Conrad Concierge

Explore Chicago like a local. The Concierge at Conrad Chicago is your personal local insider – giving you expert knowledge and tips for discovering the city. Here’s our Concierge’s pick of the best Chicago attractions you can’t miss.

Gilded Gatsby

 

Driehaus Museum

40 E. Erie St.

One of the city’s little-known treasures and just a block away from the Conrad Chicago, this Gilded Age mansion welcomes visitors to view the carefully preserved architecture and interior furnishings from when the Nickerson family lived here in the late 19th-century. The permanent collection includes works by Louis Comfort Tiffany and regular special exhibitions might feature popular period fashion or satirical cartoons from vintage magazines. Step back in time with a living history tour, where English housekeeper Mrs. Williams takes you down hidden staircases into the servants’ quarters for a behind-the-scenes look at how they run the show.

 

Chocoholics Only

 

Cocoa + Co

1651 N. Wells St.

Instead of the run-of-the-mill coffee meeting, our advice is to treat yourself to a drinking chocolate meeting at this charming Old Town café and chocolate emporium. Owner Kim Hack may not be a chocolate maker or chocolatier herself, but she’s curated the city’s most extensive collection of artisanal chocolate bars, bonbons and confections from around the globe. Tastings and classes are hosted regularly at the store so the novice chocolate lover can become a true connoisseur. Learn about the history of chocolate, cacao varieties and the complicated bean-to-bar chocolate making process to better help you appreciate your next bite.

 

 

Float Your Boat

 

FloatSixty

303 W. Erie St.

Ever wanted to float away from your worries? It’s possible at FloatSixty, Chicago’s only studio specializing in float therapy, a newly popular meditation technique that involves sensory deprivation while floating in a shallow 10-inch bath mixed with 1,000 pounds of Epsom salts. Choose to be completely without light or sound in the traditional Samadhi tank or opt for a more modern float pod with interior lighting and soothing music options. Some of the city’s top athletes are loyal customers and we’ve never felt so relaxed after just 60 minutes. P.S. You’ll sleep like a baby afterwards.

 

Treasure Trove

 

Rider for Life

1115 W. Lake St.

The locals come to this West Loop boutique for everything from chairs to lighting fixtures. You’ll find an artfully curated collection of art, furniture, bath and body products, men’s and women’s fashions, jewelry and seemingly random but artfully arranged knick-knacks and oddities. Tarot cards sit next to sunglasses and Afghani rugs hang across from Native American dream catchers. A one-of-a-kind vintage 1920s gambling wheel is nonchalantly nested amongst a display of men’s shoes. New treasures arrive each day, and owners Lauren McGrady and Tom Gavin will enthusiastically tell you the story behind each one as you nibble fresh spun cotton candy and sip local coffee.

 

Bump it Up

 

WhirlyBall

1825 W. Webster Ave.

Imagine a sporty mash-up of lacrosse, hockey, basketball, and bumper cars and you’ll have a sense for what to expect from this unique Chicago sport. Play a game of five-on-five and pass a whiffle ball to your teammates with hand-held scoops while trying to score through an overhead target. There are three WhirlyBall courts at this 50,000 square-foot entertainment complex in Bucktown along with 12 bowling lanes and a two-story laser tag arena so there’s something for every age and interest. We recommend clenching your post-game thirst with a brew from their impressive selection of craft beers.

 

Dapper Dressing

 

BLVDier

211 N. Green St.

Custom men’s clothier Zach Uttich only sees one customer at a time in his West Loop atelier. He’ll offer you a glass of whiskey (or espresso if it’s a little too earlier to booze it up) while you peruse buttons, thread, linings and the finest fabrics from Biella, Italy for your one-of-a-kind suit or jacket. These suits are canvassed, not fused, which means they mold to your body, keep their shape and will last a lifetime. Uttich outfitted the sharply dressed waiters at Alinea and the group recently wore specially made suits from BLVDier on stage at the San Pellegrino Top 50 and James Beard Awards.

 

Heart of the City

 

Chicago Cultural Center

78 E. Washington St.

This stunning building across the street from Millennium Park is a great resource for new visitors to the city. Beyond the gorgeous Louis Comfort Tiffany dome (a favorite backdrop for engagement photos) there is free programming year-round, including performances and visual art exhibits. Several galleries throughout the first and second floors showcase multimedia art from local and Midwest artists with regular artist and curator gallery talks offered. If your itinerary is flexible, you’ll want to go on a Monday afternoon for the free chamber music concerts and Wednesdays there are solo and ensemble classical music performances during lunch hour.

 

 

Food Coma

 

Revival Food Hall

125 S. Clark St.

If tourists flock to Eataly, locals hit up this massive 24,000 square-foot food hall on their lunch break. Fifteen of Chicago’s top chefs are debuting quick-service concepts on the ground floor of The National – a restored 1907 Daniel Burnham building. Food & Wine Best New Pastry Chef winner Sarah Jordan will serve grass-fed burgers and superfood smoothie bowls at Graze Kitchenette. There’s ramen from Furious Spoon, cold-pressed juices from Harvest Juicery, tacos from Antique Taco Chiquito and gelato from Black Dog Gelato for dessert. Don’t miss the latest food craze – Hawaiian-style salads and rice bowls from Aloha Poke.

 

Cozy Cafe

 

Americano 2211

2211 W. North Ave.

The vibe at this Wicker Park café is decidedly European, transitioning effortlessly from coffee and breakfast in the morning to more elegant dinner service in the evening. Our favorite is their shakshuka, a great rendition of the trendy Middle Eastern breakfast dish, and you’ll be sopping up every last bit of spicy tomato sauce and runny egg yolk with crunchy grilled bread. Nancy Silver, formerly of cult-favorite Snookelfritz ice cream, is running the pastry program including biscuits, tea cakes and cookies along with a half dozen seasonal ice creams and sorbets. Savor every last bite on the ivy-covered brick patio when the weather allows.

 

Polish Paczki

 

Delightful Pastries

1710 N. Wells St.

Dobra Bielinski has been making the best paczki in the city with her mother for nearly two decades. The wide array of treats at their bakery rangers from hearty rye and sourdough breads to pecan squares, croissants, cheesy kolaczki and linzer cookies, all made with love and the finest classic European technique. Paczki are her signature items – each year she sells 50,000 for Fat Tuesday. Lucky for you, plum butter, raspberry and custard flavors are available all year-round. Her latest hit? Drunken doughnuts filled with Jameson whisky chocolate or vodka custard, available by special request only.

 

Affordable Michelin Fare

 

NAHA

500 N. Clark St.

Chef Carrie Nahabedian was the first female chef in the city to garner James Beard and Michelin Hilton honors and her namesake restaurant, which is a short 10-minute walk from the Conrad Chicago, has been serving artful Mediterranean food prepared with classically French technique in River North since 2000. Lunch is a steal, especially the two-course business lunch option for $18. Try salmon in a springtime garden of local vegetables, a fancy burger (there’s even a vegan option) or the fluffiest lemon ricotta pancakes you’ve ever tasted. The wine list is fantastic too, but if there’s still work to be done at the office, the chef’s favorite raspberry hibiscus herbal iced tea will do the trick.

 

Amalfi Coast Italian

 

Formento's

925 W. Randolph St.

Plush red leather banquettes, masculine brickwork and elegant tile floors make you feel like you’re in an old-school supper club. But it’s not just spaghetti and red sauce at this West Loop joint, although they do make all their own pasta and the rigatoni with pork neck gravy and meatballs is on point. Instead, fresh, flavorful seafood and lighter, brighter flavors dominate the menu, including wood-grilled oysters, housemade ricotta and crunchy charred snap peas. Adjacent to the main restaurant is Nonna’s, a petite sandwich and sundries shop elevating the neighborhood’s to-go lunch game.

 

Ice Ice Baby

 

The Sixth

2200 W. Lawrence Ave.

This upscale Lincoln Square bar has the most ambitious ice program in the city thanks to a fancy Clineball ice machine. It’s already an industry favorite and the neighborhood bar just snagged Time Out Chicago’s “Best New Bar” award too. Whimsical drinks include the Silly Rabbit, inspired by Trix cereal and featuring four colorful ice cubes flavors orangey orange, lemony yellow, raspberry red and grapity purple. The elegant Doris is a refreshing gin cocktail with a whole rose bloom preserved in ice. Reservations are recommended on the weekend to guarantee a seat. The food served is limited to duck fat fries and veal dönors but you can get pizzas, salads and the best mozzarella sticks in town next door at Roots Pizza.

 

Game On

 

The Fifty/50

2047 W. Divison St.

If you don’t have tickets to the big game, watching the playoffs with your buddies here is the next best thing. No other Chicago sports bar has such great food and drinks enjoyed by such passionate fans. Maxim, Thrillist and Yahoo! have all named The Fifty/50 the best sports bar in America and with three levels and 20+ flatscreen TVs, you’ll understand why the second you step inside. There’s not a bad seat in the house and the spicy fried pickles, jumbo chicken wings and array of juicy burgers with mix-and-match toppings will have you chowing down like a linebacker yourself.

 

Red Carpet Ready

 

Salon Duo

1400 N. Lake Shore Dr. #3

Getting ready for a night on the town? There’s no better place to get your hair and nails done than Salon Duo. The full service salon is tucked away in a 1920s vintage condo building on Lake Shore Drive so you can enjoy beautiful lake views as you’re getting a manicure or blowout. They’ve been here for 15 years and the stylists and clientele are truly like family, welcoming newcomers with open arms. Although they’re best known for nails and hair, they can do it all including makeup, silk peel facials and lash and brow tinting.

 

Chef's Choice

 

Green City Market

1750 N. Clark St.

This Lincoln Park farmers market is the largest in the city, open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. This is where all the chefs go to shop for produce, although they’re usually swinging by right when the market opens at 7 am to get first pick of the bounty. Weekly chef cooking demos inspire you to get cooking at home with the fresh heirloom produce you’ll pick up. Plus, the market is a great spot to try local food artisans like Brunkow Cheese, Bennison’s Bakery, Hoosier Mama Pie Co. and The Nomad Food Company’s breakfast pizzas.

 

Undiscovered Mexican Art

 

National Museum of Mexican Art

1852 W. 19th St.

This 8,500-piece permanent collection of Mexican art in Pilsen is one of the country’s largest and admission is always free. The museum displays both ancient and modern art created on both sides of the border with a goal of preserving cultural heritage and representing the Mexican community through folk art, paintings, sculptures, textiles, photography and ephemera. Annual festivals, including an epic Day of the Dead ball, along with Mexican independent film screenings and lectures continue the conversation.

 

Late Night Eats

 

Q-Tine

2339 N. Milwaukee Blvd.

Memphis-style barbeque meets Canadian classic poutine at this hip Logan Square eatery. All meats are smoked in-house and sauces and gravies are made from scratch for barbeque platters, sandwiches and gooey skirt steak, sausage or bacon-topped poutine. Boozy slushies, local craft beers and deep-fried Snickers bars make for a well-rounded meal after midnight. Catering to Chicago’s late-night crowd, the restaurant is open until 2am on Wednesday and Thursday and until 4am on Friday and Saturday nights.

 

Fine Dining Darling

 

Oriole

661 W. Walnut St.

You’ll step through a freight elevator on an abandoned West Loop side street to enter what is Chicago’s newest and most ambitious fine dining restaurant. Chef Noah Sandoval partners with his wife to lead a small, focused kitchen in crafting an exquisite 15-course tasting menu that freely wanders between cultures, from a single satisfying bite of sea urchin sushi topped with crunchy genmai brown rice to yeasty capellini pasta with black truffle umami. Chilled Alaskan king crab dressed in rich onion custard is brightened up with fresh Thai herbs and a perfectly caramelized cardamom and rose croissant to end the meal is so good you’ll wake up wishing you could have another for breakfast.

 

Whimsical Theatre

 

Saint Sebastian Players

1625 W. Diversey Pkwy.

This local theatre group provides a high-quality and highly affordable North Side alternative to the big theaters downtown. They’ve been performing classics along with less-frequently produced shows like Transit of Venus for more than 35 years in an intimate, low-key environment. This season opens with Tony Award-winning musical Oliver!, followed by a little-known yet powerful drama and a clever comic twist on Shakespeare. This group also specializes in interactive mysteries where the audience gets to help solve the crime.

 

Keep on Dancing

 

The Dance Center of Columbia College

1306 S. Michigan Ave.

More adventurous artgoers will be entranced by the provocative performances of regional and international contemporary dance in this unassuming South Loop space. These are not your traditional Swan Lake or Bob Fosse-jazz-hands performances. Instead, a few highlights of the upcoming season include butoh dance inspired by the pain and hardship of Japan’s 2011 tsunami and nuclear tragedy, a comic book brought to life through dance, theatre and projected video and a portrayal of the African male with themes of traditional culture, colonialism, Christianty and liberation that takes place within a boxing ring.

 

Jazz Jams

 

Green Mill

4802 N. Broadway Ave.

Legend has it that this is the oldest continuously run jazz club in the country and there’s still no better place for late night jazz. Franz Jackson, Wilbur Campbell and Kurt Elling have all played here and Al Capone and his henchmen were loyal guests. Soulful musicians serenade you all night long, from the genre’s traditional New Orleans roots to bebop and more contemporary improvisational tunes. Slip into the dark smoky room for a timeless night of reverie. Sunday nights, the lounge hosts the raucous Uptown Poetry Slam to standing-room only crowds.

 

Free Local Tours

 

Chicago Greeter

72 E. Randolph St.

Plan ahead for a free tour with a knowledgeable and friendly Chicagoan. You can explore one of the city’s more than 25 neighborhoods or a special interest like architecture, family-friendly destinations or local history. More than 200 volunteer greeters speaking more than a dozen languages are eager to show you their favorite hidden gems and ethnic hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Customized 2-4 hour tours require 10 days advanced booking, but spontaneous hour-long walking tours of downtown are also available on weekends with no advanced registration.

 

Hands on Art

 

Lillstreet Art Center

4401 N. Ravenswood Ave.

This friendly Ravenswood art center displays work by Midwest and international independent artists in multiple gallery spaces and an artisan gift shop filled with ceramics, candles, jewelry, tableware and books. But you’ll have the most fun getting in on the action by taking a class. Create your own blown glass ornaments during a one-day workshop or wield a hammer during a metalworking class. Drop-in with your newborn or toddler for a festive day exploring visual arts and music – there is always something going on and kids and adults of all ages are welcome.

 

Ping Pong Power

 

AceBounce

230 N. Clark St.

This just-opened ping pong palace comes by way of London, housing 16 tables along with a full-service bar and restaurant. Game Gurus – comedic Second City alumni – will keep you entertained between matches and help organize teams and tournaments. Refuel with creative cocktails and tasty bar food like pork rind nachos and duck nuggets in yuzu kosho BBQ sauce. Or sit down at the restaurant for more elevated but fun fare, like beef carpaccio with crispy shiitake mushrooms and bacon and sage-wrapped veal medallions.

 

Upside Down Fitness

 

AIR Aerial Fitness

357 W. Erie St.

If you ever dreamed of running away from home to join the circus, you’ll get hooked on these acrobatic workouts. This innovative aerial fitness program combines elements of yoga, Pilates and ballet using a super soft but strong silk hammock allowing you to fly high, swing across the room and flip upside down all while engaging your abs for balance. Don’t be afraid – the experienced instructors ensure that you’re always well looked after. If you feel a little taller after class, it’s not an illusion. The anti-gravity inversions really do stretch your vertebrae and lengthen the spine.

 

Flying High

 

iFLY

800 W. Scott St.

Indoor skydiving is our new favorite adrenaline rush. You’ll be swept away on a smooth cushion of air as you soar like Superman on a vertical wind tunnel at iFLY in Lincoln Park. Skydiving has never been this easy (you don’t even have to jump) and it’s safe for kids older than three. If you really get addicted to the high of flying you can come back for more advanced training – bodyflight is a hot new sport with freestyle and formation divisions.

 

Urban Oasis

 

The 606

1600-3000 W. Bloomingdale Ave.

This elevated park in Bucktown is Chicago’s answer to New York’s High Line, the first urban green space of its kind in the city. Former railroad tracks from the early 20th century are now a park and trail system for bikers, runners and walkers to enjoy, with public art installations, including murals created by local students, embedded along the way. Star-gazing, storytelling and musical and dance performances are frequent, connecting neighbors and visitors. Hop on and off at more than a dozen access points along the way and explore neighborhoods like Bucktown and Logan Square.

 

Easy Breezy Style

 

Turley Road

5239 N. Clark St.

This Andersonville boutique has been around for nearly three decades, specializing in handcrafted womenswear, shoes, jewelry and accessories from independent designers both local and international including Babette, Jenny Bird, Rundholz, Neesh, Cynthia Ashby and Aimee G. The styles are very Midwestern – comfortable, fun and easy to wear, a sharp contrast to avant garde European runway looks. Owner Angela Turley also has her own fashion line, Studio 90, designed and produced in Chicago and available exclusively at the shop.

 

Souvenir Shop

 

Ad Hoc

1948 W. Chicago Ave.

Retro and contemporary blend effortlessly here, with a carefully curated mix of more than 75 different designers from clothing and jewelry to home goods. Take a seat on the couch, play a record and take your time browsing the fashion forward and affordable collection. Some local artisanal goods include jewelry by Pajaro Negro, handbags and leather goods by Bird Trouble and candles by Artumie Candles. The West Town boutique also displays a revolving array of artwork by local artists and regularly hosts gallery nights, crafting workshops led by local bloggers, and trunk shows with local designers and makers.

 

Wild Thing

 

Animale

1904 N. Western Ave.

This new fast-casual Italian concept right next to the Western Blue Line station is unlike anything else in Chicago and has fast become a local foodie favorite. Try the only Piedmontese beef burger in Chicago and some of the adventurous, untraditional cuts of meat, like super tender wagyu beef tongue in a bright ragu sauce, blood sausage wrapped in puff pastry (a wild twist on pigs in a blanket) or spicy tripe stew with farinata – chickpea flour crepes. Chef Cameron Grant shows his versatility in Italian cooking with his second restaurant. His first, Logan Square’s Osteria Langhe, is a cozy date night pick.

 

Funky Fresh

 

Left Coast Food

2878 N. Lincoln Ave.

Health food spots are a dime a dozen, but no other smoothie, salad, wrap and juice bar has James Beard Award-winning Chef Paul Kahan consulting on the food. Nothing here is bland and the menu isn’t as limiting as some – there’s still meat, dairy and gluten available. Moms with strollers flock as do sweaty young studs grabbing a protein smoothie after a workout. Start the day with a smooth, fruity acai bowl or heart avocado toast or try the Santa Monica Shred salad for lunch with shaved veggies, toasted walnuts, lemon yogurt and crunchy quinoa.

 

Classy Comfort

 

Honey’s

1111 W. Lake St.

Stepping into Honey’s feels like walking into the chicest celebrity dinner party. The food is exquisite (chefs and managers have all worked in Chicago’s top fine dining restaurants), service is warm and ample natural light streams in from the skylight, making everyone look a little more beautiful. The dining room is gorgeous, but sit at the bar for a little more energy. The full menu is available and there’s plenty of elbow room. Housemade squid ink orecchiete with tender baby octopus and shrimp tossed in pesto is a must, as is the juicy rotisserie chicken with charred seasonal veggies and saffron squash purée. Don’t skip dessert either – the tahini chocolate bar with buttermilk ice cream and date chutney is a revelation.

 

WINO RETREAT

 

Ampersand

4845 N. Damen Ave.

This Ravenswood wine bar pairs accessible and fairly priced wines with tasty small plates by Charlie Trotter’s former lead pastry chef Darren McGraw. Frequent deals like $10 wine flights and half-priced bottles keep regulars coming back and encourage all guests to try something new. Whatever your level of wine knowledge, servers and sommeliers will make you feel at ease and teach you something too, telling vivid stories about each producer and nailing the technical specs if you’re ready to get geeky.

 

Spirited Away

 

CH Distillery

564 W. Randolph St.

Chicago has several distilleries popping up in the last few years, including this one right in the West Loop. At CH, all spirits are distilled from local grains and you can tour the facility before sipping your way through the entire collection either neat, on the rocks or in a masterfully blended cocktail. They collaborate frequently with local bartenders to make exclusive blends and their premium vodka, gin and amaro are available at countless bars around town. There’s even a full dinner menu if you need something to pad your stomach from all the booze.

 

Japanese Grilling

 

Sumi Robata Bar

702 N. Wells St.

Experience the mouthwatering art of the ancient Japanese robatayaki in this understated restaurant designed with bamboo and stone. Nobody works the robata as artfully as Chef Gene Kato grilling skewered seafood, meats and vegetables over charcoal. Beef tsukune sliders, sea scallops, teriyaki salmon and shishito peppers are favorites. More adventurous eaters might get lucky enough to try chicken hearts, gizzards and tails based on availability. There’s simple sushi too, along with hot and cold appetizers like housemade tofu with caviar and crispy ginger, but here it’s really all about the barbecue bites.

 

Stationery Style

 

Paperish Mess

1955 W. Chicago Ave.

This art gallery and retail shop in Ukranian Village features more than 100 independent artists and is a great place to shop for locally made gifts and souvenirs. You’ll find a kaleidoscope of art prints, stationery, home goods, jewelry and even bath accessories. Mail a greeting to your friends on a Chicago deep-dish pizza card and let them know what they’re missing out on. Paperish Mess also participates in After Hours, offering exclusive promotions and complimentary refreshments along with more than 15 other local businesses on the last Friday of each month.

 

Chinatown Zen

 

Ping Tom Park

1700 S. Wentworth Ave.

This twelve-acre park in the heart of Chinatown is a favorite local gathering place. You might see folks moving elegantly, seemingly in slow motion, practicing tai chi at dawn in the pagoda-style pavilion or giggling kids running amuck on the playground. Explore the bamboo gardens or go for a swim at the new public fieldhouse. The former rail yard is a relaxing setting to enjoy boba tea or a meal of shaobing and other snacks from nearby Chinese bakeries and eateries.

 

Croissant Cravings

 

Floriole

1220 W. Webster Ave.

Baker Sandra Holl was recognized as Chicago’s Best Pastry Chef last year at the Jean Banchet Awards and she brings elegant sweets and incredible viennoiserie to Lincoln Park with this neighborhood café. Floriole’s excellent bread is available by the loaf and serves as the foundation for tasty sandwiches and tartines. Seasonal specials like blueberry shortbread and savory green garlic croissants appeal to moms with strollers and freelancing creatives alike – there’s great Wi-Fi and the skylights make for beautiful Instagram lighting.

 

Floral Fantasy

 

Lincoln Park Conservatory

2391 N. Stockton Dr.

Tropical palms, ancient ferns and other exotic plants thrive in this haven from Chicago’s notoriously harsh weather right next to Lincoln Park Zoo. The Victorian conservatory was built in the late 19th century, inspired by city dwellers’ fascination with horticulture. A show house features seasonal flower exhibits while the orchid room is home to 25,000 orchid species. Picnic in the formal gardens outside, one of the city’s oldest public gardens, and look for the Shakespeare Monument and the bronze storks of the Bates Fountain.

 

Savor Spain

 

Salero

621 W. Randolph St.

This modern Spanish restaurant and bar has a decidedly easygoing European feel, and is located along a stretch of award-winning restaurants in the West Loop. Start at the bar and nibble on oysters, cheese and bocadillo sandwich pinxtos with a gin and tonic or glass of Txakoli. If you’re still hungry, move to a table and dig into meatier Basque-inspired dishes like chorizo stuffed quail with garlic and golden raisins or pan-roasted sweetbreads with pickled cauliflower and romesco sauce.

 

Natural Wonders

 

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

2430 N. Cannon Dr.

This super kid-friendly museum is a great Lincoln Park alternative to the Field Museum for those interested in nature and science. The 160-year old museum has a collection of 390,000 artifacts and flora and fauna specimens – the most comprehensive in the region. Kids can whip up an epic thunderstorm in the interactive weather and climate exhibit and toddlers can explore various animal habitats including a roped spider web, beaver lodge and underground cave. The museum’s signature tropical butterfly haven, home to more than 1,000 butterflies, will charm all ages.

 

Come Hungry

 

Tastebud Tours

Tour Locations Vary

Eat your way through various Chicago neighborhoods including the Loop, Magnificent Mile and Old Town. Enthusiastic guides sprinkle in fun stories along the way so you’re getting exercise and a history lesson as you chow down on deep-dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, cupcakes, chocolate and more. The newest Original 1893 World Columbian Exposition tour features Victorian socialite and philanthropist Bertha Palmer as your guide. Pro Tip: Eat a light breakfast….servings on these tours are generous!

 

Wander on Water

 

Kayak Chicago

1220 W. Le Moyne St.

Paddle on Lake Michigan, take a romantic sunset paddle with your sweetheart or learn about the city’s architecture as you paddle along the Chicago River. In addition to tours, Kayak Chicago hosts private and group lessons for all ages and experience levels. If you’re already a pro, you can simply rent a kayak or paddleboard on your own – they have the largest fleet in the Midwest. Wednesday and Saturday nights there are guided nighttime tours out to Navy Pier to watch the fireworks by water and take in the city’s glittering lights.

 

Play Smarter

 

Marbles: The Brain Store

845 N. Michigan Ave.

There are no video games in sight at this old-school game store with six locations throughout the city. Instead, shelves are stocked with crafty toys, handcrafted wooden puzzles and strategy games for grown-ups, kids and the whole family to enjoy together. A Brain Coach will walk you through the various games, gadgets and gizmos and you’re encouraged to play with anything before you buy. Pick up an addictive card game like Sushi Go to make the long plane ride home go by a little faster.

 

Elegant Aesthetic

 

Virtu

2035 N. Damen Ave.

Functional art and collectibles at this 15-year-old Bucktown boutique make great gifts for any occasion from baby showers to birthdays. Nearly everything is handcrafted in the USA by the country’s top jewelers and designers, many of whom are exclusive to Virtu in Chicago. You’ll find one-of-a-kind embroidered pillows, burl wood baskets, silk and cashmere scarves, charming ceramics and sparkling necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Just beware…you might stop in for a simple greeting card and leave with a diamond ring.

 

Escape Together

 

The Escape Game

42 E. Ontario St.

Just around the corner of the Conrad (a two-minute walk), this interactive experience offers a thrilling hour to spend with friends, co-workers, or whomever. This part-theater, part-game attraction locks a group in a room that requires players to escape with problem-solving. The goal is simple: work together as a team, solve puzzles and find clues to ultimately escape from a locked room. Guests can choose to solve million dollar heists, decode secret service missions, or navigate through prison passageways. Hurry over, the clock is ticking!

 

Gifts from Grandma

 

Mary Mary

706 N. Dearborn St.

Stepping into this River North boutique is a little like walking into grandma’s extremely well-organized and stylish closet, housed in a 132-year old brownstone. There’s home décor, gifts, toys and accessories galore and every service is covered with something cute and colorful. During the holidays this is a great place to pick up ornaments and stocking stuffers. There’s a room dedicated to gifts for children and another specializing in presents for the difficult to shop for teen.

 
CONRAD CHICAGO 101 East Erie Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60611, USA Telephone: +1-312-667-6700