Today we are excited to continue our City Guide series, with a guest contributor, Caitlin Lee of the blog Public Lives, Secret Recipes. A Chicago resident, today Caitlin is sharing all of her picks in the Windy City.
Hi everyone, Caitlin Lee of Public Lives, Secret Recipes here! One of the biggest perks of being a lifestyle blogger is that I get to explore my city for “work.” After three-plus years of doing so, I’ve finally rounded up my favorite spots for eating, relaxing, shopping, & much more. I’m so thrilled to be sharing my Chicago City Guide with you all today! Chicago is known for having a Midwest personality with big city vibes—the best of both worlds if you ask me. Although composed of several different neighborhoods, the majority of these Chicago spots are walking distance from one another. Whether it’s a five- or 45-minute long walk, you’re bound to discover tons of other gems along the way. I’m always looking for new spots to explore so please let me know if you have any Chicago favorite spots!
What To Do:
Green City Market
This farmers market which is located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood has some of the most delicious foods & stunning flowers the city has to offer. Several of Chicago’s most notable chefs have even said they always go to Green City Market for the freshest ingredients. Stop by the J. Parker, located just across the street, afterwards for some of the best views of the city.
While it can get pretty crazy during peak summer hours, Navy Pier is such a fun way to escape the city-vibes. It’s located right on the beach, and even houses some of Chicago’s most iconic restaurants. The brand new ferris wheel is one of the best ways to take in the entire Chicago skyline.
The Second City
No trip to Chicago is complete without a visit to The Second City, a comedy club which has shows seven nights a week. Visit this famous spot where stars such as Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Bill Murray, and so many others got their start for a guaranteed great time.
The Shedd Aquarium is located within “Museum Campus,” a 57-acre park that houses the majority of Chicago’s most famous museums. On Wednesday evenings in the summertime, Shedd has a Jazz Night, which gives you access to the museum along with a concert, cocktails, and a firework show!
Where To Shop:
The Magnificent Mile
The Shops On Armitage
This Lincoln Park street is one of my favorite places to shop in Chicago. It’s one of the only spots in Chicago that has tons of unique and local boutiques. Whether you’re looking for home goods, clothing, gifts, or pretty much anything else, chances are you can find it on this street.
The Magnificent Mile
Officially known as Michigan Avenue, The Mag Mile has everything from Chanel to Forever21. It’s easy to spend an entire day on this one-mile strip as it’s covered in not only stores but restaurants, access to the riverfront, historical buildings, access to the beach, and so much more.
Damen Ave. runs all throughout Chicago, but from Bucktown to Wicker Park is an adorable strip of shopping that can’t be beat. This area is home to both chain and local stores, high-end and thrift shops, and some delicious donut and coffee shops to help you refuel for more shopping!
Where To Caffeinate:
This cozy coffeehouse is located within Chicago’s up-and-coming Humbolt Park neighborhood. While they serve donuts and other drinks, this shop has an entire menu strictly dedicated to coffee.
Let’s be honest, we’re all guilty of wanting to post that over-the-top treat on Instagram—and BomboBar makes it easy to do so. From their adorable outdoor coffee window to their donut topped hot chocolate, everything they serve not only looks amazing but tastes great too.
Thankfully there is pretty much a Dollop in each Chicago neighborhood. This local coffee shop is known for having wifi as strong as their coffee. Plus they have tons of other drink & food options available.
Where To Dine:
Three Arts Cafe
SummerHouse Santa Monica
It’s no secret that winters in Chicago are well, the majority of the year. Thankfully a little bit of summer exists year-round in the Lincoln Park neighborhood at SummerHouse. The retractable ceiling, greenery, rosé cart, and twinkly lights make you believe, even if just until you look outside, that you’re in Southern California. Aside from the incredible interior, SummerHouse is run by one of Chicago’s most famous restaurant groups and serves a wide variety of options.
You can’t come to Chicago and not have deep dish. Before moving here I swore I hated deep dish, but after much convincing from friends I finally caved and made it to Lou’s. Part of me wishes I never had, as I now enjoy their famous deep dish at least once a week… Oh, and make sure you get a side of their homemade ranch. It’s life changing.
Three Arts Club Café
Located inside Restoration Hardware is the Three Arts Club Cafe, brought to you by one of the best restaurant groups in Chicago. The food is worth the wait you most likely will have, but thankfully you can take in the five floors of dreamy furniture while you wait for a table.
Sweet Mandy B’s
I am that girl who needs a sweet after every meal, and Sweet Mandy B’s is my go-to. The pastel bakeshop is famous for putting a unique spin on a classic dessert.
Revival Food Hall
Revival is composed of over 15 of Chicago’s best restaurants, food trucks, bakeries, and more. Some of my favorite spots within the hall are Farmer’s Fridge for healthy eats, Aloha Poke Co. for poke bowls, The Fat Shallot for sandwiches, and Hot Chocolate Bakery for world famous sweets.
If you’re visiting Chi in the summertime, you absolutely need to check out Big Star. While there is often a wait, the margaritas and insane tacos are well worth it. They’re known for having the best patio in the entire city!
Where To Sip:
Personally, I’ve been dreaming of going to Hawaii for years now. But until all those pennies are saved up, Mahalo is my sweet escape. Located in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, this Hawaii-inspired, Instagrammable gem serves up some of the most creative cocktails in Chicago. Sip on their “Big Kahuna,” big enough for 2-3 people, that’s served in a hollowed out pineapple while hanging out on their indoor swings and you’ll instantly feel on island time.
The J. Parker
This gem, which is located on top of the Hotel Lincoln, has one of the best views of Chicago. This rooftop is open year-round, despite Chicago’s weather being a gamble, thanks to its retractable roof and walls.
Signature Room at the 95th
One of Chicago’s most famous and tallest buildings, The John Hancock, has an entire floor dedicated to drinks as incredible as the views. The fancy establishment is located 95 floors above ground level, making this truly a unique experience. You get almost exactly the same view from here as you would from the Sears (now Willis) Tower—which is where all the tourists go—but without the tourist-trap price. If you go to the Signature Room, you can skip the long lines at the Sears Tower with the added bonus of the restaurant.
Where To Sweat:
There aren’t many places in the world where you can look left and see a gorgeous beach, then look right and see an incredible city skyline, but Chicago, lucky for me, is one of those places. The east side of Chicago is completely bordered by the lakefront making it accessible to over 10 neighborhoods. From any spot you enter the beach, you have access to a beachfront trail for biking, running, dog parks, rollerblading, whatever you’d like. During the summer, there are several spots along Lake Michigan that have activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and of course, swimming. With these views you’ll completely forget you’re even working out.
Over on the west side of town is what Chicago equates to NYC’s Highline. Four years ago The 606 was created atop an old railroad track. It now serves as a bike trail, and often features art exhibits.
If you’re looking to really sweat, Shred415 is your place. The classes feature half treadmill and half strength building exercises that are completely customizable based on your preference. There are a few locations throughout the city, so there’s no excuse not to check it out!
Mazi Dance Studio
As someone who has to be forced to workout, finding Mazi was like hitting the jackpot. They offer cardio dance classes that feel more like dancing around in your living room with friends than an actual workout. However, you’ll definitely be sore the next day.
Where To Relax:
Zazazoo Nail Salon
Milton Lee Olive Park
Zazazoo Nail Salon
There certainly is no shortage of nail salons in Chicago, but finding one that you can relax at while getting a fabulous manicure can be tricky. Zazazoo is the perfect place to unwind or hang with friends as they’re always showing reruns of your favorite shows (i.e. Friends, Sex & The City, etc.), have tons of drink options available, an adorable interior, and can do basically anything you’d like to your nails.
High Tea at The Langham
The Langham Hotel has repeatedly made the #1 spot for hotel lists both citywide and nationally. Their tea lounge—complete with a piano player and riverfront views—is perfect for an afternoon break.
Lincoln Park Conservatory
This conservatory is made up of both indoor and outdoor gardens where the floral scent alone will help you relax. The calming sound of running water and birds chirping is present all throughout the greenhouse, and is a great way to unwind while still exploring.
Milton Lee Olive Park
This tree-lined oasis strongly resembles the infamous Jardin Palais Royal in Paris, except it has the added bonus of city views and being next to a beach. There are several benches, picnic tables, and resting spots all along the path, making it the perfect spot to enjoy a bite to eat and unwind after a long day of exploring.
Where To Stay:
This iconic hotel is located directly in between the beach and Michigan Avenue, a location that truly can’t be beat. The luxury hotel also houses high-end boutiques. The Palm Court, where you can have afternoon tea, is known for notable guests such as the late Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana.
Easily one of my favorite spots in the city, DL Loft can be rented out for both events and as a place to stay. The Parisian-inspired loft houses a full kitchen, two bedrooms, a living room, and even a huge private patio.
Chicago Athletic Association
This recently renovated hotel located in Chicago’s loop is just seconds from Millennium Park, home to “The Bean.” While its location is great, the hotel has enough amenities for you to never leave and still enjoy a packed weekend. Take in the incredible views while grabbing drinks at their rooftop restaurant, play some pool in the game room, and snack on a late night burger from Shake Shack, all within the hotel.
The Guesthouse Hotel
If you live in Chicago and are hoping for a little “staycation,” this is your place. Located just north of the city in Andersonville, The Guesthouse Hotel is one of the most stunning spaces this city has to offer.
This boutique hotel is located within the Lincoln Park neighborhood and overlooks Chicago’s zoo. A new restaurant owned by one of Chicago’s most famous restaurant groups is set to open within the lobby in summer 2017!
Have you ever taken a trip to Chicago?
Share your own favorite spots in the city below!
XO Caitlin Lee
Public Lives, Secret Recipes
Photos: Public Lives, Secret Recipes