Chicago: The Ritz-Carlton
Perched dramatically on the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago is perhaps best known for its striking architecture, year-round sports and cultural richness. But America’s third-largest city has even more to offer, including world-class dining, a slew of museums and abundant designer shopping. We asked Chef Concierge Aline Kalar and her team at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago (A Four Seasons Hotel), to share recommendations for the best things to see and do in Chicago—from the top restaurants for adventurous eaters to exploring the city with kids in tow.
The Ritz-Carlton sits just above one of the world’s best-known shopping streets, The Magnificent Mile—the stretch of North Michigan Avenue between the Chicago River and Oak Street, which includes the retail atriums of Water Tower Place and 900 North Michigan Shops. You can find Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks 5th Avenue and American Girl Place within a few minutes of the Hotel. The area around Michigan Avenue is also rich with local boutiques, including jewellers House of Kahn and H. Horwitz Co.; Mira Couture, for women’s formalwear; Tails in the City, a pet couture shop; and Loreta Corsetti, couture millinery. And no shopping experience in Chicago is complete without a stroll down fabulous Oak Street, home to high-end shops, jewellery stores and posh restaurants.
Eat your way through Chicago at a number of exceptional restaurants. The three-Michelin-starred Alinea is the city’s temple of red-hot molecular gastronomy. Here, sit back and enjoy the 18-course tasting menu, with such far-out concepts as food served on an inflatable pillow filled with nutmeg-infused air. Michelin-starred Moto also pushes the limits of culinary conventions with modern gastronomy; 42 grams offers a dinner party–meets–fine dining environment; and Tanta serves authentic Peruvian dishes and drinks.
A roll along the lake
Chicago’s 18-mile (30-kilometre) paved Lakefront Trail is one of the best urban bike paths in the country and a great way to see why America’s “Second City” is first when it comes to waterfronts. The path will bring you to many top attractions, such as Navy Pier, Lincoln Park, Hyde Park and the Theater on the Lake. Rentals are available throughout the city through Divvy, Chicago’s bike-sharing programme, or at Bobby’s Bike Hike or Bike and Roll.
If Chicago did not already have so many nicknames, “Museum City” would be a good choice. Across the street from the Hotel is the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, which hosts exciting exhibitions such as a retrospective on the career of David Bowie. The Art Institute of Chicago is home to a world-class collection, including works by Rembrandt, Renoir, van Gogh, Picasso and Monet. The Field Museum is arguably the world’s top natural history institution, and the Museum of Science and Industry, home to the Apollo 8 command module, is also first in class. At the Shedd Aquarium, one of the best in the country, the architecture is just as impressive as the animal collection. For most museums, the Hotel provides VIP passes that help guests avoid long waits in line.
No visit to the city is complete without an authentic Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Try Gino’s East for the original style, Giordano’s for stuffed, and Lou Malnati’s for the mouth-watering “buttercrust” version—a unanimous favourite of the Hotel’s concierge team. If you prefer an American spin on the traditional Neapolitan-style thin-crust pies, Coalfire on Grand Avenue and Spacca Napoli Pizzeria on Sunnyside Avenue are sure to satisfy.
At the top
There are just four buildings of 100 or more floors in the United States, and two are in Chicago. You can take in the view from high atop the John Hancock Center at 360 Chicago. Bold adventure seekers can board the TILT! attraction, which tilts riders to an angle of 30 degrees for a unique look at the city. North America’s second-tallest building, the 1,353-foot (412-metre) Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) has a wraparound, enclosed observation deck on the 103rd floor. For the more daring, the building recently added the Ledge, a transparent glass box extending from the observation deck where you can stand over vast nothingness. Advance tickets are available at the Concierge desk to expedite your visit.
Stay local, eat local
The year-round Green City Market overflows with the regional bounty of the Midwest, and Executive Chef Martin Knaubert of The Ritz-Carlton Chicago’s deca RESTAURANT + BAR showcases the best of the market’s offerings in his seasonal menus. At the Hotel’s The dec ROOFTOP LOUNGE + BAR, featuring stunning views of the John Hancock Center, the bartenders take the same approach, using locally sourced ingredients in their drinks, dishes and seasonal fruit popsicles (or POPs). Beyond the Hotel, Bottlefork Bar and Kitchen (from former Four Seasons Executive Chef Kevin Hickey) and Homestead on the Roof serve excellent farm-to-table cuisine.
See Chicago from a different perspective with tours that are sure to please kids and parents alike. Embark on a food tour to sample the city’s many flavours; young tourists will enjoy The Cupcake Tour. Day or night, roll past famous landmarks on a Segway tour; you can choose from a variety of themes, including art and architecture or a haunted tour. Back at the Hotel, kids with a sweet tooth will love an in-room visit from the Candy Man, and the chance every day to take cookie-baking lessons at 4:00 pm with the Pastry Chef.
Indulge with a taste of the tropics at Three Dots and a Dash, the award-winning bar in which Paul McGee creates delicious tiki cocktails. After, head to Studio Paris for a bit of dancing. Late-night revellers may end the evening at Rockit Ranch Production’s The Underground, a late-night dance club with a celebrity-heavy clientele.
The perfect day in Chicago begins with room service high above the city in your Hotel suite. Once you’ve fuelled up, take the short walk down Michigan Avenue to the Chicago River, and embark on the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise for unusual views of the city’s impressive skyline. Back on dry land, stroll around the famous Bean in Millennium Park before stopping in at the Art Institute of Chicago. A classic Chicago lunch—a hot dog or a roast beef sandwich at Portillo’s—is a midday must. Return to your Four Seasons home base to recharge with a dip in the hot tub and a treatment in the Spa to prepare for an evening out. After dining at your pick of world-class restaurants, head out for live music at Andy’s Jazz, The Back Room or Underground Wonder Bar; dancing at Studio Paris, Parliament or The Underground; or cocktails at Three Dots, the Aviary or The Violet Hour.