The Magnificent Mile is a must-do on a visit to Chicago, but wander a few blocks from the famed Michigan Avenue, and you’ll find these tucked-away, only-in-Chicago destinations well worth the detour.
The newly opened Conrad Chicago (Grand Luxury suite rates from $755 per night, conradchicagohotel.com) is a block off Michigan Avenue, and its 20th floor sky lobby offers stunning views of the city—a great orientation to start your visit. Along with technology-smart rooms and suites to make family travel a breeze, the hotel has a seasonal rooftop Japanese restaurant Noyane, which opened in May. Year-round, Baptiste & Bottle offers seasonal takes on American food, as well as a bar cart for tableside cocktails and an up-close look at its extensive whiskey collection.
Head west on Erie Street, and you’ll find yourself in front of a Gilded Age mansion, the Driehaus Museum (tickets $10 to $20, driehausmuseum.org). The museum itself is worth a visit for a glimpse at its spectacular restored interiors, but this summer, it has the added attraction of L’Affichomania: The Passion for French Posters, which features original and colorful mergers of art and commerce.
Cross over Michigan Avenue and head toward the lake for a completely different take on art at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (tickets $8 to $15, mcachicago.org). Along with permanent exhibits that feature every possible medium, the museum hosts an exhibit of works from Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats its Own Leg (June 6 to Sept. 24), which is sure to be the blockbuster art event of the summer.
Head south to the Chicago River (this is your chance to shop the Mag Mile); turn right at the 1920s terra-cotta gem known as the Wrigley Building; and grab a bite at Beacon Tavern (beacontavern.com). Hidden on a public walkway between Michigan and Wabash avenues, this handsome restaurant reinvents tavern classics by giving them a Southern shine. The relish tray and peekytoe crab dip are two must-orders for the table. Walk it off with an amble down Chicago’s newest attraction, the Riverwalk (chicagoriverwalk.us). Bars, street entertainers and food kiosks dot the pedestrian-only mile-plus walkway, while boats—from water taxis to kayaks to tour boats—float on by.
Head east on Michigan Avenue for a fantastic view and some of the city’s best cocktails at GreenRiver (greenriverchi.com). This Michelin-starred restaurant is hidden on the 18th floor of a medical building—we were skeptical too—but step into this modern space and peruse the multipage cocktail menu, which charmingly tells the story of Chicago’s Irish-American influence, and you’ll settle in for a final toast to exploring the city’s many charms.
Photography by: “MOTOCYCLES COMIOT” 1899 PHOTO BY JOHN FAIER, © DRIEHAUS MUSEUM, 2015; TAKASHI MURAKAMI, “727,” 1996 PHOTO COURTESY TOMIO KOYAMA GALLERY, TOKYO / BLUM & POE, LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK/TOKYO, ©1996 TAKASHI MURAKAMI/KAIKAI KIKI CO. LTD., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, PHOTO BY TOM POWELL IMAGING; BEACON TAVERN PHOTO BY KIRA WILLIAMS; GREENRIVER PHOTO BY KAILLEY LINDMAN