Following the howls of wind, the crunch of snow and the crash of falling ice, the audio in June turns to the most pleasant of city sounds: the thunder of festival music and drum-beating street musicians, the first crack of a bat, the refreshing pop of a summer brew along a patio sidewalk. Even a first ride aboard the El, with its shakes and rattles, can be an exciting one as you embark on a journey to a new neighborhood. No matter the season, Chicago is a feast for the senses. Now, where do you find the one that matches your mood? Follow along for a parade of experiences, starting with tours with a twist led by ex-comedians and actors; a museum for the weird scientist in you; light French bites inside a new French café based near Obama’s old stomping grounds; and after-hours drinks in the West Loop.
Maybe you’re a public speaker by vocation, or not quite a morning person until, say, 11 am. Either way, it’s good to let someone else do the talking while you sit back and savor the sights. Spend the first two hours getting to know the city via Chicago Trolley & Double Decker Co.’s Hop-On Hop Off Tours, which depart from 13 locations around downtown Chicago, including Millennium Park, the Michigan Avenue Bridge and Skydeck Chicago. Catch the red and green trolleys or bright red double-decker buses to take in 13 miles of the city, and the humor and wit of the actors and comedians operating your tour. What good is a tour, if you can’t stay awake for it?
I’m amazed at just how much I learn every time I visit the Museum of Science and Industry. You can walk in a hurricane vortex simulator; see your future self based on a snapshot of your face and questions about your diet and exercise regimen (my 72-year-old self’s face was not badly wrinkled, but my cheeks just fattened and fattened through the years); time how fast you can milk a cow; walk through a model airliner; and so much more. This month, catch “National Geographic Presents: Earth Explorers” to explore the Earth’s diverse eco-zones, the Polar Regions, Oceans, Rain Forests, Mountains and Caves and Savanna, which should boost your appetite for …
If you’re visiting during the week, grab an early dinner at Plein Air, a French atelier-inspired café on the University of Chicago campus. (The restaurant closes at 8 pm Monday to Friday.) French for “in the open air,” the eatery isn’t fussy, offering rustic comforts like baguettes, tartines, royal pies and healthy options like the signature Farmer’s Market Bowl brimming with brown rice, herbs and pesto. Take a Cortado and a chocolate lace cookie to go for your commute back to the hotel.
Chicago’s Randolph Street has always been a destination for foodies, what with Avec, Girl & the Goat, Au Cheval, Grace and Blackbird on the same strip, but locals flocked elsewhere for nightlife options. Now comes a spot that satisfies both experiences: Packing House, whose vibe lands somewhere between South Beach penthouse and fancy Chicago loft. Order charcuterie, hand-tossed pizzas and modern plates, including crab spaghettini and Wagyu sirloin, to share under the retractable roof on the second floor. The bevy of flatscreens are signs of its former life as a sports bar. It’s OK. In Chicago, it’s kosher to grab a beer and catch the game in a swanky place like this. Somewhere in a fancy West Loop condo, someone is doing the same thing.