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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
11 E Walton St.
Margeaux Brasserie, James Beard-award winning Chef Michael Mina’s first Chicago restaurant, is a destination for classic French technique, lively drinks and a robust wine selection. Located on the third floor of the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, the restaurant combines the culture and feel of dining at a Parisian café combined with locally sourced ingredients. Margeaux’s sister café located on the hotel’s lobby level, Petit Margeaux, is a classic French Patisserie that boasts a European-style seasonal courtyard patio. Transport yourself to a café along the Champs-Elysees as you enjoy savory menu items alongside pastries, entrées, coffee, and tasty cocktails.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Historic Water Tower City Gallery
806 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago’s Water Tower is one of the city’s most treasured and recognizable landmarks, one of the only buildings to survive the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. Although many tourists will photograph it from Michigan Avenue, visitors often don’t know that you can go inside to explore the free museum within. The space is tiny – just one room – but home to a rotating contemporary art exhibit. It’s a nice break from shopping and a chance to cool off on a hot summer day or hide from the wind in the blustery winter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
43 E. Ohio St.
Eataly Chicago is located just steps away from the Conrad, and offers a variety of hands-on classes, cooking demonstration classes, wine tastings, and more. The behind-the-scenes look at Eataly’s mozzarella lab is one of our favorites. Guests will tour the production area with a cheesemonger, who will demonstrate how to make creamy, chewy mozzarella from curds and boiling salted water. At the conclusion of the tour, you’ll enjoy a taste of our housemade mozzarella! Explore their upcoming classes and reserve your seat at Eataly.com.
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.
Aire Ancient Baths
Aire Ancient Baths Chicago is a unique experience that recuperates the tradition of Greek and Roman baths in restored historical buildings. Discover the Ancient Thermal Bath experience including an ice bath, cold bath, warm bath, hot bath, the Flotarium (a salt-water pool the density of the Dead Sea), the One Thousand Jet Bath, two steam rooms, an indoor-outdoor bath to swim outside, and heated marble relaxation area. Enhance this experience with massages, body treatments or other special rituals.