I've called Chicago home for a little while now, and I believe everyone who visits this city walks away a little better than when they arrived. When I first moved to Chicago, I came solely because I was drawn to the city lifestyle and the opportunities that stood on its busy blocks. The longer I've lived here, though, the more I've realized Chicago is so much more than just another urban hub. With a little something for everyone and something new to see everyday, Chicago is a place that has captured my heart. Whether you’re taking the train in for a day trip or heading out for a weekend getaway, I've compiled (as difficult as it was) just ten things I think you must do when you come to Chicago.
Home to some of the most famed Chicago spots, I love Millennium Park because it is always buzzing with activity. When it’s a little colder out, you can pop on a pair of ice skates, and in the summer months, you can enjoy movies and concerts in the park. Cloud Gate, however, is always around, and I would say could take the title as one of the most unique tourist attractions in the nation. You can't go wrong with a good Bean picture (if it's a snowy or foggy day, even better)!
Garfield Park Conservatory
When I'm looking to get out of the concrete jungle and into the greenery, I always go to the Garfield Park Conservatory. The premiere conservatory is open year-round and is packed full of beautiful scenery. It's easily accessible with public transportation from the Loop, and, seriously, I've never seen anything like it anywhere else. Better yet, admission is always free!
The Magnificent Mile
Whether you want to shop a little or just enjoy some of Chicago’s most well-known buildings, you should definitely put the Magnificent Mile on your to-do list. I often go out of my way just to walk a few blocks of Michigan Avenue because it's so quintessential Chicago. The street spanning from Oak Street to the river is home to Historic Water Tower, the Wrigley Building, and the Tribune Tower, just to name a few. Make sure you make it to DuSable Bridge because that's a view you're going to want to see.
Perhaps the most motivating exercise location there is, Chicago’s 18-mile long lakefront is perfect for running, biking, walking, and rollerblading. If you've ever driven along Lake Shore Drive, you know there’s so much to soak in with the skyline views, boat harbors, beaches, and parks. If you get Chicago in its best weather, the possibilities are endless.
The Allis at Soho House
The Allis is a great, relaxing hangout spot. I first visited to meet with someone for an internship interview, and I couldn't believe I hadn't seen this little gem. It’s perfect for a coffee date, a bite to eat, or late night drinks. The floor-to-ceiling windows and beautiful decor certainly make it unique and photogenic. Not getting the internship with (almost) totally cool because look at what I gained!
Architectural Boat Tour
Architectural tours on the Chicago River are a great way to get to know Chicago, and perhaps one of my favorite things to do with people from out of town. With some of the best views, I've watched many fall in love with this city during a night-time boat tour (they're way cooler at night when the city is all lit up). Even though I've been here a while, tours around the city always remind me how much beauty and history I'm living right next to.
John Hancock Observation Deck
One of my earliest memories of the city was looking out from the top floors of the Hancock building. If you’re wanting to get a little higher, this iconic building offer great views. Enjoy a drink at the Signature Lounge on the 95th floor or stop at the 94th floor to explore the John Hancock Observatory. Though, pro-tip, if you sneak onto the 95th, they'll let you sit by the windows at no cost and with way less people.
Like most Chicagoans, I love my coffee, and one of my favorite places to stop is Heritage Outpost. With three locations in the city, these sweet shops and their friendly baristas offer a cozy, creative space to get some work done or enjoy time with friends. When I'm looking to diversify the regular Starbucks routine, a vanilla latte and a couple hours at Heritage does me well.
The Art Institute
Continually ranked as one of the best museums in the nation, the Art Institute is a must-see for all Chicago visitors. I love looking up close to Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, peering into the Thorne Miniature Rooms, and checking out some of Van Gogh’s most iconic paintings. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time because between pieces like these and the rotating exhibitions, it's easy to fill up hours and hours, and still not see everything.
Another recommendation for the heights lover, the Skydeck in Willis Tower offers some of the best views of Chicago and one-of-a-kind photo opportunities. I've definitely had to do some convincing to get friends out on that all-glass ledge, but it's certainly worth it.
Don’t forget to let us know where your favorite spots in Chicago are. Love this Sangre Saddlebag? Click here to shop!
by Lindsey Tollefson
Lindsey Tollefson is a Creative Intern at Badala. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of Little City Mag, a faith-led publication and online community of young creatives. We count ourselves extremely fortunate to have her as part of the Badala family and cannot wait to see what she'll do with life post college.