Chicago Travel Guide

Chicago Travel Guide

Gina Samarotto

For those of us in the States, it’s sometimes all too easy to overlook the fabulous destinations right in our own backyard. But when it comes to Chicago, it’s worth remembering that the windy city has enough enticements to compete with anything you’ll find across the pond. From gems tucked away within the golden triangle to life on the water, there’s a good reason why Chicago is ‘my kinda town’. Wondering what to do in Chicago? Mr Hudson has got you covered.

The best hotels in Chicago

An oh so very proper, British welcome is waiting for guests within The Langham, a glittering luxury hotel situated in a Mies van der Rohe-designed skyscraper overlooking the city and Lake Michigan. Up the posh ante at the Langham by upgrading to the hotel’s Club level where stunning views are served along with a buffet breakfast, afternoon tea and premium libations and where dedicated butlers make check in and check out a wholly civilized affair.

Once reserved for a privileged few, the Chicago Athletic Association – a mainstay of posh, mid-western elite for 122 years, has blissfully opened its doors to all. This downtown destination on the doorstep of Millennium Park is one of the city’s swankiest hotspots housed in a landmark building and ‘sporting’ everything from a rooftop bar to unique dining options and gaming rooms to elegant guest rooms replete with vintage athletic gear.

At The James, you can exponentially expand your art appreciation thanks to the hotel’s art program featuring work by both prominent and up and coming artists. If conquering the Magnificent Mile has left you bone weary, let the trials and tribulations of a day spent power shopping vanish courtesy of blissful ministrations delivered by the ASHA Spa. Other signature services for James guests include a 2500sf, full-service gym and classes at Yoga Loft Chicago to ensure you look as good as you feel when you slip into those new, designer jeans.

Where it sits tucked into its exclusive, Gold Coast neighbourhood; the Viceroy is a standout among a bevvy of neighbouring, historic mansions just steps from the Magnificent Mile and Lake Michigan. A celebration of locally-inspired luxury, the Viceroy melds cutting-edge luxury with ageless elegance across its 180 guestrooms and suites.  Whether you’re staying the night or simply passing through, while at the Viceroy you’d be remiss not to have your martini shaken at Devereaux where breathtaking views and poolside plates are the perfect accoutrement to a cocktail and a decidedly chic way to help start your evening… or end your night.

Elegantly residential, The Thompson Hotel is tucked away in the toniest of the Gold Coast enclave; just minutes to the lakeshore and steps away from chic dining, theatre and the Lincoln Park Zoo. With newly designed interiors by Tara Bernerd, the Thompson is an elevated, mid-century-inspired beauty featuring spacious rooms and a drop dead gorgeous, dual level penthouse loft that’s nothing less than sigh-worthy.

Where to eat in Chicago

Imagine you’re at a table where dinner looks like an Asian inspired still life and desert is a green apple infused balloon that floats above your head. No, you’re not behind the scene at Cirque du Soleil… you’re at Alinea, Grant Achatz’s Chicago-based temple to gastronomic phenomenon. Over the years, Alinea has made itself a staple of the Chicago food scene and deserves the distinction to this day.

Also by Achatz is the well-lauded Aviary – a new gem in the Alinea Group crown where gourmand delights are brought to life by Executive Chef Dan Perretta. Driven by a passion for escalated dining (not to mention a notably distinctive cocktail menu); guests may indulge in any of Perretta’s small bites, shareable plates or the life-changing, seven-course food and cocktail menu served inside the kitchen at Aviary’s covetable tasting table.

Chicago native Stephanie Izard is no stranger to food. Izard has helmed the burners at some of the Midwest’s most acclaimed kitchens (including Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s now-defunct Vong) before opening her first restaurant a little over a decade ago. Today, she is the cyclonic force behind Girl & The Goat, home to some of Chicago’s most covetable tables. With dishes including wood oven roasted pig face and duck tongue on the menu, Girl & The Goat can’t help but command some attention from Chicago bound gourmands.

One would think it would be difficult at best to compete for attention in a town so rife with brazenly cutting-edge offerings; but Chicago does just that with avec, a Mediterranean meets Midwestern eatery where shared plates and a notable wine list – more than thirty are available by the glass and over one hundred and thirty make up the restaurant’s impressive cellar – have made the minimalist, wood clad eatery on West Randolph a singular sensation.

Last by not least, Roister’s is where you’ll want to head to satisfy an urge for vibrant flavour. Rooted in ‘primal cooking techniques combined with modern technology’, a meal at Roister’s is like sitting down in a friend’s kitchen – assuming of course that your friend also happens to be a cooking wunderkind specializing in exponentially elevated comfort food. What’s more, the restaurant has a delivery menu that brings exquisite satisfaction readily to your doorstep – hello, “Netflix & chill” night.

avec | Photo: Derek Richmond

avec | Photo: Derek Richmond

Things to do in Chicago

If you’ve seen the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (and we know you have), you know that you don’t have to be a sports fan to revel in a day at Wrigley Field. Between roving carts hawking a spicy elixir known to locals as Uncle Dougie’s Bloody Marys and a ten dog menu celebrating hot dogs through the decades at Decade Dogs near section 123 at Gate F, you don’t need much more reason to root, root, root for the home team.

For watching athletes of the dancing variety, Chicago’s Auditorium Theater is a must. Home of the Joffrey and frequent host to everyone from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to David Gilmore; the Auditorium Theater is a national landmark that has welcomed presidents and superstars, opera divas and rock and rollers to its hallowed stage for more than 125 years. Even if you don’t make a performance, a visit to tour the Dankmar Adler/Louis Sullivan designed marvel with the house historian is worth the trip.

Let your Warhol flag fly at DISCO, where the glamour of the 70’s and it’s delicious disco vibe is alive and well. Self-described as a “nightlife sanctuary”. DISCO is well-equipped with all the necessities one might need to ignite a disco inferno including an LED illuminated dance floor, custom retro wall coverings, fur sofas, ornate mirrored ceilings, and Lucite furnishings. Gold Lamé optional…

One place you will have the same experience over and over again is the Art Institute of Chicago where a permanent collection of iconic masterworks by Dalí, Magritte, Van Gogh, Seurat and Grant Wood makes this museum something akin to your favourite coffee table book come to life. At AIC, even the architecture is part of the fun, ‘Zero Gravity’ in the Modern Wing, anyone?

Millennium Park | Photo: Gina Samarotto

Millennium Park | Photo: Gina Samarotto

Places to visit in Chicago

While the lake is one of the most popular Chicago points of interest during the summer months, Millenium Park is the city’s four-season go to for locals and tourists alike. Built on a site passionately protected by the Illinois Central Railroad for nearly 150 years, Millenium is now home to a collection of sculpture and architecture that makes it a part museum, part park and all heart in the centre of the city. While you’re there, don’t miss a walk through Lurie Garden. A five-acre homage to Chicago’s ‘Urbs in Horto’ motto, Lurie is a brilliantly designed oasis in the midst of Chicago’s concrete jungle.

When in Chicago, such proximity to the Magnificent Mile can’t help but result in some sort of shopping. While spending time in stores you already have access to might be alluring, take advantage of some heady, one-on-one boutique time. At J. Toor consultants will help you select fabrics and styles before meticulously taking more than forty, personal measurements and sending the information off to their London ateliers. The result? Six to eight weeks later, you’ll receive bespoke, utterly divine, made to measure clothes that fit like a glove. For the homebody abroad, few destinations trump the vintage emporium P.O.S.H. when it comes to home goods. From hotel silver to Limoges to dinnerware emblazoned with the motto ‘Pancakes Makes People Happy’ (well, they do), P.O.S.H. is a treasure trove of previously loved ‘must haves’ on North State Street.

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