If you are looking for the heart of Chicago, look no further than the Loop district. Gaining its moniker from the streetcar and later El lines that ran in loops throughout the area, the Loop stands as Chicago’s downtown. Bounded by the rivers to the North and West, Millennium and Grant Parks to the east, and Roosevelt Road and the Museum Campus to the south, the Loop intermixes the commercial and civic core, the theater district, the massive State Street shopping corridor (the counterpart to the more luxury-focused Magnificent Mile), the city’s collegiate center (with over 7 institutions), and the beginnings of the manufacturing district associated with the South Loop. Historic buildings stand alongside skyscrapers, creating much of the iconic skyline for which Chicago is so well known.
Over the past decade, the downtown Loop has transformed from an area of the city relegated merely to work and play to one of work, play, and exciting new residential opportunities. The northern part of the Loop is now filled with incredible luxury apartment and condo buildings that offer residents absolutely every advantage of downtown living. Residential towers like One Eleven have redefined what it means to live the luxury lifestyle. Incredible custom Italian cabinetry, river views, concierge services and full business suites--one might live mere blocks from the central business district and hardly need to go to the office! Everything that you need is at your fingertips, whether inside the building or beyond!
The Loop is very walkable both above ground in the grid of streets, as well as below ground, via the Chicago Pedway System. Connected to the rest of the city by water bridges that span the rivers and land bridges that cut across the massive Millennium and Grant Parks, the downtown area is driveable, but beware of the clutter of traffic and higher parking premiums often inherent of city centers. The multiple tiers of Wacker enable some ability to bypass the downtown congestion in order to provide connection to the interstates from Lake Shore Drive. Buses cut through the center of the area, while the El circumnavigates and helps define the borders. Plenty of Divvy stations enable bike transport, but beware of the frequent stops that also come with a tightly gridded street system!
From bodegas to pubs to haute cuisine, the Loop offers something for everyone, especially the pressed-for-time lunch crowd. Food trucks, fast casual eateries, vegan cafes, and the ubiquitous but consistent chains help power those pressed for time. Steakhouses and institutions such as Rosebud, Petterinos, and McCormick and Schmicks provide the setting for the more formal business lunch crowd, and after work, trendier gastropubs such as the Gage and cocktail and wine bars such as Roof at the Wit offer the setting for happy hour mingling. In search of a place to watch the game? The Loop boasts plenty of sports bars and taverns. From New York style delis (Chicago Signature favorite Eleven City Diner) to Cuban (Cafecito) to Asian Fusion (Saucy Porka), the farther south one travels, the more eclectic and eccentric the options. From students to tourists to business men and women, the Loop has, and caters to, all.
Although the crowds rushing past might provide entertainment enough, a large part of Chicago’s cultural history calls the Loop home. No visit to Chicago is complete without at least the briefest of architectural tours through the Loop. Or eschew high culture, and head out to some of the city’s best nightlife underground, at street level, or atop the roof of a hotel. The city hosts a myriad of free events in the parks during the summer amidst a seemingly never ending lineup of nationally renowned festivals such as Lollapalooza and Taste of Chicago. Millennium Park plays host to outdoor concerts in the beautiful Pritzker Pavilion during the summer season, along with the world famous Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago’s thriving music scene is home to big name concerts such as Lollapalooza and soul-stirring performances by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera of Chicago while popular local venues for blues, jazz, rock, hip-hop, and more are packed nightly. During the winter, locals and tourists alike pack the Millennium Park ice skating rink for a romantic evening under the stars. Arts, entertainment, history, culture, all at one’s fingertips.