Where to stay in Chicago for a quiet, artsy vacation?
August 21, 2019 10:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning a little getaway to Chicago for a few days in October. I've never been, and am looking for ideas for places to stay, whether it be neighborhoods or actual hotels/B&B's. (And a bit of specific advice on things to do -- details inside!)

I'll be arriving via Amtrak and then flying back home at the end of the trip. I'm traveling alone, and am very comfortable and confident with public transit, getting around in big cities, etc. I'm not a night person, so if you know the absolute perfect place but it's an hour from everything and they roll up the sidewalks at 7pm, that's probably fine!

I'd like to stay someplace fairly quiet and pretty, preferably at a nice-ish hotel or B&B. (If you can promise me that Air BnB isn't killing the local rental market I'm up for that as well, just trying to be mindful.) I'll mostly be doing cultural stuff -- museums, architecture, the Indiana dunes, if that points you to a good central place to stay.

I'm pretty set for what to do (it's not a long trip!) but! If you can recommend a place for local, boutique-y clothes shopping and/or a good yarn shop, that would be awesome! (These are the souvenir-y things I like to buy.) I am also a big fan of just wandering a neighborhood, flaneur-style, so recommendations for 'go here, start walking' would be wonderful.
posted by kalimac to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Lincoln Park seems like a good neighborhood for what you’re looking for. If you like Greek food, go to Athenian Room for the kalamata chicken and then wander around the Lincoln Park area between Oz Park and West down Armitage Ave. It looks fancier now than when I lived there way back when, but I remember it as having some good vintage shopping, the Old Town School of Folk Music, and a Lush store (if you like funky bath products). And/or you could walk East to the (free) Lincoln Park Zoo.
posted by sallybrown at 10:38 AM on August 21, 2019

Best answer: Requirements: quiet and pretty location, mostly be doing cultural stuff -- museums, architecture, and the Indiana Dunes, plus wandering around.

Answer: Hyde Park
Located in South Chicago it is home to the U of C and which features the following locally you can wander around and check out: There is also a decent tour that ends at the Robie House- but this sells out so get your tickets sooner.

From Hyde Park you will be able to venture out to the Dunes on the train easily at the 57st station. Note there is only a vending machine or the web app for getting tickets there - you can buy tickets in advance from the main station downtown. Some of the towns farther out on this line have lovely little downtowns.

The big con in Hyde Park is that it isn't great for transit back into the city core for everything else, but that just requires planning. The list for Chicago activities is long and folks often recommend it but I say skip the CityPass unless you plan on looking at the fishes AND getting a view from the SkyDeck, which are both a pass from me. Expect to pay around 30$ to get in the door at most museums, and if you can I advice generally buy in advance and skipping the lines.

Alternative: Oak Park (more FL Wright, less museums, better transit). North Loop and the Gold Coast make great launching points for visiting Chicago and there is an impossible number of options to stay and eat there, budget allowing.
posted by zenon at 11:51 AM on August 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There's a quiet boutique hotel in east Lakeview, the Majestic. This is my neighborhood, so I obviously like it here, but that location is on a quick bus route to downtown, taking you right past the Museum of Contemporary Art and two blocks over from the Art Institute, Chicago Cultural Center and the other Tiffany dome in the city. It's on a quiet residential block, just a short walk to the lakefront, the Lincoln Park nature conservatory/zoo, the migratory bird sanctuary, and an easy bus ride to a couple of nice retail corridors. There are a couple nice restaurants nearby, as well as a couple coffee and donut places.

Don't let the apparent proximity to Wrigleyfield and the Rickets-entertainment-industrial complex put you off. The Addison red line stop acts as a complete barrier to Cubs fans, game foot traffic, and even Boystown nightlife--it all stays West of Halsted. But you're still a quick walk to the Addison red line stop and a slightly longer, but perfectly pleasant, walk to the Belmont red/brown L station.
posted by crush at 12:19 PM on August 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm guessing these responses will mostly reflect where people happen to live. (Mine definitely included!) I usually tell friends to try the Congress Plaza Hotel, on Michigan and Harrison. It's old, neat, usually quite cheap compared to anything comparable nearby, within walking distance to 2/3 of the big museums, and right on top of every possible kind of transit in all directions, including the train to the Dunes and buses to outlying museums. It's not the quietest neighborhood, but it's a big old building with thick walls. If I understand what you mean by boutique shopping, it will likely be a 30 minute train ride west or north-west. (Though, there's a very busy yarn store and also the best art supply store in the world a few blocks away from the hotel.)

Pilsen, Logan Square, and Chinatown are where I'd suggest just starting walking. (Alternatively, the lakefront trail and river walk, or the Bloomington Trail / 606 if you want to not dodge traffic and see trees instead of shops. But, neither is exactly a Dérive.) But, there are very few neighborhoods that aren't fun to walk through and lots of very specific national and cultural enclaves with intensely local markets.

On preview, I'd also second the DuSable and the Oriental Institute on the list of great museums that might not show up in the top 20 in a guidebook. On the list of attractions, the Architecture Institute boat tour is genuinely good. (They have nearly indistinguishable competitors that are less good.) Paddling the river in a rented kayak is even better.
posted by eotvos at 1:45 PM on August 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I grew up in Lincoln Park and unreservedly recommend it for wandering around. If you're interested in taking in a bunch of boutiques, get to the corner of Armitage & Halsted and walk west on Armitage until you get bored, then go back on the other side.

You can easily budget a solid day for the Art Institute.
posted by adamrice at 2:06 PM on August 21, 2019

Best answer: Seconding Pilsen.
posted by Young Kullervo at 2:19 PM on August 21, 2019

Best answer: I lived in Hyde Park, and loved it, and am happy to give even more recommendations if you decide to stay there...but I'm actually here to recommend Andersonville/Edgewater. I stayed there recently on a visit (in an Airbnb) and it's much more transit-accessible than Hyde Park, has a great shopping district with the kinds of quirky boutiques you're looking for, and is right near a lovely, calm park on the lake that's great for walking around.
posted by capricorn at 5:00 AM on August 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: +1 for my neighborhood! Andersonville/Edgewater is great -- if you Airbnb, look for something near Clark Street, between Foster & Bryn Mawr. I happen to pass this place all the time on the way to the local playground, which is really well situated, if you are looking for an actual Bed & Breakfast. Andersonville is an adorable and low-key place to just wander around, both along the retail strip on Clark Street and through the leafy, residential streets. You can easily take the bus or train to the loop or other lakeside neighborhoods. (It is admittedly a PIA to get west to Logan Square/Wicker Park/Ukrainian Village etc. on public trans, but that's Chicago for you. Though, you can take the bus on not-very-scenic Ashland, if you so desire) The lake is also super close, with lovely beaches, parks and bike paths.

But don't just stay here! You said you already had plans, but I want you take everyone's suggestions and visit a bunch of neighborhoods! Take a day in Hyde Park (train + bus, but not too bad) and go to the awesome Oriental Museum. Yes, to shopping and wandering on Armitage & Halsted in Lincoln Park (Red Line, transfer to Purple).

Definitely go the Art Institute, and yes, it will eat up most of your day. Hop across the street, a few blocks down to free Cultural Center and enjoy a random art exhibit and the Tiffany dome. Do the architectural boat tour, or even the water taxi has good views and will take you to Chinatown and back (so, you get to visit another neighborhood! yay!).

Pilsen is also one of my favorite neighborhoods - cool/fun to walk around in/explore, eat great food -- plus, there is the National Museum of Mexican Art. Oh, and if you are the crafty type and are into sewing in addition to knitting, the Textile Discount Outlet is bonkers and worth a visit.
posted by thewrongparty at 8:00 AM on August 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you so much, everyone! (I'm so sorry it took forever to respond -- life kind of took over and I was only able to book stuff today.) I'm super excited to fit in as much as I can -- I wound up actually extending my stay a bit, since clearly 3-ish days wasn't going to cut it :)

And extra good vibes to zenon, who somehow psychically just knew that MSI is a museum that might well have been specifically tailor-made precisely for me and I cannot wait to get lost there.
posted by kalimac at 10:44 AM on September 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

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