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Tell me what you know about Chicago

56 replies

Hairbrush123 · 20/03/2021 14:32

I am hoping to visit Chicago in July (if restrictions allow me to and with rumours of the US border reopening to the British in May gives me a glimmer of hope)

What are your recommendations for the city? Sights? Which hotel did you stay at and would you recommend it? I want to go Monday to Sunday - is this too long?

Thanks Smile

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oldnormalplease · 20/03/2021 14:36

I went to Chicago about 5 years ago and loved it. Stayed in the Four Seasons which was fabulous. Stayed 4 nights, so had about 3.5 days there. Depends on your interests of course, but I enjoyed the architecture river cruise (book online from home before going!), the Art Institute, and the Oak Park area for Frank Lloyd Wright's home/museum. Also going up the Hancock Tower for the view! And all the many, many shops.

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jenthelibrarian · 20/03/2021 15:01

I too loved, loved, loved Chicago.
It's less touristy than, say, NYC and in one restaurant we were given free dessert simply for being Brits!
Second the architecture boat cruise, the Art Institute and the Frank Lloyd Wright sites. All absolutely wonderful.
The Field Museum is fun as is the tour of the Newberry Library, if you're a fan you will enjoy seeing the stairwell 'cage' in which Henry gets trapped in 'The Time Traveler's Wife'
The zoo is free entry, for a less spendy enjoyable walk-around.
Don't miss the 'Bean' and the Pritzker Pavilion.

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ShyTown · 20/03/2021 15:07

I probably wouldn’t stay in the loop - it’s always been quiet at weekends since people tend to commute in rather than live there and it’s become a bit of a ghost town post covid. Four seasons as mentioned by PP is in a good spot in the Gold Coast. The beaches are a must in July- north avenue is lively and the Shore Club is a good spot for lunch or a glass of rose. If the Cubs are playing at home I’d definitely get tickets. The Art Institute is great- combine with a walk round millennium park and see the Buckingham fountain. West loop for dinner/drinks. Lincoln park zoo is free. Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in oak park. Museum of science and industry if you have kids in tow. Alinea if you’re really into fine dining and have deep pockets! Hancock for the view. Shopping on the mag mile (Michigan Ave). Botanic gardens in Glencoe. Hire a boat and drive it up/down the Chicago river (the only river that flows backwards!). Navy pier I suppose should be on the list but it’s a bit shit and full of chain restaurants although the children’s museum is decent, you can also take a boat tour from there, and they also do weekly fireworks on Wednesdays and Saturdays nights which are worth it. Architecture river tour. The Tiffany Dome is very cool.

Are you travelling on your own, as a couple or with kids? I lived there for years and only recently moved so would be happy to make any more recommendations or answer any questions!

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Hairbrush123 · 20/03/2021 20:55

Thanks for all the suggestions guys! I’m glad to hear Chicago is so well loved. I was looking at Sofitel and Langham. Are these in good areas? I love the idea of the river cruise! I did something similar to that in Paris and loved it. I have lots of research to do!

Wow @ShyTown - you’ve given me a wealth of knowledge there! You’ve really sold the city to me. I just hope I can go. I didn’t realize Chicago had so much to offer.

A few more questions if you don’t mind.
What is the best way to get from the airport to the city centre? Are taxis fixed prices from the airport to the city like they are in New York? Is July really humid like New York? Is Chicago safe to walk around at night/is there much to do at night other than clubbing? DP and I aren’t really into that. Lastly, I love doing day trips from the city - is there anywhere I can visit for the day if I don’t hire a car? Thanks! Smile

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ShyTown · 20/03/2021 21:52

July can be hot! But the weather can also be a bit unpredictable. Lakeside you usually get a nice breeze which makes it feel less sticky than NY.

Taxis in Chicago are generally terrible and I’d always make a point of avoiding, typically I’d drive but I have on occasion got an Uber from the airport and I can’t remember the cost but it wasn’t expensive. The blue line also goes from airport to the loop but I’ve never taken it as it wouldn’t be convenient for me.

I’d feel pretty safe walking around at night within my neighbourhood (Old Town/Lincoln Park). Certain places can be dodgy but I don’t think you’d likely encounter them as tourist. I personally wouldn’t take the L late at night and there are places I would avoid... again Uber is very convenient. Like I would go to dinner in West Loop and happily walk from the restaurant to a bar but wouldn’t consider walking from there to say the Langham even though it would probably only take you about 30 minutes. The Langham would be a great hotel choice - I’ve been to the Christmas buffet and it was fantastic! Chicago is a fantastic food city so there’s plenty of eating to do if you’re not into clubbing- my clubbing days are sadly behind me too as we typically had to get back to relieve the baby sitter!

Day trips - the botanic gardens would be good, if you did want to hire a car, driving is very easy, then there are some lovely beach towns on the Michigan side of Lake Michigan.

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ShyTown · 20/03/2021 21:53

Also I’m very jealous - I still have my flat there and cannot wait to get back once covid allows! I’m glad you’re feeling excited.

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eggandonion · 20/03/2021 21:59

We had breakfast in Macy's top floor restaurant, it had a great view. And the ladies toilet in the Hancock tower has an amazing view.
The architecture tour is fabulous, two different people advised us to do it, it is so much more than architecture!

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beetlewoman · 20/03/2021 22:09

Another Chicago fan here! Loved it! If you want to bag a hotel bargain and don't mind the El ride downtown which I think is about 40 minutes, have a look at O'Hare airport hotels.

BA packages can be very good value too.

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Hairbrush123 · 20/03/2021 23:08

Thanks for that @ShyTown - here’s hope we both get to Chicago this year! The suggestions are excellent and will definitely go to Chicago if I’m allowed.

I’m not so bothered about the humidity - just an excuse to buy more clothes out there as I’ll sweat all of mine in the weather Wink. I will be sure to download Uber. I will chat to DP about renting a car as we both enjoy driving and see what he thinks. The botanical gardens look gorgeous so I’m sure he’ll agree. I am a big foodie and so is DP so Chicago sounds perfect for us. Are there any seafood or Thai restaurants you’d recommend to me? Alinea looks good but might be out of my budget Sad I really want to book the trip but won’t do so until Boris’ announcement next month about foreign travel. Just hope it’s reciprocated like rumours suggest.

@eggandonion great suggestion. I quite enjoyed Macy’s in New York and had lunch there with a cousin which was nice. I am looking at Chicago on street view and I’m blown away by the architecture! It’s like New York but aesthetically more pleasing. Really hope I can visit in July!

@beetlewoman thanks for the suggestion! I will check out airport hotels but I rather be in the city. I was actually going to book it through BA Holidays as I found an excellent deal on there. The flight times are also perfect!

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Ineedaneasteregg · 21/03/2021 01:09

Honestly I don't think seafood is something that Chicago is particularly good at.
Le Colonial is French Vietnamese which is in the Gold Coast and has some nice seafood.
In fact if coming from London I don't think the food will blow you away.
But it is a great compact city, with decent public transport and good bars.
The museums are good.

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Ineedaneasteregg · 21/03/2021 01:11

I'm not sure that renting a car is worthwhile as city center parking is v expensive and on a long weekend you could easily stay city center.

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HoldontoOneMoreDay · 21/03/2021 01:36

I wouldn't hire a car for a Monday - Sunday, you'll pay a fortune for parking for a couple of day trips at most.

Chicago is brilliant for public art and parks. You don't mention DC but mine spent the whole week going from splash park to splash park - we quickly learned to always grab a towel when we left the hotel.

The Art Institute is world-class. Wonderful. You can buy ticket books for the main attractions, I researched this very carefully before we went cos i usually find things like that quite scammy, but actually it did save you money AND you got things like queue jumping so it's worth checking that out.

Food wise I agree with pp that it's not a 'food city' but you'll still eat very well.

I love Chicago, it's second only to NY to me in America. Brilliant place.

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Rummikub · 21/03/2021 03:00

Loved Chicago too.
Few years ago now so memory sketchy.
Hancock tower great, went to a blues bar in evening. Loved the architecture.
You’ll have an amazing trip!

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KickAssAngel · 21/03/2021 03:21

Macy's is closing/closed, sorry.

You can use Hotwire to book a hotel and just select somewhere in the downtown area.

I always use public transport from the airport into the city - it's really easy, but there's quite a walk to get to the train so make sure you can carry cases easily.

The mag mile is great - I found quite a few stores give out free champagne on Friday nights to encourage shopping!

there's a big theatre district, although prices are high, and , of course, Covid. IF (big if) they're open, many of them have last-minute sign-up for leftover tickets. A friend of mine got to see Hamilton for under $100 a couple of years ago. There's also quite a few comedy clubs - Second City is quite well known. And loads of restaurants.

But - Covid! You could arrive and find everything is shut!

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yearinyearout · 21/03/2021 07:32

Lots of good suggestions here but I would add in a walking tour. Search free walking tours chicago on trip advisor.

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Hairbrush123 · 21/03/2021 10:01

It’s slightly disappointing to hear the array of restaurants lacked compared to London but hardly surprising. I thought the same of Amsterdam when I went last year. I thought New York was amazing in that sense.
I had a look at Le Colonial and that was right up my street! Will add that to the list.

Magnificent Mile is on my list of places to see. I think Sofitel or Langham is there? So that will be probably one of the first things I encounter. I hope that the pandemic have brought down prices for theatre shows in time for my trip (if I do go) and the walking tour sounds good. I often avoid public transport to really see the whole city (even if it means walking for hours Grin)

Really good advice guys! Thanks.

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tisonlymeagain · 21/03/2021 10:26

Loved Chicago, more than New York.

Agree with everyone about the boat tour. They are many different ones but this one is by far the best one and you MUST book in advance www.architecture.org/tours/detail/chicago-architecture-foundation-center-river-cruise-aboard-chicago-s-first-lady/

The Tilt at the top of the John Hancock tower is worth doing, you can get a cheeky cocktail up there too before you go on.

Wildberry Cafe is the best places to go for a big breakfast/brunch but it gets really really busy so get there in good time as they don't take reservations.

Mag Mile is great for shopping, absolutely loved walking up and down there.

And don't forget to explore the Pedway - it fascinated me and a good way to get around the Loop if it's raining! It was also really handy to nip down there for snacks and supplies as there was a link from my hotel. A whole world under there!

The weather can be very changeable - I went in April, the first day was freezing - hat and gloves weather, the second day was 30 degrees! But its gorgeous by the lake, so big it's like being next to the ocean.

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Ineedaneasteregg · 21/03/2021 13:19

Chicago is currently still very shut. I wouldn't travel here yet.
You can easily google search the restrictions for covid though, Chicago has separate restrictions to the rest of the state and they are stricter.

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Hairbrush123 · 21/03/2021 19:26

I had a look at Wildberry Cafe and it looks delicious! I will be sure to get there for opening. My potential flight lands at 1030 in the morning into Chicago so hopefully can get a table while DP and I wait for check in to open. Pedway looks interesting, my DP works for a railway operator and he loves trains, so that will be right up his street Grin

@ineedaneasteregg I am hoping to travel in July, nothing is set in stone just yet. I am waiting on further developments on foreign travel between the US and UK, what restrictions might be in place, etc so won’t be booking until late minute (or use air miles - not sure yet) but thanks for letting me know!

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zafferana · 24/03/2021 14:38

I don't have much to add, as I haven't been to Chicago since probably 2006 or so, but I really liked it. We went a couple of times and I remember the food being really good, the people being much more friendly than on the East Coast (Midwesterners are known for their hospitality), the wonderful art/architecture (the river boat architecture tour is great, also Millennium Park with Anish Kapoor's 'Bean'), and the museums - the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, plus the Shedd Aquarium, the lakefront, riding the El, etc. Great city! You'll love it.

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BronteGirl · 25/03/2021 14:26

Loved Chicago way more than New York! Another vote for the River Architecture River cruise and you must visit the shore line - some cool bars and cafes up there. Loved the Bean and had the obligatory photo under the sign for the start of Route 66. We loved the Blues Museum and visited several blues bars whilst we there too.

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tisonlymeagain · 25/03/2021 15:16

@BronteGirl

Loved Chicago way more than New York! Another vote for the River Architecture River cruise and you must visit the shore line - some cool bars and cafes up there. Loved the Bean and had the obligatory photo under the sign for the start of Route 66. We loved the Blues Museum and visited several blues bars whilst we there too.

Wish I had done that under the sign as 2 years later I was at the other end of the route!

The blues bars are good too.

And I echo what others have said - everyone responded so well to a British accent, everywhere I went I felt like the first British person to be in Chicago!
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Hairbrush123 · 27/03/2021 21:01

Great advice guys! Thanks. I am eagerly waiting for the 12th so Boris can say the magic words and I'll be booking as soon as he does (hopefully)

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zafferana · 02/04/2021 14:22

I wouldn't hold your breath OP - it looks like we're going to get an update from Boris on Monday - but the word from the papers seems to be one of broad brush strokes, not of any detail. The US is doing well its vaccine programme, so it could be one that gets reopened by the summer, but it looks like self isolation on return (even if fully vaccinated, which is super annoying!) could well be on the cards ...

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tisonlymeagain · 02/04/2021 14:32

Haven't they already said it won't be announced before May 17th at the earliest?

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