It’s that time of year again! Academy is right around the corner and this time, lucky for me, it’s in Chicago. As an ICO student currently living in Chicago, I am looking forward to showing everyone around! For those of you who have never been to the windy city before, or if you have and you just want to learn some more fun things to do, here is a list of my top ten favorite things to do in Chicago.
1. Signature Lounge at the John Hancock Tower: One of my favorite things to do when people visit me in Chicago is to take them to the Signature Lounge. This is a bar and restaurant tucked atop the John Hancock Tower. It has some of the best views of the city. If you’re on that graduate student budget like me, you can simply go for drinks or dessert and avoid the big bill.
P.S. Ladies, women’s bathroom has one of the best views!
2. Lincoln Park Zoo: It’s free. You read that correctly. Free. When I first went to the zoo I had little expectations. I assumed that a free zoo would have maybe one elephant and a few goats. Much to my surprise, this is one of the best zoos I’ve been too. It is even set up so that a lot of the exhibits are indoors as well which means it’s also great for a rainy day.
3. West Loop: West Loop is one of my favorite areas in the city. In the past few years, this area has completely been reformed and is now one of the best restaurant spots in the city. You can find anything from Italian, to burgers, to gourmet hot chocolate all along the same street. It has a chill vibe and a great night scene. Check it out!
4. Millennium Park: Ever heard of the Bean? This is one of Chicago’s most well known tourist spots. Now I’m not really one to do touristy things but this is definitely a cool spot to check out. It is usually a lot less busy in the fall than it is during the summer. The park also includes fountains, gardens, and plenty of spots to hang out and enjoy the weather. There are always free events going on as well so it’s worth doing a quick google search before you go check it out.
5. Window Shop the Mag. Mile: I emphasize window shopping here because that’s about all I can afford to do on the Magnificent Mile. This is an area along North Michigan Ave which is known for its shopping. The further north you go, the nicer (and more expensive) it gets. Even if you aren’t ready to break the bank, it is still a nice area to walk around and be immersed within the city.
6. Wicker Park: Wicker Park is another area known for its restaurants, coffee shops, and chill vibes. Located off the blue line, it is a little bit of a ride from the convention center but totally worth it. The atmosphere of the area reminds me a lot of Brooklyn, NY. One of my favorite ramen spots, Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya is there. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
7. Museums: There is a whole area known as Museum Park dedicated to the aquarium, planetarium, and many museums. If you have time, a lot of the museums also offer student discounts. I have not yet made it to the planetarium but our Eye Ball (aka grad school prom) was at the aquarium my first year and I was blown away.
8. Lake Shore: If you don’t already know, Chicago is located right along Lake Michigan. This makes for many very scenic areas throughout the city. Lake Shore runs along the lake and is a great path to follow for a walk or jog along the water. Staying north of the convention center will bring you towards the park and the main parts of the city and is the best path to take. You may also find some beaches along the way!
9. Cubs/Bears/White Sox Games: We all know by now that the Cubs finally won the World Series. This makes going to the games even that much more fun. I personally stay loyal to my hometown teams but also enjoy going to a few of the games in Chicago. You can select from any of the main teams, but Soldier Field (where the Bears play) and the Guaranteed Rate Field (White Sox stadium) are both closer to the convention center. This summer I paid only $6 for some tickets!
10. Rooftop Bars: The Chicago River winds through the heart of the city. Along the river you will find many hotels, apartment buildings, restaurants, and rooftop bars. One spot that many of my classmates recommend is called London House. It is located right off Michigan Avenue. Luckily it shouldn’t be too cold yet in October and will be a great chance for you to get another great view of this beautiful city.
There is much and more to do in Chicago. It’s one of the reasons I chose ICO. Whether it’s deep dish pizza or a Cubs hat that you’re looking for, hopefully you’ll be able to sneak away from the conference long enough to find it. I highly recommend taking some time to explore while you’re here, we are happy to welcome you!