At one point, Chicago was home to the tallest building in the world, the Sears Tower. When the building's new owners renamed it "Willis" Tower, Chicagoans shook their heads in disbelief and refused to call it by anything but its original name. The same spirit surrounds the Windy City's iconic Cloud Gate, the formal title of the giant reflective Bean in lakefront Millenium Park.
Chicagoans know what they like and what they don't. While it'd be easy enough to experience the city by visiting its most recognizable places, tourists would miss out on the authentic, markedly fierce passion residents have for their less traveled attractions. Anyone looking for a well-rounded, full-fledged Chicago getaway should add these local favorites to the list.
10 Get The Day Off To A Good Start At Werewolf Coffee Bar
It's essential to get a good caffeine buzz to fuel a day of navigating Chicago's bustling city streets. Tourists can do it in style at the Werewolf Coffee Bar, a unique dig located in the trendy Bucktown neighborhood. Patrons place their orders at a food truck counter parked inside the industrial-chic building.
It's an excellent place for a classic cup of freshly brewed bean juice, but Werewolf's specialty drinks make it a must-stop spot. The Charcoal Latte is a dark and glittery concoction that tastes and looks like a work of art. For a hint of pink, sip on the Sweet Beet Latte, a gorgeous rosy beverage flavored with vanilla beans and decorated with dried rosebuds and a little bit of sparkle.
9 Enjoy The Gilded Age At The Driehaus Museum
The Gilded Age in America is marked by extreme materialism, and there is no better display of ostentatiousness than the Richard H. Driehaus Museum on the North Side. Opulence seeps from every nook and cranny of the mansion of the late Samuel M. Nickerson, a wealthy 19th-century banker. Chicago businessman and philanthropist Richard H. Driehaus acquired the residence and opened it to the public as a museum.
The museum exhibits the preserved interior and a collection of fine arts. Guests will see elaborate stained glass windows, monumentally expensive furniture, a rare grand piano, way too many chandeliers, and plenty of marble sculptures. The permanent collections are complemented by rotating exhibits, which have featured the headless mannequins of Yinka Shonibare and costumes from Downton Abbey.
8 Feel The Blues Buddy Guy's Legends
Legendary Blues master Buddy Guy came to the Windy City in the late 1950s, and Chicagoans couldn't be happier about his decision to stick around for the long haul. Tourists need to head to premier Blues club Buddy Guy's Legends for an unforgettable night of live music. Talented musicians hit the stage every night of the week, and the kitchen cooks up authentic Louisiana cuisine to pay homage to Buddy's home state. Buddy Guy himself graces the stage several nights throughout January, reminding patrons exactly why he deserves his spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
7 Find Something Strange At Woolly Mammoth
Anyone walking by Woolly Mammoth at night might get a little creeped out by the decor, but a visit during operating hours is definitely worth it. The kooky antique store features an impressive collection of whimsical oddities, including taxidermied animals, funerary art, vintage books, and so much more. Guests can get lost in the strangeness of it all and likely find a unique gift for that one person who seems to have everything.
6 Explore The Garfield Park Conservatory
The Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest in the country, and visitors who step foot into the greenhouse will feel like they've entered a fairytale rainforest. The unbelievable collection of "landscape art under glass" features thousands of species of flora, including some plants that are over two centuries old. Among the exhibits are the Desert House, Fern Room, and the Show House, which puts on impressive winter and spring flower shows. The quiet natural oasis amid a bustling metropolis is always free, though advanced reservations are currently required.
5 Grab A Bite At The French Market
There are more than macarons at Chicago's French Market. In fact, there's so much food that hungry eyes won't know where to begin. The indoor food market is open year-round and is the perfect place to get a quick and delicious meal in the city. Visitors can enjoy a top-tier sweet treat at Bon Appetit Crêperie or a locally favorited lobster roll at The Happy Lobster. With cuisine from the Philippines, Japan, India, Belgium, Korea, and so many more, visitors will find they can eat an entire day away.
4 Go Off The Grid At Space p11
Space p11 is sure to get visitors talking about what they've just seen. The website describes its gallery located in the Chicago Pedway system as "an independent gallery for off-grid art, architecture, and culture." Innovative artists experiment with all sorts of media, often utilizing human beings as canvases. Exhibits frequently change, so guests are guaranteed a unique experience, unlike anything they've seen at an art gallery before.
3 Get The High Score At The Logan Arcade
Nostalgia (and beer) are on tap at the Logan Arcade. The cool hangout spot features tons of vintage pinball machines and video games in a casual setting. A full-service bar serves a beer for every palate. Recently, the barcade started serving up a fully vegan menu featuring classic bar fare like hot dogs, hush puppies, and (cauliflower) wings. Guests will feel right at home walking across the aged wooden floors with a beer in hand in the company of fellow game lovers.
2 Eat Like A President At MacArthurs
MacArthur's restaurant is a must for Southern comfort food good enough for the president. In his book The Audacity of Hope, former President Barack Obama said the cafeteria-style restaurant was one of his all-time favorites. The eatery features a drool-worthy collection of soul-food favorites like fried chicken, ribs, mac and cheese, collard greens, and sweet potato pie.
1 Snap A Pic Big Monster Toys
Every city has at least one spot for a brag-worthy Instagram shot, and the giant yellow door at Big Monster Toys is one of Chicago's best (maybe even better than The Bean!) A green monster who is at once terrifying and adorable peeps through the window as people hang from the giant doorknob. Guests can't go inside to see the beast up close because award-winning toy designers are hard at work crafting playthings for kids of all ages in one of the coolest office buildings of all time.