Shedd Aquarium on Lake Michigan
The Near South is the home of several of Chicago's main attractions: the splendid Museum Campus, with three world-class (and fun!) natural science museums on the lakefront; Soldier Field, home of the NFL's Chicago Bears; and McCormick Place, the city's massive convention center.
There's more to be found at the street level, though, which includes the fascinating and eerie Prairie Avenue, the eclectic Printer's Row, and the condo towers of the South Loop. Also, there are a couple of major jazz and blues landmarks in the area, which is bounded by Harrison St to the north, the Chicago River and Clark St/Federal St to the west, 26th St to the south, and Lake Michigan to the east.
The neighborhoods of the Near South are among the oldest settlements in Chicago. They were once the most prestigious — and notorious — in the entire city. After being forgotten for several decades, they have recently been re-discovered and are buzzing with new activity.
Prairie Avenue, in particular, was the prestige address of Gilded Age Chicago, when the city was building fortunes at a rate unlike any the world had ever seen. At the time of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, held a few miles to the south, 75 of the world's richest men lived on "Millionaire's Row," in mansions with gas-lit grand ballrooms, golden chandeliers, and no pretense of modesty. Eventually, the city's elite moved to the Gold Coast, and the area fell into rapid decline; soon, it was all but abandoned. Today, of the eleven surviving residences on Prairie Avenue, nine are protected as Chicago landmarks. This is the Gilded Age as if the millionaires simply got up and left, leaving their mansions to weather the elements for over a hundred years.
The Museum Campus was born shortly before the 1933 World's Fair, as Chicago's business community set about to recapture the energy of the landmark 1893 Exposition. The Field Museum had opened in the building that now houses the Museum of Science and Industry, and moved to this choice location by the lake in 1921, soon to be joined by the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium, each of which boasts world-class collections within their respective fields. They are housed in beautiful, historic buildings along the lakefront, making a stroll through the area worth your time even if your budget won't let you through the front gates.
Printer's Row is a small and surprisingly tight-knit neighborhood just south of the Loop, centered around Harrison and Dearborn. In its early days, as an off-shoot of the infamous Levee District a few blocks south, it was the yin to Prairie Avenue's yang. In time, crusaders managed to force the closure of the bordellos and gambling houses, and Printer's Row earned its current, more respectable name, from its role as the center of Chicago's publishing industry. The area fell into disuse, but then fortunes changed again; those warehouses and publishing houses became perfect stock for conversion to trendy loft residences. It has a reputation as an eclectic home to artists and writers, who moved in to enjoy the cheap downtown real estate along Dearborn. To be sure, the outrageous boom in downtown Chicago property values is bringing in a more white-collar crowd of lawyers and traders, but the neighborhood retains some of its eclectic, book-loving feel. It's a pleasant evening alternative to the Near North if you are looking for a helping of Chicago blues or an interesting restaurant.
Similarly, the South Loop was once as busy as the rest of the Loop, and then, as development shifted northward, it became known as the place where the hustle and bustle of the Loop trailed off, a quiet zone between Bronzeville and the central business district. Today, however, it's something else entirely — a mad rush of new construction has overtaken the place, with historic stone edifices interspersed among new steel-and-glass towers in varying stages of readiness, and trendy restaurants to exercise the wallets of the people who live there.
The CTA Red Line stops near Printer's Row (Harrison) and in the South Loop (Roosevelt/State, Cermak-Chinatown). Printer's Row is within reach of the Blue Line (LaSalle/Congress), too. The Orange and Green Lines also stop in the South Loop (Roosevelt/Wabash).
Both stations on Roosevelt are within walking distance of the Museum Campus, although buses and free trolleys also run the route.
The CTA runs a few convenient buses through the area:
- 4 Cottage Grove is a convenient north/south route along Michigan Ave, which leads to and from the South Side along Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr, and Cottage Grove Ave.
- 6 Jeffrey Express comes from the South Side along Lake Shore Dr and stops at Roosevelt and Congress, which is close enough to reach the major attractions.
- 12 Roosevelt meets the CTA train stations and runs down Roosevelt to the edge of the Campus.
- 130 Grant Park runs directly from Union Station in the Loop during the summer.
- 146 Michigan is a tourist favorite, running southbound from Michigan Avenue in the Near North, though the Loop and past Grant Park, and arrives at Soldier Field and the Museum Campus.
Don't drive to the Near South without a good reason; parking is scarce and often expensive, especially around Soldier Field, the Museum Campus, and McCormick Center.
If you choose to drive, Lake Shore Drive is the key artery from the north or south, passing Soldier Field, McCormick Place, and the Museum Campus. Exits are clearly marked with lists of attractions. For the Museum Campus and Soldier Field, exit at 18th Street/McFetridge Drive. Coming from the Loop to the north and Bronzeville to the south, Michigan Avenue runs through the commercial and residential center of the area. Coming along the Stevenson Expressway, there are exits on to State Street, King Drive, and Lake Shore Drive.
In Printer's Row and the South Loop, parking is more or less what you would expect in the Loop — look for a multi-story garage and expect to pay over $10 for a couple of hours. For the museums and McCormick Place, parking is available at public lots for $15 on days without special events, and totally unavailable on Sunday home games for the Bears; in that case, you'd be much better advised to come back another day.
For those coming to the Near South from the Loop, specifically Navy Pier, the water taxi operated by Shoreline Sightseeing is an attractive option. Good views, rarely crowded and a lake breeze; plus it drops off right at Museum Campus. Only runs during warmer weather months (April-October), but departures are frequent while it is in service (every 20 or so minutes). $7 Adults $4 kids, also connects to a few stops on the Chicago River.
The ever popular dolphin show at Shedd Aquarium
All three museums are within a short, pleasant walk from each other, even with toddlers and strollers in tow, so it's worth setting aside an entire day for your visit. Try to get your tickets in advance, though, as lines can be hellacious. Both the Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium sell tickets by phone and on-line, eliminating the wait; sadly, the Adler Planetarium is still walk-up only. The two major discount packages, CityPass  and Go Chicago Card , may come in handy if you're planning to visit all three, but they do not necessarily cover admission to special exhibits. If you're staying with family and you can pass for Aunt Millie or Uncle Chuck, borrow their ID; Chicago residents receive a discount with proof of residency (usually $2 or so). Mondays and Tuesday are sometimes discounted, depending on the season.
- Adler Planetarium, 1300 S Lake Shore Dr, ☎ +1 312 922-7827, . M-F 10AM-4PM, to 4:30PM Sa-Su; 9:30AM-6PM summer. It's the smallest of the three museums, but the oldest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere still packs a lot of fun. There are some interactive exhibits on the second floor, a scale model of the solar system, a few space rocks, and two high-tech dome theaters with nifty "star shows" throughout the day. Adler After Dark, on the third Thursday of each month, runs 6-10PM and features cocktails, a DJ, and wild, unfettered use of telescopes. General admission $12 adult, $8 children, $10 seniors; or $28/$22 including shows.
Sue, Field Museum of Natural History
- Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 S Lake Shore Dr, ☎ +1 312 922-9410, . 9AM-5PM daily, last admission 4PM. The largest museum on the campus; highlights include SUE, the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in the world, and the man-eating Tsavo lions. Part of the collection came directly from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, adding a layer of intrigue to all of those dusty old animals. Another highlight is the great, kid-friendly Egyptian exhibit, and the Hall of Gems will impress, too. Traveling exhibitions tend to be excellent, so this is one place where it's worth shelling out for the extra shows. General admission $15 adults, $10 children, $12 seniors and students; Admission including some/all special exhibits is $22/$29 adults, $15/$20 children, $18/$24 seniors and students.
- John G. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, ☎ +1 312 939-2438, . M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa-Su 9AM-6PM; July/August 8AM-6PM. Home to a massive collection of marine life from throughout the world, among the very best you'll ever see. The Pacific Northwest-themed Oceanarium features otters, beluga whales, and a panoramic view of Lake Michigan, although you'll need to arrive extremely early for the (free) dolphin show. The terrific new Wild Reef exhibit offers floor-to-ceiling windows for an extraordinary view of a Philippine coral reef environment, complete with dozens of sharks. Admission $26.95 adults and $19.95 children, plus $2 for special exhibits.
The Prairie Avenue Historic District includes the 1800 and 1900 blocks of South Prairie, the 1800 block of South Indiana and 211 through 217 East Cullerton. Neighborhood tours are led by the Glessner House Museum a few times each year. If you happen to be in the area on Halloween, move heaven and earth to join the evening ghost tour, which roams through the Glessner House, meeting a magician a few times along the way, and then heads out to the wonderfully spooky street for a walking tour.
- The Clarke House Museum, 1827 S Indiana Ave, ☎ +1 312 745-0041, +1 312 326-1480 for tours, . W-Su 12&2PM. Built in 1836, this unassuming little white house is the oldest surviving structure in Chicago. Tours are available through the Glessner House, but it's free to walk around the lovely Women's Park & Gardens that surround it. $10 adults, $9 students/senior, $5 children; add $5 to visit the Glessner House as well. Wednesdays free.
- The Glessner House Museum, 1800 S Prairie Ave, ☎ +1 312 326-1480, . Tours W-Su 1&3PM. A stately Arts & Crafts mansion from 1887, now fully restored and refurnished to its original Gilded Age atmosphere. The staff are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. $10 adults, $9 students/senior, $6 children; add $5 to visit the Clarke House as well. Wednesdays free.
- Marshall Field Jr. Mansion, 1919 S Prairie Ave, ☎ +1 312 915-4713. No tours are offered, as this long-derelict property has been rehabbed and divided into condos. This was the site of one of the great scandals of the Gilded Age. It was built by Marshall Field, the richest and most powerful man in Chicago, for his son. In 1905, the younger Field was found dead in his home under mysterious circumstances from a bullet wound. After two days, the family made the announcement that the bullet had been fired by accident during preparation for a hunting trip. According to rumors, though, he had been shot in a brothel in the notorious Levee. The elder Field died the next year, and the end of the Prairie Avenue era had begun.
- National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, 1801 S Indiana Ave, ☎ +1 312 326-0270, . Thu-Sa 10AM-5PM. A collection of over 500 evocative pieces of art, created by artists who served in Vietnam. Recently, the museum has also begun to hold exhibitions on the Iraq war. $10 adults, $7 children.
- Second Presbyterian Church, 1936 S Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 312 225-4951, . Worship Su 11AM, free tours Su 12:15PM and W 2PM. Windows designed by Louis Tiffany and other stained-glass masters for a proudly diverse congregation.
- Willie Dixon's Blues Heaven Foundation (Chess Records Studio), 2120 S Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 312 808-1286, . M-F 12-3PM, Sa 12-2PM. A major blues hotspot where Muddy Waters, Ahmad Jamal, Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin, Bo Diddley, Etta James, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Ramsey Lewis, and many other greats recorded during Chicago's bluesiest period. The Rolling Stones also recorded here, paying tribute in their instrumental "2120 S Michigan Avenue." Public tours.
As the Loop trails off into Printer's Row, there are still a few impressive buildings to be seen, especially on Dearborn and Plymouth. The Pontiac Building at 542 S Dearborn is one of Chicago's oldest skyscrapers (Holabird & Roche, 1891), and the buildings at 731 S Plymouth and 718 S Dearborn have intriguing details that call back to their publishing past.
Today, the major draws of Printer's Row are the bookstores — see below.
- Dearborn Station, 47 W Polk St, ☎ +1 312 554-4408, . Built in 1885, this was one of the great stations of the railroad era, the first glimpse of Chicago for countless visitors from across the country. (It also became a focal point for the anti-vice crusaders, with pamphlets describing lurid tales in which innocent farm girls fresh off the train were seized and sold into prostitution.) The rail yard is gone, with traffic having ceased in 1971, but the station house has been renovated into mixed-use commercial space, with a bar and restaurant on the ground floor.
- Printer's Row Book Fair, Dearborn St & Polk St (In Dearborn Park), ☎ +1 312 222-3986, . Every June, readers converge upon Printer's Row for a celebration of books. Events with authors famous and obscure are held throughout the weekend, and almost 200 booksellers set up shop.
A newly opened and the only record shop in the south loop. 730 S. Dearborn St.
- Hilliard Homes, State St and Cermak Ave. In the architecture of these massive public housing projects lies the South Side's tongue-in-cheek answer to the North Side's Marina City — in fact, they were built by the same architect, Bertrand Goldberg. With its enormous corncob towers and northern semicircular wall, the Hilliard Homes are impossible to miss when traveling between Downtown and Chinatown. Despite the architectural distinction of being the only public housing projects to get on the National Register of Historic Places, the towers have not always been a great place to live, suffering from urban blight similar to that found in public housing throughout the country. The complex is currently undergoing a major renovation that will lead to the creation of a mixed-income residential development.
- River City, 800 S Wells St, ☎ +1 312 621-4100, . Another Bertrand Goldberg corncob project, whose riverside location offers great views and frequently flooded basements. They're condominiums, so pretend to be interested in buying one if you'd like a free tour.
- Arie Crown Theater, 2301 S Lake Shore Dr, ☎ +1 312 791-6190, . Box Office: M-Sa 10AM-6PM. Comfortable sit-down music venue in the midst of McCormick Place. It hosts big pop, rock, gospel, and R&B concerts as well as occasional musical.
- Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island, 1300 S Lynn White Dr, ☎ +1 312 540-2668, . Box office 12-9PM. This small peninsula, jutting out into Lake Michigan, was the site of Meigs Airport until Mayor Daley's midnight demolition raid a few years ago; now it's a 7500-seat concert venue for touring rock and hip-hop acts. Tickets vary by event, although if you don't mind not being able to see the stage, you'll hear the show just fine anywhere on the lakefront near the Museum Campus.
- McCormick Place, 2301 S Lake Shore Dr, ☎ +1 312 791-7000, . Prices and hours vary by event. Mayor Richard J. Daley believed firmly — as his son, Mayor Richard M., does after him — in total, ruthless domination of the convention circuit. Hence, the massive complex of McCormick Place, which is currently struggling to stay ahead of rivals in Las Vegas and Orlando. There's little reason to seek out McCormick Place if your business isn't already sending you there, but the auto shows are a draw for some visitors. Parking $16, regardless of time spent.
- Soldier Field, 1410 S Museum Campus Dr, ☎ +1 312 235-7000, . Home of the Chicago Bears.  If you'd like to see a Bears game, then you have something in common with many Chicagoans; there's no point in listing ticket prices, because they sell out long before the season starts. The original Soldier Field was built in 1924 to honor veterans of the First World War, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. By 2002, the stadium was in dire need of renovations, and the Bears promised to preserve the majestic colonnades of the old stadium. However, when the renovations were complete, what appeared to be a giant spaceship had landed at mid-field. The amenities have improved, and it really is a nice facility...on the inside. On the outside, it's hard to say what it is, other than probably the strangest-looking sports arena in America. (It's not a Historic Place any more, having been stripped of that designation in 2006.) Tours are available during the week, M-F 9AM-5PM, by phone appointment; $15 adults, $10 students, $7 seniors, $4 children.
The Near South is not a shopping destination; there is no need really, given that some of the world's most intense shopping experiences may be had in the two miles to the north. But a trip to Printer's Row can be a refreshing change of pace for downtown visitors who would prefer to browse independent bookstores.
- Canady le Chocolatier, 824 S Wabash Ave, ☎ +1 312 212-1270, . M-F 10:30AM-9PM, Sa-Su 11AM-9:30PM. Premium chocolate served in every form you might want it in, with classes offered if you'd like to learn how they do it. Some seating available. Great ice cream in summer.
- Loopy Yarns, 719 S State St, ☎ +1 312 583-9276, . M-Th 11AM-7PM, F 11AM-9PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 12-5PM. Yarn powerhouse. Classes are available, and Friday nights are an open-knitting party.
- Printer's Row Fine and Rare Books, 715 S Dearborn St (Harrison Red Line), ☎ +1 312 583-1800, . Tu-F 10AM-7PM, Sa 11AM-5PM. Specializes in first editions and signed books, with staff that love to chat. Most of the stock is locked away, so have a look at their website before you visit if you have something specific in mind.
- Sandmeyer's Bookstore, 714 S Dearborn St (Harrison Red Line), ☎ +1 312 922-2104, . M-W,F 11AM-6:30PM, Th 11AM-8PM, Sa 11AM-5PM, Su 11AM-4PM. A classic creaky-floors-and-cluttered-shelves kind of place.
There are restaurants in each of the museums on the Museum Campus; the prices will replace the wonder of science with the wince of cold, hard economics. (It's odd enough that the Shedd Aquarium has a seafood restaurant, but no, you are not allowed to make selections from the aquarium floor.) If the weather's nice, take advantage of the beautiful scenery and bring a picnic lunch.
- Eleven City Diner, 1112 S Wabash Ave, ☎ +1 312 212-1112, . M-Th 8AM-9:30PM, F 8AM-10:30PM, Sa 8:30AM-10:30PM, Su 8:30AM-9PM. New York-style Jewish diner. $7-14.
- Hackney's, 733 S Dearborn St, ☎ +1 312 461-1116, . Su-Th 10:30AM-11PM, F-Sa 10:30AM-1AM. Printer's Row branch of the Chicagoland area beer 'n burgers chainlet. $8-10.
- Harold's Chicken Shack #62, 636 S Wabash Ave, ☎ +1 312 362-0442. 10AM-9PM daily. The prices are higher and the quality lower at this central location of the great South Side chain, but it's still a great cheap eat. $4-7.
- Panozzo's Italian Market, 1303 S Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 312 356-9966, . Tu-F 10AM-8PM, Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 10AM-4PM. A neighborhood deli with sandwiches and such. Perfect place to prepare a picnic lunch for a day at the Museum Campus. $5-8.
- Pat's Pizzeria, 628 S Clark St, ☎ +1 312 427-2320, . Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight. Cheap thin-crust pizza with a devoted following. Lunch during the work-week is crowded. $8-14.
- Standing Room Only, 610 S Dearborn St, ☎ +1 312 360-1776, . M-F 11AM-9PM, Sa 11:30AM-8PM. Burgers of the standard, turkey, and veggie variety. As the name says, it's standing room only. $8 delivers a whole sandwich meal.
- Yolk, 1120 S Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 312 789-9655, . M-F 6AM-3PM, Sa-Su 7AM-3PM. Breakfast place with egg-based dishes (obviously) and bright yellow walls (you've been warned). $8-10.
- Bongo Room, 1152 S Wabash Ave, ☎ +1 312 291-0100, . M-F 8AM-2PM, Sa-Su 9AM-2PM. Great breakfast/brunch location with no signage, a spin-off of the original Wicker Park restaurant. $9-14.
- Kroll's Chicago, 1736 S Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 312 235-1400, . M-Tu 11AM-midnight, W-F 11AM-2AM, Sa 11AM-3AM, Su 10AM-midnight. Sister branch of a Green Bay fixture, which is a controversial move in the heart of Bears territory. They offer a big menu of seafood and sandwiches from a charcoal grill. Plenty of beer is available, but kids are welcome. $8-15.
- La Cantina Grill, 1911 S Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 312 842-1911, . M-Th 11AM-11PM, F 11AM-2AM, Sa noon-2AM, Su noon-10PM. Unpretentious, good Mexican cuisine. Live music on Friday nights. $10-$15.
- Oysy Japanese Sushi, 888 S Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 312 922-1127, . M-F 11:30-2:30,5-9:30PM; Sa 5-11PM, Su 5-9PM. Models itself upon a Japanese izakaya, and offers reasonably priced Japanese dishes like tempura and sushi rolls near Grant Park. $10-15.
- South Coast, 1700 S Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 312 662-1700, . M-Th 4:30PM-11PM, F 4:30PM-midnight, Sa noon-midnight, Su noon-10PM. BYOB sushi bar. $15-$25.
- Tamarind, 614 S Wabash Ave, ☎ +1 312 379-0970, . 11AM-11PM. Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese food. $8-25.
- Trattoria Caterina, 616 S Dearborn St, ☎ +1 312 939-7606, . M-Th 11AM-9PM, F 11AM-10PM, Sa 5-9PM. Hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant. You can select from their wines or BYOB as you prefer. $9-15.
- Zapatista, 1307 S Wabash Ave, ☎ +1 312 435-1307, . M-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-11PM, Su 11:30AM-9PM. Stylish Mexican restaurant named for the revolutionary Emiliano Zapata; it's a little pricey during the week, but check out the Saturday and Sunday $5 brunch specials. $14-30, $5 for weekend brunch.
- Chicago Firehouse Restaurant, 1401 S Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 312 786-1401, . M-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F 11:30AM-10:30PM, Sa 4PM-10:30PM, Su 4PM-9PM. Fine American dining. $20-60.
- Gioco, 1312 S Wabash Ave, ☎ +1 312 939-3870, . Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-3PM, Brunch: Sa-Su 11AM-4PM, Dinner: M-Th 5PM-10PM, F-Sa 5PM-11PM, Su 5PM-9PM. Offers "rustic Italian" dishes. $15-$40.
Blues and jazz fans staying downtown have a real reason to come to the Near South at night in the form of two legendary clubs: Buddy Guy's Legends for the blues and the Velvet Lounge for jazz.
- Buddy Guy's Legends, 700 S Wabash Ave, ☎ +1 312 427-0333, . M-F 11AM-2AM, Sa 5PM-3AM, Su 6PM-2AM. A famous, fairly large blues club with a cajun/soul food menu and frequent big-name acts. Buddy Guy himself holds court every January. Cover $10 Su-Th, $20 F-Sa.
- Kasey's Tavern, 701 S Dearborn St (Harrison Red Line), ☎ +1 312 427-7992, . Su-F 11AM-2AM, Sa 12PM-3AM. Excellent dive bar in historic Printer's Row. Extensive beer selection, disgusting bathrooms and "Absolutely No Dancing." Kasey's is good for a drink before or after a Sox game.
- Kitty O'Shea's, 720 S Michigan Ave (inside the Chicago Hilton), ☎ 312-294-6860, . Su-Th 11AM-1AM, F-Sa 11AM-2AM. Better than your average hotel bar, with a stately ambiance that's nevertheless hospitable to Bears fans on their way back from Soldier Field or Grant Park festival-goers.
- Jazz Showcase, 806 S Plymouth Ct (Harrison Red Line), ☎ Box office +1 312 360-0234, . Sets at 8 and 10 Mon-Sat, and at 4 PM and 8 and 10 on Sundays. Started in 1948 by Joe Segal, this historic jazz club is home to both national touring acts and the finest local jazz musicians Chicago has to offer. Currently located in the historic Dearborn Station building in the South Loop, Segal continues to maintain the high standard for acoustic jazz that over the years has featured luminaries from Dizzy Gillespie to Chick Corea.
- M Lounge, 1520 S Wabash Ave, ☎ +1 312 447-0201, . Tu-Th 6PM-1AM, F-Sa 6PM-2AM. Martinis and jazz; live performances Tu-W, 7PM-10PM. Nights with music supposedly have a two drink minimum, but for cheapskates, it is unclear how this policy would be enforced. $12 martinis. $4+ beer, no cover.
- Reggie's, 2105 & 2109 S State St, ☎ Joint: +1 312 949-0120, Club: +1 312 949-0121, . Joint: Su-F 11AM-2AM, Sa 11AM-3AM; Club: hours vary by show. Reggie's Music Joint is a nice bar and grill that offers nightly live music, mostly by local rock bands, as well as a professional blues jam session every Wednesday night. The newly opened Reggie's Rock Club features bigger-name touring rock acts. If you want to take some music home, head upstairs over the Rock Club to Record Breakers, which sells new and used cds, lps, and other rock paraphernalia. Joint: no cover, Club: $7-15.
- The Velvet Lounge, 67 E Cermak Rd, ☎ +1 312 791-9050, . Another essential stop on The Jazz Track, best reached by taxi. If you want to go to a bar that represents the real Chicago jazz tradition from Louis Armstrong right up to Pharaoh Sanders, then you must go to the Velvet Lounge.
Since there are so many hotels in the Loop and the Near North, there has never been much demand for them here. Any Loop hotels that are close to Grant Park will also be within pretty reasonable distance of the Museum Campus and McCormick Place.
- Best Western Grant Park, 1100 S Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 312 922-2900, . Includes fitness room, outdoor seasonal pool and sundeck, free WiFi, valet parking with in and out privileges (rare for Downtown Chicago). Rooms from $153.
- The Chicago Hilton and Towers, 720 S Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 312 922-4400, . One of the finest Hilton hotels in the chain, with many luxury suites and rooms, including ambassador and presidential suites. It has a wonderful view of Grant Park. The Chicago Hilton and Towers is located right on the border of the business Loop. Rooms from $199.
- Essex Inn, 800 S Michigan Ave, ☎ +1 800 621-6909, . Offers clean, fully equipped, and recently renovated rooms, a fantastic pool and fitness center and free wi-fi. Rooms from $120.
- Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, 2233 S Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr, ☎ +1 312 567 1234 (fax: +1 312 528 4000), . Nothing exceptional, except some of the views — if you are staying here, spend whatever extra money is required for the spectacular cityscape views. $180-$300.
- The Wheeler Mansion, 2020 S Calumet Ave, ☎ +1 312 922-2900, . One of the few mansions to survive the fire of 1871 is now a very charming four star bed and breakfast with spacious rooms adorned with antiques. $230-$280.
For internet access, the closest public libraries are the Chinatown Branch, just west of the Velvet Lounge, and the Harold Washington Center just north of Printer's Row in the Loop.
- If you came here looking for blues and jazz, you may want to head further to the South Side home of the blues in Chatham-South Shore.
- And if you had fun at the Museum Campus, even more awaits you at the Museum of Science and Industry in Hyde Park.
- Hurting for good Chinese food? Find great Chinese food in nearby Chinatown. Take bus #18 from Prairie Avenue or #21 from McCormick Place.
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