What to do in Chicago?
June 29, 2008 10:00 PM   Subscribe

So we've got one day to spend in Chicago and we want to make the most of it...

I'm going to meet up with some friends from Indiana by way of train in Chicago, and unfortunately only have one day to spend there... I've never been there and they've only gone once or twice. Any suggestions on how to best spend our time? We will be taking public transportation for the most part. We'll probably be there from early morning to late night... I drink, but they do not so any night life suggestions would have to be friendly to that. We're all geeks, in fact one idea we had tossed around was to check out Alder Planetarium if that tells you anything - so you can keep that in mind for ideas, ha. Haven't seen these guys in a few years so we're probably just looking to chill, catch up, and hang out. Ideas on great places to eat are welcome too!

Thank you!!
posted by vitrum to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
with limited time and an interest in adler planetarium (it's very cool, nothing to apologize about that!) you can hit the other museums on the same "campus" which include the aquarium and the Field museum (Sue the dinnosaur, egyptian mummies, and much much more). It's all right there, so that would make perfect sense. meanwhile, the museum campus is located right on the lake, stroll down the lake front path heading north, go down to navy pier, buy a beer or mai tai ( you can stroll around with a drink in your hand without feeling self conscious--it's a family oriented but very fun, festive anything goes atmosphere with vendors, mimes, musicians, boat rides, ferris wheel, restaurants, icecream stands, etc, etc. ). Navy pier would be pefect place for drinking and non-drinking friends to all have a good time together. On all saturday nights and one other week night (wednesday I think? ) there are fireworks at 9:30 or 10:00. Have fun!
posted by Lylo at 10:20 PM on June 29, 2008

It really depends on if you want to "see" Chicago or just hit one or two destinations like the Adler. Really you can travel by foot to and from the Adler and see a lot of the lake front and Millennium Park. That'll give you some good views of the town. In and around that area there is pretty much any sort of dinning you could think of - it's all tourist friendly as well.

Just grab a tourist map of Chicago. Everything from the museum campus through Grant Park and up Michigan Avenue is walkabout and filled with stuff to check out.
posted by wfrgms at 10:31 PM on June 29, 2008

Seconding Millennium Park, if it's a pretty day. You can find lots of star stuff just any old place but only Chicago has Millennium Park, great fun to walk around it.

And it's right next door to The Art Institute; you can take just two hours and do the impressionists and modern art, see those Picasso paintings you've always wanted to see, and that Van Gogh, and you can see my favorite painting on the planet, and I'll be all envious, and wishing I was there -- Beata Beatrix by Dante Rossetti. She's almost alive with beauty and ache and poetry, I loved her long before I heard the story of the painting and now love her even more. What a painting! Gawd.

Okay, back on task. You can do the Adler and the other museums down on that end of Michigan Avenue but I wouldn't, not if it was me -- I'd start out in M Park and then the two hours jammin' through The Art Institute, and then I'd walk north on Michigan Avenue, and walk all the way to the Oak Street beach, kick off your shoes and walk in, though the lake will likely still be cool in June/July.

On that walk north on Michigan Avenue you'll walk what is my favorite walk in Chicago, you'll walk through a canyon of beautiful architectures and festive people, you can jam through the Modern Art museum also but I think you got enough at The Art Institute, depending if you're as wacked out about art as I am or not I suppose.

Chicago was a city in decline when I lived downtown in the early 80s but damned if it hasn't come back to life in a perfectly beautiful way. Mayor Daley has effected spectacular changes upon the city, the stretch I've got you on could easily be in a Canadian city, flowers and beauty everywhere, and safe as church.

It ain't cheap but take a ride up to the top of the Hancock building, close to the end of your walk; a beautiful building, and on a clear day you can see four states -- Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois (duh). I sortof prefer the view from the Sears tower because I love looking at the Hancock building et all, but the Sears tower sucks and so does the neighborhood it's in, compared. IMO. YMMV. ETC.

I'm envious. I hope you have beautiful weather -- there isn't a city I'd rather be in on a pleasant summer day than Chicago.

Have fun!

last -- the day I was there last summer, The Art Institute was free after five pm (if I recall correctly); not sure if it was Wednesday or what but on whatever day it was it was free that night all through summer. Maybe you'll get that same thing -- check it out, give them a call. And you can't do The Art Institute well even in four days, or seven, but if you've one day in Chicago, you'll be wanting to jam.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:20 PM on June 29, 2008

When I went to The Met in NYC, I ran through the whole place in about 25 minutes looking for a Rossetti or some other Pre-Raphaelite work. You guys should go and take a photo in front of Beata Beatrix, also one of my favorite paintings, just to mock me.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:00 AM on June 30, 2008

The Museum of Science and Industry, perhaps? I've not been there, but I've been meaning to check it out. (I live about 2 hrs north of Chicago.)
posted by joshjs at 12:37 AM on June 30, 2008

This week is the Taste of Chicago which is hugely popular. It's an outdoor food festival behind the Art institute (and I think there's music too). Depending on whether or not you like crowds, go or don't go to this event.

The Art Institute is open late Thursdays and Fridays. Most, but not all, of the masterpieces are in Texas right now. But still some fine things to see.

In Summer there are free concerts at the Millennium Park band shell. Either world music or classical or jazz. bring a picnic and sit on the lawn.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 4:23 AM on June 30, 2008

Regarding the music at the taste, yes, there is. I think stevie wonder already played. Full lineup can be found on the main event page, quick google search.
posted by Teira at 5:40 AM on June 30, 2008

The Museum of Science & Industry has its moments, but given that it's several miles from the Adler and downtown and you only have one day, I'd probably skip it. If you do decide to go, though, you must see the U-505 exhibit.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:36 AM on June 30, 2008

If you're set on the Adler Planetarium then I definitely agree with sticking around the Museum Campus and then grabbing a taxi for a quick ride to Millennium Park.

I'd suggest Navy Pier if you had more than one day but I don't find it as spectacular as the Park. On the other hand, sometimes Navy Pier has really awesome conventions/shows. I think maybe 2 or 3 years ago they had Wired magazine with this future-technology convention. Lots of cool toys, cars, gadgets, etc. I'm not sure what they have planned for the day you're in town but you can easily check on their website.

If you plan on sticking to "geek-ier" things I actually wouldn't recommend the Museum of Science and Industry unless there's a specific exhibit you want to take a look at. I brought a few out-of-towners last summer for the CSI thing (which was cool) but found that about 60% of the place had not been changed or updated since my 4th grade field trip... I'm 25 now.
posted by simplethings at 8:04 AM on June 30, 2008

Nthing Millennium Park if it isn't pouring; the public art there is great, and it's always lots of fun to see all the little kids running around in the fountain.

Going to the top of the Hancock building is also a great idea, BUT don't pay $15 to go to the Observatory -- go to the Signature Lounge and have a drink. There's a one-drink minimum and the drinks are rather expensive (think $12 for a martini), so it comes out to about the same price -- but you get a drink! (They also have non-alcoholic drinks that your friends can imbibe.) It's something like one or two floors lower than the observatory.

Navy Pier is a waste of time, in my opinion; unless you really want to go to the Stained Glass Museum, the experience is somewhat like wandering around an airport (lots of overpriced chain shops selling Chicago-themed crap). It's a mall. And like any other mall, at around 4:30 on a weekday it becomes filled with annoying 15-year-olds.

The Museum of Science and Industry is good if you've got kids, but otherwise it's a little too child-oriented. And if you've only got a day in the city, you don't want to waste your time schlepping to Hyde Park, anyway. Stick to Museum Campus and/or the Art Institute; the Adler Planetarium is good, and I've heard that the aquarium is fantastic.
posted by pluckemin at 9:13 AM on June 30, 2008

The Art Institute is open late Thursdays and Fridays. Most, but not all, of the masterpieces are in Texas right now. But still some fine things to see.
posted by Jason and Laszlo

I just got off the telephone -- you're surely right, a huge chunk of the Impressionist paintings are in Fort Worth; the traveling show opened yesterday. Good news for me -- four hours away from Austin -- not such good news if you're in Chicago this summer.

And not only is the museum open late on Thursdays and Fridays; it is free after five pm both nights, all through the summer months.

Thanx Jason and Laszlo for the heads up.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:56 PM on June 30, 2008

For a place to sit, munch/eat and chat, try Bin36 underneath Marina Towers - easy to get to, within walking distance of Michigan Avenue, and they're very laid back about people hanging out. Great open, airy space. For the drinkers, their wine flights are great fun.

If you have the time, don't pass by a meal at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill. Skip Topolabompa (or whatever it's called next door that he also owns; go for the casual and fun of Frontera). It's about 4-5 blocks north and just west of Bin36/Marina Towers. Easy walk.
posted by webhund at 7:43 PM on June 30, 2008

Everybody's giving you great suggestions. Mine is a bit more low-key. Whenever I visit Chicago, I try to arrange a meet up with friends at Guthrie's near Wrigley Field. It's a great little bar, but the best part is all the board games they have to play. So if you're wore out after doing tourist things all day, it might be a fun way to unwind afterwards.
posted by web-goddess at 12:29 AM on July 1, 2008

I forgot to mention the Chicago Architecture Foundation's River Tour! It is, hands down, the best touristy thing I've done in Chicago. I didn't think of myself as particularly interested in architecture, but I found the tour totally fascinating and illuminating. And sitting on a boat for an hour and a half would be a nice reprieve from all the walking you'll be doing.
posted by pluckemin at 6:11 AM on July 1, 2008

Seconding the Architecture Foundation River Tour-- so very cool and interesting, and yet relaxing at the same time. Also, there are free trolleys in the summer which are a great way to get around. Last summer we took our guests for a big trolley ride and did a loop around the city, down to the Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium and back up to Watertower for some shopping. Highly recommended. Also, the ferris wheel at Navy Pier is a little fun.

Food-- I'd find a Malnati's and get you some good pizza. Gino's or Giordano's will do as well, but Malnati's is my first choice. Or go to Bandera-- a little hidden treasure on Michigan Avenue just north of the river, on the east side. It's on the second floor above Andriana Furs (I think). Think rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, basically comfort food with a sophisticated twist, with live jazz every night and seats overlooking Michigan Ave, at remarkably reasonable prices. Save room and get some dessert across the street and north a bit at Grand Lux Cafe (sister of Cheesecake Factory).

Ok- in a nutshell, here's your day: ride the ferris wheel at Navy Pier, trolley it south to hit the Taste for lunch, take a trolley ride around the city to see it from land, shop a bit on Michigan Avenue, hop aboard an Architecture Foundation boat ride, hit Bandera for dinner, walk it off heading north and go get drinks at the Signature Room in the evening. Perfect day. Oh, and top it off with sundaes from Ghirardelli near Watertower. Get them to go and sit in the little park by the Watertower. Lucky.
posted by orangemiles at 9:40 AM on July 1, 2008

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