This compendium is for members of Chicon, who are only in town for a few days, with hours or half-days (or empty stomachs!) to fill, so “here” is the Hyatt Regency on East Wacker (city center map). Except for Hyde Park (Museum of Science and Industry, University of Chicago, site of the first nuclear "pile", site of 1893 Columbian Exposition), marked with this Ξ, I've tried to restrain myself from things more than a couple of miles from the Loop. Alas, no Pullman, Garfield Park Conservatory, or Green Mill (fortunately, Ric Addy's tour of the basement is on YouTube [2]).

(clickable) Table of Contents

  1. glossary
    1. distance & orientation
    2. all those funny names for the expressways
    3. parking
    4. CTA (“Chicago Transit Authority” - busses & trains)
    5. cab fare estimator
    6. water taxis
    7. bicycles, bike tours, segway tours
    8. scooters, wheelchairs
  2. less expensive accomodations
    1. restaurant guides
    2. south of the river, “the Loop”
    3. right over the [Michigan Ave.] bridge, “River North”/“Near North”
    4. gluten free
    5. shopping for party supplies
    1. (including the largest freshwater dune system in the world)
  3. the ball parks
    1. discount packages
    2. the Biggies
    3. Lincoln Park
    4. Art
    5. The Chicago Historical Society History Museum’s list of local museums
    6. national, ethnic, &c.
    7. Lincoln Park Zoo
    8. Jane Addams' Hull House Museum
    9. specialized & further out away
    10. childrens'
  4. cemeteries
  5. the most over-the-top King Tut enthusiasm ever
  6. Chicago Jazz Festival
    1. the one and only Chicago Architecture Foundation
      1. Michigan Avenue Bridge
      2. water taxis
    2. North Michigan Ave. “the Magnificent Mile”
    3. Michigan Ave. (this side of the river)
    4. Dearborn St. & S. La Salle
    5. a list of all the showiest Tiffany
    6. Hyde Park / U. of C.
    7. Prairie Avenue Historic District
    8. Oak Park & Frank Lloyd Wright
  7. some used bookstores


real official
the Loop
elevated / elevated train
the Bean Cloud Gate
uh, the fountain with the big spitting faces . . . Crown Fountain
Sears Tower Willis Tower
the Cell
New Comiskey
U.S. Cellular Field


  • lunch row

    for the office workers next door
    • Go to the Bronze level, head west out of the hotel as far as the corridor goes, and turn left (to the right there's nothing but Houlihan's). You'll be in the grand corridor running through the three adjacent office buildings. There are forty or fifty lunch/snack places for all the office workers. (I have been looking for a map or restaurant list since I started working on this list. THERE IS NONE!)
      Here's the mall map from the first third The Hyatt is the bolank bottom left corner, and I put in little red arrows..
    chocolate at Hanna's Bretzel
    • Hannah's Bretzel just opened in there somewhere. It's a frou-frou sandwich shop with A WALL OF CHOCOLATE. It is the Shock and Awe of chocolate.
    chocolate at Hanna's Bretzel
  • office supplies

    • Staples
         111 N. Wabash
    • Office Depot
         6 S. State St.
    • big Office Depot
         352 W. Grand

getting around

distance & orientation

Chicago is laid out on a grid. A century of address numbers is a "block" is 1/8 mile, and parallel streets mostly are ⅛ mile or 1/16 mile apart. Numbers count from State (east of or west of) and Madison (north of or south of). For example, the station name signs at L stations include the coordinates. (The first three miles south of Madison, the oldest part of the city, are a little different but the only thing you might care about is Roosevelt Rd. ("Museum Campus") is "1200 South" but only one mile south of Madison.)
The units of distance I use here are ⅛ mile blocks and/or miles (you're in a great location for walking), and approximate cab fares.
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.

Here's a little map of the Loop, and another of "River North"/"Near North"

all those funny names for the expressways

Lake Michigan squeezes together the east-west Interstates, giving us more numbers than we need, so the doubling up gets messy. You may want both a name-number cross reference and a map.
For understanding radio traffic reports, there are both narrative and map forms. Things are generally pretty smooth between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.


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. Fortunately, there's more than you need in walking distance, and a lot of things are a reasonable (under 3 miles) cab ride.

CTA  (“Chicago Transit Authority” – where the band got the name)

Chicago has good bus & train service. (The trains and busses are one system, with transferring back and forth.) A lot of busses run on Michigan Ave., the corner downhill from the hotel. The hotel is about half a mile from the L or subway.
The CTA uses mag stripe fare cards (vending machines at all train stations), and strongly discourages cash. Basic fare is $2 for busses or $2.25 for L or subway for three rides in two hours; the first transfer is another 25¢, the second is free. The easiest thing for a tourist is a 1-day pass for $5.75, a 3-day pass for $14, or a 7-day pass for $23. You can buy them (at least 10 days!) in advance; from the vending machines in some L stations (including O'Hare); and at Walgreens and Osco drug stores, Jewel and Dominick's supermarkets, and currency exchanges.

The closest place to the hotel to buy passes seems to be the Walgreens drug store at 300 N. Michigan. Fwiw, there seems to be a Walgreens every block or three in all directions

There's a whole new fare systen with chip cards. You get them at any L/subway station. $5 buys you a card with $5 on it, and it's reloadable. They're pre-paid cash cards which can be used in stores, too. The system is too new to be completely debugged, or for us to know where the kickbacks go.

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) and a tourist destination map (we're #40 at coordinate D5). The easiest place to get a paper copy of the system map is from the attendant at a train station. (Here's another map.)
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. [2] )

cab fare estimator

water taxis

bicycles, bike tours, segway tours

The geography is very flat, the city provides excellent bike maps, you can take a bike on the CTA or ride 28 miles of lakefront, and there's even organized twittering of the latest Lakefront Trail Conditions.

scooters, wheelchairs

Chicon Disability Services will supply scooters and wheelchairs IF YOU RESERVE BY SUNDAY, AUGUST 19, OR YOUR CHECK REACHES THE P.O. BOX BY FRIDAY, AUGUST 17. Here's the online reservation form and the mail-in reservation form. (Chicon 7 website links)

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less expensive accomodations

There's a Hosteling International hostel at Congress and Wabash, a mile south of the Worldcon. A mile from Worldcon is a serious inconvevience, but $35–$40 a night is seriously cheaper! (see note on bus passes under CTA, mentioning a LOT of busses up & down Michigan Ave.)
As of July 11, there were beds available at all three levels (prices including taxes)

10-bed dorm 8-bed dorm room
weekday $33.76   $38.41   $91.96  
weekend $36.08   $40.74   $103.60 

They sell CTA passes there, too.


restaurant guides

Counting every place you might grab a weekday lunchtime sandwich, I estimate there are 400 restaurants within a $10 cab ride of the Hyatt. Since this page is not primarily a restaurant guide, I've linked the best stand-alone restaurant guides for places convenient to the hotel, and flagged them with   .

The most venerable restaurant guide in Chicago is Chicago magazine's  Dining Guide. Chicago's stalwart free weekly, The Reader is not the giant it once was, but their  Restaurant Guide still rules. In fairness, Time Out Chicago is out to give them a run for their money (and has a  vegetarian restaurants list).
 Zagat even lists Al's beef, demonstrating that they really are about food, not just showing off. And their nationality list  “by Cuisine” has 122 headers . . .
And a veteran local fan is also a restaurant reviewer. Leah Zeldes writes for Dining Chicago. (One of the pocket "neighborhoods" I didn't list below is Rush St., where the conventional conventioneers go. Dining Chicago actually lists it by its nickname,  “Viagra Triangle”)

We're on the boundary between two food neighborhoods: south of the river and north of the river.

south of the river,  “the Loop”

  Reader restaurant guide
  Chicago magazine restaurant guide
  Time Out Chicago restaurant guide
  Dining Chicago restaurant guide
  Urban Spoon restaurant guide
  Zagat restaurant guide

The Loop is heavily oriented toward office-worker lunches, with relatively little after 5 pm or on Sunday. A non-intuitive champ is the turkey sandwich at Jaffa Bagels here in Illinois Center. Handfuls of turkey right off the carcass! The best smoothies in the Loop are at Brian's Juice Bar & Deli (80 E. Lake, 3 blocks away), a great little Middle Eastern/American lunch place.

The latest generation of the family of the illustrious Berghoff (17 W. Adams) kind of screwed the place up, but it's still gorgeous, still has a killer collection of Columbian Exposition pictures (they couldn't just sell their beer, so they had a full beer garden  —  and then moved it downtown, becoming this restaurant, when the Fair closed) and still serves house beer, both light and dark, house bourbon, and house root beer. And the former Men’s Bar still has carvers making sandwiches to order for lunch.

The closest restaurant row is  “Greek Town[2] [3] (about 2 mi. away, ≈$8.50 cab ride, including tip) on Halsted St., which is a great place to overeat. (Jo Walton recommends Greek Islands.)
corrected to add Actually, the old Haymarket, Randolph west of Halsted, is now a hot yuppie restaurant strip. It's slightly closer than Greek Town,  “River West”. (There's a not-bad statue with bogus commentary plaques where the speakers' platform cart was on May 4, 1886.)

There were once a lot of great delis to choose from, but not any more. Ada's (5-6 blocks) on Wabash is OK, but for a $10-12 cab ride, you can go down to Manny's 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")

Chinatown is 3 miles or a short subway ride south ($12-14 cab ride, including tip), and, of course, has  lots and  lots and  lots and  lots of  restaurants. My favorites include Joy Yee and Lao Sze Chuan 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.

right over the [Michigan Ave.] bridge, “River North”/“Near North”

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” ("Pine St." became north Michigan Ave. when the bridge was built). ("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 [2].)

 Reader  Chicago magazine  Time Out Chicago  Dining Chicago  Urban Spoon  Zagat
Magnificent Mile Magnificent Mile Magnificent Mile Magnificent Mile
River North
River North River North
River North River North River North
Streeterville Streeterville
Streeterville Streeterville Streeterville
Near North Near North Near North Near North Near North
Gold Coast Gold Coast Gold Coast Gold Coast
“River East”

North of the river there's a lot more for tourists and conventioneers. (If you want the Rock N Roll McDonald's or Rainforest Cafe, please close this window now. You're embarrassing me.)

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).

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.

Yes, Chicago is  serious about pizza.
The canonical folklore is that Chicago pizza originated after WW II as bar food at Pizzeria Uno, though the younger sibling a block away, Pizzeria Due 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.
The closest adequate pizza to the hotel is Bacino's, a block west across Michigan or the Giordano's just south down Michigan at 130 E. Randolph. Good options nearby include Gino's East (162 E. Superior); Giordano's (730 N. Rush); Lou Malnati's (439 N. Wells); and a little further, Edwardo's (1212 N. Dearborn).

gluten free

There are at least two Loop lists, urban spoon's  "gluten-free friendly" restaurants in the Loop, and menupages' list which includes  Gluten Free Items. Chicago magazine's excellent list of  Gluten-Free Chicago Restaurants and Stores covers the metro area, but many of the listings are central. And there's a follow-up comment at  Gluten-Free Hub.

shopping for party supplies

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Lake Michigan is 50% larger than the Netherlands

the ball parks


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Architecture / going walkabout

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some used bookstores

well, mostly used bookstores
roughly sorted by neighborhood

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Sources are embedded in URLs already, of course, and I used a lot of Google and wikipedia, but a couple of sources stand out.
First and foremost, Google introduced me to an avid architecture photographer namrd Jyoti Srivastava.
“Artefaqs Corporation is a leading provider of stock and custom architectural photography . . . ”