What would you do with 8 hours in Chicago?
February 26, 2013 1:57 PM   Subscribe

What would you do with 8 hours in Chicago?

I've got a brief Chicago layover coming up on a business trip. My flight gets in late and leaves the next day around 6:00pm. I've never been to Chicago (or the mid-west period) but always wanted to. What to do? (I like everything but baseball/football). Where to stay ($150-$200)? What not to miss? Breakfast place? Lunch?

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder looks very good...

The art gallery has some works I've always wanted to see...
posted by Cosine to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (23 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder doesn't open until 4pm, darn.
posted by Cosine at 2:00 PM on February 26, 2013

Check to see if any of the "Architecture tour" providers are working (spring season for some opens til april). That's a defintely good way to see and enjoy Chicago. It takes at most 2 hours.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 2:02 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

The art museum is, indeed, amazing. And there will be other good pizza - I'm sure a local can provide recommendations. We found a hotel near the Art Museum for about your amount, I think it was the Palmer House Hilton.
posted by ldthomps at 2:06 PM on February 26, 2013

There's a great little hotel called the Dana that's in River North, which will put you close to the Loop but not so close that everything will be closed at 9pm. (It's the hotel my company uses--if you want to stay there I'll memail you some info and you can use our group rate, get it for $140.)

The weather is pretty shitty, but CrazyLemonade is right--the Architecture Foundation tours are all great, especially the river tour. You might enjoy a trip to a museum (maybe the Art Institute?) more this time of year. I think some Picasso thing just opened. Picasso is cool.

For breakfast/brunch, the Bongo Room is pretty great.

If you want pizza, Pequod's is a mefi favorite and is open for lunch.

And then one thing I like, if you're nearby anyway, run into the HWLC and go up to the top floor. It's a big, glass room called the Winter Garden (there are a few trees in there I guess) and it's cool.
posted by phunniemee at 2:09 PM on February 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

In addition to what has been mentioned:

-Go to signature lounge on top floor of John Hancock, get a drink, drink in the view (do this at night, the light/grid of the city is incredible/awe-inspiring/I weep missing that city).

-Take the brown line train up towards Belmont-- great 'birds eye' view of the tony north-side neighborhoods for $2.25.
-Take train back to Armitage, get off and walk around, beautiful residential architecture.
posted by sandmanwv at 2:12 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're into music at all, you will love Jazz Record Mart. It's right next door to an awesome used bookstore, too.
posted by jbickers at 2:12 PM on February 26, 2013

I would land, drop my bags at a hotel (no specific recommendations, you can priceline the loop or near northside and get something reasonable and close to transit everytime) and head out to either Kingston Mines or The Green Mill for an evening of music. These places are open late, so no matter how late your flight gets in, you can check out some live music the night you land.

The next day I would get breakfast at either Yolk or Ann Sathers. Then take an architecture tour - if the river tours are open now, do that, otherwise there's a bunch of bus tours that are really good as well. After the tour I'd wander the Art Institute and maybe get a late lunch at Russian Tea Time before catching a train or cab back to the airport.
posted by Arbac at 2:20 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Art Institute is can't-miss if you're even a little bit interested in art. It's absolutely world class. There's a fantastic Picasso exhibit there until May.

Get a Chicago-style hot dog or a Maxwell St polish at Max's (20 E Adams). It's exactly a block and a half west (that's away from the lake) of the main museum entrance, just past the elevated tracks. Cheap, iconic, delicious.

If you like architecture, keep walking west down Adams. Look left when you're crossing LaSalle for a nice view of the Art Deco Board of Trade building. See that red stone building on the left? Walk into the LaSalle St entrance and see the gorgeous lobby designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
posted by theodolite at 2:40 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Awesome responses everyone.

Looks like I will take train to loop, stay anywhere, breakfast multiple choices, art gallery, various lunch options that all look great, then unfortunately just a short walk around the loop before I need to head to airport.

Thanks all!
posted by Cosine at 2:47 PM on February 26, 2013

If you want to save some dough, there's a hostel right at the edge of the Loop. It's clean and bright, safe, sharing a room isn't that bad, and they have a lot of info on various tourist destinations. And it's only a few blocks from the subway that takes you to the airport.

You don't have to be a member to stay there, you just have to live outside of the Chicagoland area.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:48 PM on February 26, 2013

On the other edge of the spectrum, I've stayed at the Hotel Monaco and highly recommend it. It's a unique experience, not your typical hotel room.
posted by bleep at 2:50 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd skip the Mag Mile - unless you must see the Water Tower or go to some specific store (it's awfully expensive around there), and go with the suggestion for the architecture tours. The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers some really great ones that can last anywhere from 40 minutes to 4 hours or more. Their store is right on Michigan Avenue and you can buy the tours online or there. They are quite reasonable. Make sure you ride the L around the Loop (it's only a couple bucks), tis a must-do for any visitor to the city.

The tours are a great way to see the city without having to know where the heck you're going.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:52 PM on February 26, 2013

Pizano's in the Loop has delicious Chicago-style pizza. They're open from 11 AM to 2 AM.
posted by homelystar at 2:56 PM on February 26, 2013

Also, if you're going to be walking around the north part of the Loop, this Drake Hotel page has a map of that part of the path next to Lake Michigan (click "Run along the lake: MAP" for a PDF). Might also help if you're walking and have to duck in somewhere out of the rain/snow.

Dang, I miss Chicago. Have fun!
posted by homelystar at 3:06 PM on February 26, 2013

If it were me:

* Watch Ferris Bueller's Day Off on the plane ride over.

* Arrive and check into a Kimpton Hotel (I've stayed at Monaco, Allegro, and Palomar, with Palomar being my favorite though it is more pricey, we haven't stayed at the Burnham yet). The Allegro has a coupon on TripAdvisor right now, BTW -- 20% off the best available rate with code "TPA," valid until March 31st. If you join the Kimpton's free loyalty program you also get free wifi and a $10 mini-bar credit. Excellent customer servie. They also have free coffee in the lobby during the morning, afternoon snacks, and a wine reception.

* Grab a quick bite at The Purple Pig (open to midnight on weekdays, 2 am on weekends) or a nightcap at Sable (the bar is open until 2am except on Sundays when it closes at midnight).

* Early breakfast at Do-Right Donuts, with a cup of Dark Matter Coffee.

* Walk around Millenium Park, see the bean, take obligatory photo of self reflected in the sculpture.

* Then go to the Art Institute. Don't miss the Joseph Cornell boxes. Their European paintings collection is also very impressive. Wonderful, world-class art museum. Paris Street; Rainy Day! Nighthawks! Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte! etc.

* Grab some Chicago pizza for lunch. A lot of places will allow you to call ahead so you don't have to wait the 30-45 minutes for it to bake. Since you don't have a lot of time, I'd definitely recommend calling ahead and pre-ordering before you arrive. Study the menu ahead of time. Most will also do individually sized pizzas. Pizano's is the closest to the Art Institute, and allows both pre-ordering and individually sized pizzas.

Here's the background on Pizano's: Pizzeria Uno (and later on Pizzeria Due) were the first to sell deep dish pizza in Chicago. Rudy Malnati Sr. worked at Pizzeria Uno with his two sons, Lou and Rudy Jr. Both brothers eventually left Uno and branched out into their own pizza businesses. One of the brothers, Lou Malnati, founded Lou Malnati's. The other brother, Rudy Jr., founded Pizano's. Read more on Slice about Pizano's.

* After your pizza feast, pop into the Rookery, as recommended by theodolite. It'll be about a 10-15 minute walk away. I took a tour there and it was great if you are a fan of Wright, but I think they only do tours at noon.

* Grab a coffee at Intelligentsia, just a few blocks away, at 53 W Jackson.

* If you are flying out of ORD, buy a torta for dinner from Rick Bayless' Tortas Frontera in the airport. Terminal 1, B11 and Terminal 3, K4. If you're not flying out of ORD, you could also pick up one at Xoco, his quick service restaurant located in River North (closed Sundays and Mondays).
posted by kathryn at 3:30 PM on February 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks kathryn! "Nighthawks" is my single biggest reason for wanting to go the the AI.


posted by Cosine at 3:38 PM on February 26, 2013

Kathryn has an excellent summary. I heartily endorse the Purple Pig and the Bean. However, if you aren't feeling like foodie food, then how about a late drink at the Billy Goat Tavern 1 level below Michigan Ave. I feel sad that I missed it on my previous trip to Chicago because I think the road decking is super-cool.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 3:42 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by Cosine at 3:45 PM on February 26, 2013

Others are right that you should check out the Loop's architecture and the bean and the Art Institute. They're popular for a reason.

If you don't want to stay downtown and there happens to be a room at Longman & Eagle, you should consider it.

Our theatre is justly famous, so if you're interested, you might check our half-price ticket site. This will probably be tricky based on your schedule. But improv and comedy shows sometimes start late, so even if you miss the big show at the Steppenwolf, you might be able to catch something at the Annoyance or the Neo-Futurarium on the north side. Or there's music, of course, as others have mentioned; the Green Mill is easily your best late-night bet if you have interest in jazz.

For late-night food, Avec is open until midnight and you won't regret it. For breakfast or lunch, you might like Nana or Lula.
posted by hal incandenza at 1:53 AM on February 27, 2013

Just up Michigan Avenue from the Art Institute is the Chicago Cultural Center (formerly the Chicago Library). It boasts the world's largest Tiffany glass dome in the world, restored in 2008. If you're at all interested in architecture, it's well worth a look.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:58 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Art Institute has guidemaps based on how much time you want to spend looking around. So if you've only got an hour, there's a plan for that, and hopefully on paper if one is there in person. On the other hand, there's a lot of iconic works there, and my memory is of turning corners and being surprised to run into American Gothic, or Seuratt, or Andy Warhol, and so on. One could easily spend a whole day there

The Chicago Cultural Center in general is a good spot for tourists to get in out of the weather, get their bearings, get tourist advice, and check out the little museum in the building. Also, there's an OK deli in there.

Billy Goat Tavern has multiple locations, but the one under Michigan Avenue is where it all started.

Edit: Brief Note from The Onion on visiting the Art Institute.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:37 AM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

seconding the cultural center, the building is utterly amazing. and there's always something cool going on for free.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:40 PM on February 27, 2013

I like the billy goat tavern (and chimefi has our monthly meetups there) but I would not recommend it on a whirlwind tour of the city. It's a step above a dive bar and gets tourist traffic because of SNL, but it's not a requirement.
posted by garlic at 9:54 AM on March 4, 2013

« Older Real Estate & Mortgages in Boston   |   What's a good normal lens for a Canon Rebel T4i? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.