Destination Guide

Chicago, Illinois

Open Your Heart to Chicago

Welcome to the Windy City, famous for its deep-dish pizza, ballparks, beer, comedy clubs, world-class museums and blues. Most visitors stay in River North or the Gold Coast, the city’s touristic centre where restaurants and shopping options abound, but to really get a feel for Chicago’s culinary and cultural diversity, try taking an ‘L’ train to Logan Square, Hyde Park, Pilsen or Andersonville.

Where to eat and drink

The newly renovated Four Seasons Chicago just debuted a new restaurant earlier this year in partnership with James Beard Award-winning Chef Jonathon Sawyer. Adorn is the perfect location for a glamorous night on the town. The menu reflects global flavors inspired the best Midwestern ingredients, like crispy confit chicken wings with hot sauce from Nevis, red wine and black truffle poutine with fresh Wisconsin cheese curds and an edible beef suet candle service with house-baked bread. Do save room for dessert. Pastry chef Juan Gutierrez will blow your mind with composed plates paying home to Colombia, India, France and Japan.

Temporis is perhaps Chicago’s most underrated – and best value – Michelin-starred tasting menu. Emerging from the pandemic, Chef Troy Jorge’s colorful cuisine imbues diners with a sense of childlike wonder. There’s a fantastical gazpacho reimagined as a terrarium landscape, anchored by a sturdy plank of crunchy brioche followed by fresh baby corn still in its husk that you’re encouraged to eat as finger food, smothered in truffle aioli and heaped with fluffy mounds of Australian black truffles shaved tableside. 

Must see attractions

DuSable Museum of African American History is the oldest independent Black history museum in the nation, founded in 1961 by artist and activist Margaret Taylor Burroughs during the Civil Rights Movement, and named after Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable, the Haitian-born founder of Chicago.  Immersive exhibitions about the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and 1919 Chicago Race Riot demonstrate that Black history is American history.

The Chicago Architecture Center’s legendary Chicago River architecture cruises are always great fun, and educational too thanks to the entertaining volunteer docents. The 90-minute tour is the best way to enjoy Chicago’s stunning architecture, including new buildings like Jeannie Gang’s undulating St. Regis Chicago skyscraper. Plus, there are full-service bars available on all seven vessels in the First Lady fleet, including the elegant new Emerald Lady, trimmed in brass and mahogany. 

Joffrey Ballet returns to live performances this autumn with their inaugural season at the historic Lyric Opera House. The lineup this season includes several new-to-the-stage works and company debuts along with classics like “The Nutcracker” and “Don Quixote.” 

Best photo spots

Cloud Gate at Millennium Park is one of the most iconic and photographed landmarks in Chicago. The gleaming public sculpture, fondly nicknamed ‘The Bean’ because it resembles an oversized jelly bean is  by Indian-born British artist Sir Anish Kapoor, arriving in Chicago in 2004 to great fanfare.

Chicago’s Museum of Illusions specializes in deception and mirage, discombobulating your mind and perplexing your perceptions with 80 mind-bending exhibits of absurd and clever optical illusions. The Instagram paradise explains the math, psychology and science behind how the human brain works to play tricks on us. Mirror infinity rooms, scale-distorting rooms, holograms, a vortex tunnel and an anti-gravity room are just a few highlights. It’s fun for families and appealing for all ages.

 

A spiritual retreat

Drive north on Lake Shore Drive to the Baháʼí House of Worship in Wilmette and marvel at the oldest and largest surviving Baháʼí House of Worship (completed in 1953) serving all of North America. It’s one of just 10 Baháʼí temples in the entire world. Elements of  Islamic, Gothic, neoclassical and Romanesque architecture are interwoven in this majestic concrete and quartz haven, welcoming visitors of all faiths and spiritual beliefs. 

Chicago’s hidden gem

The contemporary art museum at 21c Museum Hotels Chicago is the city’s newest contemporary art museum in the heart of River North and still a secret for many clueless visitors who walk past while shopping on Michigan Avenue or on their way for a bite at Eataly. Free and open to the public 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, the mixed media collection includes 110 pieces spread across two floors, representing artists from 40 countries. Wander in at any time of day to ponder these powerful pieces, or swing by Thursdays at 6 pm for a (free!) guided docent tour.

About the journalist:

Amber Gibson is a freelance journalist specializing in travel, food, wine and wellness with bylines in Conde Nast Traveler, Fodor’s, Robb Report, Travel + Leisure, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Artful Living, NBC, NPR, USA Today and many more. Dark chocolate, champagne and gelato are her biggest weaknesses.