Late summer and early fall is a great time to visit Chicago. Where else can you find warm, Midwestern hospitality in a big city setting? And since it’s a less than two-hour flight from New York City, Chicago is a perfect weekend getaway. Here’s a snapshot of things to do and see:
Sightseeing & Shopping
Explore Chicago via the Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Company tours (www.chicagotrolley.com). These hop-on/hop-off tours were voted the best in Chicago, and it’s easy to see why. With 15 downtown Chicago tour stops, you’ll see all the major attractions from atop a red double decker bus or from inside a trolley. And the amusingly snarky tour guides could easily do improv at Second City (www.secondcity.com).
A weekend trip to Chicago wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the 24.5-acre Millennium Park (btwn Michigan Avenue, Columbus Drive, and Monroe and Randolph Streets, www.millenniumpark.org). Listen to free concerts at the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion (the 33rd annual Chicago Jazz Festival is Sept. 1-4, 2011, www.chicagojazzfestival.us); people-watch at the Crown Fountain, artist Jaume Plensa’s interactive work of public art and video sculpture displayed on 50-foot glass block towers of flowing water; and snap photos of Anish Kapoor’s silver, reflecting Cloud Gate sculpture affectionately called “the Bean.”
Enjoy 50 acres of parks, promenades, gardens, shops, eateries and attractions at Navy Pier (600 E. Grand Avenue, www.navypier.com), which attracts more than 8.6 million visitors each year.
Skip the overrated and overcrowded Skydeck at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) and opt for the stellar city views at the John Hancock Observatory (875 N. Michigan Avenue, www.hancockobservatory.com).
DuSable Museum of African- American History (740 E. 56th Place, www.dusablemuseum.org) takes its name from Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, a black man of Haitian and French descent and the city’s first permanent settler. Located in the city’s historic Hyde Park section, the museum is one of the few independent institutions of its kind in the United States and is dedicated to the collection, documentation, preservation and study of the history and culture of Africans and African Americans.
While most tourists flock to Michigan Avenue’s high-end “Magnificent Mile” shops, we prefer perusing the racks at H&M, Forever 21, T.J. Maxx and other budget-friendly retailers on State Street. The street is also home to the 800,000-square-foot Macy’s on State Street (111 N. State Street, www.visitmacyschicago.com). One tour guide told us that many Chicagoans refuse to shop in the store, which resides in the beloved Marshall Fields building, but it’s still worth a visit to see architectural highlights like the first and largest Tiffany glass tile ceiling in the world.
Hoyt’s at Hotel 71 (71 East Wacker Drive, www.hotel71.com/dining/hoyts-en.html) is an impressive new restaurant that overlooks the Chicago River. On a torrential evening in the Windy City, we noshed on scrumptious regional American cuisine with a flair: we started with the delicious deviled deep fried eggs with a side of arugula; devoured our main course of seared salmon loin with grain mustard potatoes, saffron aioli, and fennel salad; and for dessert satisfied out sweet tooth with gourmet mini-cupcakes and apple crumble with vanilla ice cream. To make a reservation, go to www.opentable.com.
Where to Stay
New York Getaways is a fan of Kimpton properties, so we highly recommend the chain’s Hotel Palomar Chicago (505 N. State Street, www.hotelpalomar-chicago.com), which opened in spring 2010. Located in Chicago’s vibrant River North neighborhood, the pet-friendly Palomar features a rooftop indoor pool; an adjacent dining experience, Sable Kitchen & Bar; and in-room fitness and yoga. Cool incentives include the hosted complimentary evening wine hour in the living room lobby; complimentary Chicago-made candy each afternoon; and complimentary morning coffee and tea. The contemporary hotel is convenient to many of Chicago’s most popular attractions, including the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier (www.chicagochildrensmuseum.org). If you plan a girlfriends getaway, take advantage of the Women & Whiskey package, which includes:
Deluxe accommodations for two; three-course chef’s tasting menu including whiskey pairing for two at Sable Kitchen & Bar, named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 2011 “Best New Bars in America,” located adjacent to Hotel Palomar Chicago ($150 value); complimentary copy of “99 Dreams of Whiskey” by Kate Hopkins; and late 2 p.m. checkout (based on availability).
To book Women & Whiskey, call (877) 731-0505 and mention rate code PWHIS. Nightly rates start at $309 per room, and the package must be booked 72 hours in advance of stay.
Or to stay in the center of the action, the regal InterContinental Chicago Miracle Mile (505 North Michigan Avenue, www.icchicagohotel.com) is a prime choice. Step out onto Michigan Avenue for shopping and dining options galore. Plus, Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan Avenue, www.artinstituteofchicago.org) are within walking distance. Rates start at $179 per night. To book a room, call (800) 628 -2112.