The Near North is the shop-and-awe center of Chicago. It's bounded by North Avenue to the north, the Chicago River to the west and south, and Lake Michigan to the east.
With a whirlwind rush of department stores, restaurants, and luxurious hotels, there's no better place to abuse your budget than the Near North and its celebrated Magnificent Mile.
The Near North includes the neighborhoods of River North, full of art galleries, commercial lofts, and some tourist restaurants, nightclubs and bars; Streeterville and the Gold Coast, with expensive living for rich folks and many of the city's most impressive hotels; and the most prestigious shopping district in Chicago, the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue, which includes one of Chicago's most beloved landmarks, the Water Tower.
This area has been a part of Chicago from the beginning, when Fort Dearborn was built on the other side of the river in 1803 (and burned to the ground nine years later, establishing an unfortunate civic trend). But ever since the early 1920s, when bridges were built to draw shoppers away from State Street in the Loop, there has been too much to sell, too much awe to inspire, and not a minute to spare. That's why the Near North can be such a delight at a tourist's pace. The locals are in a hurry, but if you're not, the serene image of the old Water Tower or the resolutely quiet riverwalk can take on the feel of a private discovery, even with all of these people around.
That's not to say you can't have fun getting caught up in the hustle and bustle, of course. The sheer amount of shopping on Michigan Avenue cannot be overstated. The world's most elite fashion designers are represented here, and the rest wish they were. River North has many of the city's busiest (if not best) clubs, with a dense row on Rush Street. In the Near North, you'll find a few significant members of the Chicago skyline, including the John Hancock Center and Lake Point Tower, which stands alone to the east at the end of a new, steel-and-glass future-scape in south Streeterville; it makes for an impressive view from Lake Shore Drive, and serves as an entryway to one of the city's most popular tourist spots, Navy Pier, a great place for entertaining children and catching the breeze from Lake Michigan with an evening stroll or a turn on the 150-foot tall Ferris Wheel.
What's that island?
That is Goose Island, an oddity of downtown Chicago, from which Chicago's biggest craft brewery takes its name. Named after an early Irish immigrant community that supposedly raised geese as livestock, the island was formed when landowner and Mayor William Ogden oversaw the building of a canal around its east side. Throughout its history, the island was an industrial center, although in recent times it seemed its riverfront location and splendid downtown views would ensure its conversion to condominiums. But that change was halted in 1990 when Mayor Daley backed its new status as a "Protected Manufacturing District."
The CTA Red Line has stops near the entertainment in River North (Clark/Division) and the Magnificent Mile (Chicago, Grand).
The CTA Brown Line and Purple Line stop in the midst of the River North galleries (Chicago), and the Merchandise Mart has the next stop all to itself.
An intricate web of CTA bus lines serves the Near North, most converging upon the northern end of Michigan Avenue. Several express buses from other parts of the city serve Michigan Avenue, notably the 147 Outer Drive Express from the north side and 3 King Drive Express from the south side. Once you're here, though, you'll find it better to cover the Magnificent Mile on foot.
22 Clark is useful for travelers coming from the Loop and the North Side to River North.
65 Grand travels down Grand Avenue, connecting with both the Red Line and the Blue Line further west.
66 Chicago travels down Chicago Ave from the lakefront to Michigan Avenue, through River North, and on to West Town.
124 Navy Pier serves Navy Pier directly from train hub Union Station and Millennium Park in the Loop.
125 Water Tower Express brings you to the Water Tower from the other Loop train hub, Ogilvie/Northwestern Station, and the Merchandise Mart.
157 Streeterville runs close to Navy Pier and on to the Loop.
Free trolleys run from Navy Pier through the area seven days a week, year round, during the pier's open hours.
Don't drive to the Near North unless you have a very good reason for doing so. Streets are packed with taxis, confused tourists, desperate businessmen late for something or other, and even the occasional horse. Your knuckles don't need the strain.
Enlarged Magnificent Mile map
Along the Magnificent Mile is a one day and night itinerary that connects the Near North with the Loop for shopping, food, skyscrapers, parks, and amazing views of Chicago from high and low.
The Arts Club of Chicago, 201 E Ontario St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 787-3997, . M-F 11AM-6PM. Easy to miss, as it's located on a side street without much in the way of signage (or advertising), but this gallery has a long history — it opened in 1916, and hosted Pablo Picasso's art show in the U.S. Visitors will find three public art shows each year, usually of exceptional quality. Note the Mies van der Rohe central staircase, which was transplanted from the club's previous Mies-designed location.Free.
Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum, 376 N Michigan Ave (Lake CTA), ☎ +1 312 977-0227, . Th-M 10AM-5PM. Open late spring (mid-May), summer, and fall. A new, small museum spread over the five floors of the southwest tower of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. Visitors can see displays on the history of Chicago's famously abused river, and also check out the machinery used for raising the bridge.$4 adults, $3 children 6-12 and seniors, children 5 and under free.
Hancock Observatory, John Hancock Center, 875 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ 1-888 875-8439, . 9AM-11PM. 360-degree view from the 94th floor. Not quite as high as the Sears Tower Skydeck, but with a better view, and from January to March, an ice-skating rink! For drinks, see the Signature Room below.$15 adults, $10 children.
Loyola University Museum of Art (Chicago Red Line), 820 N Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 312 915-7600, . W-Su 11AM-6PM, to 8PM Tu. Right next to the Water Tower, LUMA is best known for its exhibits on sacred art and architecture, but it occasionally veers into modern art as well, such as an installation of Andy Warhol's silver balloons.$6, free Tu.
Marina City, 300 N State St (Merchandise Mart Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 222-1111, . M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-2PM. No tours available, unless you're cheeky enough to fill out a fake rental application (24 hours in advance), but these iconic twin buildings are worth a photo. (You might recognize them from the cover of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, among many others.) Designed to be "a city within a city," they include a wildly overpriced bowling alley and the House of Blues (see Drink below). If you like Marina City, be sure to visit the South Loop for two more of architect Bertrand Goldberg's corncob structures.
Outside the Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E Chicago Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 280-2660, . Tu 10AM-8PM, W-Su 10AM-5PM. Contemporary art from around the world. The MCA has a great location and plenty of financial backing, but it's still fighting for recognition in the museum world; while not an upper-tier institution as yet, that has resulted in some interesting exhibitions. There isn't much of a permanent collection, so check what's on before you go. Also, Wolfgang Puck operates a lunch-only eatery in the MCA.$12 ($7 student, free Tuesdays).
Newberry Library, 60 W Walton St (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 943–9090, . Reading rooms Tu-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-1PM. The oldest public library in Chicago, although not part of the city library system. The collection focuses on the humanities, American and European history, and the age of exploration. Occasional author events are held.Free.
Pritzker Military Library, 104 S Michigan Ave (Monroe Red Line), ☎ +1 312 374-9333, . W 11AM-4PM, Th 11AM-7PM F-Sa 10AM-4PM. A goldmine for people interested in military history, with a vast collection of books, prints, photos, and other military artifacts. Evening events with major authors and Medal of Honor recipients are held throughout the year, mostly on Thursday nights; check the schedule on the website.Free.
Tribune Tower, 435 N Michigan Ave (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 222-9100. Built in 1925, the walls of the Tribune Tower contain rocks from many famous world landmarks, including: the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon, the Great Pyramid, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, the Great Wall of China, the Berlin Wall, and most recently from the demolished World Trade Center. The Tribune Tower even managed to get its hands on a moon rock, but so far NASA hasn't allowed it to add the rock to the wall.
Trump Tower, 401 N Wabash Ave. 1362 ft. The Trump Hotel and luxury residential building is both the newest member of the Chicago skyline, completed at the beginning of 2009, and the tallest after the Sears Tower — indeed, it is the second tallest in the United States, ninth in the world. The Donald intended for it to be the tallest in the world, but decided to scale back following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The design features three prominent setbacks at the height of nearby buildings: the Wrigley Building, Marina City, and 330 N Wabash, which, combined with its singularly reflective exterior, allow this supertall to blend into the skyline, almost to the point where you could overlook it. As intended, the building reflects and interacts with the Chicago skyline, rather than imposing itself upon it with its great height. Regardless, you will not likely miss this building, and it's plenty interesting to examine — its asymmetric form ensures that you will see something quite different from any different vantage point.
Water Tower, Chicago Ave & Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line). In 1871, when Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicked over the lantern in her barn — or was framed for the act, depending on who you ask — the Gothic Revival spires of Water Tower were only two years old. Today, along with the Pumping Station on the other side of the street, the Water Tower is the last, dream-like symbol of the Old Chicago that disappeared in the Fire. Surrounded by hotels and colossal department stores, it's also the icon of the new city that arose. At night, the Water Tower is lit from within, and it's a memorable sight. Inside, the vintage machinery is long gone (along with the water), and the plain interior is occasionally used as a gallery space.
Centered between the Merchandise Mart and the Chicago Brown Line station, with a few galleries that stray closer to Old Town or Michigan Avenue, River North boasts the largest arts and design district in North America outside of Manhattan. Art galleries tend to be concentrated closer to Chicago Avenue, with more design galleries closer to the Merchandise Mart. The entire area is walkable and makes for fun browsing. Although everything on display is for sale, admission is almost always free, and visitors needn't fear gallery owners putting on the hard sell.
There is a free art gallery tour starting from the Starbucks under the Chicago Brown Line stop on Saturdays at 11AM. The tour usually visits four galleries and lasts about an hour and a half.
Aldo Castillo Gallery, 675 N Franklin (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 337-2536, . Tu-Sa 11AM-5PM. Specializes in contemporary and classic Latin American art.
Andrew Bae Gallery, 300 W Superior (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 335-8601, . Tu-Sa 10AM-6PM. Specializes in contemporary Asian art, particularly Korean and Japanese.
Ann Nathan Gallery, 212 W Superior (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 664-6622, . Tu-F 10AM-5:30PM, Sa 11AM-5PM. Focuses on emerging artists, with an emphasis on contemporary realism, and some African tribal art.
Catherine Edelman Gallery, 300 W Superior St (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 266-2350, . Tu-Sa 10AM-5:30PM. Contemporary photography and mixed-media.
Ken Saunders Gallery, 230 W Superior St (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 573-1400, . Tu-Sa 11AM-5PM. Contemporary glass sculptures.
Maya Polsky Gallery, 215 W Superior St (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 440-0055, . Tu-F 10AM-5PM, Sa 11AM-5PM. Consistently one of the most intriguing galleries in the area, with playful, well-displayed paintings and sculpture both local and from Russia.
Melanee Cooper Gallery, 740 N Franklin St (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 202-9305, . Tu-Sa 12-4PM. Fascinating contemporary art, mostly abstract and representational.
Richard Gray Gallery, 875 N Michigan Ave, Suite 2503 (Hancock Center) (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 642-8877, . M-F 10AM-5:30PM. Big and very big names from modern and contemporary American and European art, including Millennium Park sculptor Jaume Plensa.
Stephen Daiter Gallery, 311 W Superior St (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 787-3350, . W-Sa 11AM-6PM. Artistic and documentary photography from America and Europe.
Valerie Carberry Gallery, 875 N Michigan Ave, Suite 2510 (Hancock Center) (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 397-9990, . M-F 10AM-5PM. Pre and post-war American art, particularly 1930-1949.
For disabled visitors
The Grand station on the Red Line, the closest to Navy Pier, is not wheelchair accessible. But the Chicago station, the next stop north, is fully ADA-compliant. From the Chicago station, the #66 Chicago bus goes straight to Navy Pier.
600 E Grand Ave (At the end of Illinois St), ☎ +1 800 595-7437, . Open 10AM daily; closes in summer Su-Th 10PM, F-Sa midnight, fall/spring Su-Th 8PM, F-Sa 10PM, winter M-Th 8PM, F-Sa 10PM, Su 7PM. Built in 1916, Navy Pier has had many different uses over the years; in 1994, it became a tourist attraction, with more than 50 acres of restaurants, shops, and activities by Lake Michigan. It's an easy place to entertain children. Unless otherwise noted, all of the attractions are open during Navy Pier operating hours. Several buses reach Navy Pier, including #29 State, #65 Grand, #66 Chicago, and #124 Navy Pier Express from the two Metra stations in the Loop.Parking available $19-23 per day.
AeroBalloon, ☎ +1 312 646 827-6287 for weather, +1 312 224-8827 to make reservations for rides between 8AM-10AM. In season, usually through October, and weather permitting: M-Th 8AM-10PM, F-Su 8AM-midnight. The hot air balloon stays tethered to the pier, but it heads 350 feet into the air for spectacular skyline views.$25 adults, $15 children; SpeedPass available for $5 more.
Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze, ☎ +1 888 893-7300, . Hours vary; usually 10AM-8PM. 4000 square feet of tunnels and mazes for adults & kids over 7 years old.$10.95 adults, $9.95 children.
Bike Chicago, ☎ +1 888 245-3929, . Summer 8AM-10PM, Spring/Fall 9AM-7PM. A wide variety of bikes, rollerblades, pedicabs and other wheeled vehicles are available for rent. Tours are also available.Rentals from $8/hr to $34/day.
Tall Ship WINDY, Lake Michigan
Boat Cruises. Numerous boat cruises depart from the pedestrian-only "Dock Street," operated by several different companies. Some head inland on the Chicago River, and others stick to Lake Michigan. Double-decker tours also ply the boardwalk.
Chicago Children's Museum, 700 E Grand Avenue, #127, ☎ +1 312 527-1000, . 10AM-5PM; Th to 8PM. Hands-on exhibits for kids, including the popular Dinosaur Expedition.Admission $8, free Thursday after 5PM, free for children on the first Monday of every month.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E Grand Ave (Navy Pier), ☎ +1 312 595-5600, . The CST offers high production values and somewhat bland production experiences; not bad, mind you, but not likely to leave you with much more than a pleasant, faintly-remembered evening. Still, if you're in the mood for Shakespeare, you'll find a professionally-mounted production of one of his major works here throughout the year.$54-$70.
Fireworks. Summer: W 9:30PM, Sa 10:15PM. You can watch the fireworks display from anywhere on the Pier. Booze and live music of varying quality are available at The Beer Garden (+1 312 595-5439, summer W-Sa to midnight, Su to 10PM).
IMAX Movie Theater, ☎ +1 312 595-5MAX, . Showtimes begin 10AM-8PM. Both Hollywood movies and IMAX films are shown on the six-story movie screen here.Tickets $9-$15.
Internet Access. Available at terminals next to the Haagen Dazs cafe about halfway down Dock Street, just past the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.$4/30min with ice cream purchase.
Pier Park, . S-Th 10AM-8PM, F-Sa 10AM-10PM. Includes the signature Ferris Wheel, a mini-golf course, remote-controlled boats, and more.Each attraction $5, Ferris Wheel $6.
Skyline Stage, ☎ +1 312 902-1500, . Box office 12-6PM, W-Sa. Shows of mild interest, ranging from jazz and blues to small touring circuses.Tickets $14.50-$29.50 for most shows.
Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, ☎ +1 312 595-5024, . A mix of antique pieces, including several from Tiffany in New York, and also some contemporary work. Curator-led tours are available at 2PM on Thursdays.Free.
A few Chicago restaurants have branches here . There's also a food court, and vendors along the dock during the summer. You're much better off making the short walk to one of the nearby restaurants off the pier, though — you'll save money and likely eat better. There's no cost for re-entry to Navy Pier, after all.
Among the restaurants, The Billy Goat and Charlie's Ale House serve beers that are brewed in-house. Try the dark beer from the Billy Goat or head down to the The Beer Garden to sample Chicago brewers Goose Island.
Shopping  is in plentiful supply, although it's pretty much limited to tourist-souvenir Chicago kitsch type stuff.
Riverwalk near Tribune Tower
Horse-drawn carriages ply routes along the Magnificent Mile and through Streeterville, usually beginning around the Water Tower. (You might see police officers on horses as well.) While there are too many cars to establish the kind of atmosphere you might expect in, say, Central Park, you'll probably know whether the night calls for a carriage ride, and choose accordingly. Expect to pay about $35 for a half-hour tour. College students also roam the area with small yellow cabs attached to the backs of bicycles for a low-cost, low-point alternative.
Drury Lane Theater, 175 E Chestnut St (Water Tower Place) (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 642-2000, . Box office opens 10AM, 11AM Sundays. Part of the Broadway in Chicago crew, although most of their offerings are locally-produced, amiable shtick.Tickets $59.50-$69.50. Dinner packages are offered with the Mity Nice Grill.
Lookingglass Theater, 821 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 337-0665, . Box office opens at 10AM on weekdays, 11AM weekends. Known for their inventive, acrobatic shows; their repertory production of "Lookingglass Alice" is a knock-out. It's worth peeking inside even if you don't plan to see a show, though, to check out the insides of the old Pumping Station; unlike the Water Tower, its more famous sibling across the street, there's some interesting old machinery to see.Tickets range from $20 on weekdays to $58 on weekends.
Oak Street Beach, between 500–1550 Lake Shore Dr. Open during the summer, from dawn to dusk. There is plenty of everybody doing everything at Oak Street Beach. Beyond swimming and sun-tanning, it's one of the city's most popular spots for beach volleyball, and there are concrete paths for cycling and skating. (Do not, however, plan to eat lunch at the overpriced restaurant on the beach.) To get here, cross under Lake Shore Drive through a pedestrian underpass. If the crowds are a bit much, walk a short way south to the smaller, lesser-known beach next to Milton Olive Park (named for a local Medal of Honor recipient).
Events & Festivals
Air & Water Show. Every August, the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds headline a five-hour show over Lake Michigan. "Show Central" is at North Avenue Beach, but the action may be viewed anywhere from Northerly Island to Montrose Point, inland through Lincoln Park, and offshore by boat. (If you go by water, take a big boat, as the heavy traffic makes for choppy, seasickness-inducing waves.) A dress rehearsal takes place on Friday, often with multiple run-throughs by the headlining act. You won't see 100% of the weekend show, but it's a great way to avoid the crowds.
The Magnificent Mile
One of the most prestigious shopping streets in the world, this stretch of Michigan Avenue is home to massive department stores, wildly expensive boutiques, and larger-than-usual stores for national chains like The Gap, Banana Republic, and Crate & Barrel. Some retailers even have two or more branches here: one standing alone, and another in one of the department stores. This isn't the place to look for discounts, though. Remember, you're not shopping here because it's cheap — you're shopping here because it's the Magnificent Mile.
900 N Michigan Ave, (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 915-3916, . M-Sa 10AM-7PM, Su noon-6PM. 70 specialty shops in the most stunning of the Michigan Avenue department stores. Includes MaxMara, among the most expensive stores for women's apparel on a street that's known for expense.
American Girl Place, 111 E Chicago Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 877-247-5223, . Su-W 9AM-7PM, Th-Sa 9AM-9PM. Dolls. Doll houses. Doll hair salon. A doll hospital. Doll photo studio. Tea with dolls. Brunch, lunch, and dinner with dolls. Stories about dolls. Theater with dolls. Dolls starting controversies by calling Pilsen an unsafe place to grow up. Other than that, pretty much your average store.
Ann Taylor, 600 N Michigan Ave (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 587-8301, . M-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Money rushes out of wallets at this fashionable women's store, anchor of the 600 N Michigan shopping complex. If you like what you see, also check out the Ann Taylor Loft at 520 N Michigan, and another at Water Tower Place (see below).
Apple Store, 679 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 981-4104, . M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 11AM-6PM. For some, a welcome respite from all of the clothes; for others, just more expensive fashion. This Apple-sleek showroom carries the full line of the company's products and accessories, and is usually packed with on-lookers pawing at all of the pretty designs. Several workshops are held each day for the true believers.
Burberry, 633 N Michigan Ave (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 266-7440, . M-Sa 9:30AM-6PM, Su 12-5PM. Fashion for men, women, and children from the English retail legend, famous for their made-to-order trench coats.
Cartier Inc., 630 N Michigan Ave (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 787-2500, . M-Sa 10AM-6PM. Boutique for the French jeweler and watchmaker.
The Disney Store, 717 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 654-9208. M-F 10AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-7PM, Su 11AM-6PM. You know what you're getting into when you walk through these doors. It's the perfect place to reward a Disney fan who's been well-behaved during your family trip, but if you're on a budget, don't risk coming within two blocks.
Ermenegildo Zegna, 645 N Michigan Ave (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 587-9660, . M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 12-5PM. All of the elements for an excessively fashionable man, from shoes to shirts to suits.
Giorgio Armani, 800 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 751-2244, . M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 12-5PM. Boutique for the star Italian designer of men and women's fashion.
Neiman Marcus Showroom, 737 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 642-5900, . M-Sa 10AM-7PM, Su 12-5PM. Prada, Chanel, and other designer accessories in this distinctive Michigan Avenue store.
Niketown, 669 N Michigan Ave (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 642-6363, . M-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 10AM-6PM. Not quite the hot-spot it was after it opened in 1993, when lines wrapped around the block to get in, but Niketown still exists somewhere between a store and a shrine to Nike products. Athletes from visiting sports teams can often be seen here paying homage (and cash).
Nordstrom's, 55 E Grand Ave (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 464-1515, . M-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Clothes and accessories for men, women, and children, including a wide selection of shoes.
Old Plank Antiques, 3 E Huron St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 981-7000, . M-Sa 11AM-5PM. Antiques from around the world, intended to be accessible to budgets large and small.
Salvatore Ferragamo, 645 N Michigan Ave (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 397-0464, . M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 12-5PM. Fashionable boutique for women's apparel and accessories. The store is far from cluttered; what they have will sell, and they know it.
The Shops at North Bridge, 520 N Michigan Ave (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 327-2300, . M-Sa 10AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Includes another Nordstom, a Spa Nordstom, a LEGO store, fifty more specialty shops, and physically connected to the Conrad Chicago hotel.
Tails in the City, 1 E Delaware Pl (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 649-0347, . M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 12-5PM. Designer treats and accessories for the fashion-conscious cat and the trend-minded dog.
Tiffany & Co., 730 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 944-7500, . M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 12-5PM. Internationally renowned retailer of jewelry, sterling silverware, china, crystal, and more.
Water Tower Place, 835 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 440-3166, . M-Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Features an eight-level atrium and over a hundred stores, from fashionable clothes to the Chicago Cubs Clubhouse.
Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, 357 W Chicago Ave (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 944-3085. M-W,F 9AM-5PM, Th 9AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-4PM. Offers "Historical Americana," namely Lincoln and Civil War items, rare and autographed books, an amazing collection of Civil War photographs and salt prints, and all sorts of fascinating miscellany. Check out their "Essential" shelves for aspiring collectors and see how your own stacks up. Appraisal services are also available.
The Merchandise Mart, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza (Merchandise Mart Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 527-7990, . Hours vary by store. The Mart strides the barrier between River North and the Loop, with a train station and a zip code all to itself, not to mention a Holiday Inn, several offices, a school, two radio stations, restaurants, and, of course, shopping. It also includes the Chicago Apparel Center . None of the stores are considered major destinations by themselves, but there are frequent trade shows, and many other reasons for business travelers to find themselves at the Mart.
Billy Goat Tavern
This is expensive territory — if you're on a tight budget, you're likely to be stuck with fast food. Most of the department stores on Michigan Ave have food courts.
The Billy Goat, 430 N Michigan Ave, Lower Level (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 222-1525, . M-F 6AM-2AM, Sa 10AM-2AM, Su 11AM-2AM. The original location of the famous cheezborger joint. Due to its location under the Tribune Tower, this one has been a haunt for Chicago newspapermen for decades. The burgers are dry and little more than patty and cheese, but delicious nonetheless.$4-7.
Dao Thai, 230 E Ohio St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 337-0000, . Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM. Thai food in a spacious, beautiful dining room with plenty of flavor and filling portions. The service can get a bit distracted, but the cooks are always focused.$7-9.
Downtown Dogs, 804 N Rush St (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 951-5141. M-Th 11AM-8PM, F-Sa 11AM-9PM, Su 11AM-7PM. Chicago-style hot dogs, all the way down to the traditional prohibition on ketchup. And dog lovers (of the furry kind) will likely be tickled pink by the wild, mixed-media canine propaganda.
Mr. Beef, 666 N Orleans St (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 337-8500. 8AM-5PM M-Th, 10:30AM-4AM F-Sa. Should Mr. Beef ever decide to raise an army, city hall ought to be concerned; his Italian beef sandwiches have a fiercely loyal following among the River North lunch crowd, some of whom won't bother with anywhere else. It's closed for dinner, but open for the late-night weekend club scene.
Original Rock 'n Roll McDonald's, 600 N Clark St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 664-7940. Open 24 hours. It's still McDonald's, with all that entails, and reportedly the third-busiest one in the United States; but there's vintage rock and roll memorabilia to excuse the visit to your conscience, if that's possible.
Portillo's, 100 W Ontario Ave (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 587-8910, . 10AM-11PM. Polishes, Italian Beef, Burgers, and everything else you would expect at a hot dog place, plus one surprise—the chocolate cake milkshake (it's not on the menu, but order a "cake shake," and sweet tooths will have their day). This location, which includes a drive-thru, is decked out in a "Gangster" theme, which is known to produce delight in tourists and queasiness in locals.
Wow Bao, 835 N Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 312 642-5888. M-F 10AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 10:30AM-6PM. A good way to fill up on cheap delicious food on the Magnificent Mile, Wow Bao offers carryout steamed Chinese buns filled with all sorts of wonderful meaty goodness.$1-3.
Café Iberico, 739 N LaSalle St, ☎ +1 312 573-1510, . M-Th 11AM-11:30PM, F 11AM-1:30AM, Sa 11AM-1:30AM, Su 11AM-11PM. Spanish tapas place, usually crowded. Quite good food.$18-30.
Le Colonial, 937 N Rush St, ☎ +1 312 255-0088, . Lunch: noon-2:30PM daily, Dinner: M-F 5PM-11PM, Sa 5PM-midnight, Su 5-10PM. Excellent upmarket Vietnamese cuisine with a French Indochina theme. Reservations would be a good idea.$18-30.
Ed Debevic's, 640 N Wells St (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 664-1707, . Su-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11:30PM. Affable tourist trap with burgers, mock-rude service and occasional Grease style song-and-dance performances by the wait-staff.
Frontera Grill, 445 N Clark St (Merchandise Mart Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 661-1434, . Lunch Tu-F 11:30AM-2:30PM, Sa 10:30AM-2:30PM; Dinner Tu 5:20-10PM, W-Th 5-10PM, F-Sa 5-11PM. Renowned chef Rick Bayless presents authentic Mexican cuisine as most have never experienced it (outside of Mexico), with a particular emphasis on seafood. Frontera won the 2007 James Beard Award for Outstanding U.S. Restaurant.
Topolobampo, 445 N Clark St, ☎ +1 312 661-1434, . Tu 11:45AM-2PM, W-F 11:30AM-2PM; Dinner Tu-Th 5:30-9:30PM, 5:30-10:30PM F-Sa. The high-class, dressier side of the house. Frontera is more casual, though still top-notch. Reservations are necessary at Topolobampo, while Frontera is first-come, first-serve.
XOCO, 449 N Clark St, ☎ +1 312 334-3688, . Tu-Th 7AM-9PM, F 7AM-10PM, Sa 8AM-10PM. The newest outlet in the Bayless empire focuses on "street food" of Mexico, with highlights including the red chile chicken and the Xoco salad (pork carnitas, mixed greens, and avocado-lime dressing). Good soups are on later in the day. No reservations are taken — just line up and watch the chefs at work, as the kitchen is in full view.$10-14.
Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop, 830 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 337-9330, . Su-Th 10AM-10:30PM, F-Sa 10AM-midnight. Right behind the Water Tower; stop in for the soda fountain, the hot fudge sundae, and other chocolate treats.
Gino's East, 633 N Wells St (Grand Red Line, Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 943-1124, . M-Th 11AM-10PM, F-Sa 11AM-11PM, Su noon-9PM. Deep-dish and thin-crust pizza.
Kendall College Dining Room, 900 N North Branch St (3rd floor), ☎ +1 312 752-2328, . Lunch: M-F noon-1:30PM, Dinner: T-F 6PM-8PM, Sa 6PM-8:30PM. Fine dining, fantasticskyline views, very reasonable prices, all prepared by student chefs. Goose Island is out of the way, but there is a free parking lot. Some of Chicago's top chefs learned their trade at Kendall College, so expect to be in for a treat. Open only seasonally, so check the website in advance of your visit.$20-30.
Lou Malnati's, 439 N Wells St (Merchandise Mart Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 828-9800, . M-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su noon-10PM. One of the deep dish pizza giants; pleasant hole-in-the-wall atmosphere a short walk from the Merchandise Mart.
Mity Nice Grill, 835 N Michigan Ave, Water Tower Place Mall, 2nd floor, ☎ +1 312 335-4745. M-F 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-8PM. Billed as a "1940s Style Bar and Grill." Even on busy nights, you won't wait long for a table, but reservations are accepted. Fare includes steaks, seafood selections, pasta, and excellent recurring daily specials like meatloaf and a turkey dinner.
Pizzeria UNO, 29 E Ohio St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 321-1000, . Su 11AM-11:30PM, M-F 11AM-1AM, Sa 11AM-2AM. By some reckonings, the original deep dish pizza joint. The name has been diminished over the last few years by over-expansion, but this is the original location — they do it better here. Their Italian beef is excellent as well. See also DUE, around the corner at 619 N Wabash.
Weber Grill, 539 N State St (inside the Hilton Garden Inn), ☎ +1 312 467-9696, . M-Th 11AM-11PM, F 11AM-midnight, Sa 11:30AM-midnight, Su 11:30AM-11PM. A suburban chain serving up the best BBQ in downtown Chicago. But keep in mind that the steaks are of low quality and overpriced and that the best of Chicago barbecue is off in the neighborhoods — look for Smoque on the Far Northwest Side or any of the great South Side Memphis-style BBQ joints.$12-36.
West Egg Cafe, 620 N Fairbanks Ct (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 280-8366. M-F 6:30AM-3PM, Sa-Su 7AM-3PM. This brunch spot is hugely popular with locals and hotel guests alike — expect long lines early in the day, tapering off toward lunchtime. Though it has several healthy options, West Egg is definitely best known for its remorseless piles of eggs and gravy, pancakes and bacon, and some good sandwiches.$12.
Art and construction on Fairbanks Court
Cité, 505 N Lake Shore Dr, ☎ +1 312 644-4050, . Su-Th 5:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-11PM. An upscale French/American restaurant most notable for its 360 degree views from the 70th floor of the Lake Point Tower. The food, while very good, does not quite live up to its price, but the view is really what you come here for anyway. Jacket required.$51+.
Coco Pazzo, 300 W Hubbard St, ☎ +1 312 836-0900, . Lunch M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM, Dinner M-Th 5:30-10:30PM, F-Sa 5:30-10:30PM, Su 5-10PM. Very tasty Italian cafe. Try the gnocchi, and save some room for the fruit desserts.$30+.
Fogo de Chao, 661 N LaSalle St, ☎ +1 312 932-9330, . Lunch M-F 11AM-2PM, Dinner M-Th 5-10PM, F 5-10:30PM, Sa 4:30-10:30PM, Su 4-9:30PM. Brazilian steakhouse with a twist: diners receive a disc to put in front of their plate, and if it's green, waiters will surround you with skewers of hot meats, unrelenting until you flip the disc over to red.prix fixe, lunch: $24.50, dinner: $38.50.
Gene & Georgetti, 500 N Franklin St, ☎ +1 312 527-3718, . 11AM-midnight. This venerable Chicago steakhouse (over 60 years old) has played host to venerable Chicago steak eaters like Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball as well as contemporary big shots. It is a traditional Italian-American steakhouse and serves some of the best steak in a city that takes these things seriously.
Gibsons Bar and Steakhouse, 1028 N Rush St (Clark/Division Red Line), ☎ +1 312 266-8999, . 11AM-midnight; bar 11AM-2AM. Look on the wall at the pictures of countless celebrities who have dined at Gibsons and you'll see why it's a must for those who want to stretch their wallets during a visit to Chicago. You may run into a celebrity yourself.
Lawry's Prime Rib, 100 E Ontario St, ☎ +1 312 787-5000, . Lunch M-Sa 11:30AM-2PM, Dinner M-Th 5-10:30PM, F-Sa 5-10PM, Su 3-10PM. As elegant an interior as any Chicago restaurant can offer. Mind the dress code, and come carnivorous or don't come at all.
Naha, 500 N Clark St, ☎ +1 312 321-6242, . Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-2PM, Dinner: M-Th 5:30PM-9:30PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-10PM. An exceptional fusion restaurant headed by a star Armenian-American chef and specializing in Californian and Mediterranean-inspired dishes.$40-80.
Rosebud's Steakhouse, 192 E Walton Pl (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 397-1000, . M-Th 11:30AM-11PM, F 11:30AM-midnight, Sa 3PM-midnight, Su 3-10PM. A strong contender in the Best Burger in Chicago stakes, and not bad for steaks either. There's also Rosebud's on Rush, an older branch with more celebrity photos on the wall, but the Walton location is more of a favorite with the neighborhood.
Spiaggia, 980 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 280-2750, . M-Th 6-9:30PM, F-Sa 5:30-10:30PM, Su 6-9PM; Lounge 5:30-11PM. World-class contemporary regional Italian fare with classic touches in a remarkable dining room overlooking the Magnificent Mile. Jackets required for men, though ties are optional.$30-90.
Rush Street is probably the single best-known street for drinking and clubbing in Chicago. It's lined with late-night bars, both fashion-of-the-moment designer clubs and generic fake-Irish pubs. Rush Street branches off from State south of Elm and runs parallel to State from there, although the action is north of Chicago Avenue. There's also a similar densely-populated strip of late-night clubs on Division, between Clark and State. Be warned: the Rush Street bars are often referred to by locals as the "Viagra Triangle" for reasons that will become clear shortly after you arrive.
Andy's Jazz Club, 11 E Hubbard St, ☎ +1 312 642-6805, . M-F 11:30AM-1:30AM, Sa 5PM-2AM, Su 5PM-1AM. A nice and slightly less pretentious jazz club featuring straight-ahead performances nightly.Admission: Su-Th $5, F-Sa $10, Dinner: $15-25.
Blue Chicago, 736 N Clark St (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 642-6261, . Su-F 8PM-2AM, Sa 8PM-3AM. Live blues most nights of the week, except for Sundays. Has a sister club by the same name just a couple blocks away at 536 N Clark (312 661-0100, no music on Mondays).Cover Su-Th $8, F-Sa $10.
Cityfront 455, 455 N Cityfront Plaza (in the NBC Tower), ☎ +1 312 494-1452. M-Th 4PM-10PM, F-Sa 4PM-midnight. A very nice wine bar in the NBC Tower lobby with helpful staff. Also serves high quality vodkas and martinis.
Excalibur, 632 N Dearborn St, ☎ +1 312 266-1944, . Open 5PM-4AM most nights, until 5AM on Saturdays. Listed more for the spectacle than the actual experience of drinking and dancing here, this dance club has been attracting minor celebrities and hordes of hook-up seeking city-dwellers and suburbanites for years. Just watching partygoers totter in from the outdoor seating at Pizzeria UNO (see above) can be hysterical.
The Hangge-Uppe, 14 W Elm St, ☎ +1 312 337-0561, . Open 7PM; Su-F to 4AM, Sa to 5AM. The best bar in the Rush/Division nexus. Drinks aren't over-priced, the decor is cool, and there are two floors for dancing, depending on whether you prefer retro or modern beats.
House of Blues, 329 N Dearborn St, ☎ +1 312 923-2000, . Hours vary by event; Sunday morning gospel brunch starts at 10AM. Food, drinks, and music. Blues fans may find something good, but the roster of bands can stray from the classic old bluesman with a guitar to the worst of twentieth-century music (no genre excepted), so don't show up without checking the schedule first.Tickets can run as low as $10 and upwards of $55 for some national touring acts.
The Original Mother's, 26 W Division St, ☎ +1 312 642-7251, . Su-F 8PM-4AM, Sa to 5AM. Hugely popular bar that trades on old rock-and-roll cred — Cream, The Velvet Underground played here long ago — to adorn a modern dance floor and pool tables.
Pippin's Tavern, 806 N Rush St (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 787-5435, . Su-F to 4AM, Sa to 5AM. Fake Irish pub, notable mainly for being tucked away behind the Water Tower, right off the Magnificent Mile. The after-work crowd is generally laid back, and the lack of (excessively) loud music and sports TV makes this a decent choice for exhausted shoppers in need of a beer.
The Redhead Piano Bar, 16 W Ontario St, ☎ +1 312 640-1000, . Sat 7PM-5AM, Sun-Fri 7PM-4AM. Cocktails, live music, and a schmaltzy sort of elegance.
Second Story Bar, 157 E Ohio St, Apt 2 (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 923-9536. Su-F noon-2AM, Sa noon-3AM. It's no small feat to find this place — look for the pink-lettered sign up on, well, the second story. Inside, you'll find a gay bar that falls on the fun side of sleazy (or the sleazy side of fun), far more of a dive than you would expect in these surroundings and the perfect antidote to hotel bars.
Signature Room, John Hancock Center, 875 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 787-9596, . Su-Th 5-10PM, F-Sa 5-11PM. Just above the Hancock Observatory (above). Expensive drinks on the 95th floor, with live jazz on the weekends. Skip the over-priced food, but the view makes this a great place for evening cocktails, and a more civilized alternative to the sometimes over-crowded observatory one floor below.
Again, this is expensive territory — nearly every tourist stays here, and the rates reflect that. If price is a concern, remember that this area is well-served by public transportation from every direction, including places where you can sleep a bit cheaper. On the other hand, if part of the vision for your vacation involves a luxurious hotel, this is definitely the place to be.
The Allerton Hotel Chicago, 701 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 440-1500, . Classic Chicago building with modern interiors; generations have known it for the neon TIP TOP TAP at the top of the building, referring to the swanky club that operated up there in the 1950's (but not any more).Rooms from $189 a night.
Best Western River North, 125 W Ohio St (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 800 704-6941, . A little bit out of the way, but close to I-90/94 for easy travels by car; amenities include free parking and an indoor pool.Rooms from $159 per night.
Comfort Inn & Suites Downtown Chicago Hotel, 15 E Ohio St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 894-0900, . Rooms from $179 a night.
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, 216 E Ontario St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 787-3777, . 185 rooms and suites.Rooms from $129.
Flemish House of Chicago, 68 E Cedar St, ☎ +1 312 664-9981, . Furnished studio and one bedroom apartments in a historic 19th century greystone on a quiet Gold Coast street.Rooms from $150.
Howard Johnson Inn Downtown Chicago, 720 N LaSalle St (Chicago Brown Line), ☎ +1 312 664-8100, . Slightly inconspicuous, but in a great location for sights throughout the Near North and the Loop. Parking available.Rooms from $139 per night.
Red Roof Inn, 162 E Ontario St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 787-1299, . A bit incongruous, but right in the middle of things.Rooms from $139.
Tokyo Hotel, 19 E Ohio St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 787-4900. Seedy to the hilt, but it's in a safe neighborhood, and a historic building. Popular with international backpackers. The hotel has two budget restaurants by its street entrance: Ginza (Japanese, +1 312 222-0600) and Yu Shan (Chinese, +1 312 527-4400).Rooms from $45.
The Whitehall Hotel, 105 E Delaware Pl (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 944-6300, . An independent, high-rise hotel in a quiet pocket just down the street from the Hancock and Water Tower Place.Rooms from $169 a night.
The Water Tower stands tall at dusk
Avenue Hotel Chicago, 160 E Huron St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 877 283-5110, . Formerly the Radisson.Rooms from $209 a night.
Conrad Chicago, 521 N Rush St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 645-1500, . Adjoins The Shops at North Bridge.Rooms from $215.
The Drake, 140 E Walton Pl (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 787-2200, . It was swallowed into the Hilton chain some years ago, but the Drake is still the definition of old Chicago elegance. Founded in 1920, it's on the National Register of Historic Places, and probably has a longer list of celebrity guests than any hotel in the city, save possibly the Palmer House in the Loop.Rooms from $255 a night.
Embassy Suites Chicago-Downtown Magnificent Mile (Grand Red Line), 600 N State St, ☎ +1 312 943-3800, . Not right on Michigan Avenue, despite the name, but an easy walk.Rooms from $249 a night.
Four Points by Sheraton Chicago, 630 N Rush St, ☎ +1 312 981-6600, . New hotel with 226 rooms and suites that include in-room refrigerators and microwaves; many rooms also feature balconies and whirlpool tubs. Service is excellent, and this is a good place to find cheap rates during slow periods.Rooms from $275.
Hilton Garden Inn Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile, 10 E Grand Ave, ☎ +1 877 782-9444, . Located just off the Magnificent Mile, and adjacent to the River North dining & entertainment area.Rooms from $229 a night.
James Hotel Chicago, 55 E Ontario St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 877 526-3755, . A boutique hotel with a gym, restaurant, and modern touches such as large LCD TV's, iPod docks, and martini glasses in the mini-bar.Rooms from $279 a night.
Omni Chicago Hotel, 676 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 944-6664, . Among the amenities are an indoor swimming pool and two rooftop sundecks.Rooms from $229.
Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, 301 E North Water St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 877-242-2558, . Does enormous business for business meetings and conventions. Most rooms offer views over the Chicago River. The hotel has a steak house (Shula's) and a burger joint, as well as an indoor swimming pool.Rooms from $199 a night.
The Talbott Hotel, 20 E Delaware Pl (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 944-4970, . 16-story boutique hotel down the block from the Hancock. Though built in 1927, they tout their eco-friendly updates. Crain's ranked it the city's best hotel for business travelers.Rooms from $209 a night.
Wyndham Chicago Hotel, 633 N St Clair St, ☎ +1 312 573-0300, . Friendly staff, decent rooms with plenty of business amenities. If you register for the Wyndham ByRequest "frequent traveler" program, when you arrive, your favorite music will be playing in your room and a plate of fruit and iced tea (or whatever you choose) will be waiting for you.Rooms from $233.
The Four Seasons, 120 E Delaware Pl (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 280-8800, . Right across from the Hancock.Rooms from $470 a night.
InterContinental Chicago, 505 N Michigan Ave (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 312 944-4100, . Originally built as an athletic club, the InterContinental is flush with gorgeous 1920's design flourishes. The grand swimming pool on the 14th floor is simply astonishing — worth a look whether you've brought your trunks or not. (If you're not staying here, $15 can usually get you access to the sauna and pool.)Rooms from $349 a night.
Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel, 163 E Walton Pl (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 751-8100, . Across from the Drake and right around the corner from Michigan Avenue, with Nix, a quiet, knockout-delicious cafe/restaurant on the first floor (at knockout-expensive prices).Rooms from $329.
The Park Hyatt, 800 N Michigan Ave (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 335-1234, . A bona-fide member of the Chicago skyline, towering over the Water Tower and the Magnificent Mile. Guest rooms are sleek, stylish, and comfortable, and the hotel's NoMi restaurant is quite good.Rooms from $495 a night.
The Peninsula, 108 E Superior St (Grand Red Line), ☎ +1 866 288-8889, . Recognized by AAA with a Five-Diamond award. That combined with its high prices and the Mag Mile address mean top-notch service, bells & whistles, and impressive views. Those not sleeping here may want to stop by on a Friday or Saturday night for the all-you-can-eat high-end chocolate buffet (8PM-11:30PM, $26).Rooms from $525 a night.
The Ritz Carlton, 160 E Pearson St (Chicago Red Line), ☎ +1 312 266-1000, . Atop the Water Tower Place shopping center.Rooms from $470 a night.
Near North Library, 310 W Division St (Clark/Division Red Line to 70 Division bus), ☎ +1 312 744-0991. M,W noon-8PM, Tu,Th 10AM-6PM, F-Sa 9AM-5PM. Public internet access. It's between the Sedgwick and Chicago Brown Line stations, but a long walk from either. The area is safe during the day, but don't walk far by night.
Cyber Cafe, 25 E Pearson St, ☎ +1 312 915-8595. M-Th 7AM-9:30PM, F-Sa 7AM-5PM. A Jesuit run internet cafe with coffee, snacks, antiques, and a quiet atmosphere.
The Apple Store (see Buy) is a de facto free internet cafe, with all of the floor models hooked up to wi-fi, and the salesmen-to-customer ratio virtually ensures nobody will bother you if you want to dash off a few emails home.
Old Town is just north, and segues neatly into the Near North with smaller boutiques, smaller palatial mansions, and the city's landmark theaters Steppenwolf and Second City.
Wicker Park offers a parallel Magnificent Mile of hip, independent stores, bars and clubs. Lincoln Square is another exceptional shopping destination.
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