Whether you’re visiting Chicago for business or a quick getaway, you can expect to find world-class museums, top-rated restaurants, award-winning productions, and of course, deep dish pizza almost anywhere you look. With a thriving culture, booming business and a breathtaking skyline, there is plenty to see and do in the Windy City. But if you only have a day, here are the spots you don’t want to miss!
What better way to kick start the day than with a view – and some amazing food. Take in the famed Chicago River at the recently renovated Great Street Restaurant (located in the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel) which boasts an enviable view and a bountiful breakfast menu. Featuring seasonal produce and locally grown fare in a power-breakfast setting, the farm-to-table concept boasts the best of both worlds and situates you in the heart of the city to begin your day.
Enjoy the bustling streets of Chicago with a short walk to one of the city’s hidden gems, the Chicago Cultural Center. Located off legendary Michigan Avenue, the former Chicago library contains historical exhibits (which are free to the public) as well as two jaw-dropping stained glass domes, one of which was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Learn more about Chicago’s world-famous architecture and skyscrapers with a 90-minute architectural boat cruise tour aboard Chicago’s First Lady, which picks up at the corner of Michigan and Wacker. There is a bar on board to wet your whistle while your head spins with facts about how Chicago’s famous skyscrapers.
Treat yourself to a luxurious lunch at one the city’s most sought after new eateries, Nico Osteria. Boasting a ritzy Rush Street address, Michelin-starred Chef Paul Kahan brings a Mediterranean flair to the gold coast locale. Featuring an authentic selection of Italian-inspired small plates, each dish strikes the perfect chord of flavors amongst a seen and be seen crowd.
For a change of pace, head to the trendy West Loop neighborhood and check out the popular West Randolph Street Market. The European-style, indoor/outdoor urban antique market offers a large selection of unique, one-of-a-kind finds that are high-quality yet reasonably-priced. Or, tour the Unity Temple, located in downtown Oak Park, famous for its brilliant use of light and space. It was Wright’s first public building from his golden Prairie period. The Home and Studio has been restored by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust to its appearance in 1909, the last year Frank Lloyd Wright lived there with his family.
Now taking in some sights sounds like a pretty good idea! Millennium Park and Grant park sights are a great place to discover a state-of-the-art collection of architecture, landscape design and art that provide the backdrop for hundreds of free cultural programs including concerts, exhibitions, tours, and family activities. In Millennium Park, you’ll find a new kind of town square – a lively, spectacular gathering spot located in the heart of the city and a destination for Chicagoans and visitors alike. Things to see in Millennium Park include Cloud Gate, a highly-polished reflective sculpture affectionately known as the Bean due to its shape; Crown Fountain, a vertical fountain popular with local kids on hot summer days; Jay Pritzker Pavilion, site for free music concerts and other events in the summer; and the Lurie Garden, designed in part by famed public garden designer Piet Oudolf. Now, walk to the corner of Randolph and Michigan for a quick stroll through the Chicago Cultural Center. It contains historical and architectural exhibits and two jaw-dropping stained glass domes, one of which was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Enjoy a glass of bubbly before dinner at the Grace Kelly-inspired RM Champagne Salon. Expect to find simple pleasures paired with sophistication and glamour, including vintage crystal perfume bottles lining the bar, antique hand mirrors and low candlelight throughout. Wagner’s wine and champagne menu aspires to be artisanal yet approachable with estate-grown wines from local and smaller producers.
For dinner head to neighboring Grace, a gourmet gem on Chicago’s eclectic culinary scene. Chef Curtis Duffy (who established a solid resume at Avenues, Alinea and Charlie Trotter’s, to name a few), created a progressive menu that draws on Asian minimalist influences, with thought-provoking dishes made with high-quality ingredients from local farmers. A small cocktail lounge is adjacent to the dining room.
Many of the country’s top comedians have comedic roots in Chicago so end the night on a high note at Laugh Factory Chicago, named the number one Comedy Club by USA Today. Laugh Factory regularly hosts top-notch headlines, including up-and-coming comedians and big-name stars from TV and film.
The ending to a perfect day…. Buckingham fountain is where water dances to the tune of music and colorful lights. Shows are scheduled every hour on-the-hour and last 20 minutes.
Compiled by The Navigator Team at Renaissance Hotel Downtown Chicago from our curated database of great insider recommendations & hidden gems. We hope you enjoy our Chicago itinerary, designed to help you connect to your passions or unearth new ones in a meaningful way.
– The Navigator Team at Renaissance Hotel Downtown Chicago