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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chicago advice?

We couldn't afford a family vacation to Europe this year, so instead, we're going to Chicago next week! We wanted to go somewhere in the United States where we could explore, eat well and also swim in a lake or ocean. And after my friend visited Chicago and showed me these snapshots of her daughter wrapped in a beach towel walking among skyscrapers, we were sold.

So, I'd love to ask: Any Chicago advice? We'd love to do it right, but we're pretty clueless. So far, we're planning to eat deep-dish pizza and hot dogs, and I've heard great things about this architectural boat tour. Thank you so much for any tips!
P.S. Past family vacations, and 10 tips for traveling with a baby.

(Jumping photo from ChicagoGuide08, via Apartment Therapy)


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Maud said...

Publican is THE BEST!!

Mia Mia said...

Rent bikes! The city is totally flat so you can ride all around with ease (especially since you're experienced riding in NYC), or you can just have an easy down the coastline of the lake.

Meg @ Mr.C and Me said...

looooooove chicago! :) museums are amazing - so is the aquarium - millenium park for sure - and (besides pizza) the hands down best food is Greek Islands restaurant. soooooo good!! order green beans, potatoes, saganaki (flaming cheese), and bread with taramosalata (a dip) and enjoy!

AVY said...

I've never been there but they say it's windy. I'm thinking of going to Europe, find myself a cute Italian or two.

/ Avy

Shelley said...

Just don't put ketchup on your Chicago dog ;)

Amanda said...

LOVE Chicago! Every Wednesday and Saturday night the Navy Pier has fireworks. The museums are different from the NYC hot spots, but equally wonderful: The Field Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art are gems. If you are going to indulge in a refined, adult dinner, I adored Spiaggia. (That said, Missy Robbins is now at A Voce Columbus in NYC.) Hot dogs at Hot Dougs are a must. Also, go on a Saturday when they have duck fat fries. Enjoy, enjoy!

Kristen said...

my love for chicago is endless! my must do's every time are:

Table 52 (art smith's restaurant)
Pizza at Lou Malnati's

Make sure to take the architecture tour via boat!

Have a blast! kristen
mikie and kristen

Valerie {all mussed up} said...

Having only lived in CA in the States, and in several other countries otherwise, Chicago blew my socks off a few months ago -- what an epicly unique city! Awesome choice.

a.m.l. said...

make sure you go to piece in wicker park! best pizza i've ever had. renting bikes is fun, see if there are any street festivals going on the weekend you are there. i just left chicago after five wonderful years, it's my favorite american city! although, i don't recommend getting into the lake, it's not very clean.

Beryl Lynn said...

Lived there for several years and that's where I met my husband!

You -MUST- have a falafel sandwich from Sultan's Market in Wicker Park. To die for! Then after lunch you can walk up and down the streets of Wicker Park, there's tons of boutiques, coffee shops, bookstores, etc.

I also recommend the Lincoln Park Zoo and Conservatory. Fun and free! The Zoo has some of their original architecture left up from when it was first built and the Conservatory is chock full of gorgeous rare plants.

Olga @ MangoTomato said...

I've been to Chicago twice and loved the City! Take a boat architectural tour, check out any local art festivals, and make sure to do a lot of eating ;) Here are some of my food recommendations:

AshleyC said...

I've only visited Chicago once but I loved it. Eat at the Publican and The Girl and The Goat for sure. We loved the architectural boat tour. And if you can, go see a baseball game and eat a chicago dog!

Megan said...

Definitely do the boat tour! It's super cool (and they serve beer on board). I second the museum and bike rental ideas. The two zoos are amazing, too -- I'm sure Toby would love them (our nephew requests to go every DAY). I always let my sister-in-law pick the restaurants (she's the local, after all!) so I'll leave those reccos to the more informed. Have a GREAT time. Chicago is a beautiful city in the summer.

Carly Taylor said...

I'm a Chicagoan! Montrose area is very fun, and Navy Pier is a good stop for visitors. There are some sunset tours that are absolutely beautiful, especially the dinner tour, and they feed you... but there are definitely some old folks around! Bandera, on Michigan Avenue, is awesome for eating, it's some twists on classic american fare and it's in a prime location. Shopping is good on Michigan Avenue, but the smaller areas like Lincoln Park and Wicker Park (my neighborhood) are fabulous for small shopping. There are some excellent resale shops. Millenium Park, back down by Michigan, has a lot going on during the day. There are some very cute places to take pics for kids. They have some really fun water works that go off periodically by the big faces (you'll see what I mean) just south of the bean.
If you have any questions, I've lived here for years, feel free to shoot me an email at
Have fun!
-Carly @ Createlive

Kate said...

Ahhh, I am going this weekend to celebrate my one year anniversary with my husband! Thanks for posting this, I am going to write done everyone's recommendations!

ElsaD said...

A close friend from Spain is visiting me in Miami this weekend and on Monday she will head to Chicago. I've been there last year for Lollapalooza but didn't have too much time to explore the city. I look forward to reading some suggestions to share with my friend! The lake and the architecture are impressive. :) xoxo

Shruti Kapoor said...

Great museums, navy pier, walk the magnificent mile, eat a deep dish pizza. I love doing the hop on hop off tour of the's a great way to see the city. Go up the Hancock tower for great city views. It's a great city in the are some restaurant recos:

Italian: Scoozi, Picollo Sogno.
Mexican/ Latin: Nacional 27 (good food, converts into a salsa floor after 10pm), Mercadito, Zappatista and Zocalo.
Ethiopian: Ras Dashen.
Famous ones: Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Girl and the Goat

Jackie said...

Since you're a biking family, I'd recommend renting bikes and biking the lake front trail. It's about 18 miles up and down the lakefront, and you can see the skyline, beaches, lake, parks, etc. It's a great way to spend an afternoon!

April said...

I LOVE Chicago! The architectural boat tour is a must. Also, try to go to Hot Doug's ... Doug is a gourmet chef who opened a hot dog place and makes the most amazing sausages. I had a sauternes duck sausage with foie gras and truffle aioli!

Lynn said...

Yay for Chicago! It's a great city to visit.

Do the architecture boat tour, that's a must! It's about an hour long and you'll learn so much Chicago history, I suggest you do this first.

Someone already mentioned the Navy Pier so def do that, great for kids! There's also a Children's Museum there. I haven't been but I'm sure it's decent.

There's the beach, a few of them and all walking distance from any major el stop.

If you can get a baseball game in, try to go to Wrigley, very Chicago.

I'm a big brunch fan so Yolk (there are a few of them) is well known. Orange is also good, as is Ann Sather.

All the places your friend went to for dinner are all solid, you can't go wrong. I highly recommend Hendrix, I usually go once a weekend.

If you need a babysitter for a few hours of adult time, I'd be happy to help! :P

Enjoy Chicago, it's the absolute best in the summer.

K said...

Toby should be the right age for Lincoln Park - the zoo is free and just north of the zoo is the Nature Museum, which is also fun. It is an easy walk over to the beach from the zoo and you can watch the boats (and people).

The Shedd tends to have long lines so get there early (or just pop over to the Field or Planetarium instead).

Alix said...

I live in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, and there's a fun new hotel called Hotel Lincoln near here. It's only a few blocks to the free zoo and the beach where you can ride bikes or walk along the lakeshore trail all the way to downtown. Highly recommend!

Malia said...

Lincoln Park Zoo, it's amazing and FREE!

Christine @Fancy Function said...

We're going there this summer too! Never been so all of these tips are very helpful. :)

wholecreativity said...

Hot Chocolate (the restaurant, also serves hot chocolate!) in Wicker Park is amazing. Home made marshmallows - YUM. Southport corridor is also nice. During the summers they have little music festivals. It's a very kid friendly neighborhood. For you and the hubs, go to the Witt's rooftop bar. I love Chicago! Hope you have a lovely time.

Ashley said...

I loved the architectural tour! It was good to do early in the visit so that we could continue to notice/appreciate what we'd learned. Here's our travelogue from a few summers back...
Have fun!!

AmyKelleyBell said...

Checkout Next Restaurant... They close every three months and completely redesign their menu and open with a completely new concept. It's run by Grant Achatz - probably one of the best chefs in the country right now. If I could take a trip to Chicago, it would be at the top of my list.

Kassidi Growall said...

I am in love with Chicago!!! I live in Oklahoma and have been 4 times now. I can't help but go back. The Lincoln Park Zoo and Field Museum are great for both kids and adults. As far as pizza I recommend Pequod's pizza on N. Clybourn Ave. Their deep dish crust is burnt caramelized cheese and it takes pizza to an entirely different level of delicious. The stained glass window museum in Navy Pier is also fantastic. Hope you have a great time!

Beth from Trés Bien Ensemble said...

Lived here my entire life and could provide endless recommendations ... just a few kid-friendly ideas; hit up Shedd aquarium Wednesday night to enjoy jazz on the large terrace overlooking the fireworks around 9pm, stop at any of the very family friendly restaurants along Division in Wicker Park - they all have plenty of outdoor seating and great food, definitely check out the Chicago Architectural Foundation boat tour (more knowledgeable than others), the free Lincoln Park Zoo is always nice - plus you get a great view of the skyline from the bridge at the south end.

Plenty more ideas if you need them! (restaurants galore, as my fiance and I try ev-er-y-thing).

Ashley said...

I loved the architectural tour! It was good to do early in the visit so that we could continue to notice/appreciate what we'd learned. Here's our travelogue from a few summers back...
Have fun!!

Emily said...

Don't miss Floriole Bakery. And if they have canneles, don't miss those either. Otherwise, order anything they've got. Delicious lunch options too.

The Planetarium is super fun, as is the Lincoln Zoo and the Lincoln Park Farmer's Market if you're there on a Saturday.

Restaurant recommendations: Publican (fries), Avec (stuffed dates), Takashi (pork buns, duck fat fried chicken), Slurping Turtle, Xoco (order take out, since there's always a line). Of those, slurping turtle and Xoco are probably most kid friendly.

Have a great time!

Michelle said...

A drink in the Signature Lounge at the Hancock Building is really nice at sunset.

Anna Gray said...

I used to live there (just came back from last weekend too). You should definitely visit Shedd Aquarium and walk around Millenium Park (maybe the art museum if you have time). Eat at Giordano's deep dish, Publican, and Carnivale; try to get tickets to a Cubs game at Wrigley stadium it's soo classic (but beware of Clark street if you're bringing Toby), architectural boat tour, drinks at the top of the Hancock Building, there's cute shopping on Armitage Street in Lincoln Park.. I could go on and on...

Jane said...

Shedd Aquarium is awesome. You can even do these "Premium Experiences" (if you book it in advance) including Penguin Encounters where you can actually touch the penguins.

Beth from Trés Bien Ensemble said...

Also ... check out the list of neighborhood festivals going on, always a wonderful way to try multiple restaurants or explore an area

Marisa Seguin said...

I love Lou Malnati's for deep dish pizza. Boystown is a really fun neighbourhood (and I love eating at The Chicago Diner when I'm there).

And the architectural boat tour is fantastic! Did that last time my family was visiting and we all loved it.

Carrie said...

You must must must consider doing dinner or even staying at the little boutique hotel/restaurant/bar Longman and Eagle. We know the artist that made all the furniture for their gorgeous rooms. It's located in Logan Square, a rapidly changing area just west of Wicker Park/Bucktown (two awesome neighborhoods) The food is spectacular and very adventurous, they boast an impressive selection of whiskey and cocktails. We absolutely adore it -

Another bar that's great for a date or some good record playing is The Whistler (, also in Logan Square. Otherwise, you must take the wee one to the Zoo, it's my favorite. Chicago is sooo magical, it might be our favorite home away from home - we go at least once a year!

Sam said...

You HAVE to eat Garrett Popcorn and get the Chicago Mix. If you are at all a fan of popcorn, it will change your life! Also, I suggest trying to see a show at Second City (which could be difficult with Toby) and eating at Elly's Pancake House on W. North Ave. Lastly, the House of Blues is amazing and has fantastic, unique interior architecture. There's so much to see in Chicago! Have a blast, it's such a fantastic city.

Natalie said...

Chicago is the best during the summer!

On Monday nights they have free concerts in Millennium Park where you can bring a picnic or wine and cheese and sit in the grass while listening to great music!

The best meal I've ever had in Chicago was at Chicago Pizza and Over Grinders. It's family friendly, super cozy, and it's teeny tiny. I recommend getting there early! My mouth is watering just thinking about it!


Anonymous said...

can you please remove the post with the mick jagger reference

Amy said...

Such an awesome city. We loved The Field Museum, Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park (& The Bean!), and Navy Pier. There are great zoos and art museums, too - we thought the Shedd was overrated, but it might be fun for Toby. Girl and the Goat was our favorite restaurant (run by Stephanie Izard from Top Chef). Have a blast!

Jess said...

The BEST fish tacos are at Big Star in Wicker Park.

Kiley Kate said...

The museums in Chicago would be great for Toby! The Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum are fantastic and I've heard wonderful things about the Chicago Children's Museum. I've only lived in Chicago for 7 months and these suggestions have me wanting to do the architecture tour!

Cari Ann said...

Yay! I read your blog daily from Chicagoland!
There are already a bunch of good ideas, but here are a few more:
-tickets up to the top of Sears (now Willis) tower. The glass ledges provide a great view of the city on a clear day!
- italian beef sandwiches (with peppers)
- A Roy Lichtenstein exhibit is at the Art Institute until Sept.
- a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Home & Studio (in Oak Park) or the Robie House (in Hyde Park)
Happy Traveling!!

Shannon said...

So many fun things to do there! I love Chicago, lived there for awhile too. My fav's

-Wicker Park for sure! Very kid friendly lately with a cute park and some toy stores

-Avoid the tourist trap of Navy Pier, expensive and not that much fun

- Check out Millennium Park and the Bean

- Best deep dish at Gino's East, hands down, always

-Best beach for kids - North Ave.

-Yes to renting bikes! You can bike all along the lakeshore, so much fun and gorgeous

-Check out the museum of science and industry, loved this as a kid, and the aquarium is fun too

Have a good trip!

Codi said...

Chicago is my favorite city! You are going to have a BLAST there. I love Millenium Park - Bring wine & food and listen to music.
Lula's in Logan square has the BEST breakfast!!!

And Southport Grocery has the ABSOLUTE BEST 'Bread Pudding Pancakes'!!!!!

Have a great time!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo- I love your blog and am your West Village neighbor for 2 more whole days- then I am moving to Chicago! This post is so timely :)

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Chicago...and now live about an hour outside the city. My husband and I have five kids and visit often. The kids and I hop on the train all the time and meander around the city. There is SO much to do!!! I love Chicago. I am thankful to live so close to such a wonderful place.

Just walking down Michigan Ave. is fun. There are lots of stores and little things to see along the way.

Navy Pier is a great place to spend a day. There is the giant ferris wheel, a children's museum, boat tours, stores, lots of restaurants. In the evenings they let off fireworks...except I'm not sure which nights. It used to be Wednesdays and Saturdays, but I haven't been for a while.

The Lincoln Park Zoo is another favorite of ours. It is in a quaint part of Chicago just a couple miles up from Michigan Ave. The zoo is free and really caters to little ones. There are also a lot of little non-chain sort of restaurants in the neighborhood. Great shopping and fabulous Farmers Markets!

Millennium Park. Another place to spend the day. Your son will love crown fountain. Two towering fountains with people's faces that spit water onto a great big area to run and splash in...there are also free concerts, beautiful, beautiful gardens and of course the bean.

It would take me forever to write about all the food to eat down there, so I'll give you my top two.

1. Gino's East. It's my favorite deep dish pizza.

2. Garrett's Popcorn. If you like popcorn I Promise! it will be one of your most tasteful memory!

I get excited to talk about the city, (I should be a tour guide) my comment is now long enough to be a post of it's own so I'll stop here!

Have a Wonderful, Wonderful Trip!!!


Melanie said...

Guuuurl. I second the LP Zoo vote for kids. It's a great free urban zoo right near the lake. Go early. Many cities have Chinatown/Little Italy (also great here) but we have a nice little Greektown with some fantastic restaurants/bakeries for dining. Little India up on Devon is fun too. Great spots on the southside in Bronzeville for soul food/blues/architecture. Fave food/drink neighborhoodie/local picks: Lula Cafe, Scofflaw (gin cocktail bar), El Cid for fresh fish tacos/patio margaritas, Bangers & Lace for grub/people-watching, Frontier for cheap oysters and hunter's cassoulet (don't go too late- douche factor increases), Rose Angelis for big portions, unique and reasonable Italian in Lincoln Park. Great boutiques & second-hand along Damen/North/Milwaukee in Wicker Park, Walking through & brunching in colorful Boystown, manis and martinis and dancing at Beauty Bar....yeah. Now I want a staycation. Let me know if you need a tourguide/nanny/girlfriend. Have Fun!

Casey said...

Nice! Chicago is magical in the summer. Whenever I go somewhere, I always check to see if Design Sponge has a city guide for it, because they always highlight cool shopping. Here is Chicago's:

I think that Lincoln Square and Andersonville are awesome neighborhoods to take kids. There are really fun German and Swedish spots and fun shopping. The Bad Apple is a hidden gem in Lincoln Square with an awesome beer list, the best ketchup in the world, and a fun burger menu. Hot Doug's is a definite tourist must and Pequods is my fave deep dish. La Madia and Piece are also great pizza choices, but not deep dish.

There are also a movies in several parks around the city at dusk and I always see lots of families there. I just saw peewee's big adventure in grant park and it was magical.

have so much fun!

Megan said...

Hit up mr beef at 666 n Orleans! The BEST Italian beef sandwiches in the city! They even won travel channel's food wars 3 to 1 in a blind taste test.

Lauren said...

I'm going to second (or third or fourth) the Lincoln Park Zoo. I live near it and walk there all the time. South of the zoo is a beautiful park with ponds and a nature boardwalk--great for duckling watching. You can easily get to the beach from there.

If you are here during the week and willing to get up early to beat the line, The Doughnut Vault ( has awesome doughnuts sold out of the smallest hole in the wall you've ever seen. They have $1 coffee and weekly specials like blueberry old fashioned, as well as regulars like gingerbread stacks, chestnut glazed, vanilla glazed, etc. It's also a very photogenic place with a gorgeous mural menu and a crystal chandelier and vintage cash register inside.

A new place in Wicker Park just opened up called Antique Taco. ( It's near Big Star, another Mexican place that will surely be recommended to you. However, at Antique Taco they serve their chips in berry baskets and tacos on antique plates. Get a cheese plate or sandwich here and take it to Millennium Park's theater for a picnic accompanied by live music.

There are movies in the park you could also bring a picnic to:

Above my comment I've seen a few recommendations for Lincoln Park Hotel. That's right across from the Lincoln Park farmers market which is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. So if you ended up there, that would be a fun breakfast or lunch spot.

I recently went to the Chicago History Museum which seems more geared toward kids than me. There's an old El train you (or Toby) can run around and some fun exhibits.

Have a great time! I can't wait to read all the comments to find places I've never been.

Jamie said...

We're heading out there in July for a friend's wedding. Best tip: we ALWAYS use for hotels. We have wonderful luck getting a 4-5 star hotel in the center of the city for under $130/night.

You heard right, the boat tour is amazing and so is the museum. I also really enjoy Lincoln Park.

Emma said...

Oh, you'll love it!

My family and I just went in May and had the best time!! I can't recommend the architectural boat tour ENOUGH (I mean, they give you free cookies), although, even if it feels warm, bring a jacket! The wind off Lake Michigan is chilly!!

I also highyl recommend Frontera, Rick Bayless' restaurant and RPM!!!! So delicious!

Have fun!!!!

Eliza said...

As a former Chicagoan who pines for that great city by the lake, I'm biased, but I think you'll love Chicago. It is such an amazing city--it truly has personality and charm unlike anywhere else.
Hot Dougs is a must. Duck fat fries. Enough said.

For a grown up evening, I recommend the Green Mill. Great jazz and good cocktails.

The lakefront is so beautiful; as others have suggested, rent a bike and spend lots of time outside. The beach area around Sheridan is less busy than by Fullerton or Diversey, less touristy than Oak Street, and easy to get to via public transportation.

If you're into architecture, you are in for a treat. Besides the tours by boat or walking, you can also head to Oak Park for Frank Lloyd Wright tours. The Robie House is also a beautiful example of his work and is on the University of Chicago campus.

Enjoy Chicago! "Once you've come to be a part of this particular patch, you'll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real." --Nelson Algren

Annie said...

Chicago is fantastic for a family vacation! There are lots of festivals and events going on in the city during summer, so I'd suggest checking out the the neighborhood festivals ( and special events like movies in the park. Also, make sure to check out Millennium Park and Cloud Gate (aka "The Bean") which is a cool, mirrored sculpture. It's kind of touristy, but really fun.

Also, brunch.

Sara said...

LOVE Chicago - I'm certain you will, too.

I never thought the hot dogs would live up to the hype, but they really do. I crave them from Pennsylvania often.

Did you know that Chicago is home to the NPR show, "Wait Wait Don't Tell me?" If you're able to have one date night on this trip, I'd recommend snagging tickets in advance for this - they're only $25 each and it's so much fun.

Next is Wrigley Field. You gotta go see the Cubs -- and then check out the Cubby Bear after the game. The Cubs lost the day we visited (which was okay - because they were playing our Pittsburgh Pirates), and my husband remarked, "If this is how they party when they lose, I want to be here when they win!"

We plan to visit again for Wait Wait, Wrigley and a Chicago Dog.

jalong01 said...

Hi! I live in Chicago and absolutely love it. For deep dish pizza, I would definitely recommend Lou Malnati's Pizza. As far as the boat tour, the Chicago Architectural Foundation does a great tour that is more informative and educational, while the Wendella is also informative but a little more entertaining. Both great options!

My all time favorite Italian restaurant is Riccardo Trattoria on Clark Street in Lincoln Park. Amazing little place. Make sure to make reservations in advance for all restaurants! They book up fast, usually you're safe a week or two out.

I would rent bikes and bike up and down the coast line, its gorgeous and a great way to see the whole city and skyline.

Also, the Lincoln Park zoo is free and great for kids. It's in a great area for walking around as well.

Have so much fun!

Elizabeth said...

i am a chicagoan & LOVE my city, so excited you are going to visit! A few of my favorite things to do:
-italian ice at Mario's in Little Italy
-Davanti Enoteca in Little Italy on Taylor street is soo good, one of my favorites!
-Garfield Park Conservatory is beautiful and free!
-Del Seoul in Lincoln Park is delicious
-definitely biking along the lakefront
-Roesers for donuts and then a walk to the Puerto Rican coffee truck in Humboldt Park in the morning
-any of Rick Bayless' restaurants, but Xoco is my favorite (and the least expensive)

Summer is such a fine time to be in Chicago, hope that you have a wonderful time!

Alison said...


I used to live there (NYC now), but miss it like crazy. You should do deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's in Lincoln Park (Better than Gino's).

While you're there, visit any Whole Foods (there's one downtown on Dearborn) to get a Carol's Cookie (Sugar or Choc Chip are my fave). Just ask inside the store. They're made locally and unfortunately not sold in NY. I buy them in bulk when I visit and freeze them!

The Lincoln Park zoo is amazing, and FREE! I think it's one of the only free zoos in the country. Check it out!

The Architecture Tour (boat tour on the Chicago River) is a fun way to see some of the city.

Millenium Park is a newer and very beautiful park that you definitely shouldn't miss. The Bean!

Riding bikes along the lake is really fun; the Oak Street Beach is pretty (where your blogger friend's pictures are from) and between there and Fullerton Beach are lots of volleyball nets good for people watching.

Armitage (on the Brown Line) has some cute boutiques and is a pretty neighborhood to walk around.

Explore away from MI Avenue...Wicker Park/Old Town/Lincoln Park/Wrigleyville all have fun and interesting things to offer.


Melissa Blake said...

Chicago is just about the BEST city in the world! I live about 75 miles outside the city, so I had all my surgeries in there. Every time I'd have a doctor's appointment, my parents would make sure we did something fun too, so I wouldn't grow up thinking the city was just a scary, medical place.

It worked! I love it there -- from the museums to Michigan Avenue. Definitely hit up Lincoln Park Zoo!!

Lisa said...

So funny! My friend is visiting Chicago next week, so yesterday I was compiling food information for her. Here are some links that I found.

Cupcakes + Bakery/Cafe

General Resources (search chicago)

Have a great trip! I visited a few times and loved it. What a city! I really enjoyed Fox + Obel ( for specialty foods shopping and a nice meal. Be sure to visit Millenium Park too! (

Anna said...

We went to Chicago on our honeymoon and loved it! Definitely take a trip to the aquarium. The other museums are great too, however I bet the aquarium would be the most entertaining for Toby. We really enjoyed just walking everywhere so I would suggest, as many others have, renting some bikes and just enjoying the scenery of the city. Have fun!

Dottie said...

How exciting! I live in (and love) Chicago and over the years I have put together a Chicago guide for visitors.

I organized by neighborhood and linked to relevant posts I've written over the years. The focus is on bicycling, so I included good bike routes. Oh, you should totally rent a bike while you're here! I hope you have a great time!

p.s. Girl and the Goat!!!

Meghan said...

-eat a hot dog (Hot Doug's is good, yes, but it is out of the way. Just make sure you get a real Chicago style hot dog somewhere!)
-the Lincoln Park Zoo is really sweet and free
-you can get drinks at the restaurant on the second highest floor of the Hancock -- it's more fun and the view is the same
-I loathe Navy Pier
-take a photo with the Bean (aka Cloud Gate) at Millennium Park -- I bet Toby would love it.
-I also really love all of Rick Bayless's restaurants
-go in the Macy's on the Mag Mile, because it's the old Marshall Fields building and it's gorgeous. I love to go to the top floor and look at the Tiffany ceiling. So pretty!

Anonymous said...

Navy Pier is fun. It has a giant farris wheel and a cool stained glass exhibit. Millennium park is a 'must see' as well. I heard the architecture boat tours are great. I wanted to go but the day I had some free time it was foggy and you couldn't see the buildings well.
For pizza, I would recommend Giordano's.
Have fun!

Ashley P said...

So glad you're coming to "my" city! Everyone has raved already about the architecture boat tours (seriously, so good!), so I'll add two of my favorite restaurants:

1. Nana for brunch. It's located in a quiet south side neighborhood. Their seasonal dishes are to die for. They always have some kind of epic pancake or french toast. Last time I was there they also had PB&J beignets. Yum.

2. Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder is a super fun pizza place. There's always a long wait and they don't take your name -- the maitre'd just remembers your face and will come and get you when your table is ready! They serve pot-pie pizza, which they turn upside down out of the dishes when they get to your table! It was rated best pizza in the country a few years ago. Super delicious.

Maybe I'll see you guys wandering the streets! :)

Alice said...

I recommend Yolk for breakfast and grabbing sandwiches at Pastoral and heading to Pritzker Pavilion for the Grant Park Music Festival. They also have open rehearsals in the afternoons.

Domonique said...

YAY! definitely eat italian ice. There are so many places and my fav restaurant not mentioned that I saw is Grand Lux Cafe. The beignets are out of this world.

Stella Annabelle said...

Chicago is the best city! It has a big city feel with wonderful, laid-back people -

Chicago Deep Dish has a rivalry much like Philly's Cheesesteaks. Try both and see which you like!
Lou Malnati's vs. Giordanos
(I'm a Giordano's girl, myself.)

I've heard about Girl & The Goat on Randolph St, but were never there. Heard it's a must try!

Millenium Park is a must! Toby would love The Bean:

In the summer there's usually a food festival, outdoor music, or a arts festival going on ( The week surrounding July 4th is reserved for the World's Largest Food Fair - The Taste of Chicago:

The Architectural Boat Tour is wonderful and you get to see the city from a brand new perspective.

Chicago also has beaches! North Ave Beach is a great place to relax - and swim in Lake Michigan.

Bucktown/Wicker Park is a great neighborhood to visit - tons of great food (Feast for brunch: and fun shops like The T-Shirt Deli where your tee is Made To Order.

The touristy places are also fun: going to the top of the Sears Tower for a Ferris Bueller view; riding the ferris wheel on Navy Pier; visiting Adler Planetarium via Trolley; taking in a show at The Second City.

Have fun!

Carly said...

My husband completed his PhD at University of Chicago so we spent many years there. You have already gotten some great Chicago advice! I think most people visiting skip out on Hyde Park because it is a bit off the the beaten path but I would take the time to visit- even if just for a walk around campus. The neighborhood is beautiful and there are a lot of quaint establishments. Highlights- visit the Seminary
Co-op Bookstore which rambles on through the basement of the seminary; Promontory Point Park for a great view of the skyline; Medici for a great meal (kid friendly); stroll around campus- it's beautiful!

Hollis said...

We live in Madison, WI and love to take the train down to Chicago a couple of times a year. One of our very favorite places is Rockit Bar and Grill (22 West Hubbard Street). They have a pretty intense bloody mary bar, amazing hamburgers and the best salads! They have brunch, too, which is outstanding. We also love Quartino (626 North State Street) -- it's an authentic Italian place that is easy and fun. The atmosphere is perfect and we usually make it there for lunch, since it's so crowded at dinner time.

Kathryn said...

I grew up in Chicago, and got married there last summer. Everyone has great suggestions about what to do but i have to emphasize: GO TO FRONTERA GRILL (or Topolobampo, the other Rick Bayless restaurant, but you'll need a reservation). It is the BEST FOOD EVER. Obama's favorite restaurant, a multiple James Beard winner and all around BEST restaurant in Chicago.

Beyond that: Try to catch a Cubs game. The Museum Campus is amazing,the building are so much more beautiful than the ones in NYC (where I live now). I had my prom at the Aquarium. It was magical. The Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier is fun. You really can't go wrong, Chicago is great in the summer.

Alecia said...

Deep dish pizza at Lou Malnatti's is a MUST! Art Institute is one of my favorite museums ever, and the She'd Aquarium beats any I've seen in any city (and I've seen quite a few). Have fun!

Florence said...

- The architectural boat tour is a must.
- Renting bikes is really good idea. I did it in Berlin and loved it.
- The zoo (free) can be nice with a kid
- The willis Tower is also a must do, especially with the glass balcony
- Navy Pier is fun. I loved it at night.
- Enter the Cultural Center. It's beautiful inside
- Pancake House for brunch

Mary said...

Hey! I live in Chicago! You should check out Metromixx for any street festivals during your stay. You can't go wrong with the architecture tour, either!

Pura Vida. said...

You have to check out ICream it's one of the coolest innovative ice cream shops. And the owner is so sweet!

Bucktown has some great shops too, bought my favorite sunglasses at a boutique there!

Pura Vida. said...

You have to check out ICream it's one of the coolest innovative ice cream shops. And the owner is so sweet!

Bucktown has some great shops too, bought my favorite sunglasses at a boutique there!

Mel said...

I've never been to Chicago, but last time the European travel bug bit me when I couldn't afford it I went to Quebec City in Canada instead. It feels SO European, (winding cobble streets, old stone buildings, tiny shops and restaurants, the predominant French language,) but it's only an hour and a half flight away from New York!

AM said...

Being that I live here, I'm biased that you made a great choice :). For Toby, Navy Pier will be fun since they have a ton of things for kids (adults too). I like the architecture tour through the city, but there's also a couple of really large sail boats that leave off of navy pier onto the lake which are especially cool if you catch them on a firework night (Wed or Sat). Field Museum was always my favorite growing up. The fountains in millennium park are also really cool to see. If you have any specific questions feel free to email me!

Lauren said...

maude's liquor bar for dinner and publican for brunch!

Erin said...

Chicago is phenomenal! Definitely go to the Shedd Aquarium and let Toby play in the fountains in Millenium Park!

Anne said...

We live just a few hours away and go into Chicago all the time. I think you would LOVE the architecture tour. We were just in the city a few weeks ago and it is my favorite thing we've ever done there. We did the tour run by the Historical Society and it was great. There is a gourmet grocery right by where the boat leaves from called Fox and Obel, so we picked up a picnic lunch and ate it along the way.

HM Designs said...

-Lincoln Zoo
-Art Museum is amazing
-Be sure to ride the L (the train) as much as possible! Its a great way to see the city and quickly get to each destination!
-keep your eyes peeled for Oprah!

JacPfef said...

Our girl, Aimee, just did a whole post on stuff to do in Chicago!

Hope it helps! Have so much fun!

Jordan said...

Oh, I live in Chicago and my number 1 piece of advise is to make sure you get out on the lake!

Restaurants (that are all kid friendly):
Lula Cafe - amazing, local, farm to table (Logan Square)
Big Star - best tacos ever, cash only (Wicker Park)
Hot Dougs - gourmet hot dogs, cash only (Avondale)
Publican - Pork, Seafood & beer... need I say more? (West Loop)
Nightwood for the best Sunday brunch in the city & make sure you order a donut! (Pilsen)

Have fun!

justine said...

I'm sure it's been mentioned, but the Shed Aquarium!

Bivins Fink said...

I'm with Carly, come visit us in Hyde Park! In fact, my advice to any visitor is to go into the neighborhoods; get out of the Loop and explore! Also, bike riding on the lakefront path is so lovely and easy (it is too flat for this MI girl's blood)it makes biking a breeze!

Angelika said...

Cafe Ba Ba Reeba is a must for dinner or lunch and the theater and art scene is amazing! Here's a link to free walking tours to get you familiar with some of our neighborhoods!

Caitlin F. said...

Definitely spend some time enjoying and exploring Millennium Park. It's one of my favorite places in Chicago. There is a little "river" through the garden-- it has a boardwalk you can sit on & Toby can play in the water. There's also a bridge to the top of the Art Institute for good views. Check out the museums too! And Wicker Park & Wrigleyville are great neighborhoods to check out & eat some yummy food. Cubs games are also a blast if you're into baseball at all!

Freya Lily said...

I've always wanted to go to Chicago!

Anne said...

I lived in Chicago for 3 years. Are you staying with someone? Because for all the talk of Chicago pizza, my absolute favorite comes from Homemade Pizza, which is not deep dish. The only catch is that they give you the unbaked pizza, so it's not so practical if you're in a hotel. But if you have access to an oven at a friends house, definitely pick one up!

I also love love love a small nondescript seafood restaurant called Big & Littles. It's a very unassuming spot in a neighborhood with nothing else around, but the crab tostada, the shrimp tacos, the truffle fries and everything else they serve are so, so delicious. I still dream about their food!

Finally, if you have time for a show I highly recommend Lookingglass Theatre. Right before I left the city I saw their signature show - Lookingglass Alice - and it's still my favorite production.

Mandy said...

I've only been to Chicago once, and it was a very brief visit, but it happened to coincide with the Taste of Chicago Festival. Such great food! If you're there during the first week of July, you have to go!

Alexandra said...

Lots of great recommendations covered already! Grant Park is great, there are often festivals, free dance lessons, etc. going on there. If you can rustle up a babysitter, my absolute favorite thing to do in Chicago is to go see a performance of "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind" at the Neo-Futurists theatre-- it's 30 plays in 60 minutes with lots of audience participation. SO MUCH fun! Check them out here: Additionally, there is tons of neat/quirky/vintage shopping, as well as offbeat restaurants up in Boystown. Have a great trip!

Bailey Martin said...

Shedd Aquarium! Toby will love it and so will you!

Rachel Adrianna said...

There are fireworks on navy pier (also easily seen from museum row) every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. and Saturday at 10:15 p.m... there are also free concerts in millenium park.

Of course, shopping on MI avenue (there's a huge Disney store if Toby's interested!) or in Water Tower Place.

Unknown said...

Chicago is so much fun!!! Brookfield Zoo was a favorite of mine when I was little (I was born in Chicago and then moved to Michigan when I was a few years old, so Chicago weekend trips were pretty frequent!), Shed Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry (I loved it as a little girl, I can only imagine how much Toby would love it!!), Natural History Museum, and walking around the downtown area are my must-sees. Have so much fun! Can't wait to hear about it and see photos :)

Anna said...

A few suggestions:
1. Go North of the City to check out the Botanic Gardens. While you’re up there get lawn tickets to Ravinia. You can pack a picnic, and listen to some great music.
2. If you can handle the elevator ride, instead of going up the Sears Tower or the Hancock Building, get lunch at the Signature Room on the 95th floor. While the food is overpriced, you get an amazing view of the city, lunch, and aren’t paying the ticket price to go all the way to the top.
3. While all of the museums in the city are wonderful, and worth admission, definitely go to the Art Institute. My favorite room is the Miniature Collection, where there are doll house-sized reproductions of rooms.

annette said...

I love the Chicago aquarium (especially the penguins) and I bet Toby would enjoy it!

Marlena said...

Chicago is HUGE, so be prepared to take transportation all over - it's a great mix of different neighborhoods, but spread far and wide. When we visit we always hit up Devon Ave for Indian food and groceries and pick up bracelets, too: I also love Andersonville, and Martha Stewart Magazine just did a few pages on that neighborhood. Toby would love Millennium Park.

drea said...

Just got back from a weekend visit to Chicago, we live in Austin. Stayed at Hotel Lincoln in Lincoln Park. Highly recommend it! Lots to do within walking distance. The little coffee shop attached to the hotel is wonderful and the bar/restaurant (perennial virant) was to die for. Really great Sunday Brunch. Have fun & enjoy!!

Chicago Explorer said...

I'm a Chicagoan who writes a (very amateur) blog about things that I do in the city. You might find some ideas here:

Have a great visit! It's a lovely city.

{plum} said...

Chicago is the best!!! Second only to NYC. Like others have said, renting bikes is so awesome. I can't say enough good things about this city.


libby hegtvedt said...

Go to Avec for a great dinner!

Anne said...

Oh, I forgot something! This is a place I've never actually been to myself, but I've heard a lot of very knowledgable Chicagoans talk about it. It's a lounge called The Violet Hour. If you and your husband have a date night, I hear the drinks and the ambience there are amazing.

Taylor said...

I went to Chicago for the first time in July of 2004 & then again in February 2009 & 2011. Summer in Chicago was awesome! We went to both a Cubs game & White Sox game which I highly recommend if your even the tiniest of sports fans.
I went on the architectural bot tour as well and absolutely loved it and I was only a junior in high school at the time!
The aquarium was also fun.
When I went in the winter it was for work and our gymnastics meet was at Navy Pier, a place Ive now been to twice but havent really explored. It would be really cool to explore it in the summer.

Hope you have an amazing time! I just got back from my week long trip in NYC for the first time. I too was looking at Europe, but chose a cheaper route by staying with a friend in Hoboken and going into the city every day. Have fun!

No said...

We've also heard great things about Joie De Vivre's Hotel Lincoln! Their rooftop will be completed soon, apparently.

Kate said...

Chicago has some of the BEST Mexican food. Last time we were there we ate at Salpicon. It was to die for.

Sadie said...

I agree with all the above tips, but wanted to add Isle of Man (3856 N Lincoln Ave) for Alex. It's the most amazing men's store, they have tons of cool obscure home decor, clothes, men's products, and even a few vintage motorcycles in the store. It's my husband's go-to store when we're downtown!

katie said...

My fiancé and I were in Chicago last fall and our friends took us to the BEST (now don't be scared!) all-vegan diner. You'd never know! None of us are vegan, and we all thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Quite a fun surprise. :) Located in Boystown.

emily -- a adenver home companion said...

--longman and eagle
--doughnut vault (get in line early)
--big star for tacos
--wormhole for coffee
--boat tours
--hot dougs
--stay away from downtown once you've spent one day there
--don't pay to go to the top of hancock building. instead, go one floor down and buy an (overpriced) drink at the bar. you still get the view but at least you get some booze with it. make sure to poke your head inside the womens bathroom

Unknown said...

My hometown! I second lots of suggestions previously mentioned: MCA for Tuesdays on the Terrace/Farmers Market, Lincoln Park Zoo for Toby, Lula in Logan Square for brunch, Publican for sure, architectural tour to cruise the lake and river, and Museum of Science and Industry to explore. You should probably see the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit at AIC while it's here, too!

Longtime fan of your blog (my fiance read it, too, and your post on Erstwhile Jewelers actually led him to my engagement ring!).

KelseyMW said...

Yay for Chicago! Definitely make time for the Lincoln Park Zoo. It's free and not too big, so you won't have to spend a whole day trying to see everything. I like Pizzeria Uno (and Due!) for deep dish pizza, but Gino's East is also wonderful. The architectural tour on the river is really good, and another cheap way to see lots of big buildings is to ride the Brown Line El around the "loop". Also, check the schedule for Millenium Park - they have tons of free concerts during the summer, and sitting outside on a summer evening listening to good music and staring up a skyscrapers is HEAVEN. Have fun!

kmdeg said...

Definitely check out Lula Cafe:

Have fun!

Caitlin said...

Garrett’s popcorn on Michigan Ave! Once you're close you'll be able to smell it. The cheddar caramel combo is the best. It's fresh, delicious and a Chicago staple.

CMX said...

Frank Lloyd Wright houses!

Two Pitties in the City said...

We absolutely love our city! And since we have dogs, we're always outside walking around and exploring. Chicago has an 18 mile lakefront path, and one of our favorite (and family friendly!) things to do is have picnics along the lakefront. We noticed everyone doing this when we visited Copenhagen, so we had to try it for ourselves:
The other unique thing about Chicago is that we have so many unique neighborhoods that are really fun to explore. This is a dessert walking tour we do with our dogs in the Wicker Park neighborhood. We love popping into the different restaurants and bakeries and just finding a park where we can sit and eat:
Plus check for any outdoor festivals, concerts at Millennium Park, and outdoor movies the week you're in town. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Next....Lichtenstein exhibit.....Earwax Cafe in Wicker Park

Anonymous said...

Next....Lichtenstein exhibit.....Earwax Cafe in Wicker Park

Kristen K said...

I live in the city and agree with most of the comments but I can't encourage you enough to start making dinner reservations NOW! A lot of places can be booked for free on but if you really want a good meal a lot of places book up weeks if not months in advance! If you are interested in dining at NEXT, they do same night tables on their facebook page only right now since tickets for this meal (sicily) have already been sold out!

Annie said...

Chicago is my hometown! It's an amazing city - I miss how clean it is, and how the nice the people are!

Definitely take your little one to the Lincoln Park zoo, and check out the Art Institute of Chicago (their new Modern wing is gorgeous). And if you can, spend an evening sitting on the lawn at Millennium Park's Pritzer Pavilion and listen to an outdoor concert.

Also, definitely check out the beaches! People don't realize that Chicago is on the waterfront, so in the summertime it turns into a huge beach! North Avenue beach is one of the best.

But above all, I have to recommend hanging out in Logan Square. It's like the Williamsburg of Chicago. The new restaurants that are popping up there are amazing. Especially check out Longman and Eagle - they even rent out rooms, if you want to go super trendy! Also the Whistler is a great bar in the area.

Also, just one little traveling trip - because Chicago is on a lake, it does get cooler in the evenings, so even though it'll be hot during the day, be sure to pack a sweater or two!

Anonymous said...

I just went to Chicago last weekend to visit a friend! It was AMAZING, and the weather is especially great this time of year (85 and sunny). We went to the art institute - there is a great Lichtenstein exhibit there right now - the bean, walked the entirity of michigan avenue (aka the mignificant mile), where there were amazing shops and restaurants, ate deep dish pizza at lou malnati's, took the boat tour at navy pier (great place for kids!), and then went to the beach! Even at 85 degrees the water was freezing, but it was a blast. The food all weekend was amazing, albeit expensive. Have fun!

Anonymous said...

I live close to Chicago, so I have a few recommendations! In terms of food...go to Green Zebra!!!!!! It's a vegetarian place, but you have never seen vegetarian done this way. It's absolutely incredible! Granted, it IS expensive (you order a few dishes per person (and dessert!) because the portions are small...but this method also allows you to taste various creations!). I'll admit the restaurant might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I ADORE it. Some of the best food I have eaten in my life (better than some places in NYC!)!

Cafe Ba Ba Reeba is great for tapas. Very good, but if you can only choose this place or Green Zebra, go with the latter!

Walk! Shop! Blue Man Group is fantastic. Millenium Park is, of course, a must. Michigan Avenue for shopping.

Have fun!

MMChicago said...

I have 5 year old twins and live in Lincoln Park - these are our favorite things:

1. Navy pier - ferris wheel, then carousel. We also do the Children's museum but that takes awhile.

2. North Ave beach. My kids love Castaways (very casual restaurant) b/c it looks like a ship. But we get there early (since we have 6am automatic wake up times) and play on the beach before anyone else is really even up.

3. Lincoln Park Zoo - free and is so great. at 10am (or maybe 10:30? - I forget) you can feed the cows at the farm at the zoo (just south of the zoo on the same property). Also a very cute little park across the street from the zoo (and starbucks is a block away on clark if you need coffee before heading to the zoo).

4. You must eat at Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder - hidden secret. Word is it was a lookout for the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. But now, just yummy pizza pot pies - I suggest you order the mediterranean bread, and share a 1 pounder pizza pot pie. Go when they open - there is always a wait and it's small. Cash only.

5. Greek town - Athena has an amazing outdoor space that is fun to stop for a bite.

6. I concur with the architectural boat tour. I've lived here for 18 years and I do it once a year - always fantastic and I always learn something new.

7. My kids love to ride the el around the loop (take brown or purple line). It's quick - 18 minutes or something like close - a neat view of the city.

Have fun! I love Chicago!!!

ericagwen said...

Go see a show at the Improv Olympic. We saw the Shakepeare show and LOVED it!

ericagwen said...

We also really enjoyed a taking a walking food tour in Old Town.

Michelle said...

Rose Angelis for dinner! They let you order family style which is awesome for trying all of their amazing food, we loved the tortellini with red grapes. And Yolk for breakfast. Be sure to check out Old Town for shopping. Old Town oil had some awesome olive oils and aged vinegars.

Courtney said...

Eat breakfast at Yolk!

leslie janis said...

oh please go to The Purple Pig. My brother is the head sous chef there and i've never been able to go! His name is Aaron Arnett. Tell him Leslie sent you. you may even get some free food!

Trina said...

I hope by hot dogs you mean Hot Doug's.

Portland Sunshine said...

I just returned from an amazing trip to chicago. it is unreal in the summer - so so good.

rent paddle boards and bikes!

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your trip Joanna! Other people have written these suggestions already.... I'm agreeing wholeheartedly with:

Lula Cafe in Logan Square - YUM!

Publican- You will love

Sweet Mandy B's - get a vanilla cupcake. I usually prefer chocolate anything, but the vanilla cupcakes here are amazing

If you go to Piece (Wicker Park) get the white pizza for sure - this is New Haven style pizza rather than stuffed but so good

Sultans Market for falafel sandwich (also Wicker Park)

Check out Wicker Park neighborhood - specifically Division St.

And Bucktown neighborhood - specifically Damen Ave for shops

If you go to the beach you won't be too far from Lincoln Park Zoo - it's free and Toby would love it

Art Institute and Architectural Boat Tour for sure

Lauren Giesler said...

DEFINITELY do the architectural tour! It's absolutely fascinating. You learn about not only the history and construction of the buildings but also about the river and lock system. WORTH IT! HAVE FUN!

Allyson of Lovely Explorer said...

I've actually taken the architectural boat tour and loved it! I learned so much about the history of the city, and a nice boat trip never hurts! I'm from Michigan, just a short 2.5 hour train ride to the city. My sister and I have made the trek many times to visit our chicago-dwelling cousin. We never fail to enjoy millennium park (even though we've been 5+ times!) and wrigleyville is fun to get a good feel for "real life" in Chicago. Of course, lake michigan is a must and the mag mile is great for crowd-induced shopping (not a must do, especially for you New Yorkers). If you can, head to the American Girl Place. I swear even 30 year olds will find the doll store awe-inspiring. The John Hancock building is awesome for views and a touch of history. Have fun!

Anonymous said...

Deep dish pizza - Lou MalnaTis (I'm a NYCer and love this!)

Architecture boat tour - Chicago's First Lady (most knowledgeable & friendly guides)

Place for lunch when you visit the Bean/Millennium Park - Park Grill

If you have a car & like pancackes - Walker Brothers

Dinner without children - iNG Restaurant (suggest going with another couple to get booth, since communal seating for couples. Expect to enjoy long dinner)

Tourist trap, but should do - Billy Goat Tavern (kinda like Katz's Deli situation, worth it in the end)


Zoë said...

I live only an hour and a half away in Milwaukee--Chicago is great, you'll have a blast. They have a wonderful free zoo in Lincoln Park, aptly named the Lincoln Park Zoo. The architectural boat tour is really great, and they have a bar on the boat, too! Museum of Science and Industry is always a must-see for me and it's great for kids. All sorts of nerdy things to play with, plus they have cut-up body parts, and stillborn fetuses, which are sad but interesting, that show you the different stages of a baby's growth inside the womb. Favorite restaurant, by far, is Le Colonial (Vietnamese), not too far from all of the good shopping. It's a little pricey, but so worth it. My boyfriend's-sister's-boyfriend works at the fancy-shmancy Mon Ami Gabi, so if you go there and Paul waits on you, tell him Zoe sent you. :)

laurlanie said...

I'm going to university in the city and my best advice is get out of downtown for a bit! The neighborhoods are so unique. Lincoln Park has an amazing free zoo, Lincoln Square has hip new restaurants and ethnic grocery stores, and Wicker Park has fun consignment shops and record stores!

Amanda said...

L'Appetito is an awesome place to get real Italian espresso/coffee (Illy/LaVazza). They have all sorts of tasty treats - tirimisu, homemade pastries and chocolates too! It's a sweet little cafe located near the Cheesecake Factory downtown. There are steps outside for Toby to climb, or you can enjoy the quaint cafe inside. Awesome for a quick pick-me-up. I make a point to stop here each time I am in Chicago. :)

John J. Accrocco said...

Theatre Theatre Theatre!! Go see something, so much to see!!! O

Alex said...

Everything I love has already been added in spades - the architectural boat tour (a must!), Sweet Mandy B's, the beaches, the zoo. For a fun date night, get a terrible and expensive drink at the top of the Hancock for the gorgeous view (cheaper than Sears Tower admission anyway and alcohol is included), then go to dinner somewhere actually lovely.

Anonymous said...

You are going with the little guy, right?

Visit all the outdoor fountains! It's super hot in summer, but the fountains are so much fun. There's one in Millenium Park that's great. And Buckingham Fountain (near Grant Park) is so cool in the evenings. Music plays and water spurts out and if the wind is blowing you will get soaked. We were there a couple weekends ago and my 17-month-old just loved those fountains!

Tracy said...

The architectural boat tour was my favorite part of Chicago! You definitely must do it! Also, we bought these awesome Go!cards for one big price that got us into all the museums and big buildings, waaay easier than waiting in line and paying for each attraction separately {not to mention cheaper!}.

sarah-mai said...

My husband and I split our time between NYC and Chicago. Here are some of our favorites:

The Girl and The Goat - West loop neighborhood, rich + inventive food
De Cero - across the street from Girl and the Goat, best authentic Mexican
Fritz Bakery - Sunday brunch on the patio
Public Hotel - great newish hotel by Ian Schrager
Pump Room - restaurant inside Public Hotel
Big Star - Mexican with great outdoor space
Longman and Eagle - boutique hotel + great restaurant/bar
Art Institute - stellar museum
Millenium Park - check the schedule for outdoor concerts (most of them free)
Promontory Point - gorgeous park right on the lake (you can also go for a swim here, no beach though) with spots for picnics and sunning on the rocks
Dose Market - once a month market on Sunday mornings - best of local shopping + eats
Fish Bar - Lakeview neighborhood, great outdoor eating, good design

Have a wonderful time!

ericagwen said...

If you're wanting to go to the major sites, get a City Pass! It will save you money and you will avoid long lines.

Anonymous said...

Another if you have a car - the Ferris Bueller house (Such a pretty drive, neighborhood and houses are beautiful)

Alex said...

Oh, and Ethiopian at Ethiopan Diamond, followed by jazz at the Green Mill

Katherine said...

I read an article a few years ago in a French magazine (Elle à table) about Chicago. When I saw you were going, I pulled it out. Here are the places they recommend.
1. Sofitel Water Tower (high end but with a nice restaurant and bar)
2. Best Western Grant Park (centrally located and not too expensive)
1. All the restaurants opened by Paul Kahan, Chicago's answer to Daniel Boulud (Blackbird, Avec, the Publican, and Big Star)
2. Alinea ( - Restaurant magazine ranked it the 7th best establishment in the world and number one in the USA.
3. L2O (in Lincoln Park) - a little too designer-ish for my taste, but the food (with a focus on seafood) is apparently very good
4. For pan-Asian food, try (i) Urban Belly (ramen, soba), (ii) Belly Shack (latino-Asian fast food), (iii) Takashi, or (iv) Sun Wah (Chinese).
5. The Purple Pig - Mediterranean cuisine
6. Hotchocolate - bistro/restaurant and tea house
7. Mana Food Bar - vegetarian
8. Smoque BBQ and Duchamp for barbecue
9. For hot dogs: Hot Doug's
10. For burgers - Epic Burger
11. Manny's Delicatessen - a Chicago landmark (!)
12. Markets: Green City Market ( and French Market
14. For desserts and sweets: Berry Chill, Bombon Café, Coffee Studio (the best coffee in the city, they say,, Sweet Mandy B's (retro desserts), and Floriole (homemade delights).

Most of these places I assume have websites, so you can look them up. I'm getting so hungry just writing this! I wish I were going.

Emmy said...

I would recommend Weiner's Circle in Lincoln Park (the staff there is known for being very feisty with clients, and highly entertaining) for a Chicago dog and cheese fries, and Perrenial Virant also in Lincoln Park - great atmosphere right near the lake. There is also the Lincoln Park zoo right next to the water, which is free all year. Have so much fun, you will love it!

Amy Jo said...

I read your blog every day (thank you, by the way! Such a great way to start my day!), but this is my first post. I've lived in Chicagoland my whole life (college included) and though I'm obviously biased, there are few cities in America that are as fun as Chicago in the summer! Some of my favorites:

To Eat -->
Slightly Off the Beaten Path:
- Ruxbin: mind-blowingly good place for dinner. It's very small, so get there right at opening. Not cheap but not unreasonable. My husband and I went as a Christmas gift to ourselves this year.
- Longman and Eagle: great food all day, but particularly awesome for breakfast. The plaid-wearing, mountain-men looking guys who work there are the nicest people. Apparently that place functions as a B & B, so that could be fun.
- The Publican: another great breakfast option
- Southport Grocery: delicious cupcakes and quick and healthy brunch and lunch options

Near the Magnificent Mile:
- The Purple Pig: great wine list, lots of small plates...also gets crowded, so come early
- XOCO: Rick Bayless's take on fast Mexican food. Not so fast, but usually worth the wait.

To Do -->
- Everyone is right about the architectural boat tour. On a nice day, its beautiful, relaxing, and interesting.
- Millenium Park is worth checking out. Depending on when you are there, there are some fun events. I saw She & Him there with my husband a couple of years ago. We brought a picnic basket, and it made for a great, cheap date night!
- My family always loved the museums growing up. The Art Institute is my current favorite, but kids tend to enjoy the Museum of Science and Industry, the Aquarium, and the Field Museum a bit more. Even the Adler Planetarium is cool, in a nerdy, Space-Trek-loving way.
- North Avenue Beach, which isn't too far from the Lincoln Park zoo. The zoo is free!
- Chicago loves its sports, so if you can swing it, a trip to a baseball game (I prefer the Cubs) is a memorable event.

If you're looking for a book to read leading up to the trip to get excited/informed, I enjoyed The Devil in the White City (Larson) or The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City (Smith)

I hope you guys have a WONDERFUL time!!!!

allie said...

My parents just went there like 2 weeks ago and my mom LOVED it! she took so many photos and hearing her talk about it made me want to go too!

she raved about the architectural boat tour, by the way :)

Carrie said...

Yes. Take the boat tour. You'll learn interesting things.

Emilio's for tapas
Volare for Italian
Fox & Obel for deli lunch and fancy grocery shopping (on the way to Navy Peir)
Billy Goat Tavern (if you were into vintage SNL and cheezeborgas!)

Have fun... I LOVE the windy city!

Heather said...

Jo, I've never posted before, but we live in Madison + Chicago is our little getaway city so ... here goes: To stay -- Hotel Palomar (secret pool on the top floor - use rate code ffr) to eat -- girl + the goat, bin 36. Frasca for pizza/wine bar (family friendly and half price wine on Mondays, good brunch too). Fun chocolate and wine to be had at Eno in the front of the Hotel Intercontinental too.

Unknown said...

I was there last week and can heartily second the recommendations for The Doughnut Vault and the big Roy Lichtenstein exhibit at the Art Institute, which kids and adults can both enjoy. Don't miss their collection of Joseph Cornell boxes up on the 3rd floor: somewhat easy to miss since they are mis-placed in a "Modern European Art" room. Years ago we went to an Italian resto in Bucktown called Club Lucky and we still remember it fondly as a wonderful evening.

J+H @ Beyond The Stoop said...

i feel like a cliche now, but the publican is REALLY good.

best Pho is Tank Noodle.

test out an up-and-coming neighborhood in Pilsen and go to Nuevo Leon for amazing mexican food.

and if you are in the mood for korean bbq, you MUST try Crisp in Lakeview.

(the architectural boat tour is very cool. i have done it 3 times!!)

cheers!! you'll have SO much fun!
(why am i living near NYC again? chicago tops it in my opinion...)

Rema said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs.Sargent said...

We live in Chicago right now and love it. It is too hard to list the good things to do in a comment, so I am going to email you!! :)

Kelsi Jean said...

Everyone is leaving such great tips and places! Definitely check out the museums and the architectural boat tour. The tour is 90min, so the earlier the better on a hot summer day.

Fireworks are on wed and sat nights starting around 10:15pm, they fire them off behind the police station on the water (just south of navy pier).

If you haven't had an italian beef, you must, Mr beef, Al's and my personal favorite, Portillos, are all great places to try it.

For some quiet family time, The Lakeshore East park is really beautiful. There is fountain in the children's playground area, it's great for young kids.

Enjoy Chicago and safe travels!

nic said...

What a fun trip! Chicago is a great city.

Hot Dougs is a-mazing, but only open for a few hours around lunchtime. You'll have to stand in line for 1-2 hrs, but the dogs are worth it!

There's a tiny pie-shop called Bang! Bang! that is adorable and has really, really good pie and coffee.

walking/biking along the lakefront/beach with a stop at Lincoln Park Zoo would be fun.

There's a cool splashy fountain in Mill. Park by the Bean that kids would love!

There's a smoothie shop (forget the name) kitty corner from the art museum that sells AVOCADO mango smoothies!!!

The bus and the El are pretty cheap and reliable transport, so staying near-ish a stop would be a good idea.

Several people have recommended Rick Bailess (sp?) restaurants (Topolabombo and Frontera Grill). Both are pricey and Topolabombo needs reservations several months in advance. BUT Rick also has a sandwich/soup/salad joint called XOCO--which is just as fabulous, but way cheaper and easier to get in to. You'll likely have to wait in a bit of a line, but it is WORTH it.

Bon journee!

HiLLjO said...


Anonymous said...

The architectural boat tour is fantastic and worth every penny! Also, going to a Cubs game and sitting in the bleacher section is really fun and surprisingly, very kid friendly.

Brittany said...

Last summer I visited my BFF in Chicago and we caught a free movie in her neighborhood park on a Saturday night, in our case we saw My Fair Lady. It was so much fun to hang out with locals and have a little picnic. The cherry on top was it was free! I think the city of Chicago has a summer movie program every year.

We also found a little trailer along the beach that served coronas with colorful adirondack chairs overlooking the lake. It was such a relaxing spot to catch up. Have fun!

Janell Happ said...

Millenium Park is a must visit. The "bean" mirrored statue is a great place to take fun photos and Toby will be mesmerized by it :) Have fun!

ab_e said...

Chicago welcomes you! A few tips: no matter what anyone says, Giordano's deep dish pizza isn't even close to the best - go with Lou Malnati's or Gino's East. The Publican is AMAZING, but get reservations ahead of time and request a booth. Orange is a great place for brunch. Bike riding along the lake is great, the parks along the lake are nice for picnics, and (despite what others have said) the lake isn't very dirty at all. Navy Pier is very much a tourist destination and, in my estimation, is not worth your time. Instead, I'd recommend one of the many great museums nearby. Enjoy your trip!

Rema said...

Love Chicago!! Check out Ruxbin for a truly spectacular dinner one night (it's relatively kid-friendly). It's BYOB but there's a great little wine shop just around the corner. Decor is all refurbished/repurposed/salvaged - stories and history behind everything you see and touch. Food is simple but outstanding, service is spot-on professional but friendly. You'll feel like you're dining at your bestest, coolest chef-friend's house. :) We eat out a lot and Ruxbin has remained at the top of our list for years! Have fun!

Megan said...

SKYDECK Ledge! I just came from there on my move from DC to San Francisco and it was AMAZING!

Check out some photos:

You'll get lots of cute (and scary) photographs there too :)

dr gonzo said...

Shameless plugs from a Chicago lifer:

There are many architecture tours in Chicago, but one tour guide takes the cake. Buy tickets for a Shoreline architecture tour (, but ask to be on Kevin's boat (aka "the Mayor of Bucktown"). Not only does he have incredible knowledge of Chicago architecture, but he's a harmonica-playing Second City alum whose tours are notorious for amazing little tidbits and surprises.

Grab picnic stuffs at Caffe Baci and scoot across the street for a free concert at Millennium Park's Pritzker Pavilion on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Forgo the expensive Skydeck (even though the glass overhangs are pretty great) and grab a cool beverage at the bar in the Hancock tower at dusk, instead. It's a great view for those Navy Pier fireworks on Wednesdays and Saturdays!

I tip my hat to all of the restaurant suggestions provided already - Chicago is definitely a foodie haven!

Rosita said...

Jane Fonda just did a wonderful multi-part blog series on her trip to Chicago with her young grandchildren, part 1 is here:

C.V.B. said...

Born and raised in the Chicago and I love your blog. You can do all the touristy things downtown like the art museum and "the bean." But you should make your way into some of the neighborhoods as well. You should explore Bucktown and Lincoln park. Make sure not to only eat hotdogs and pizza, Chicago has some of the best restaurants in the world. Make sure to eat at one of Rick Bayless's places. There are three in a row on N. Clark st. I recommend Xoco for lunch, it is the best sandwich you will ever have.

C.V.B. said...

Also, Chicago is windy in the winter from the lake. But the name "The Windy City" refers to it's politics.

Anonymous said...

The deep dish pizza at Giordano's is FANTASTIC and they have more than one location. Yolk is great for breakfast and is really close to the aquarium, so you could grab breakfast there, stroll around the park, hit up the aquarium and then get a Chicago-style hot dog after (I suggest checking out what the hot dogs really look like before ordering one - some places falsely advertise). We LOVED the museum of science and industry - there is a lot there that Toby would enjoy. have fun! said...

Chicago resident here: You must do the architectural boat tour, I highly recommend it to anyone.
You can see the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower but I prefer the Hancock tower. While the observation deck is nice, blah, blah, blah, it is also expensive. Go to the Hancock the afternoon, about 3 pm, when you're a bit tired and go to the lounge at the top, you can have a diet coke, cocktail, cappucino, whatever you fancy, and enjoy the view at a leisurely pace rather than being pushed around in the tourist mode. You will pay about the same price for a drink that you will for the observation deck ticket, but you will enjoy it much more. Also, the ladies' restroom has a pretty darn good view too.

Erica Herold said...

My favorite for a good old basic Chicago dog would have to be Portillos. Nothing fancy but delicious for a quick lunch! There are lots of locations around the area.

Katie Cauthen said...

If you leave without eating Lou Malnati's pizza, a Hot Doug's hot dog, and a bag of Garret Popcorn, it would be a shame!

elizabeth said...

You all will have a great time! As is obvious from the many comments already, there is so much to do in the summer in Chicago.
The architectural boat tour is a great way to see the city from a different angle. You can also rent kayaks and take the tour yourselves. (Not sure if that would work with a toddler, though!)
I also love taking houseguests up to Andersonville, a Swedish neighborhood on the North side of the city. Martha Stewart's last issue featured the neighborhood. Cute stores, a Swedish immigration museum, and plenty of spots for a snack.
Oak Street Beach is a stone's throw from Michigan Ave. and has a newly expanded open air cafe with a bar. It's a great spot to have a beer in the sunshine while you people-watch. Or to warm up after braving a swim!
And, although it's probably not the cutting edge in hipness, anymore, Big Star, in Wicker Park never fails to deliver delicious tacos on their popular patio. (Also good for people-watching.)

Nora said...

We've stayed at the Public Hotel twice this year and we love it. Super chic; perfect location (Gold Coast); and they keep offering crazy discounts -- check out their website & sign up for emails.

My fave thing to do in Chicago is eat/drink: get coffee at Intelligentsia, make reservations for cocktails at the Aviary (we really have nothing like it in NYC, and my boyfriend's a primo cocktail geek so I should know), get beer/food at the Publican. Skip Girl & a Goat -- overrated, and you can eat similar-but-better in NYC. One of the best meals we've had in a long time is lunch at Topolobampo (and this was the day after Next: el bulli, so that is saying something). IT's another experience you cannot get in NYC. If you don't have time/inclination for that, get the casual Rick Bayless experience at his lunch spot, Xoco. Explore Bucktown/Wicker Park. Perhaps get dinner or brunch at Longman & Eagle and explore Logan Square -- which my Chicago friends say is the best area for brunch, generally.

And finally -- if you'll be there while Dose Market is happening, GO! Eat and shop to your heart's content. Similar to Bklyn Flea but prices are better and food might be too. I loved that architectural boat tour, so good thinking there. Oooh also! The Lichtenstein exhibit at Art Institute is great & is the kind of art that Toby could probably appreciate. You don't need to spend all day in the museum; make it part of a fun Millennium Park afternoon. There's a great terrace in the museum overlooking the park where you can get rose and Toby can run around.

For more:

Julia said...

Oh, Joanna--you are not lacking for Chicago suggestions! :)

I definitely agree with many of the above. I lived in Chicago for almost 4 years, and even for residents, there is always a new restaurant/shop/site to check out!

There are SO many places for a great meal and drink:
De Cero--best mexican and margaritas in the city
Girl & the Goat--from Top Chef!
Medici (Hyde Park)--very family-friendly, wonderful pizza
Cozy Noodle--thai food (pad thai is to die for there)
Sweet Mandy B's--cupcakes and sweets
Green Zebra--vegetarian small plates (much better for a date night minus kids!)
Violet Hour--very nondescript bar with a funky prohibition vibe, and the drinks are way cool!
The Bongo Room--brunch (can you say white chocolate pretzel pancakes?!)
But I guarantee there are a million more

As far as tourist-y activities go: Toby would enjoy Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo, Millennium Fountains. Art Institute (plus the garden outside!) is always enjoyable. Rent bikes if you can. Michigan Ave has some great shopping, but so do many of the smaller neighborhoods (at a smaller price!). Visit a beach near Lake Michigan if it's nice out. And go on the Architecture boat tour--it's worth the money.

Can't wait to read your recap! And now I want to visit :)

Ashley said...

Breakfast: Go to Nookies in Old Town. It's the kind of quaint, unassuming diner you'd hope to find in the city. Everything is good- my husband gets the huevos rancheros EVERY TIME we go, and at $6 you can't complain! The specials are always super yummy, but priced a bit higher for seasonal ingredients.

Snack Break- head over to Argo Tea for a refreshing blended tea drink and a fresh baked treat! I recommend the one on Rush so that you can take your treats and enjoy them on Oak Street Beach, which is just a few blocks away. On your way back from the beach, stop at Topshop/Topman and H&M for some quick shopping!

Lunch: Either Portillo's for the classic Chicago Dog (Get the cheese fries too if you're up for an indulgence!) or the Goddess and Grocer for an amazing Brisket sandwich or one of many salads.

Dinner: If you're up for a fancy, pricey, but once-in-a-lifetime meal, you cannot beat Rick Bayless' Topolobampo. It will change your world. Another favorite of ours is Bistrot Zinc, a cozy and welcoming French restaurant in Gold Coast.

There's always some sort of free event in Millennium Park during the summer/early fall to join in the evening!

Enjoy Chicago- my kind of town! said...

Also, baseball game if either team is in town (but I pull for the Cubs) and I recommend hitting up one of the many festivals that will be going on while you're here. There is literally one or more every weekend in the summer. For the beach, Ohio Street beach is the best for less of a crowd, especially on the weekend and it is close to Navy Pier. North Ave Beach is the party scene and gets really crowded on the weekends, it might not be where you want to keep track of a small child. Plus, it has had its own problems recently with overcrowding and riff raff hanging around.

Sam Yeider said...

I've lived in Chicago my whole life and I'm still discovering new places to visit! For a night out you must try Club Lucky. They have the best cocktails in Chicago in a vintage supper club setting. Perfect martinis and great Italian food. Lou Malnati's has the best deep dish pizza, Uno's ok. Piece Pizza in Wicker Park is really good too. Macy's on State Street use to be Marshall Field's, the greatest department store that ever was. Go to see the decor and the Tiffany's ceiling. Further up State Street is Posh, a shop with great vintage finds, just looking around is a treat. Lincoln Park zoo is oodles of fun and it's free. Lou Mitchell's diner is over by Union Station and was the start of Route 66. It hasn't changed since. The architecture inside the Cultural Center on Michigan Ave is beautiful. And don't forget to see the stones from around the world that are set in the outside of the Tribune Tower. Robert McCormick who use to be the owner and editor until his death in 1955 had them put in after his reporters would bring them back for him from there assignments. Go peak into the main lobby! You're all going to have a wonderful time! Chicago is a special place.

Rachel said...

I live in Chicago and adore it. It's a great town. I HIGHLY recommend Hot Doug's for amazing hotdogs, Blackbird if you and Alex want a culinary treat, and The Violet Hour for fancy-schmancy drinks. For wonderful Vietnamese food (I'm a sucker for it) hit up Hai Yen on Argyle Street. Walk the beachfront, take in an improv show, wander fun neighborhoods, and you've got yourself a great trip!

Lindsay said...

Yay, Chicago! I've lived here for more than a decade, and there is so much to see and do. You've gotten great suggestions already -- here are mine: Rent bikes on lakefront path (go early or late, it gets REALLY crowded); hit the beach at North Ave; then visit the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is easily accessed by the lakefront path. If you do this on a Saturday morning, there is a great farmer's market called the Green City Market right next to the zoo. For sure, do the Architectural Boat Tour and Millennium Park. This park is so much fun for kids and grownups. See if there is a concert at the Pritzker Pavilion, which is part of the park and have a picnic. These are often free. I'd personally skip Navy Pier, which is insanely crowded and touristy. Have fun!

Christina Johnston said...

My favorite Italian restaurant is Valare downtown. It's a must! Also- the best breakfast in town is Orange. There are a few locations throughout the city- it really is amazingly good! Enjoy!

Rachel said...

Oh, and for the best Swedish food -- we love breakfast there -- try Tre Kronor on Foster in Albany Park. They also own an ADORABLE shop next door (The Sweden Shop) where you can pick up fun and stylish Swedish housewares, clothes, books, stationery. The best.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting on Chicago! I am a medical student here and agree with all of the great recommendations!

-Wormhole for coffee is a great funky spot.
-Music on the Pritzker Pavilion!
-North Pond restaurant ( is a JBF winner and is in Lincoln Park (in an old warming shelter on a pond used for ice skating in the winter!)
-Publican (great food and beer list!)
-Pilsen neighborhood (awesome artsy neighborhood with some hidden gems)
-Mandy B's for cupcakes (the equivalent of Magnolia in NYC)

Enjoy your time here!

ryan said...

Here's a list I made for a reader of my blog a little while ago:

-mana (vegetarian style tapas. it's really tiny inside so try to go at an odd hour or make a reservation)
-baccis (best new york style pizza. they're huge!)
-lou malnatis (a chicago classic for pizza. if you've never had it it's a must)
- boiler room (a new pizza place in logan square; one of the up and coming neighborhoods)
-handlebar (good vegetarian comfort food)
-hot dougs (another chicago must. fancy hot dogs. there's always a line out the door so be prepared.)
-revolution brewing co. (also in logan square. good micro-brewery choices and comfort food. they have a kids menu!)
-kumas (chicago must. heavy metal burgers. again, always a line!)
-francescas al forno (best people watching in the city. it's at the six corners which is where damen, milwaukee, and north all intersect in wicker park)
- noodles in the pot (this is in lincoln park so it's not close to everything else i've mentioned but it's my favorite thai food anywhere.)

- rainbo (this is where my husband's brother bartends. i'd recommend a thursday night if you can swing it.)
- delilah’s (this is my favorite bar in the city. lot's of punk rock.)

- head over to the "six corners" in wicker park. you can take the blue line on the "el" to the damen stop. from there, head east on milwaukee or north ave for a ton of shopping. look for reckless records, una maes vintage, and myopic books in particular. if you go south on damen you'll see some higher end shops like marc jacobs.

- art institute (lot's of great stuff.)
- mca (museum of contemporary art. it's pretty close to the art institute so you could probably do them both.)
- chicago cultural center (there's not much to do inside unless you happen to catch a small concert but on the second level there are some amazing tiffany mosaic ceilings and great views of millennium park. it's free to go inside.)
- john hancock (there's a restaurant and a bar on the top floor. the restaurant isn't worth it but the bar is for amazing night time views of the skyline. plus the girls bathroom has floor to ceiling windows for the best view of the city at night!)

Have fun! Chicago during the summer is the best place to be.

Oh! And there are free concerts in Millennium Park on Monday nights. Pack a picnic and enjoy the crowds.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting on Chicago! I am a medical student here and agree with all of the great recommendations!

-Wormhole for coffee is a great funky spot.
-Music on the Pritzker Pavilion!
-North Pond restaurant ( is a JBF winner and is in Lincoln Park (in an old warming shelter on a pond used for ice skating in the winter!)
-Publican (great food and beer list!)
-Pilsen neighborhood (awesome artsy neighborhood with some hidden gems)
-Mandy B's for cupcakes (the equivalent of Magnolia in NYC)

Enjoy your time here!

ktdnsmr said...

I third going to the Green Mill. Especially on a Tuesday or Thursday when they have a 16 piece swing band!

Robin said...

Head to Andersonville for great design shops. My favorite is a place called Scout. I stop by every time I'm in town.

Jen Mertes said...

I went to Chicago for the first time in April this year and loved it!! Definitely go to the Lincoln Park Zoo - we spend almost an entire day there - Toby will love all the animals! The polar bear was very cool!

We had deep-dish pizza at Pizzeria Uno which was delicious. The skydeck of the Sears Tower was fun, but slightly scary! Millenium Park was great for relaxing in the sun and we spent ages taking photos of ourselves reflected in the Cloudgate. Nayv Pier was a little tacky, but the view back to the city is great.


AshleyC said...

Also, you will love the bar The Violet Hour. Definitely check it out!

Marissa Wahl said...

Cubs game is a must! Shedd Aquarium too!

Anonymous said...

I live in Chicago and would say you MUST ride bikes on the lakefront path. I would suggest doing that on a weekday, as it is super congested on the weekend. But I think the lakefront path is one of Chicago's best assets!

caitsheajones said...

Brunch @ The Publican! Amazing! Also, the Intercontinental Wine and Cheese bar- heavenly! (It is right across the street from The Purple Pig so you can sneak over here while you wait for your table @ Purple Pig. (There is always quite a bit of a wait so make sure to go before you get hungry!)

Anonymous said...

That is so excited! I've lived in Chicago for 4 years now, and it is an amazing city--particularly in the summertime!

Gino's East is my favorite deep dish pizza. Chicago dogs are great, but you can't leave without getting an Italian beef sandwich (dripping with au jus) from Portillo's or Al's Beef. Classic Chicago.

Definitely hit up a comedy show. Second City is great. Also iO Theater and Zanie's.

Lincoln Park Zoo is great for kids and free! It's smack in the middle of the city, so there are amazing downtown views.

For a date night, try dinner (outside!) at Piccolo Sogno. They have an incredible garden patio.

Anonymous said...

We loved the boat tour, Shedd Aquarium is GREAT for kids and adults. The publican is amazing!! Don't forget the bean aka Cloudgate.

Kari said...

for food, we love Maude's and it is in the West Randolph corridor where there are tons of other foodie destinations so you will get a good feel for the Chicago foodie scene, it is also Mayor Emmanuel's hang-out spot of choice. Maude's has THE BEST roast chicken and this triple cream soft cheese plate that is to die for - and their St Germain Fizz cocktail is delish. Also, i've seen couples there with babies.
definitely do the architectural boat tour, and if you rent bikes ride them north just a mile or so to Lincoln Park and take Toby to the LP Zoo - it is free and it is really an amazing zoo. then when you ride back south you will have a great view of the city skyline. Saturday mornings and Wed morning in Lincoln Park (just south of the zoo) there is a farmers market called Green City Market that is where many of the chefs source their local meat and produce for their menus, there are cooking demonstrations and live music, and it is a real Chicago experience. Go to Portillos for your hot dogs. And HAVE FUN!!! Hope you enjoy Chi-town.

jalong01 said...

one more thing!! Three Aces is awesome! It's a great little rock and roll bar/restaurant and they have bolognese fries (a must try) and delicious burgers and pizza. its been featured on a lot of shows, but its a hidden gem. amazing!

clrenzema said...

The Chicago Art Institute is fantastic, but also pretty big and takes a while to get through. If you want to check out some interesting art but not necessarily make a whole day of it, I would recommend the cultural center. It's in the old public library so the architecture is awesome and after you're done you can cross Michigan Ave and check out Millennium Park, another must-see!

lzab said...

The Art Institute for amazingggg art, and the Eleventh City Diner for eats (Jewish Deli - yum!)

Lauren said...

I've grown up in Chicago - and my favorite thing to do in the summer is to sit at Millennium Park for their free concerts on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights. ( Bring a blanket, a bottle of wine, and some chocolate dipped strawberries. You can let your little one run around while you and your husband enjoy their beautiful music! They also do free yoga in the park Saturday mornings... It's a beautiful structure!

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