I’ll be taking a week long vacation in about a month, and finally visiting Chicago! Yay! We’ll be staying at a hotel on E. Superior St. near the pier (the Cambria) and will make a day trip to Schaumburg to visit a friend there.
So, what are the top recommendations from Dopers? We have tentative plans to have a fancy blowout dinner at Alinea (… thoughts? anyone been there recently?) and my I.T Guy wants to have deep dish pizza. We’ve heard about Gino’s, Rosebud, and Giordanno … any feedback on that matter?
I see there are 2 zoos. Is one significantly better? One is free, so I can temper my expectations accordingly, and I see in their website they have African painted dogs, which I luuuurve. What about the other zoo?
Any other “can’t miss” stuff?
Anyone know a damn thing about Schaumburg, while we’re at it?
Do go into the garden just to the south of the main entrance to enjoy Lorado Taft’s beautiful Fountain of the Great Lakes. There is more excellent Taft sculpture inside the Institute (and all over the city).
The Met has a better Gustave Moreau painting (Oedipus & the Sphinx), but the Institute has a bigger one (Hercules & the Hydra).
Make sure you also see Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “Beata Beatrix” and Arnold Bocklin’s “In the Sea.” And Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist.”
We spent 5 days in Chicago in April. Stayed right in the heart on the river at The Langham. Views of the bridges and the buildings just across the river were spectacular.
What do see:
Art Museum, as mentioned, is excellent and well worth the visit.
Architecture Cruise is fantastic as well. Take the one narrated by the Chicago Architecture society volunteers. Very informative.
See the chrome bean (Cloud Gate) in the Millennium park
Go inside the cultural center to see the Tiffany Dome (it’s across the street from the bean and worth the brief stop.
Do the river walk
Just walk around ogling the architecture everywhere you look
Where to eat:
The best meal we had was at the EMC^2 restaurant at the Albert Hotel (I know… it seems a bit cute but trust me, the food is excellent. You will not regret it.)
The Athletic Association Cherry Circle Room restaurant. Really unique experience. Not a sports bar, though it may feel like it as you walk through the game room. Once inside the restaurant, the feeling is entirely different. But you’ll have to ask for direction if you don’t know to look in the farthest, darkest corner. Good wine selection. Well worth it.
Add the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Field Museum, and I completely agree with Bo. I wasn’t impressed by Lou Malnatis. I was impressed by Frontera Grill—if it’s still there, and Topolobampo. I loved Everest, but it’s kind of stuffy French food. Great view, great wine list.
There’s a ton of, “Wow! I’ve seen that before! This is the original!?” in that museum. You’ll be amazed by how small American Gothic is, and conversely, how big A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. I want to say they’ve a great collection of Tiffany glass as well.
The Brookfield Zoo is, by far, the larger of the two, and has seen a number of updates and upgrades over the past couple of decades.
On the other hand, (a) it’s not free, and (b) it’s also out in the near western suburbs (four blocks from my house ), so it’s not particularly convenient if you’re staying in the city, and spending time seeing attractions there. And, on a nice summer day, it can be quite busy, particularly (and not surprisingly) with families with young kids.
On the other hand, it’s a lot closer to downtown than Schaumburg is.
Honestly, there isn’t a lot to say about Schaumburg. It’s a bedroom community suburb, which also happens to have some big office buildings, and a couple of large shopping malls in it, as well as an IKEA. And, thus, shopping is about the only reason one would go to Schaumburg, if one doesn’t live there (or is visiting someone who lives there).
If one wants true Chicago deep-dish pizza, you’ll want to go to either Pizzeria Uno or Pizzeria Due (two different locations, a block apart from each other, though the same menu and same owners), Lou Malnati’s, or Gino’s East. Pizzeria Uno is where deep dish was invented, though Lou Malnati’s was started by a guy who had worked at Uno. Of those three, I prefer Uno/Due, but you probably won’t go wrong at any of them.
Giordano’s does a deep pizza, but it’s a slightly different style (“stuffed”). Rosebudis an Italian restaurant with several locations, but deep dish pizza isn’t what they do.
If you’ve heard of chef Rick Bayless (he appears on PBS quite a lot, and has had his own cooking shows), he owns and runs both places. He does creative takes on authentic Mexican cuisine, and his restaurants are all very good.
If you haven’t heard of Rick – he’s the far less jerkish brother of sports talk host Skip Bayless.
Also Lou Malnatti’s. One of them layers the bottom of the deepdish with meat, then piles the cheese, tomato, and more meat on top. I marginally prefer that, but really, any one of the four mentioned are great.
As for zoos, go to Brookfield, out in the suburbs.
The Brookfield Zoo is indeed a lot larger than the Lincoln Park Zoo, but most of that acreage is empty space. Seriously, the exhibits are like a city block apart. The LP Zoo packs all the exhibits in pretty close. And it’s free. And it’s right next to other attractions like the Nature Boardwalk, the Lagoon, Cafe Brauer, the Conservatory (a big greenhouse), a bunch of flower gardens, and of course Lincoln Park itself. And the lakefront.
You might look into the Divvy Bike program. Great way to get around if you aren’t going too far.
I definitely second the Architecture Boat Tour, and Buddy Guy’s Legends for Blues, and all the pizza places mentioned. I’m also a big fan of the Untouchables Tour of gangster sights. It’s kind of cheesy, but funny. You never have to leave the big air-conditioned bus.