What to see and what not to see in Chicago
April 15, 2014 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Sooooo... my parents will visiting loverly Chicago... unfortunately, I just noticed that they won't fly in May 17th, but APRIL 17th. In two days. I'm a dumb. Anyway, I need some advice on what we should check out while they're here. I have a couple ideas, but I haven't done much of Chicago's touristy stuff since I moved in several years ago. What are some big obvious things that are actually worth the hype? Any hidden gems you like? They'll be staying downtown, but we'll have cars available so travel isn't a problem. I have mobility issues, so bonus if it's sitting down/limited standing.
posted by Evilspork to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (18 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Probably the most obvious suggestion, but the Art Institute is probably my favorite art museum in the US. Also the field museum is awesome. Also the Oriental Institute at UC is really cool if they are into that kind of thing.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:19 PM on April 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: An architectural tour on the river is super-touristy and actually totally worth it. For real.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:20 PM on April 15, 2014 [9 favorites]

Best answer: architectural tour on the river
Seconded, but bring a windbreaker with a hood or hat! We took one that started in the light and ended in the dark. It was pretty nice, despite the cold. The one we rode had two floors and I think we boarded on the bottom floor and climbed stairs to the top. You could stay on the bottom, which is protected from the wind, but the view is not as good.
posted by soelo at 12:26 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you checked out the previous threads? Because there are a ton of them.

I do love the Bean and the Art Institute; they're the kind of thing I would do every time I go. The current exhibitions (requires separate admission from the main building) include one about Renoir's painting process that includes a lot of sciencey conservator detective work, so that sounds cool. I love to visit American Gothic and the Seurat and the miniature rooms and the ginormous El Greco painting; it's just fun to make sure they're still there waiting for me.

The architecture tours, if the weather's decent, are quite good. We got engaged on one :) I believe we took the Chicago Line, which is next to Navy Pier. If you go belowdecks, it can be less crowded, but the top deck is just fine.

You MUST get some time in at various restaurants. Chicago is a foodie city par excellence. The Rick Bayless restaurants (Frontera, Topolobampo, etc.) can make you wait for a table, but there are a couple of sandwich-level joints like Xoco which are faster and cheaper.

Here is my previous thread about restaurants to go to with parents in Chicago.

My husband and I had a great quick date in Chicago with a stop at Mindy's Hot Chocolate. It was that rare place that is super overhyped but manages to surpass the expectations anyways. Just LOOK at that menu. It was sooooo gooooooood. Definitely hipster, but easy to get comfortable.

If there is some sort of show at the Roosevelt University Auditorium, oh my gracious is that a beautiful space. It's a perfect example of the best of Chicago architecture and preservation.
posted by Madamina at 12:29 PM on April 15, 2014

Best answer: Thirding the architectural tours -- the ones I took (and recommend) are the ones by the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
posted by andrewesque at 12:30 PM on April 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Catch a white sox baseball game! Usually not so usuriously overpriced as a cubs game, people in my experience aren't going to be throwing up on their way to the game due to excessive pre-gaming and I'd say they're a more fun team right now!
posted by Carillon at 12:30 PM on April 15, 2014

Best answer: The theatre scene in Chicago is second to none. I like Time Out's reviews. I would recommend checking out the show at The Storefront Theater which is a space run by the city to get the tiny theatres downtown. Tickets are $15. I haven't seen the show but Time Out liked it.
posted by Uncle at 12:31 PM on April 15, 2014

Best answer: As for food, I'd recommend the Publican, it's a great restaurant with a lot of fun choices and great beer!
posted by Carillon at 12:31 PM on April 15, 2014

Best answer: Staropolska restaurant-- super charming, delicious Polish food, and Chicago does Polish food better than anywhere else in America (or so my Polish friends say). I just went last week and can't wait to go back. It's adorable inside, like a medieval hunting lodge, and they have Polish beer. Try the Polish plate!

And yes, a baseball game!
posted by stoneandstar at 12:33 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh! Baha'i Temple! Especially if you take a nice drive along Sheridan Rd. and environs and gawk at the giant houses.

Also, go in the North Park area and check out some Swedish stuff. Stop at the Tre Kronor and eat some korv and lingonberries. Or, you know, go to one of the many Ann Sathers.

I don't like Chicago Architecture Foundation because my brother's girlfriend worked there and they screwed her over and she had to take them to court. ymmv.
posted by Madamina at 12:33 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For sure the Architecture Foundation boat tour. It's been mentioned a bunch, but it really is fantastic.

If your parents like funny things, go to a show at iO or Second City. (If your folks are easily scandalized, though, don't. I took my parents to a thing at iO and we got to watch some dude mime a blowjob 15 times throughout the evening. My dad was...uncomfortable. But at the end, it was net a good experience.)

Also, this is totally stupid, but do your parents live near a Trader Joe's? Mine don't. I sent my mom into Trader Joe's when she was here and she had a blast. We actually went twice during their four day stay because she was so overwhelmed by choice the first time.

If you want a quiet, nice restaurant with an "I am a cool young city person" vibe but without the trendy/douchy and really good food, I highly highly recommend Province on Jefferson.
posted by phunniemee at 12:47 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Auughhh what the crap, Province has closed! Oh this is sad. OK, so don't go to Province. :(

I'll change my suggestion to Perennial Virant.
posted by phunniemee at 12:49 PM on April 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If they have any interest in history, the U Boat tour at the Museum of Science and Industry is pretty cool and very unique. It might be difficult for you since it's moving around in a small space however.

And obviously you need to go for a hot dog and/or pizza. :)
posted by radioamy at 3:28 PM on April 15, 2014

Best answer: I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Tiffany stained glass windows at Navy Pier are stunning and well worth a visit.
posted by pianissimo at 9:29 PM on April 15, 2014

Best answer: There's an exhibit about the Worlds fair at the field museum
posted by brujita at 9:57 PM on April 15, 2014

So! Whatcha doin'?
posted by Madamina at 5:27 PM on April 18, 2014

Response by poster: So! Thursday after they flew in we went to Cozy Corner Cafe (dad's request) and Captain America. Friday they went to the Bean/amphitheater and the Field Museum, then we did the architecture river tour and Billy Goat Tavern right by the dock. Today was Grand Budapest Hotel, Bar Toma, Baha'i Temple, and the world's best Taco Bell (mom wanted the quart of gelato from Costco across the street) today. They'll probably see the Art Institute museum tomorrow morning, then we'll go to Dante's pizza, the Lego movie, and Flat Top at mom's request. Monday is Navy Pier, Peqod's, and probably another movie. Tuesday morning is Cozy Corner again for an early breakfast, then they're off to O'Hare.
posted by Evilspork at 6:19 PM on April 19, 2014

Response by poster: Also, they both loved it the last time they each visited separately, and they already want to come back again. We can focus on the Polski food/Polish dogs next time, instead of pizza (but there will definitely still be pizza). My health might be better then, so we can do the museum circuit together. The theatre/comedy shows didn't work out this time (my pain stamina is for shit), so again, maybe next time.
posted by Evilspork at 6:29 PM on April 19, 2014

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