(In addition to the canonical local color, this set of lists is strongly skewed by my personal enthusiams.)email me
Apologies to phone users. You can't just heap stuff up like this and be “responsive”. *sigh*
Crown Fountain (Michigan Ave at Monroe; between the Bean and the Art Institute) is the best place in Chicago for people watching.
|elevated / elevated train
|the Bean||Cloud Gate|
|uh, the fountain with the big spitting faces . . .||Crown Fountain|
|Sears Tower||Willis Tower|
|Guaranteed Rate Field
U.S. Cellular Field
Chicago originated at the marshy mouth of the river. (Go out the front of the hotel, turn left, go down to the corner of Michigan Ave., and there's a brass plaque dotted outline of the site of Ft. Dearborn.) The exponential growth of the city meant that drainage was a disaster. Chicago's solution was to raise the official grade level and lift the city. So along the river streets can be two level — East Wacker, West Wacker, North Wacker, South Wacker, Upper Wacker, and Lower Wacker. The development including our hotel has three-level streets.
When the Illinois Central Railroad was created in the 1850s it was given an area at the mouth of the river for a railyard — and to get to it had to run a trestle parallel to the lake shore, giving the city a free breakwater. In time, with the decline of railroads, the air rights over the yards became astronomically valuable, and “Illinois Center” was developed.
The average high for Sept. 1 is 79° F, and the average low is 67° F. Our weather will probably be within 10° of that.
Chicago is laid out on a grid. Streets are an eighth of a mile apart so a vernacular “block” is ⅛ mile (or 200 meters). Street addresses increase by 100 each block, counting from State (east of or west of) and Madison (north of or south of), so the address number also tells the distance. For example, the station name signs at L stations include the coordinates. The Hyatt Regency is at 151 East Wacker Dr., about 340 North. (The oldest part of the city is a little different. Roosevelt Rd (“Museum Campus”) is “1200 South” but only one mile south of Madison.)
The east-west streets in the Loop are named for Presidents, in chronological order, with some left out.
Illinois Center’s building names and addresses are only loosely connected. The address of the west tower of the Hyatt iis 151 E. Wacker Dr, the east tower is 201 E. Wacker Dr; and the Fairmont is 200 N. Columbus Dr. On the other side (west) of the west tower is “One Illinois Center” and south of it is “Two Illinois Center”. One is 111 E. Wacker; Two is 233 N. Michigan. Continuing down Michigan Ave, the next building is Michigan Plaza at 205/225 N. Michigan Ave. There's a pedway through. The restaurant row is the stretch of the pedway through Two/233.
The vernacular city is a crazy quilt of 🗺️ “neighborhoods”. Any more detail is beyond our immediate scope, but a Chicagoan might identify a location by its coordinates or by its neighborhood. (I live in Rogers Park, 7800N and 1600W.)
You'd rather not. By May, I'd already talked with someone considering leaving their car in Kenosha for the week and coming from there on the train.
((update 8/26)) The north exit from the Grant Park underground garage (by way of the Illinois Central station underneath Michigan and Randolph (the last electric interurban with a route across a state line)) is a quarter mile from the hotel. SpotHero lists places as low as $100 for five days, but convenience varies.
Fortunately, there's more than you need in walking distance, and a lot of things are a reasonable (under 3 miles) cab/lyft/uber ride.
Chicago has good bus & train service. (All one system, with transferring back and forth.) A lot of buses run on Michigan Ave., the corner downhill from the hotel. The hotel is about half a mile from the L or subway.
) credit/debit cards, so you really don't need to buy a fare card. If you will be making a lot of trips (more than one round trip a day), it's cheaper with a day pass. The closest place to the hotel to buy passes seems to be the Walgreens drug store at 300 N. Michigan. The ticket machines in the airports sell them too. Fwiw, there seems to be a Walgreens every block or three in all directions
The CTA does a good job with maps. There's a pretty well-arranged 🗺️ online map (we're “Illinois Center” on the south side of the mouth of the river). The easiest place to get a paper copy of the 🗺️ system map is from the attendant at a train station.
And for trip planning, Google maps or the CTA homepage.
(By the way, the L goes beyond the city limits. The Purple/Evanston line goes north into Wilmette (ah, the Baha'i Temple!); the Lake St. L Green line goes west into Oak Park, where they're still cashing in on Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway; and the Congress Blue Line goes to Forest Park, ending a couple of blocks from the Haymarket Memorial in Waldheim/Forest Home cemetery, set in the middle of the world's greatest collection of dead anarchists.  )
Taking the L from the airport is simple, but it takes you half a mile from the holel. You can hail a cab/lyft/uber or walk, but it's a nuisance. Sorry
There's a subway station under the middle of O'Hare. You don't even have to go outside, the tunnels go there. Your stop is Clark & Lake, a giant transfer station, but with plenty of elevators.
The Midway L station is a little odd to get to, since the airport has been expanded several times. The Washington & Wabash Loop elevated station is closest to the hotel.
Union Station is at the diagonally opposite corner of the Loop, about a mile and a half from the hotel. It's walkable if you want to.
You can take a cab/lyft/uber, of course.
There's a great big bus shelter on Jackson between Canal and Clinton, south side of the station the second block from the river. Take any bus going to North Michigan Ave., and get off at the Michigan Ave. Bridge. The hotel is a block up the slope.
Or the water taxi to the Michigan Ave. Bridge.
Greektown is two blocks west of the station.
A block west of the south side of the station is Lou Mitchell's, a great breakfast place. (closed Monday & Tuesday)
Two blocks east, over the river and past Sears Tower, is Luke’s Italian Beef, 215 W Jackson.
Chicon is serious about Accessability.
Rent a Scooter or Wheelchair “We strongly recommend making your reservation now to ensure device availability. All reservations should be made no later than 10 days prior to your arrival date. ”
There's a Hosteling International hostel at Congress and Wabash, a mile south of the Worldcon. (And the Cuban sandwich place in the lobby is outstanding.) A mile from Worldcon is a serious inconvevience, but $60 a night is seriously cheaper! (see note on bus passes under CTA, mentioning a LOT of buses up & down Michigan Ave.) A week of a 10-bed dorm is $367.20.
They sell CTA passes there, too.
If you're looking further afield, keep in mind that a zillion busses go over the Michigan Ave Bridge, right past the hotel, and that all the L lines are about a half mile away. Plug the address where you might stay into Google Maps to see how to get to the hotel.
There are 3,000 restaurants within 3 miles of the Loop. This is only what I know and like. It is not a comprehensive restaurant guide (if such a thing were possible).
(I assume if you're going to a famous expensive place you made your reservations months ago and don't need any help from me.)
Ten years ago there were half a dozen important restaurant guides. Now there's yelp. ☹️
I was close to middle-aged before I discovered that Italian beef isn't as universal as hamburgers or tacos or Polish. It's a Chicago thing.  Mr. Beef (666 N. Orleans, between Erie & Huron, about 1¼ mile) is the real deal.
Chicago hot dog: In Chicago, we realize the nutritional value of a hot dog is practically nil, but we love them anyway. We build a salad in a bun and, if there is room left over we'll add a hot dog...dragging it through the garden. A traditional Chicago hot dog has an all beef kosher style hot dog (usually Vienna), on a steamed poppy seed bun. It is topped with slices of pickle and tomato, diced onions and a nuclear green relish, yellow mustard, and celery salt. Sports peppers are considered optional. Ketchup is not used on a traditional Chicago hot dog (probably because the sweetness of the ketchup was not a good match for the spices in the hot dogs, but possibly because there wasn't room for ketchup on the Maxwell Street pushcarts where they originated). (There are hot dog stands that will tell you to go down the street to McDonald's if you ask for ketchup.)
If you want the full array of choices of Polish, Chicago dog, or Italian Beef, the place to go is Portillo's, a massive local chain with a big store at 100 W Ontario.
Yes, Chicago is serious about pizza.
One "best" list lists Tavern, deep-dish, New York, Detroit, artisanal, "rare and regional", Sicilian, and Neapolitan styles.
[A local SMOF thinks this needs more detail. He writes:] Pizza: Chicago has three main styles of local pizza: thin crust, deep dish, and stuffed. Usually when people refer to Chicago style pizza they mean deep dish or stuffed, but many people don't know the difference between the two types.
Chicago thin crust has a stiff, slightly crunchy crust and is frequently cut "tavern style," which means squares instead of wedges.
Deep dish has a thicker crust and is baked in a two-inch deep pan with the crust rising up along the sides of the pan. Usually for a deep dish pizza, the cheese is placed on the bottom, followed by the toppings and then a thick layer of crushed tomatoes (and a heavy dusting of grated parmesan cheese on top).
Stuffed pizza uses the same deep pan but has a thin crust shaped to the pan, all the way up the sides. The toppings are laid at the bottom of the dough bowl, which is then filled with cheese. A second crust is placed on top and cinched around the sides. Holes are poked into the top crust and then the sauce is poured into the depression formed between the upper crust and the top of the pan.
The canonical folklore is that Chicago pizza originated after WW II as bar food at 🍕 Pizzeria Uno (I don't know why the colloquial pronunciation is "Uno's"), though the younger sibling a block away, 🍕 Pizzeria Due ("Due's") is at least as popular. Send someone ahead an hour early to wait in line to order your pizza(s); the rest of the party needn't be there until it's just about ready. You do want to take a look at Medinah Temple across the street. It was saved from the wrecking ball by being recycled into a department store, which is really weird, but at least its exterior is still there.
Most of Chicago's most popular chains have locations convenient to the hotel, including 🍕 Giordano's, and 🍕 Lou Malnati's. And there are half a dozen others within a 10 or 15 minute walk.
There seem to be too many Harold's [(fried) Chicken Shack] locations to count, but one source said 40 in the city proper, mostly on the South Side. Harold's is more like a federation than a chain; a lot of the stores are different from each other. The closest to us are #62 at 636 S Wabash; #88b at 1450 S Michigan; and Clinton at 115 S Clinton.
|The Loop is heavily oriented toward office-worker lunches, with relatively little after 5 pm or on Sunday or holidays.
Our hotel is part of an enormous development of about 8 city blocks. The pedestrian corridor through the office buildings is lined with breakfast/lunch restaurants. Unfortunately, they are only open on work days.
Go to the Bronze level (one below the main entrance level), head west (your left as you face the river) out of the hotel as far as the corridor goes, and turn left. You'll be in the grand corridor running through the three adjacent office buildings. (I have been looking for a map or restaurant list since I started working on this list. THERE IS NONE!) Here is a diretory of 233 N. Michigan, the middle of the three office towers.
However, Michigan Ave is crawing with lunch-y places (and more higher-rent places on the riverwalk). Here are some addresses:
360 Corner Bakery Cafe
326 Naf Naf Grill
316 Chipotle Mexican Grill
307 The Sky-Line Club
233 list to the right
(few open weekend/holiday)
225 Sweetwater Tavern & Grille
224 Venteux Brasserie, Cafe & Oyster Bar
189 Nutella Cafe
181 Stan's Donuts & Coffee
180 Noodles & Company
180 Five Guys
180 Au Bon Pain
168 bout Last Knife
151 Garrett Popcorn Shops
151 Protein Bar
151 Auntie Anne's
And more a block east on Wabash.
216 N Emerald Loop
185 N Elephant & Castle
180 N Panda Express
174 N Capriotti's
172 N The Halal Guys
156 N Popeyes
152 N Deep Purpl - Acai Bowls
21 N Oasis Cafe
way in the back of the Jewelers Mall
18 S JIAO by Qing Xiang Yuan Dumplings
22 S Nando's PERi-PERi
28 S Naf Naf Grill
30 S Flat Top Grill
60 S Corner Bakery
134 S Miller's Pub
226 S Exchequer Restaurant & Pub
Due to history and density, there are a lot of neighborhood names overlapping in a small area: “River North” is from the river to Chicago Ave. (800 N); “Near North” is from the river to Division (1200 N). From Division to North Ave. (1600 N.) is the Gold Coast.
(explanation of Chicago's "hundreds" street numbering above)
The stretch of Michigan Avenue north of the bridge is “the Magnificent Mile”. East of Michigan is “Streeterville”. ("Cap" Streeter may be the most implausible celebrity in Chicago's history. The Wikipedia article is wildly hostile, and not too accurate, but it is not possible to be completely accurate , , .)
North of the river there's a lot more for tourists and conventioneers.
Just over the bridge, across Michigan Ave., and downstairs ("lower Michigan Ave." looks nothing like "the Magnificent Mile"!) is the . . . famous? notorious? legendary? 🍔 World Famous [sic] Billy Goat Tavern & Grill (430 N. Michigan).
Downtown has been spreading west for a while. There's a lot to eat across the (South Branch) river.
The old Haymarket, Randolph west of Halsted, is a stretch of Randolph St. that's extra wide to support all the wagon traffic it used to have. There's a not-bad statue with bogus commentary plaques where the speakers' platform cart was on May 4, 1886, for the rally that ended in a police attack and a dynamite bomb. There are now myriad restaurants about 800-1000 west.
“Greek Town” is just down Halsted St., a great place to overeat. Ya gotta start with saganaki, which may be a Chicago invention
There were once a lot of great delis to choose from, but not any more. The last survivor is Manny's down by Roosevelt Rd (1141 S. Jefferson). It really is posible to run into anyone in Chicago there. When the Mayor or the President do photo ops, they really eat lunch. ("Holiday Menus: High Holidays; Passover; St. Patrick's Day")
A newer place that's also pretty good is Eleven City Diner at 1112 S. Wabash.
Chinatown is 3 miles or a short subway ride south, and, of course, has LOTS of restaurants. My favorites include Joy Yee and Lao Sze Chuan (map) in the big mall on Archer; Little Three Happiness (which has a “Chicago-based culinary chat site” named after it) on Cermak; and Evergreen down Wentworth.
There's a Target just over the river at 401 E Illinois St., about half a mile (go over the bridge to the east), and another in the fabulous Louis Sullivan building at State and Madison, about three quarters of a mile.
This is a little trickier, because parking and convenience to other stores are important.
|There is a Jewel (with a big parking lot) at 1224 S Wabash Ave, kitty-corner from a Trader Joe’s (1147 S Wabash Ave) – and up the street from a Binny’s (1132 S. Jefferson St.) and the Roosevelt Rd. Staples (below).|
355 E Ohio St Ste 200
Mon-Fri 9:00 am-6:00 pm
Finance Station E
100 W Randolph St (State of Illinois Building)
Mon-Fri 8:00 am-5:30 pm
540 N Dearborn St
Mon-Fri 8:30 am-6:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am-3:00 pm
Sun 10:00 am-2:00 pm
211 S CLARK ST
Mon-Fri 7:00 am-6:00 pm
UPS Access Point
CVS 205 N Columbus Dr
Mon-Fri 6:30 am/11:55 pm
Sat-Sun 7:00 am/11:55 pm
Latest Ground/Air Drop off Times
Mon-Fri 6:00 pm/6:00 pm
Sat 5:00 pm/5:00 pm
The UPS Store
323 E Wacker Dr
Mon-Fri 8:00 am/6:00 pm
Sat-Sun 9:00 am/3:00 pm
Latest Ground/Air Drop off Times
Mon-Fri 3:00 pm/3:00 pm
UPS Drop Box
307 N Michigan Ave
Mon-Fri 5:45 pm/5:45 pm
UPS Drop Box
400 N Michigan Ave
Mon-Fri 5:15 pm/5:15 pm
UPS Drop Box
401 N Michigan Ave
Mon-Fri 5:45 pm/5:45 pm
Mon-Friday 9:00 am/7:00 pm
Sat 10:00 am/6:00 pm
Latest Express drop-off
Mon-Fri 5:00 pm
Sat 4:00 pm
Sun No pickup
Latest Ground drop-off
Mon-Friday 5:00 pm
Sat-Sun No pickup
The two dominant chains are Walgreens and CVS. You can't be more than a block or two from one.
The very closest is a tossup. The CVS at 205 N. Michigan Ave. is the other end of the pedway through the office buildings. There's another CVS at 205 N. Columbus Dr.
The nearest Walgreens is just over the bridge at 410 N Michigan Ave (Michigan Ave & Kinzie). The next closest are 342 E Illinois St (McClurg & Illinois — over the bridge to the east of us), 151 N State St (State & Randolph), 30 N Michigan Ave (Michigan & Washington).
Note for walkers: From the hotel down Michigan to Congress and over to Buckingham fountain is a total of about a mile. From the fountain down to the Field Museum is about another mile.
23 E Illinois St
Newberry Library Bookshop
60 West Walton St.
Abraham Lincoln Book Shop
824 W Superior St, Suite 100
Open Books West Loop
651 W Lake St
2959 N Clark St
The Gallery Bookstore Ltd
923 W. Belmont Avenue [@ Belmont L]
3251 N Broadway St
2032 W Grand Ave
1854 W North Ave
1564 N. Milwaukee Ave
Bucket O'Blood Books & Records
3182 N Elston Ave
Ravenswood Used Books
2005 W Montrose Ave
The Book Cellar
4736 N Lincoln Ave
👩👧👦 💖 Women & Children First
5233 N Clark St
5140 N Clark St
6753 N Sheridan Rd (way north)
6239 N Clark St
Open Books Pilsen
905 W 19th St
FREE KIDS BOOKS, and pay what you want for everything else
Seminary Co-Op Bookstore
5757 S University Ave
1501 E 57th St
57th Street Books
1301 E 57th St
10324 S Western Ave
2015 Ridge Road, Homewood