What are the must-see sites in Chicago for a Korean family?
September 1, 2011 12:47 PM   Subscribe

A Korean friend and his family are heading to Chicago for one day. What would be the best, most meaningful things for them to see in such a short time?

My Korean friend is traveling with his extended family (no children) to Chicago for a single day. Chicago is the city of his dreams, and he might never have another chance to see it. I have never been to Chicago.

What should he see and do there, and do you have suggestions for restaurants a diverse group of Koreans might enjoy (other than fried chicken, they're not too keen on typical American fare)? He loves loves skyscrapers. Their English is not great.

Since it's supposed to rain, points for things they might enjoy indoors.

Thanks for your input!
posted by clarkstonian to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There are a lot of architectural river boat tours on offer in Chicago--I don't know which one is best, others might have more suggestions there. It is a great way to see the city and skyscrapers and learn a bit about them (there may or may not be those headset things you can get with explanations in different languages, perhaps different tours will have different options for that sort of thing).

Go to the top of the Willis nee Sears Tower (tallest skyscraper in North America) or the John Hancock building (there is also a restaurant on the 95th floor called Signature with great views, but it might not suit their palate based on what you've said).

As far as indoor activities, I adore the Art Institute (it houses a lot of signature American works as well as good collections of impressionist, modern and art from around the world plus the lions!) and I remember really liking the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium and Field Museum as a kid.
posted by HonoriaGlossop at 1:02 PM on September 1, 2011

The Art Institute is my favorite American art museum. Highly recommended.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:07 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

There are also a number of architectural walking tours hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Possibly one, or more, would suit their tastes.
posted by rtimmel at 1:54 PM on September 1, 2011

Close by Art Institute is Millenium Park, featuring the sculpture Cloud Gate, aka the bean, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion (Frank Gehry design, open air), and the face fountain (aka Crown Fountain).

Seconding boat tours. The whole point of Chicago is the architecture. There are river tours and lake tours. Not sure if either have Korean commentary, but a guide book should help.

Plenty of Korean and Asian restaurants in the city. Much else besides, it is a food city.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:58 PM on September 1, 2011

Assuming they'll be staying downtown, in the Loop, they'll be close to lots of the classic Chicago sightseeing sorts of things, like the Sears Tower, as well as the Art Institute (which is for sure worth going to!)

The Signature Lounge at the John Handcock is nice for drinks, even if they're not into the food. Beautiful views, classy atmosphere.

Crown Fountain in Millenium Park, right next to the Art Institute, is lovely even in the rain.

Since it'll be raining - the Gene Siskel Film Center, just a couple blocks northwest of the Art Institute and Millenium Park is showing a beautiful 35mm print of Hitchcock's Rear Window at 6:00 tomorrow. Just half a block from there (at the corner of State and Lake) is a Wow Bao, a sort of hip local Chinese chain that specializes in steamed buns.
posted by bubukaba at 2:03 PM on September 1, 2011

The Sears/Willis skydeck is expensive and the wait can be hellish (though I admit, the ledge is pretty cool). The Hancock is cheaper with better views. You can really get your money's worth there and skip the observation deck altogether; go to the Signature Room instead and simply pay the cost of a few drinks.skydeck.com/the-tower/facts-about-the-ledge">oop. The Sears Tower skydeck is expensive and the wait can be hellish (though I admit, the ledge is pretty cool). The Hancock is cheaper with better views. You can really get your money's worth there and skip the observation deck altogether; go to the Signature Room instead and simply pay the cost of a few drinks.

Here's a link on some of the architectural tours. The river cruise varieties have much better, up close views of the buildings; I did a river/lake combo tour recently and we spent a LOT of time coming and going through the lock, so that was a bummer. They can rent some bikes at Navy Pier and on a half day rental, easily cruise the lakefront down to Millennium Park, the museum campus and back up through the loop.

The Korean Cultural Center of Chicago might be a good reference (or it might not, I don't read Hongul).

There are restaurants galore. Here is my obligatory Lou Malnati's reference. It supersedes "typical American fare."
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 2:04 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Art Institute. Lots of classic American art there -
including Night Hawks and The American Gothic.
posted by Flood at 2:04 PM on September 1, 2011

Yeah, I second/third/whatever the Art Institute/Michigan Avenue area tour. Plenty of shopping, also there's an awesome LEGO store (among other things) at Water Tower Place. And, the hallowed Intelligentsia Coffee has a sweet Millenium Park location. A whole day could easily be spent on Michigan Avenue between Lake Street and Jackson.

Oh yeah, Sears Willis Tower.
posted by obscurator at 2:09 PM on September 1, 2011

Sit in the bleachers at Wrigley Field.
posted by zzazazz at 2:28 PM on September 1, 2011

Oh, and just riding around the Loop on the El would be really fantastic for both views and the experience of it - it's just about the most classicly Chicago thing one could do - but possibly risky/confusing for people unfamiliar with the transit system.

If they're up for it -

To keep it simple, let's stay on the Orange line. A good starting place might be the State/Lake station (at the corner of... State and Lake). There they'll buy their CTA card.

If they each have $2.25 (well, let's say $2.50 just in case they get lost and need to use a transfer), they can use the machines in the station to buy a regular CTA pass (or they can buy a one day pass, don't know how much those cost).

Then they should look for the stairs that say "Midway" against an Orange background (or just ask the CTA worker in the station). These stairs will take them to the platform where they'll get on their train!

Once on the platform, they'll be looking for an Orange Line train to Midway. There will be a sign reading "Midway" against an orange background on the train itself.

(Make sure they know to ignore signage and trains for the Pink, Green, Purple, and Brown lines - these all run on the same tracks as the Orange, but go different places!)

Once they're on the train, they should stay on it until they get to the Roosevelt stop. There they should get off, and figure out where the platform for Orange Line trains to the Loop are - this shouldn't be too hard.

Once they find that platform, they should get on an Orange Line train that says "Loop" on it. They can ride this train all the way back around the Loop to State/Lake - and they'll be back where they started, having seen lots of wonderful Chicago architecture and such along the way!

A good rule if they don't want to get lost by leaving the downtown/Loop area: don't stay on the train any further than Roosevelt. If they reach Roosevelt and don't get off the train, they'll have gone too far (and end up at Midway Airport).

They can repeat this as many times as they want as long as they don't leave the train stations - once you're in, you don't have to swipe your CTA card again.

Here is a map. They are also available on paper, for free, all over the place on the CTA.
posted by bubukaba at 2:32 PM on September 1, 2011

As someone else mentioned, those boxes sticking out of the top of the Willis Tower are intense. Don't know about the architecture tours but 333 N. Wacker is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
posted by Max Power at 3:09 PM on September 1, 2011

Response by poster: These are some great ideas. Thank you for the very detailed instructions for riding the El, Bubukaba. If they're brave enough to try it, it's affordable and will show them a lot. I am forwarding all of your suggestions to my friend, so he can pick and choose on his own.

posted by clarkstonian at 3:26 PM on September 1, 2011

If they are here sometime this weekend (I'm assuming maybe Saturday, since that's when rain is predicted), they will be here for the Jazz Festival, and can duck in from Millennium Park to see some of it (and then duck into the free Chicago Cultural Center nearby if it starts to rain, to see the Tiffany dome and various art exhibitions).

If they don't want to risk getting stuck on a boat for two hours in the rain but still want to see Chicago from the river, they can take a water taxi--cheaper and shorter.

The architectural foundation does have a tour of Chicago from the train, which they can try if they want the experience of the El but want some guidance.

I'd avoid the Willis Tower--the line will be much longer than at the Hancock.
posted by carrienation at 12:24 AM on September 2, 2011

The Mus. Sci. Ind. has a WW2 UBoat you can walk through. I guess there's only 2 in the whole world remaining. Pretty damn amazing, though the rest of the museum is dated and the uboat is an extra fee.
posted by Chekhovian at 11:14 PM on September 2, 2011

Response by poster: Just wanted to update - they went to Chicago, did many of the things you suggested and had a fantastic time. I got to see the photos - your input made the trip a success. Thanks to everyone!
posted by clarkstonian at 7:22 PM on September 8, 2011

« Older My mother never told me to stand up straight.   |   Why am I dealing with these allergies? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.