What should I do next week with a few hours in Chicago?
July 5, 2018 6:50 AM   Subscribe

I'll be in Chicago next week for a conference and will have most of the day Tuesday and a small portion of Friday to do what I'd like. I am especially interested in places to photograph (but don't have to limit yourself to that). Any suggestions? I will be staying basically corner of Michigan and Ohio St - not too far from Chicago Riverwalk.
posted by UMDirector to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I love the Lurie Garden, in the southeast corner of Millennium Park, just north of the Art Institute on Michigan Avenue, a couple blocks south of the Riverwalk. It's largely native prairie plants, so you get a neat juxtaposition of prairie surrounded by skyscrapers.

Similarly, the cruises along the Chicago River give you a really unique perspective on the city, and are especially great on a nice day. If you're into architecture, do the one offered by the Chicago Architecture Foundation - their docents are full of good info and stories.
posted by writermcwriterson at 7:16 AM on July 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

It depends on what you're looking to photograph, but obviously you're in the heart of the city so the beaches, Buckingham fountain, Millennium Park, and all sorts of stuff is right there. If you want to get further out, a popular choice for photos is the graffiti artwork in Pilsen, which you can get to with a very short cab ride or taking the red line down to... any number of buses. Don't hesitate to use google maps. Arrival times are usually a couple minutes off, but the routes are accurate.
posted by seansbrain at 7:16 AM on July 5, 2018

I highly recommend the Chicago Architecture Foundation's boat tour - you'll get some great shots of the skyline and river.

Heading south / towards the loop don't miss the Bean; it's near Maggie Daley park which has a fun layout. The Chicago Cultural Center is super photogenic, as is the Harold Washington Library (head all the way to the top floor to check out the Winter Garden), the Palmer House Hilton, and Calder's giant Flamingo installation. Good food options nearby include Revival Food Hall, Purple Pig. You could also stop by Cindy's, the rooftop bar at the Chicago Athletic Association, for a drink with a spectacular view of Millennium Park.

You could also take the (much cheaper) water taxi from the Riverwalk area down to Ping Tom Memorial park in Chinatown and stop for lunch (my personal favorites are Dolo, Lao Szechuan, and Yan Bang Cai). If you're out that way anyway, it's worth walking around Pilsen to look at public art; the National Museum of Mexican Art is nearby-ish and doable in 2 hours.

Heading north / towards Old Town and Lincoln Park - the 3 Arts Club Cafe is worth checking out. Lincoln Park itself is full of free outdoor activities, including the North Avenue Beach, zoo, conservatory, and South Pond Pavilion. Out that way, I'd eat at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, Floriole, or DeQuay.
posted by staraling at 7:28 AM on July 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

Do a Segway tour. We had a ball zipping around on them to see the city, with plenty of stops for photo ops along the way. It took less than 5 minutes to get used to riding on a Segway, and it lets you cover a lot of ground a lot faster than walking. The architectural boat tour mentioned above was also very enjoyable.
posted by briank at 7:45 AM on July 5, 2018

If you like taking pictures of infrastructurey things, looking west down Lake Street makes me feel Chicago in my bones like nothing else.
posted by phunniemee at 7:52 AM on July 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

The University of Chicago will seem a bit out of the way in Hyde Park, but you could go to the aforementioned Cultural Center for a quick photo opp, then take an adjacent Metra train down there. The Gothic architecture on the quad is lovely in the summer. The Mansueto glass library is weird and worth seeing, as is the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House. If you get there before closing you could visit the Museum of Science & Industry as well as the gorgeous gardens and lagoons behind it (including a sculpture by Yoko Ono) in Jackson Park. Check out the Orienal Institute if you like Egyptian artifacts, and the Smart Museum for some well-curated art. Hell, you could even swing by Obama’s pad and get some shots of the stately Victorian mansions in their hood.
posted by lieber hair at 8:02 AM on July 5, 2018

Seconding Lurie Garden. It's a bit tricky to find, but worth it.

If you're down that way, drop in to the Chicago Cultural Center to check out the building and dome.

In addition to the boat tour, a CAF walking tour is also highly recommended. (Pick any one that sounds interesting, I haven't been on a bad tour yet.)
posted by Wulfhere at 8:05 AM on July 5, 2018

If you're book-mad, like me, then one great option is to hop on the Southshore electric line to 57 or 59th, and walk to the Seminary Co-op (deetz) which is still in the top 5 bookstores I've been to in the world.
posted by dis_integration at 8:10 AM on July 5, 2018

The Chicago Cultural Center is a slightly lesser known freebie gem with some amazing opportunities for photography.
posted by drlith at 8:12 AM on July 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Go to the lake. I am partial to the south side. But really anywhere on the lakefront will give you gorgeous views.
posted by mai at 8:39 AM on July 5, 2018

If you don't have time for the recommended Chicago Architecture Foundation's boat tour, take a ride on the https://www.chicagowatertaxi.com/ - cheaper, more departures, and shorter than a tour, but still a great opportunity to get views from the river.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 8:43 AM on July 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

If I had most of a day to kill in Chicago, my first choice would be the sprawling and amazing Art Institute.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:12 AM on July 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Chicago Cultural Center also has relatively clean public bathrooms. If you're lucky, the Preston Bradley Hall will be open and you can take photos of the largest Tiffany Dome in the world.

The Driehaus Museum offers walking tours.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 10:53 AM on July 5, 2018

^Seminary Co-Op world class bookstore is also in Hyde Park along with all the beauties I mentioned.
posted by lieber hair at 11:15 AM on July 5, 2018

I'm way too late to be the first person to suggest the Chicago Cultural Center to you, but I'll add my recommendation to the pile.
posted by yomimono at 4:41 PM on July 5, 2018

From your hotel, you can take a nice short stroll down the Riverwalk (toward the lake) that will give you a lot of lovely architectural views. And toward the end of that walk is one of my favorite lesser-known public fountains at Centennial Plaza.
posted by merriment at 8:42 AM on July 6, 2018

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