The Windy City thrives when the heat is on

USA TODAY International Edition - - LIFE - Nancy Tre­jos USA TO­DAY

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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