Kerrie here! I jetted off to “The Windy City” last week for Thanksgiving and enjoyed some of Chicago’s greatest spots! If you’ve never been before, or even if you have, take a read about my time there and check out my suggestions for where to get that “big city” feel and where to seek out something a little more local.
BIG CITY DINING: RL RESTAURANT
Located adjacent to the world’s largest Ralph Lauren store, the Chicago flagship on Michigan Avenue, RL Restaurant represents Ralph Lauren’s debut in the restaurant industry. Opened in 1999, the restaurant features the vision and décor of Ralph Lauren and modern city-club cuisine.
The food is inspired by American classics — seafood, steaks, chops, salads, and sandwiches; a menu that stands apart from fashion and trends. We ordered martinis, Manhattans, Bloody Marys and corned beef on rye, cheeseburgers, grilled cheese and shrimp cocktail!
OFF THE GRID DINING: BUTTERMILK
Go off the Chicago beaten path and discover comfort food. Founded in 2015, Buttermilk is a mix of good old home cooking and a dash of culinary genius. Located at 7 West State Street in downtown Geneva, Buttermilk has an expansive menu that is sure to please—making every customer (including my husband) come back for more. The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming for any occasion, whether it’s a gathering of family and friends or a romantic brunch for two. We enjoyed it with our nieces and nephews.
BIG CITY SHOPPING: MAGNIFICENT MILE
When it comes to the world’s great thoroughfares, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile goes toe-to-toe with New York’s Fifth Avenue or the Champs-Élysées in Paris. A wide, flower-filled boulevard bounded by the Chicago River on the south and Oak Street to the north, the Mag Mile constantly bustles with crowds of locals and visitors alike.
The Magnificent Mile’s heart and soul is the Historic Water Tower, a striking limestone structure at Michigan and Chicago avenues. As one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Historic Water Tower and its partner Pumping Station across the street symbolize the city’s resiliency as well as its flair for the dramatic. The Historic Water Tower is now home to the City Gallery, which features a rotating display of works by local artists. The Pumping Station houses Lookingglass Theatre Company, a hotbed of cutting-edge works founded by graduates of Northwestern University (including “Friends” alum David Schwimmer).
You’ve certainly found the right place if shopping is your bag. Start at The Shops at North Bridge, a collection of upscale stores and restaurants that serves as the base of North Michigan Avenue. Here you’ll find one of the country’s largest Nordstrom stores, as well as chic shops like Hugo Boss, Swarovski and Vosges Haut-Chocolat, all in an ultramodern, mega-mall setting. Our visit was during Black Friday so you can only imagine the fun we had!
OFF THE GRID SHOPPING: GENEVA
With over 160 specialty shops and restaurants, downtown historic Geneva is one of the best shopping and dining experiences, not to mention picture perfect. From the refurbished downtown storefronts to the dozens of treasured Third Street Victorian homes that now house over 100 unique specialty shops and quaint eateries, you will want to make Geneva a stop on your trip to Illinois. Our favorite part was how they were ready to celebrate the holidays, lining the streets with beautiful arrangements for purchase to get your home ready for the season.
BIG CITY SIGHTS: MILLENNIUM PARK
Completed in 2004, Millennium Park is a state-of-the-art collection of architecture, landscape design and art located in the heart of the city. Chicago’s second-largest visitor attraction, it is a lively gathering spot welcoming five-million visitors annually to enjoy hundreds of cultural programs including concerts, exhibitions, tours and family activities.
Millennium Park, open and free to the public, is truly the front yard of Chicago. The park features 319 acres of mixed-use space including the revolutionary Jay Pritzker Pavilion and concert lawn, several major additions to the city’s public art collection, a five-acre urban garden, a seasonal ice skating rink, a theatre, monuments and sculptural bridges. The park is one of the largest green roofs in the world, sitting atop a railway and parking garages that service the city at large.
OFF THE GRID SIGHTS: ANY PARK
If you have the time, enjoy Chicago’s brisk air and sunshine and pick up a football game for six or more. We got our steps in and sweat on before indulging in our Thanksgiving feast by simply walking to the park and enjoying what the Chicago area has to offer by moving our bodies. The climate will make you feel refreshed, full of gratitude and ready to take on the day! (My team may have won.) 😉