Nicknamed “The City of Big Shoulders,” Chicago sets the bar pre y high.But with its strollable neighborhoods, sunny lakefront parks and thriving food scene, America’s third-largest city more than carries the load
Author Layla Schlack Photography Bob Stefko
DAY 3 | Between the boat tour and all your wandering, you feel as though you’ve gotten an up-close- and-personal view of much of the city. Time for the macro version: the Skydeck (1) at the Willis (née Sears) Tower. You wander through an exhibit and watch a short film about the city’s architectural and mercantile history, then head up to the 103rd floor. Feeling brave, you step into the (heavily reinforced) plexiglass boxes and look straight down. Lake Michigan seems to extend forever to the east, and Chicagoland almost as far to the west. You snap a couple of pictures and head back down to street level. In the summer, Chicagoans spend a lot of time outdoors, taking advantage of all the park space, so you make like a local and head to Grant Park (2). Check out the waterworks at iconic Buckingham Fountain, and then wander north, admiring the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier. You’ll hit Millennium Park (3), where you’ll take the requisite photo at Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, known to locals as simply “the Bean.” Which reminds you: You’re hungry. You duck into Aria (4) in the Fairmont hotel. The Asian restaurant looks out onto Millennium Park, so you can watch the world go by as you nibble on delicious tuna tartare and short ribs.
Time for a little culture at the Art Institute of Chicago Museum (5). You pay respect to its best-known pieces, such as Georges Seurat’s Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Monet’s Water Lilies and Grant Woods’ American Gothic, and then you head to the new, Renzo Piano–designed Modern Wing. This section opened in 2009 and made the Art Institute the second-largest art museum in the U.S. It seems as though everywhere you look is a Picasso, a Matisse or another bigwig’s work.
Like great food and great architecture, Chicago has an abundance of great art, and you’d be remiss if you didn’t check out the up-and-comers in Fulton Market (6). This working meat market is also chock-full of lofts and warehouses housing art and design studios, galleries and boutiques where the artists themselves greet you with characteristic Midwestern friendliness. Dinner’s an equally arty endeavor at Moto (7), where you splurge on Homaru Cantu and Ben Roche’s 20-course tasting menu, which starts with an edible menu (printed on wafer-thin brioche with cashew butter and reduced blueberry syrup). Cantu and Roche, stars of Discovery Channel’s Future Food, serve unexpected flavor-texture combinations, like puréed corn bread and parsley powder, and visual puns, like a Cuban sandwich made to look like a cigar. Presentation incorporates dry ice and fire turning the two-plus-hour meal into a magic show.
It’s been a full three days, so when your cab deposits you at The James (8), you’re ready to fall into bed. Original artwork like the suitcase installation in the lobby are in keeping with the day you’ve had. Although modern and masculine feeling your king loft suite has cozy touches like dark wood furniture and shag carpeting that make you feel right at home. You keep your eyes open just long enough to watch a movie in the mini projection room and fall asleep dreaming of a city on a lake.
Senior editor LAYLA SCHLACK has taken to topping all of her foods with a pickle spear.
(1) Skydeck, Willis Tower 233 S. Wacker Dr.; Tel: 312-875-0066
(2) Grant Park S. Michigan Avenue at W. Congress Parkway
(3) Millennium Park North Michigan Avenue at East Randolph Street
(4) Aria 200 N. Columbus Dr.; Tel: 312-252-1359
(5) The Art Institute of Chicago 111 S. Michigan Ave.; Tel: 312-443-3638
(6) Fulton Market Fulton Street at N. Desplaines Street
(7) Moto 945 W. Fulton Market; Tel: 312-491-0058
(8) The James 55 E. Ontario; Tel: 312-337-1000