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Chicago/Near North

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Chicago : Near North
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Chicago/Near North

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The Near North is a district of Central Chicago, which is bounded by North Ave to the north, the Chicago River (but including Goose Island) to the west and south, and Lake Michigan to the east.

It includes the neighborhoods of River North, full of art supplies, commercial lofts, and some tourist restaurants, nightclubs and bars; Streeterville, with expensive condos for fossilized rich folks; and the Gold Coast, home of the most prestigious shopping district in Chicago, the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue.

Office blocks from the Loop, just across the Chicago River, also spill over into the Near North. The biggest one is the Merchandise Mart, a commercial building so large it has a zip code (and a train station) all to itself.

Get in

Near North street map

By train

The CTA Red Line, also known as the State Street Subway, runs underneath the main avenue of the Near North. Travelers can use the Chicago or Grand stops to reach the Magnificent Mile and the eastern edges of River North.

The CTA Brown Line reaches River North more directly through the Chicago stop, and drops passengers right into the Merchandise Mart at the next station.

By bus

An intricate web of CTA bus lines serves the Near North.

By car

Don't drive to the Near North unless you have a very, 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.


  • Chicago Historical Society, Clark Street at North Avenue (south end of park) [2] - M-W noon-8PM, Th-Sa 9:30AM-4:30PM, Su noon-5PM. Urban history museum. Exhibits include The Pioneer, the first railroad locomotive to operate in Chicago; and the bed upon which Abraham Lincoln died. Suggested admission $5 adult, $1 child, free on Mondays.
  • Hancock Observatory, John Hancock Center, 875 N. Michigan Avenue [3] - F 9AM-11PM. 360-degree view from the 94th floor. Rivals the Sears Tower Skydeck. $9.75 (plus amusement tax) adult, $6 (plus amusement tax) child, or for free you can visit the bar a floor below [4] and order a (very expensive) drink or two, the view is almost as good and they have live jazz on the weekends.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Avenue, 312 280-2660 [5] - T 10AM-8PM, W-Su 10AM-5PM. Art of all types from around the world made since 1945. Be sure to check out what the current exhibit is—the museum can be rather boring when they are between exhibits. $10 ($6 student, free Tuesday after 5PM).
  • Navy Pier [6] - Summer, Su-Th 10AM-10PM, F-Sa 10AM-midnight, shorter hours other seasons. Home of the excellent Chicago Shakespeare Theater, a Children's Museum, an IMAX theater, a small stained glass museum, a wonderfully large Ferris wheel ($5 adult, $4 child) and shops. It is an easy place to entertain a child. Navy Pier has fireworks shows on summer nights every W at 9:30PM and Sa at 10:15PM.


  • Bicycle tours [7] - There are different thematic tours, stopping for information on the most interesting points. The tours are very safe, driving through streets, parks and the beach. All tours start and end near the Navy Pier.

Events & Festivals

  • Air & Water Show - Every August, over 2 million spectators gather to watch this event from both land and water. It's the oldest and largest free exhibition of its kind in the US. The Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds alternate as the final act each year. Acrobatic demonstration teams and a wide range of military aircraft fill out the five-hour show each day. The US Coast Guard usually makes an appearance with an amphibious rescue demonstration, unless they've been called away for an actual rescue. "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.


Centered between the Merchandise Mart and the Chicago Avenue Brown Line "L" stop, River North's gallery district boasts the largest arts and design district in North America outside of Manhattan. Many art galleries are concentrated closer to Chicago Avenue, with more design galleries closer to the Merchandise Mart. The entire area is walkable and makes for fun window-shopping. Saturdays at 11am, there is also a 1-hour art gallery tour starting from the Starbucks under the Chicago Avenue Brown Line stop.


Budget & Midrange

  • Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, 445 N. Clark St. [8] - Renowned chef Rick Bayless gives us Mexican cuisine as most have never experienced it. Topolobampo is the high-class side of the house, while Frontera is more casual, though still top-notch. Frontera won the 2007 James Beard Award for Outstanding U.S. Restaurant.
  • Mity Nice Grill, 835 N. Michigan Avenue (hidden behind Food Life on the second floor of the rear of Water Tower Place mall), 312 335-4745 - This establishment is one of the many Lettuce Entertain You restaurants scattered throughout the city. Billed as "1940s Style Bar and Grill". Even on busy nights, you won't wait long for a table, mainly because few people seem to know about it, but reservations are accepted. Fare includes steaks, seafood selections, pasta, and excellent recurring daily specials like meatloaf and a turkey dinner.
  • Portillo's, Multiple Locations (Downtown location on Ontario) - Probably the best hot dog in Chicago, and therefore the best hot dog in the world. Polishes, Italian Beef, Burgers, and everything else you would expect at a hot dog place. Each location is themed to a different decade from Turn of the Century to the 50's.
  • Gino's East downtown Chicago location at the corner of Wells and Ontario, four blocks west of the Grand stop on the Red Line.
  • Lou Malnati's [9] Deep-dish pizza in River North.


  • Spiaggia, 980 N. Michigan ave., 312-280-2750 - World-class contemporary regional Italian fair with classic touches in a remarkable dining room overlooking the Mag Mile.
  • Tru, 676 N. St. Clair, 312-202-0001 - Spectacular Contemporary American cuisine in a stunning atmospere. Every detail is carefully planned. A glass caviar staircase is an amazing course woth special mention. Offering several 12 course pre-planned degustation menus (including vegetarian). Unbelievable wine selection managed by an excellent somelier. Co-owner and pastry chef Gale Gand's dessert creations are nothing short of breathtaking.
  • Gibsons Bar and Steakhouse 1028 N. Rush, 312-266-8999 - 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. Chances are you may run into a celebrity yourself.
  • Gene & Georgetti, 500 N. Franklin Street, -(312) 527-3718 - From legends like Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball to modern day stars and politicians, Gene & Georgetti maintains its reputation as a classic old-time Chicago place to dine. Considered to be one of the best steakhouses in America.


  • The Redhead Piano Bar, 16 W. Ontario St, 312-640-1000, [1]. Sat 7pm-5am, Sun-Fri 7pm-4am. Cocktails, live music, and a schmaltzy sort of elegance.



  • Comfort Inn & Suites Downtown Chicago Hotel, 15 E. Ohio Street, +1 312 894-0900.

Mid Range

  • Chicago Radisson Hotel and Suites,160 East Huron Street, +1 800 333-3333, [10] - Located in the heart of Magnificent Mile.
  • Hilton Garden Inn Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile, +1 877 782-9444, [11]. Located the Magnificent Mile, and adjacent to the River North dining & entertainment area.
  • Courtyard by Marriott Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile, +1 312 573-0800, [12]. Close to the Magnificent Mile and the Loop. .
  • Embassy Suites Chicago-Downtown Magnificent Mile, +1 312 943-3800, [13]. Central location.
  • Intercontinental Chicago, +1 312 944 4100, [14]. Located in the famed Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago.


  • Crowne Plaza Allerton Chicago Hotel, 701 North Michigan Avenue, +1 312 440-1500 [15].
  • The Peninsula, 108 East Superior Street (at North Michigan Avenue), +1 866-288-8889 [16] - Known as one of the city's most luxurious hotels, The Peninsula has been recognized by AAA with a Five-Diamond award. Located right off of the "Magnificent Mile".
  • The Drake, 140 East Walton Place (at North Michigan Avenue), +1 312 787-2200 - It doesn't get any more top-of-the-line than this in Chicago.[17]
  • The Ritz Carlton, 160 E Pearson Street, +1 312 266-1000 [18].
  • The Four Seasons, 120 East Delaware Place, +1 312 280-8800 [19].
  • Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, 301 East North Water Street, +1 877-242-2558 [20].
  • The Park Hyatt, 800 North Michigan Avenue, +1 312 335-1234 [21].
  • James Hotel Chicago [22] A luxury boutique hotel located in downtown Chicago near the Magnificent Mile, featuring rooms with plasma screen TV’s, luxury spa, modern gym, & David Burke’s Primehouse. 55 East Ontario Chicago, IL 60611 Tel. (877) JAMES-55
  • The Whitehall Hotel, 105 East Delaware Place Chicago, Illinois 60611, (312) 944-6300 or (800) 948-4255, +1 866-288-8889 [23] - An independent boutique hotel.


This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!