Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Travel Guide to Chicago

Get ready for a VERY long post today! I constantly get asked for suggestions on things to do in Chicago or good restaruants and so on. Then I realized I never created a blogpost with like ALL of my suggestions on my favorite Chicago places. So, here is the comprehensive list of all of the places I love and would recommend in Chicago. From shopping, restaurants, neighborhoods to explore, things to do, and more it's all here. You can always reference this if you are ever planning a trip to Chicago! This is a very extensive guide on EVERYTHING I love in Chicago. 

I've lived in the Chicago suburbs my whole life. And now I work in the city every now and then and have spent more time exploring the city, more then just Michigan Ave. So, now I feel I can give you solid recommendations on things to do and eat if you are visiting the city. 

Coal Fire Pizza | One of my favorite pizza places in the city! It is close by to the United Center so it's perfect if you're heading to a Blackhawks game or a concert and you're driving. You could also take an Uber if you don't have a car! Their pizza is super thin crust pizza and has fresh delicious ingredients. The place is super small and super local, so go as early as you can! It fills up quickly so you may have to wait. But, it is worth the wait for sure!

The Hampton Social | My favorite "basic" place in the city is home to the "Yes Way Rose" sign which makes it very recognizable on Instagram. But, besides the aesthetically pleasing decor they have really amazing food! I personally love the Lobster Roll or the Steak Frites. Then they have a Rose of the Day which makes it super easy to try new rose. This place is the best during the summer because they open up all of the windows and the breeze flows in and out. But, if you go in the winter don't fret, there usually isn't a wait or it's easier to get reservations! 

Public House | Public House has tasty shakes topped with cake, the best bar style food, and lots of drink options! They have other locations outside of Chicago, but it is worth the stop if you want a fun atmosphere and good food. 

Bub City | My favorite BBQ place and bar at night is Bub City. They have really good Moscow mules (random I know) and the best BBQ in the city (in my opinion). I'm not big into country, on weekends it turns into a country bar with live music and it's really fun! But, this place has some dang good ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. Plus they have tater tots, fried pickles, and lots of other yummy sides. All in all it's a great time and has great food! 

Summer Santa Monica House | Santa Monica House is a similar vibe to The Hampton Social, but it's in Lincoln Park. This place also has an extensive wine list and dreamy decor. I opted for the Prime Rib French Dip with fries and it was one of the best french dip sandwiches I have ever had. And I've had a lot of them let me tell ya. They have a little bit of everything so there is something for everyone on the menu! Plus brunch is available and it looks amazing. 

Maple & Ash | If you're looking to splurge look no further then Maple & Ash. One of the best steaks I have ever had in my entire life. That means something coming from me, I live for steak (ask anyone). It is a must-do if you want to do a nice meal in the city. Be sure to get reservations beforehand! In general reservations are a MUST. Use the Open Table app for easy reservations. 

Lou Malnatis | If you're looking for classic deep dish Chicago pizza Lou Malnatis is my favorite. Giordanos is a close second. If anyone tells you other places TBH they are wrong. These two are the best in the city! If you go to Lou Malnatis be sure to get the three cheese bread as an appetizer, you'll thank me later. 

Portillos | Another Chicago classic is Portillos. This fast food chain is unique to Chicago, but has other locations outside of IL. Stop in to get a classic Chicago hot dog, Italian beef, or a chopped salad (if you're feeling healthy). Chocolate Cake shakes are also a fan favorite. This is a great affordable meal to get in the city! 

Garrett's Popcorn | I'm a popcorn connoisseur, and I love all kinds of popcorn! Garretts is another Chicago favorite that serves up Chicago mix popcorn which is cheddar with caramel. I know what you're thinking... "that sounds nasty". But, trust me it is SOOO GOOD! They have a ton of locations around the city so you can't miss them. 

Stan's Donuts | Donuts are oddly very popular in Chicago. There are so many unique donut places in the city but Stan's is one of my favorites. From their cute pink and white decor and bags to their tasty donuts you can't go wrong. I personally love the apple fritter, but there are endless possibilities! 

Donut Vault | Another of my donut favorites is Donut Vault. They have the best donuts and they have $1-2 coffee which is amazing. You usually always have to wait in line to get them, but the line is for sure worth it! 

Three Dots and a Dash | The infamous tiki bar Three Dots and a Dash is a fun place to get drinks with friends. WARNING: these drinks are pricey and some are verrrry strong, so order carefully! I got the rum barrel and it was pretty good! But, my boyfriend's drink was nasty tbh.... it is mainly for the fun cup and atmosphere/ photo ops. So if that isn't your thing I would skip it. However, it is a fun bar! If possible make a reservation as this place is hopping on the weekends, and even weeknights. There is often a line to get in which, you don't want to wait in during the winter. The entrance is also down a back alley so you might miss it if you aren't looking close enough! 

Moe's Cantina | If you're looking for a good Mexican place, Moe's Cantina is a great option! They have tasty cocktails, including margaritas, and good food what more could you want? I got the build your own tacos and it came with so much steak it was unreal! Plus the chips, salsa, and guac was real tasty. 

Old Crow Smokehouse | Another good BBQ option is Old Crow Smokehouse! They have a few locations, one in Wrigleyville, which makes it a good stop before a Cubs game! With lots of meat and side options this place is mighty tasty and perfect during the summer as most of their locations open up the windows to let the breeze in. 

Tavern on Rush | One of my favorite brunch spots is Tavern on Rush. I get The Rush Street which is a tasty omelette with cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Complete with breakfast potatoes and a scone this is a very tasty breakfast! 

Goddess and the Baker | My favorite coffee shop in the city is Goddess and the Baker. Most mornings I work downtown I go there to grab a latte. They also have a wide range of pastries that are super tasty and other dishes available. I am also a fan of their white peach tea if you are a tea fan, they have a good selection of that as well. 

Pizza Parlor Bar | With a mural of pizza angel wings outside how could you not love this place? With tasty pizza and yummy appetizers this is a great place to bring friends for a bite! Also, they have a brunch menu which makes it a great Sunday spot. 

The Walnut Room | This used to be one of my favorite places to go as a kid! Every year we would go to see the giant Christmas tree display. I recommend heading to the Walnut Room during the holidays to see the decor! The food has changed over the years, but the inside is gorgeous and historic to Marshall Fields! 

Bavettes | One of the best steak places I have ever ate at. This meal was incredible! From the meat to the wedge salad to the sides everything was incredible. Again, another splurge meal but it is sooooo worth it. You need reservations for Bavettes, or else it is impossible to get in. So be sure to plan ahead if you'd like to dine at Bavettes for dinner. 


Michigan Ave | The most "basic" shopping area is Michigan Ave. You will find all of the stores you know and love like Topshop, Nordstrom, Uniqlo, and more. A fun stop along the way for Disney fans is the huge Disney Store on Michigan Ave!

Oak Street | If you're looking for a little more higher end shopping the area around Oak Street is where you'll wanna head. Walton Street also has some great shopping like the Barbour and Patagonia store. Plus Sprinkles Cupcakes! 

Birdseye Rule | A fun boutique in Logan Square has some amazing pieces! Plus there is an adorable stationery store right next door. Added bonus: they carry Barbour! 

Bow & Arrow | If you're looking for the ultimate stationery and party store look no further then Bow & Arrow. Such a cute store with adorable gift-able items! They also have some fabulous Packed Party products, which I love. 

Riley Rose | The most amazing store EVER for makeup and knick knacks is Riley Rose! They have so many unique beauty brands and so many things to try. Plus the store is just gorgeous. Plus there is an adorable Instagram opportunity inside. Riley Rose is located inside Water Tower Place. You can also find stores like AKIRA, Aritzia, Free People, Henri Bendel, and more located in Water Tower! 

State Street | State Street is another shopping area in Chicago. It is located pretty close to all of the Michigan Ave shops, but it is centrally located near a lot of the theater shows. So, if you're down near a show you can do some shopping beforehand! Some highlights are Macy's State Street (which used to be the original Marshall Fields RIP :( ), Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and more. Plus the Nordstrom Rack on State Street always has amazing finds!!! 

Things to Do 

Explore neighborhoods | There are so many incredible neighborhoods to explore in Chicago. Until recently I really haven't been able to explore a lot of Chicago neighborhoods. As a kid who lived in the suburbs it was really hard to make it out to the smaller areas of Chicago outside of true downtown. But, now I love checking out more residential areas! Some of my favorites are Logan Square, Wicker Park, Bucktown, River North, West Loop, and Lincoln Park. There are so many things to explore outside of the "touristy" areas in Chicago. Be sure to try and venture out during your stay in the city. 

Go to a Broadway show | Chicago has a great Broadway scene! I've seen shows like Aladdin, White Christmas, Book of Moorman, Wicked, and more. PRO TIP: Like Broadway in Chicago on Facebook and on the 25th of every month they sell $25 theater tickets. It is such a great deal so be sure to check if you're planning a trip because they just might have a show on sale for your dates. There are also other ways to get discount tickets to shows, so try not to pay full price and find yourself a deal! 

Go to a sporting event | If there is one thing that is abundant in Chicago it is sports teams. We have the Bulls, Blackhawks, Bears (lol they kind of stink though), Sox, and the Cubs! No matter what time of year you come to Chicago there is probably a sporting event you can go see! Gametime is a great app to use to find affordable sport tickets, as well as concert and broadway tickets. 

Architecture Tour | There are so many beautiful buildings in Chicago to see, so a great way to get a comprehensive view of everything is a boat architecture tour. There are a lot of different companies that offer tours so do some research to find one that works best for you. 

Ice Skating or walking around Millenium Park | During the winter months there is ice skating at Millenium Park, which I did this past holiday season! I have to say it was quite stressful skating around the ice skating ribbon. But, it was very fun! Don't worry if you aren't around for the holidays because walking around Millenium Park is still fun in the warmer months as well! 

Fireworks at Navy Pier | All throughout the summer Navy Pier offers firework shows and they are sooooo fun! My friend, my mom, and I always go every summer to see them. While you're at the pier you can do other fun things like grab a drink or go on the ferris wheel. 

Go to a museum | I grew up going to the different museums in Chicago. My personal favorite is The Shedd Aquarium! I just love seeing all of the fish and especially love the whales. Not to mention the views from the outdoor areas are unbeatable. But there is also the Art Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, the Planetarium, and loads more! Personally I love walking around museum, ever since I studied abroad I gained a stronger appreciation for museums. I highly recommend checking out at least one of the museums Chicago has to offer. 


There are so many great landmarks to see in Chicago. From the Willis Tower to the Bean some are more touristy then others, but regardless they are still fun to see and experience! At the Willis Tower or the John Hancock building you can do skydeck like experiences. From these decks you can see views of the city that are incredible. Then there are recreational places like Lake Michigan or the Lincoln Park Zoo that are great for kids and adults alike. I listed a few of my top favorite landmarks below for you to check off your bucket list while in Chicago!

The Shedd Aquarium | Willis Tower | The Bean | Art Institute of Chicago | Lincoln Park Zoo 
Water Tower Place | Grant Park and Millenium Park | Buckingham Fountain | Navy Pier 
Lake Michigan 

Neighborhoods to Explore 

As I said before, Chicago is home to so many smaller unique neighborhoods. Be sure to explore outside of the central downtown area and loop to get the most of your Chicago experience! Here are a few of my favorite areas for food, shopping, and more.....

Lincoln Park | I love Lincoln Park so much! This adorable neighborhood has many things to explore. From adorable shops to lovely restaurants this place has a little bit of everything. Plus all of the streets seemed to be lined with the most gorgeous houses, including some Chicago Greystones. Plus it is home to the Lincoln Park Zoo which is a free zoo that is perfect for taking a stroll on a nice afternoon.  

Logan Square & Wicker Park | Logan Square will hopefully be my future home! This neighborhood has some really cool "hipster" as I would say coffee shops, bars, restaurants, and boutiques. I don't think I'm cool enough to live in Logan Square but here I come! Wicker Park is very close by and also has some awesome shopping, food, and things to explore. 

River North | River North is what I would call "downtown" but it is home to some of my favorite restaurants like Bub City, The Hampton Social, and more. If you are downtown doing other things I recommend popping over to River North to get dinner or drinks! 

West Loop | West Loop also has some amazing restaurants like Pizza Parlor Bar. I haven't gotten to explore to much of this area, but there is so much tasty food that I need to try over there so I know I will be back for more.

That is everything for my Chicago Travel Guide! I hope you found some new and exciting things to do for your next trip to Chicago. If you have any questions at all feel free to leave them in the comments below! 

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