It’s hard to beat the charm of Chicago. The Midwestern city has everything you’d need to for a fun urban getaway—it's steeped in history with great museums, stunning architecture, and amazing art both in its museums and in public. My Modern Met had the chance to visit some of Chicago’s top spots—including places to play, stay, and socialize. Here’s our travel guide to art and culture in the Windy City.
Places to Stay in Chicago
The Blackstone Hotel, 636 South Michigan Avenue
The Blackstone Hotel is a history lover’s dream. Since 1910, they’ve hosted celebrities, socialites, and politicians, which helped them earn the nickname “The Hotel of Presidents.” The likes of Teddy Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter were guests, in addition to American royalty like the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts and musicians like Louis Armstrong. One of their most infamous guests was Al Capone.
After being closed for nearly a decade, the Blackstone was completely revamped over the course of two years. Now, it boasts a rich history with chic, contemporary decor. It’s made even better with views of Lake Michigan and Grant Park as well as its location within the city’s celebrated Magnificent Mile.
The Gwen Luxury Hotel, 521 North Rush Street
Named one of the Best Hotels in Chicago by Travel + Leisure, The Gwen mixes the aesthetic of a 1930s Art Deco Chicago with 21st-century features you’d expect in a luxury boutique hotel. It’s named for Gwen Lux, a pioneering woman sculptor, and her influence is seen everywhere within the hotel; replicas of her work grace the interior, down to the rooms and suites.
Situated in the middle of Chicago, you can enjoy a vintage-inspired cocktail on the terrace or even glamp in a 16-feet tent outside. (Glamping is available May 28 through September 30).
Places to Play in Chicago
Chicago Athletics Association, 12 South Michigan Avenue Chicago
The Chicago Athletics Association is a hotel, but you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy some of its most playful features—Cindy’s and Game Room. Cindy’s is a rooftop bar that serves seasonal food and drinks with a relaxed vibe and great view. The Game Room has billiards, bocce ball, shuffleboard, checkers, and more, all surrounded by classic drinks and food.
City Mouse (Inside of Ace Hotel Chicago), 311 North Morgan Street
City Mouse boasts “fine foods and nice people” with a seasonal menu that’s inspired by the traditions of the Midwest. The all-day restaurant has a Wes Anderson-esque appeal with its inventive food combinations; former dishes include fried cheddar balls topped with caramel and caviar.
Museums to Visit in Chicago
Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan Avenue
The Art Institute of Chicago is a museum that begs more than one trip. Its massive collection features 95,000 works from African to Renaissance to photography to contemporary art. Fans of Impressionism will get lost in the iconic A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat and marvel over Mary Cassatt’s The Child’s Bath. In addition to fine art, the institution also boasts an impressive furniture collection as well as a section on architecture and design.
Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive
Best known as the Field Museum, this institution is one of the largest natural history museums in the world. It has a diverse collection of amazing specimens and artifacts, with 4.6 billion years housed under one roof—from the dinosaurs to ancient Egypt to an entire hall dedicated to birds. Their collections attract millions of visitors a year and are also a resource for the domestic and international scientific community. The Field Museum also emphasizes education and is great for kids with engaging, hands-on activities.
Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 South Lake Shore Drive
Want to experience what it’s like inside a real U-505, the only German submarine in the US? What about descending into a life-sized mine shaft? The Museum of Science and Industry has both of these things—and more. It’s kept in the former 1893 site of the World’s Columbian Exposition and contains over 2,000 exhibitions that are displayed in 75 major halls. Visitors often describe the institution in just one word—wow.