Whilst we may not be able to leave our houses, travel to new countries, experience a new cuisine or immerse ourselves in a new culture, that doesn’t mean new countries can’t come to us. With an abundance of museums, galleries, skyscrapers, and restaurants, along with striking architecture and an impressive lake, Chicago is the perfect virtual escape to distract you from the mundanity of isolation. Here is a rundown of the best attractions, hotels, and restaurants of Chicago to get your imagination racing. And who knows, it may even inspire a post-quarantine trip.
The Best of Chicago – Willis Tower
Hailed as the birthplace of skyscrapers, Chicago now has 100 of them bejewelling its skyline. The tallest, Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower), stands at 110 stories high with a dizzying height of 1,450 feet. At the time of completion, 1973, it was the tallest building in the world, a title it proudly boasted for 25 years. Visiting the top of this tower is one of Chicago’s top things to do, offering stunning vistas across the city.
Chicago is a hive of architectural wonder, with Aqua Tower certainly being the most sublime. With 82 floors, Aqua Tower has a rippled façade, consisting of irregular concrete slabs protruding from the building. And Cloud Gate is certainly Chicago’s most iconic example of architecture. More commonly known as The Bean, this vast, mirrored sculpture weighs almost 100,000kg. Consisting of 168 welded stainless-steel plates, the sculpture has no visible seams, reflecting Chicago’s beautiful skyline. The British-born curator, Anish Kapoor, invites people to play with the structure and the reflection’s perspective of city and thus, to maintain its pristine sheen, the structure is cleaned 2-3 times a day.
Architecture addicts should stay in The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. In amongst the high rises of The Loop and close to the park that houses The Bean, this hotel is an architectural wonder in its own right. A Venetian Gothic building, this hotel was an exclusive, renowned club with impressive gym facilities for over 100 years. It closed its doors in 2007 and reopened in 2015 with its original charm blended with a trendy, contemporary feel. Pummel horses have found a new lease of life as ottomans and the pool has been repurposed to be an impressive public space that retains the pool mosaic, complete with lanes and depth markers.
The Best of Chicago – The Wabash Arts Corridor
Chicago’s melting pot of different cultures and influences is reflected in the diverse, vibrant art that the city has become renowned for. For street art, head to the Wabash Arts Corridor in the South Loop to marvel at the grand-scale murals that dominate building sides. Curated in 2013, this dynamic art laboratory is constantly evolving. It’s used as a playground for art students: a place where they can be inspired but also contribute to the landscape that they call home. Favourites include a cubist deer blowing a bubble-gum bubble and a series of abstract faces, painted in neon colours.
For a fix of more classic art, head to The Art Institute of Chicago, where you can see Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island on La Grande Jatte. It is Seurat’s most famous piece, a grand 2 by 3-metre canvas that showcases the pointillism technique that prevailed in the 19th century.
But Chicago’s arty vibe bleeds in to many of the hotels, guaranteeing a stay that is quintessentially Chicagoan. Arty visitors should stay at The Blackstone, Autograph Collection Hotel. With immediate access to The Art Institute and Museum Campus, a 57-acre park that houses Chicago’s 3 most popular museums, The Blackstone boasts a brilliant location for art fanatics. Inside, the hotel is embellished with 1600 pieces of original art, almost all of them curated by local artists. The Blackstone immerses guests into Chicago’s heritage whilst also supporting its future.
The Best of Chicago – Au Cheval Diner
When we think of Chicago, we think about deep pan pizza… whilst this is undeniably a delicious Chicagoan specialty that must be sampled on a trip to the city, it is certainly not all Chicago has to offer for foodies.
Reflecting Chicago’s exuberance, Marisol is a vibrant restaurant with a focus on sustainability, vegetables, and creativity, conveniently and suitably situated in the Museum of Contemporary Art. For a more classic meat feast, head to Au Cheval Diner on the edge of The Loop. With a burger that is considered to be the best in the country (in true American fashion, even the single cheeseburger has two patties), Au Cheval executes big, rich flavours with aplomb.
The Best of Chicago – The Thompson Hotel
For foodies looking for somewhere to lay their head, take a look at The Thompson Hotel. A beautifully designed residence, the hotel prides itself on its Italian seafood restaurant. Nico Osteria is widely labelled as one of Chicago’s best restaurants, making it perfect for visitors that don’t want the hassle of picking a restaurant each night.
The Best of Chicago – The Lakefront
Lake Michigan, one of America’s Great Lakes, offers a wealth of additional things to do on a trip to Chicago. Thrill-seekers should head to 31st Street Beach or North Avenue Beach to try their hand at kayaking, paddle boarding, and jet skiing. For the less energetic visitors, the paved boardwalks offer opportunities to enjoy the waterfront without getting your feet wet.
To appreciate Chicago’s great outdoors, stay at the Loews Downtown Chicago Hotel. Rooms provide dazzling views out toward the lake, framed by the city’s shoreline skyscrapers, capturing Chicago’s collision of nature and industrialism. The hotel is also home to Chicago’s largest terrace, so guests can truly appreciate the diversity of Chicago’s cityscape.