As the winter slowly comes to an end, visitors to Chicago (and plenty who live here too) are wishing it was already spring. Bringing warmer weather, spring means the arrival of many of the markets and festivals, so it’s easy to sit around and forget that Chicago has plenty of fun activities to jump into now, some of them actually require the cold! Let’s see what you can be doing in the city, right now.
Of course, I feel a little bad calling this quirky piece of art by its slang term, its official name being the Cloud Gate, but the Bean is how it has become known by locals and why not? Its far more fun and memorable anyway! Regardless, the piece by British artist Anish Kapoor, is the first public outdoor work of his to be installed in the United States, it is surprisingly wonderful in person.
The 110 ton, 66 foot sculpture, inspired by liquid mercury is seamless, stainless steel and reflects the city in its perfect surface. More impressive than you think in person, be sure to stand underneath and look up, it will leave you in awe. In winter, it takes on a crisp, almost glowing appearance and if you’re lucky, you may find it semi covered in crisp snow.
A gem in summer, the lake supports a healthy population of sun seeking tanners, making the city look and feel more like LA than Chi Town. In winter, it usually gets verbally abused for its role in lake effect snow and ice winds, but if you venture down to the water’s edge you might find some spectacular views too. Year round this iconic lake can prove striking, just be sure to wrap up.
If you’re anything like me you like a snug, homey place to enjoy a drink when it’s chilly outside. What better than a bar with a warm roaring fire to cosy up to? Check out the list of bars below for locations with fireplaces to make you forget the readings on the thermometers. Make an extra note, Cindy’s might be the best view in the city!
- The Bar at Peninsula Hotel
- Black Rock Pub & Kitchen
- Bottled Blonde
- The Broken Shaker
- Cindy’s (plus epic view)
- The Drawing Room
During winter in particular, the advantages of taking your time over a nice meal increases, but where to go to enjoy the experience and the food? Chicago’’s food scene is vibrant to say the least and the epicenter is on or around Randolph St. Go for a nice meal at The Girl & The Goat, Blackbird or Au Coeval just to name a few. This area is saturated with mouthwatering cuisine.
Falling over has never been so fun, it has also never been such a group activity as when you hit the winter outdoor ice rinks. The Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon is a wonderful twisting and turning circuit around the park, and McCormick Plaza has its own traditional rink in front of the aforementioned Bean. Skating is free, the only cost is boot hire, so break a leg.
Views & Monuments
Chicago has a crazy amount of art and historical monuments throughout the city. All within easy walking distance of the loop, you needn’t be outside too long, and the finds are well worth the hunt.
Examples include Standing Beast, Flamingo (the Alexander Calder-designed sculpture is cool and has featured in quite a few movies), The Picasso at Daley Plaza and Agora, which is technically 106 sculptured torsos nicely tucked away in Grant park.
The Harold Washington Library
This beautiful building, which appeared in the Guinness book of records as the largest public library in the world, was built in the 1980’s and completed in ’91. It replaced the former central library which became the Chicago Cultural Centre. Chicago’s libraries have always been a prominent feature in the city, after the Chicago Fire the city immediately replenished its book supply, with England helping out by sending 8,000 books across the Atlantic.
The library is as grand as you would imagine, but it’s top floor is absolutely wonderful. The winter garden is able to transport you to another time and place, mind your step as you pass the odd person meditating in the peaceful space. On the way up, it’s hard not to notice the dog tags hanging from the roof. Instantly mesmerizing and on closer inspection deeply moving, this is the only memorial to all those lost in the Vietnam conflict outside of Washington DC, each tag bearing the name of a lost soldier, in chronological order of passing.
Of course Chicago is itself a historic city, but it’s also home to many historic institutions. The fields of art and science are well represented here and the city’s museums showcase them superbly. The Field Museum is Chicago’s natural history centerpiece, the Shedd Aquarium boasts Beluga Whales and the Museum of Science and Industry takes mind blowing interactive exhibits to new levels. On the art side of things, The Contemporary art museum has pioneering pieces on show and the Art institute has around 300,000 works on permanent display and 30 changing exhibitions.
Shopping on Mag & State
State’s intersection with Madison Street has marked the base point for Chicago’s address system since 1909, it’s truly the heart of the city. Home of the Chicago Theatre and a string of Flagship stores including the world’s second largest department store- Macy’s. Michigan Avenue is the more modern high streets, home to the Hancock Tower and nick named the Magnificent Mile, it’s famous for its ability to wow customers and drain purses! With one huge store after another, it’ll keep you out of the cold.