Since the Experiential Marketing Summit is headed to our home base this Spring, we thought it only fair that we share our wealth of knowledge on our favorite city. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, each with their own distinct personalities. We want to ensure you experience them like a local so we’re revealing all the hidden gems, neighborhood by neighborhood. Read on as our EA team members take you on a day-in-the-life tour of their communities.
Interested in learning what neighborhood suits you best? Take our "What Chicago Neighborhood are You?" quiz here.
The West Loop is one of Chicago’s most popular neighborhoods. It’s got everything you might need, especially for the foodies among us. Start off your day with a cup of joe at La Colombe (try one of their awesome lattés). Then stroll the ever-evolving neighborhood, spending extra time at the beautiful Mary Bartelme Park. All that walking will make you hungry, so satisfy your inner carnivore with lunch at Green Street Smoked Meats, and then head across the street to get your relaxation on at Cowshed Spa (located in Chicago’s beautiful Soho House). In the afternoon, peruse Randolph Street Market where you’re sure to find a few hidden gems. To cap off a great West Loop day, grab drinks at The Madison Bar and Kitchen.
While River West may not be the most well-known of Chicago neighborhoods, it’s actually a diamond in the rough with especially great restaurants. Plus, Chance the Rapper lives in the area (at Huron and Sangamon) so there’s a certain celebrity cachet. In the morning, grab a quick breakfast at Iguana Café (Crepes! Breakfast sandwiches! Waffles!). Then check out the architectural boat tour that travels along the river — it’s a great way to see the city from a different perspective. In the evening, head to one of the area’s great restaurants, like The Dawson, for some eclectic comfort food and craft cocktails. And end the night at the Matchbox for after-dinner drinks and mingling!
Wicker Park might be known as Chicago’s hipster haven, but don’t let that fool you — there’s something for everyone here. In fact, the neighborhood has been home to many groups throughout the years. At one point it housed Chicago’s wealthy northern European immigrants. At another, the city’s beer barons. Still another, it was known as the Polish Gold Coast. Today, the area around the intersection of Division Street, and Milwaukee and Ashland avenues is still known as the Polish Triangle. Check it out for yourself.
On weekends, stroll on the 606 — an elevated running/walking/biking path. Then head to one of the area’s great brunch spots, like Dove’s Luncheonette to indulge in some of the best southern-slash-Mexican food around. If you’re looking for a relaxing afternoon, visit Red Square Russian Spa, but if you’re hoping for a little more action, hunt down great finds at Vintage Underground. The day isn’t complete without dinner at one of Wicker Park’s many great restaurants — Antique Taco, Mana and Pub Royale, to name a few. Finish the night at music venue Subterranean for a glimpse into Chicago’s underground music scene.
A lot of neighborhoods may claim to be the trendiest in Chicago, but Logan Square actually is. Hop on the blue line and come see for yourself. In the morning, go to Lula Café for the best farm-to-table brunch around (sometimes, there’s a wait, but it’s worth it). Then head to Fireside Bowl, a historical neighborhood bowling alley, and throw a few turkeys. Next, pick up some beautiful blooms — or maybe a candle or cards — at local flower shop, Fleur. It’s perfect for little gifts!
If you’re feeling a mid-afternoon brew, it’s off to Revolution Brewery; if you’re more in a cocktail mood, head to Heavy Feather down the street. A Logan Square day isn’t complete without a delicious dinner. There are tons of great restaurants to choose from, like Parson’s Chicken and Fish. And finally, head to the adorable Logan Theater (built in 1915!) to catch a flick.
Old Town and the Near North Side are right in the center of all the activity in Chicago, and that’s one of the many reasons to love this neighborhood. Begin your day with a run or walk along the lakeshore path, one of the best places to enjoy Lake Michigan. Then do a little shopping. First at Judy Maxwell Home — Joan Cusack’s store that carries fun cards and Chicago-themed knick-knacks. Then at Handle with Care for some clothing and accessories.
A Near North Side day wouldn’t be complete without a visit to agencyEA to see Crain’s “Coolest Office” and Savage Smyth to check out Chicago’s Best Event Venue of 2017. From there, for dinner, go anywhere with a patio. If it’s not patio weather, head to Topo Gigio or 3 Arts Club, a gorgeous café in the Restoration Hardware. Post-dinner, attend an improv show at the world-famous Second City or Zanies Comedy Club. Take a moment to appreciate the hallowed stages where the likes of Chris Farley, John Belushi, Tina Fey and Steve Carrell performed. And prepare to laugh till you cry.
Lincoln Park is your quintessential Chicago neighborhood with pubs on the corner and fine dining down the street. Start your day with a chai tea latté and almond croissant at French café Floriole (they make their own chai, bread and pastries in house). Next, walk to Oz Park or a little farther on to the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond — a hidden gem near the Lincoln Park Zoo. Speaking of the zoo, check it out! Especially the big cats.
You’ll need some sustenance after all that exploring so it’s off to Summer House Santa Monica for delicious, California-inspired cuisine. Pass the rest of the afternoon with some shopping around the corner on Armitage Avenue — from Marine Layer to Bonobos to Lush, there’s everything you might need. For pre-dinner drinks, go to the casual neighborhood bar Glascott’s Groggery then head to one of the many awesome restaurants down the street on Halsted, like the newly opened Willow Rm. If you’re feeling in a music mood, visit Kingston Mines, a famed blues club, for some great live tunes.
Lakeview is Lincoln Park’s neighbor to the north, and it’s chock-full of fun restaurants, bars and concert venues. Plus, as the name suggests, it proximity to the lake is unbeatable. In the AM, head to Osmium for a cup of Dark Matter coffee — a.k.a. the best coffee. With that caffeine boost, you’ll be ready for a little shopping. First, hit up Inkling, a local art gallery-slash-gift shop, for some greeting cards, accessories and whatever else catches your eye. Next up, head to Foursided for posters, prints and Chicago-themed everything. What goes great with shopping? Ice cream. Visit Scooter’s to indulge.
If it’s summer or fall, you’ll definitely want to catch a game at the historic Wrigley Field — home of the 2016 World Series Champs! Sip a beer, eat a hotdog, and soak up the atmosphere of The Friendly Confines. If you’re a music lover catch a concert at The Vic or Schuba’s Tavern. To cap off the night, head to Ukai Sushi for a late dinner and to Sheffield’s for a brew.
The South Loop is perfectly placed just south of downtown and close to a lot of Chicago’s best attractions. And boy does it have a lot to offer. Head to the Shops at Roosevelt Collection in the morning for a little retail therapy (before it gets too crowded). Then it’s off to Ping Tom Memorial Park to enjoy the green space and if you’re feeling adventurous, rent a kayak to take out on the Chicago River. For lunch, go to upscale sports bar The Scout for some classic American cuisine and to sample their extensive beer menu. Or grab a delicious burger at Burger Bar (bonus it’s right across the street from Grant Park).
The afternoon may find you on Chicago’s Museum Campus, visiting one of, you guessed it, the museums — the Field, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium. They’re all great! Next up, head to dinner at Chicago Oyster Bar for some truly delicious seafood and end the day with a concert at Reggies Chicago.