We’re excited that the inaugural Microsoft Ignite event will be happening in our home town. Most attendees will already know about, and perhaps have already visited, some of the marquee sights that Chicago has to offer: Sears (er, Willis) Tower, the Museum of Science and Industry, Millennium Park, the John Hancock building, Magnificent Mile, etc. Well, we thought it’d be interesting to pull together a list of “lesser known but also worth checking out” things to do and places to see. For those of you who visit Chicago frequently (or those more adventurous first-timers), here’s your opportunity to check out something new.
We asked around the office and received a ton of ideas. And while some of them weren’t really “lesser known,” we’ve included them below anyway, because we think they’re worth seeing. We’ve only included a handful of suggestions below. If there’s interest, we’ll follow up with more recommendations.
Datalogics Recommendations (employee comments in italics):
Comedy at Second City, Improv at iO
No doubt you’ve heard of Second City, and may have already caught a show there. It’s still relevant, and funny. You may not be aware of iO; “Some of the best improv in the world comes out of iO; I’ll recommend the improvised Shakespeare company plays Thursday and Friday nights at iO”
Blues at Kingston Mines, Jazz at Green Mill
Again, you’ve probably heard of Kingston Mines; “It’s a really fun spot with great food and two stages for live blues music all night!” You may have also heard of Green Mill (if you’re a jazz aficionado); “Great jazz of all types; and Al Capone used to hang out here!” Both of these spots live up to the hype.
There’s lots of great views to enjoy while in Chicago, if you want to get a nice view of Chicago’s beautiful skyline, head to Museum Campus, right by the Planetarium; “the view is amazing!” For a more closer view of the skyline and Chicago’s infamous Lake Shore Drive, check out Navy Pier; “best place to get a perspective.”
Chicago History Museum
The Great Chicago Fire, the stockyards, the ’68 Democratic National Convention, the World’s Fair – the city has a storied past, and this museum on the near north side is a great way to learn more about it. We like this museum so much we had our Winter Holiday Party here last year!
The Fine Arts Building – “This extremely cool architectural landmark was built in 1886 as the showroom for Studebaker carriages, and then turned into an artist colony. Another event that MS Ignite participants could attend is hosted at the Fine Arts building on May 8, their monthly Second Friday open house, 5 to 9 PM. Studios are open, free food, free music, lots of artists to talk to. Check out Performers Music Store on the ninth floor.”
“In the Loop, visit the lobby of the Marquette Building, and the small museum there. Then walk over to the Rookery on the 200 South block of LaSalle Street, across the street from the Federal Reserve Bank Building. A nice architectural bookstore in the lobby. Cross the street to the Federal Reserve Bank Building and tour the excellent Money Museum. All of this is free.”
- The Fine Arts Building, 410 South Michigan
- Marquette Building, 56 West Adams
- The Rookery, 209 South LaSalle
- Federal Reserve Bank, 230 South LaSalle
Architectural Boat Tour; or the Water Taxi if you’re pressed for time
Enjoy the majestic architecture surrounding the Chicago River while cruising on an Architectural Boat Tour of the city. Tours resume in April and depart daily at Chicago’s First Lady Boat dock. If you’re short on time but still want to get great views, opt to take the Water Taxi rather than hailing a cab. You’ll get from one end of the city to the other while enjoying the open air, and breath taking sights of the city.
University of Chicago
Now known as “where the Obamas lived,” U of C is also the place where the first man-made nuclear reaction took place, under the football bleachers. Plus it’s close to McCormick Place. “Some of the best bookstores in the country are on or near 57th street; the Oriental Institute and the Smart Gallery are both open free. Rockefeller Chapel is beautiful if it is open; Bond Chapel is wonderful too, or just hang out in the leafy Medieval quadrangles and be philosophical.”
Food and Drink
Tons of delicious food options in Chicago: here are a few, by general location:
- Eataly “an absolutely huge Italian market & restaurant complex.”
- Aviary “cocktail lounge/bar owned and operated by the same owner as the world famous Alinea”
- Timmy O’Toole’s “a great karaoke night Tuesdays as well as great up-and-coming comedians on Wednesdays.”
- Heaven on Seven “Mostly a lunch place, but worth a break and a trip. Cajun and Creole food. I have a friend that grew up in the bayou, and she approves of the food here.”
- Au Cheval “Best. Burgers. Ever.”
- Headquarters Beercade “Drinks and old-school gaming (there’s one in River North and one in Lakeview).”
- Big Star in Wicker Park “Their fish tacos are the best and the whole place used to be an old car garage so it’s got a nice feel to it.”
- Piece “brewery with great pizza in Wicker Park/Bucktown area”
- Revolution Brewpub – “Anti-Hero IPA: ‘nuff said.”
- Opart Thai House
- Hopleaf – Belgian beers and hundreds of other on tap
- Tac Quick “If you go to a Cubs game, walk a few block up to this local Thai place. Stop at the scary liquor place to pick up a six-pack; Tac Quick has no liquor license.”
Near McCormick Place (MS Ignite)
- Manny’s Deli – “A real deli…”
- Chinatown – just West of McCormick Place “For dim sum, try Phoenix Restaurant on Archer between Clark and Cermak; for more genuine Sichuan food, try Lao Szechuan in the strip mall along Archer. Trendier hotpot food and gift shops in the mall as well.”
- U of C campus
There are lots of other recommendations: Glazed and Confused, Little Goat Diner, Transit Tees, The Music Box Theater – we can’t include them all. Hey, it’s a big city, with lots to do!
Anyways, if you have any questions, or any additional suggestions for “must-see” things, please let us know in the comments.
Thanks, and see you in May!