CHICAGO CELEBRATES SUMMER WITH GUSTO
The Windy City thrives when the heat is on
New Yorkers flee the city during the summer for the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore. Bostonians leave for Martha’s Vineyard or Cape Cod. Chicagoans, they stay put. “As soon as it hits 45 degrees out here, you start seeing people walking in shorts and T- shirts,” says Craig Golden, principal at Blue Star Properties, which has developed many restaurants. “They’re ready. I think that energy translates.”
It translates into a slew of travelers descending on this Midwestern metropolis to join locals in enjoying the many restaurants with outdoor patios, rooftop bars, parks, river cruises, and beaches.
And Chicago rolls out the red carpet for them.
“What makes summer in Chicago so special is simply the incredible variety of special events, festivals, performances and exhibits … set in one of the most visual and stunning backdrops,” says David Whitaker, president and CEO of Choose Chicago, the official tourism board.
Here’s what summer visitors will find.
DOWN BY THE RIVER
Chicago’s buildings literally glow during the summer, and one of the most popular ways to gaze at them is on a cruise down the Chicago River.
The 90- minute twilight cruise by Chicago’s First Lady Cruises operates in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
Of the more than 50 buildings featured, the most famous are the Hancock Center, the Tribune Tower, the Wrigley Building and the Willis Tower.
But there are many other buildings that don’t get as much attention, such as the James R. Thompson Center, the UFOshaped postmodern Helmut Jahn- designed center of state government.
This fall, the city will honor its skyline with the Chicago Architecture Biennial.
Even Chicago’s 1.25- mile Riverwalk is an example of carefully orchestrated urban design.
The downtown waterfront park and pedestrian trail runs along the south bank of the river with restaurants, boat rentals, and benches. In late 2016, the walk was expanded to include even more attractions.
“It’s like a world- class theme park free and open to the public,” Whitaker says.
UP IN THE SKY
On the 21st floor of the Conrad Chicago hotel is a new rooftop lounge called Noyane. It means “hidden roof” in Japanese.
It’s not exactly hidden, though, as even though it just opened in May, it has quickly become known in Chicago as a place with city views to get high- quality sushi and sashimi.
“Chicago is beautiful in the summer and a rooftop bar allows ( guests) to soak in the downtown skyline and lake views,” says Gordon Taylor, director of sales and marketing.
Not far away is Cindy’s at the Chicago Athletic Association hotel. Its terrace has panoramic views of Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago and Lake Michigan.
The LondonHouse hotel has the three- level LH rooftop. The highlight of the top tier is a Roman- style cupola, popular for wedding proposals and private dinners.
The Kimpton Gray Hotel, which opened last August in the historic New York Life Insurance Building, has the 15th floor Boleo with a retractable roof for rainy nights.
For those who want to go beyond downtown, the hip Wicker Park neighborhood has The Robey hotel. It has not one but two rooftop bars, Up & Up and the Cabana Club.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Most people don’t think of Chicago as a beach town, but it’s got 26 beaches.
“Chicago’s lakefront is spectacular and sets the tone and the scene for most of everything else that happens in summer,” says Chicagoan Rob Zwettler.
On a recent afternoon, Oak Street Beach, off the Magnificent Mile, is packed with people play- ing volleyball and Frisbee and drinking vodka cocktails at the Oak Street Beachstro.
There’s a beach for every type of beachgoer in every part of the city.
North Avenue Beach in Lincoln Park draws visitors for yoga, volleyball, and kayaking. 57th Street Beach in Hyde Park sits across from the Museum of Science and Industry.
Even dogs have space on the sand: the Montrose Dog Beach. Humans are allowed, too.
Another popular outdoor recreational area is the world- famous Navy Pier, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year.
And then there are dozens of parks, many with public works of art.
Maggie Daley Park, connected to Millennium Park, is one of Chicago’s newest green spaces. Open since late 2014, it has a rock climbing wall and a three- acre Play Garden inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
CHOW DOWN CHICAGO
Chicago has become such a foodie town that the James Beard Foundation relocated its awards ceremony from New York to the Windy City.
The Alinea Group, known for its three- Michelin- starred Alinea, recently opened a more casual spot. Roister, in the West Loop, is everything Alinea is not. It is loud, serves large plates, has a rustic décor and an open kitchen.
“You can get away with a little more risk- taking,” in Chicago than in other foodie cities, says executive chef Andrew Brochu.
On the more casual end is the new Revival Food Hall, co- developed by Golden. It’s a 24,000square foot marketplace in the Loop, with local vendors selling Hawaiian poke bowls, lobster rolls, Detroit- style pizza, gelato, wine and more.
Sitting at a sandwich bar called Danke inside Revival, Laura Graiff, visiting from Houston, says she enjoys all the city’s dining options. But mostly, she enjoys the energy of the people.
“The friendliness of the people of Chicago, their pride in the city and the city’s history and the fact they want to share that with visitors like us was pretty awesome,” she says.
Chicago’s lakefront teems with activity in summer, and North Avenue Beach is one of the city’s most popular.
Cindy’s is the popular restaurant and terrace with panoramic views at the Chicago Athletic Association hotel.
Sunset cruises traverse the river during warm river months.