When tourists come to Chicago, they inevitably hit up Chicago’s Loop. This downtown area is near a lot of the city’s cultural attractions: the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cloudgate Statue, and Millennium Park are all within walking distance of the Loop. From the Loop, Navy Pier, the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium are all relatively easy to access via a short drive or public transportation. That said, while the Loop is a great hub or homebase for your trip to Chicago, it’s well worth your time to adventure out into Chicago’s neighborhoods during your stay. These vibrant communities are the true heart of Chicago, some of which are listed below.
Chicago is a big city. With so many great neighborhoods to explore, it can be hard to make a plan of attack. Using your phone’s GPS may prove useful in seeing how to navigate public transit or which neighborhoods are close enough together to form a multiple-neighborhood excursion. Head to one of the many AT&T stores in Illinois to pick up a cell phone or accessories that will keep you charged and help navigate your way. With the right information and equipment, you can experience Chicago the fullest!
One of Chicago’s up-and-coming neighborhoods, Pilsen offers several exciting restaurants and a brimming nightlife. Located on the Lower West Side, Pilsen’s cultural scene focuses on Mexican-American art and a rich neighborhood history. Attend a concert at Thalia Hall in the evening or simply stroll around the neighborhood admiring the murals adorning many alleyways and businesses.
Located seven miles south of the Loop, Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood is perhaps most famous for being the home to the University of Chicago. The university is definitely worth checking out for its architecture and beautiful campus alone. Plus, there are several cultural destinations housed right on campus, from the SMART Museum of Art and the Oriental Institute to Court Theatre, the professional theatre in residence on campus. Off campus, there’s still plenty to enjoy in Hyde Park, such as 57th Street Beach, Midway Plaisance (an expansive stretch of beautiful green space), and the Museum of Science and Industry.
On Chicago’s north side is the neighborhood of Andersonville, the home of one of the largest LGBTQ populations in the city. This neighborhood also features the Swedish American Museum, a major part of the neighborhood’s history. Andersonville is home to dozens of quirky shops and restaurants, from Hamburger Mary’s and Kopi Cafe to the Women and Children First Bookstore and Foursided. George’s Ice Cream is also a must-visit, known for their shakes and sundaes.
Wicker Park and Bucktown
Wicker Park and Bucktown are both quite close together, with boundaries bleeding in to each other just outside downtown. Known as a center for all things creative, this neighborhood has a robust nightlife and live music scene. The Flat Iron Arts Building is home to many art galleries, and the Den Theatre similarly houses rotating theatre companies throughout its multiple venues. For fans of craft beer and cocktails, The Violet Hour and Piece are both must-visits in these two neighborhoods.
Sometimes characterized as a “hipster” neighborhood, Logan Square has plenty of trendy, hip options for its visitors and residents. Located on Chicago’s Northwest Side, Logan Square is home to the Charnel House, a multidisciplinary arts space, The Logan Theatre, showing the latest movies, and the historic Congress Theater. Gourmet coffee and artisanal eats also await visitors to Logan Square, with local favorites including Fat Rice, D’Noche, and Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits.
Historically a German neighborhood, Lincoln Square is home to an abundance of shops and restaurants great for browsing through. A fountain in the center of the square accompanies a plaza with several local restaurants close by. Cafe Sel Marie is one popular spot, as are Gather, The Warbler, and the fancifully prepared walking tacos from Taco in a Bag. Experience history, music, and movies in Lincoln Square, too, with the Dank Haus German American Cultural Center, Old Town School of Folk Music, and historic Davis Theater.
Pullman Historic District
Located on Chicago’s South Side, the Pullman Historic District is definitely worth the trip. Built as a planned community for Pullman’s Palace Car Company, this quiet neighborhood abounds with history. A walking tour throughout the neighborhood and guided tour within the museum are both valuable ways to learn more about the neighborhood’s history. Pullman is also home to the Pullman United Methodist Church, dating back to the late 1800s. Grab a bite across from the church at The Pullman Cafe, where friendly staff will share their own stories about the history of this neighborhood.