unless you go up to it. It makes for a beautiful picturesque background, so if you and your friends/family want a place to get some pictures, this is it! A must see "monument" so make sure to dedicate some time when walking around here to see the fountain!
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Buckingham Fountain
301 South Columbus Drive
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The Buckingham Fountain is in between Millennium Park and the Shedd Aquarium. You won't appreciate its enormity unless you go up to it. It makes for a beautiful picturesque background, so if you and your friends/family want a place to get some pictures, this is it! A must see "monument" so make sure to dedicate some time when walking around here to see the fountain!
The John Hancock Building's Signature Room is a good alternative to the Willis Tower Skydeck. Why pay $20 for a view when you can pay $50 for a view AND brunch?! For brunch (or any meal) you will want to make a reservation, the earlier time you reserve, the more likely you are to get seats by the window. You can also go a night and enjoy the view along for just the price of a drink at the bar.
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The Signature Room at the 95th®
875 North Michigan Avenue
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The John Hancock Building's Signature Room is a good alternative to the Willis Tower Skydeck. Why pay $20 for a view when you can pay $50 for a view AND brunch?! For brunch (or any meal) you will want to make a reservation, the earlier time you reserve, the more likely you are to get seats by the window. You can also go a night and enjoy the view along for just the price of a drink at the bar.
Parks & Nature
The Chicago Botanic Garden (located about 30 minutes outside of the city) is always a wonderful place to spend time. No matter the season, it is a fantastic place to visit and stroll, taking in the solitude, beauty, and the unexpected wonders of nature. Every season brings a palette of new colors, textures, and breadth of beauty. There are many spots to pause and absorb the sights and sounds of nature. The greenhouses also offer endless opportunities to experience plants in various habitats and are a must during any seasons inclement weather. Check the website for live music events as well. Bring a picnic, relax, and enjoy the day.
Lake-Cook /Chicago Botanic Garden
The Chicago Botanic Garden (located about 30 minutes outside of the city) is always a wonderful place to spend time. No matter the season, it is a fantastic place to visit and stroll, taking in the solitude, beauty, and the unexpected wonders of nature. Every season brings a palette of new colors, textures, and breadth of beauty. There are many spots to pause and absorb the sights and sounds of nature. The greenhouses also offer endless opportunities to experience plants in various habitats and are a must during any seasons inclement weather. Check the website for live music events as well. Bring a picnic, relax, and enjoy the day.
You'll have to rent a car (or hire an uber) to visit the Morton Arboretum from Chicago since there isn't a public transport/train option. This is a great day trip: There are many miles of hiking and driving paths with a varied amount of open fields, prairies, hedges, flowers, international tree selections, different densities of forests, ponds, swamps, etc. A Disneyland for horticulture! (bring the bug spray...and bikes if you have them)
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The Morton Arboretum
4100 Illinois 53
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You'll have to rent a car (or hire an uber) to visit the Morton Arboretum from Chicago since there isn't a public transport/train option. This is a great day trip: There are many miles of hiking and driving paths with a varied amount of open fields, prairies, hedges, flowers, international tree selections, different densities of forests, ponds, swamps, etc. A Disneyland for horticulture! (bring the bug spray...and bikes if you have them)
Note this trail goes on for miles on miles on miles North and South, and I have yet to figure out where it ends... (*must run farther*) but if you're visiting Chicago a walk, run, or bike ride along the Lakefront Path is a must! Whether you start from North Ave beach, Navy Pier, Buckingham Fountain or Museum Campus, it's all the same connecting path/trail. Easiest mode of transportation to really get your times worth would be one of those Divvy bikes, just make sure to dock it every 30 minutes. I seem to have noticed plenty of stations along the path too! If you're a runner, it is the best trail to run along in any major city I've visiting. A unique gem in Chicago!
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Lakefront Trail
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Note this trail goes on for miles on miles on miles North and South, and I have yet to figure out where it ends... (*must run farther*) but if you're visiting Chicago a walk, run, or bike ride along the Lakefront Path is a must! Whether you start from North Ave beach, Navy Pier, Buckingham Fountain or Museum Campus, it's all the same connecting path/trail. Easiest mode of transportation to really get your times worth would be one of those Divvy bikes, just make sure to dock it every 30 minutes. I seem to have noticed plenty of stations along the path too! If you're a runner, it is the best trail to run along in any major city I've visiting. A unique gem in Chicago!
A wonderful oasis in Chicago, and it almost didn't exist. There really is some cool history behind beautiful park, ending with the architect, Alfred Caldwell, having to cash in his $5000 life insurance policy just to buy the plants to make this place a reality. A true hidden gem, most people don't know this place exists or a too busy visiting Lincoln Park Zoo to stop by. It's a perfect place to unwind or just take a stroll around.
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Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool
125 West Fullerton Parkway
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A wonderful oasis in Chicago, and it almost didn't exist. There really is some cool history behind beautiful park, ending with the architect, Alfred Caldwell, having to cash in his $5000 life insurance policy just to buy the plants to make this place a reality. A true hidden gem, most people don't know this place exists or a too busy visiting Lincoln Park Zoo to stop by. It's a perfect place to unwind or just take a stroll around.
Millennium Park is Chicago's answer to NY's Central Park, Boston Commons, and SF's Golden Gate Park. It's very walkable, and what I like most besides the gorgeous greenery is all the public art that is scattered throughout. Plus you get this background of the cityscape, resulting in mixing in nature with modern, urban living. There are multiple things to see/do in the park: 1. Cloud Gate - a symbol of Chicago. Who would have thought a gigantic, reflective stainless steel bean would be the inspiration of so many selfies. 2. Crown Fountain - Its fun to watch folks play in the water. 3. There's also a nice path to the Modern Wing of the Art Institute through the park.
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Millennium Park
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Millennium Park is Chicago's answer to NY's Central Park, Boston Commons, and SF's Golden Gate Park. It's very walkable, and what I like most besides the gorgeous greenery is all the public art that is scattered throughout. Plus you get this background of the cityscape, resulting in mixing in nature with modern, urban living. There are multiple things to see/do in the park: 1. Cloud Gate - a symbol of Chicago. Who would have thought a gigantic, reflective stainless steel bean would be the inspiration of so many selfies. 2. Crown Fountain - Its fun to watch folks play in the water. 3. There's also a nice path to the Modern Wing of the Art Institute through the park.
Essentials
Your best grocery store option in the neighborhood. The food is always fresh and beautifully displayed. It can be expensive, but you're on vacation, so it's time to splurge! Wine selections from all over the world...Seafood is always fresh, same goes for produce...Coffee is good and strong. Reasonably priced beer bar with really good beer and some wine selection. The cookie bar is my favorite thing! It's always busy...never a slow day here. Free parking is available.
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Whole Foods Market
1 North Halsted Street
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Your best grocery store option in the neighborhood. The food is always fresh and beautifully displayed. It can be expensive, but you're on vacation, so it's time to splurge! Wine selections from all over the world...Seafood is always fresh, same goes for produce...Coffee is good and strong. Reasonably priced beer bar with really good beer and some wine selection. The cookie bar is my favorite thing! It's always busy...never a slow day here. Free parking is available.
Entertainment & Activities
Fun ride and great view! Once you're at the top you get a great view of the Chicago, Lake Michigan and Navy Pier itself. The new Ferris Wheel carts have ac/heat, seat 6 and feel very stable. You go around three times very slowly. This is perfect because the slower the ride, the longer you can enjoy the view and take more pictures and videos. There are two different spots to buy tickets which helps bring down long lines. $15 isn't bad considering it's Navy Pier and $25 for fast pass which gets you to the front of the line. If you want a cart by yourself it's $50.
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Navy Pier
600 East Grand Avenue
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Fun ride and great view! Once you're at the top you get a great view of the Chicago, Lake Michigan and Navy Pier itself. The new Ferris Wheel carts have ac/heat, seat 6 and feel very stable. You go around three times very slowly. This is perfect because the slower the ride, the longer you can enjoy the view and take more pictures and videos. There are two different spots to buy tickets which helps bring down long lines. $15 isn't bad considering it's Navy Pier and $25 for fast pass which gets you to the front of the line. If you want a cart by yourself it's $50.
Chicago is famous for so many things...As a Chicagoan I am amazed everyday! The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise encompasses the city's history, it's architecture and their architects with well rounded knowledge and light humor. The boat itself was clean and well kept. There are restrooms and a bar. The Captain handles the boat beautifully. The 90 minutes goes by too quickly!
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Chicago Architecture River Cruise
401 N Michigan Ave
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Chicago is famous for so many things...As a Chicagoan I am amazed everyday! The Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise encompasses the city's history, it's architecture and their architects with well rounded knowledge and light humor. The boat itself was clean and well kept. There are restrooms and a bar. The Captain handles the boat beautifully. The 90 minutes goes by too quickly!
Solve the puzzles to escape the zombie! A very fun and engaging activity to go with friends and family. Teamwork is crucial to solve the puzzles and every contribution is important. This is a great way to spend a few hours doing something fun and different. Located inside the historic Fine Arts Building, just across from Millennium Park.
Room Escape Adventures
410 S Michigan Ave
Solve the puzzles to escape the zombie! A very fun and engaging activity to go with friends and family. Teamwork is crucial to solve the puzzles and every contribution is important. This is a great way to spend a few hours doing something fun and different. Located inside the historic Fine Arts Building, just across from Millennium Park.
Cooking, drinks, shopping, fun, food and a great team building experience! This is a great place to come for a team building or family fun experience. You'll end up having a blast! The food you cook is great and you always have several options. Who doesn't enjoy good wine, friends and cooking? Don't forget to check out the shop afterwards! Always end up with cool cooking items!
The Chopping Block
222 West Merchandise Mart Plaza
Cooking, drinks, shopping, fun, food and a great team building experience! This is a great place to come for a team building or family fun experience. You'll end up having a blast! The food you cook is great and you always have several options. Who doesn't enjoy good wine, friends and cooking? Don't forget to check out the shop afterwards! Always end up with cool cooking items!