November 18, 2020

Explore A Few of Chicago’s Vibrant Neighborhoods

Virtue's catfish. Photo by Gary Adcock, courtesy of Virtue

Chicago is among the most diverse cities in the US, and it shows in the incredible array of restaurants, from Pakistani to Ecuadorian. Add in world-class museums, a huge range of impressive architecture, and loads of family-friendly activities, and you’ve got a dynamic metropolis ready to be explored. This one-day tour of Chicago scratches the surface of what makes this city so enticing: you’ll visit favorites like the Shedd Aquarium and explore historically Chinese, Latinx, and Black neighborhoods for art, architecture, and toothsome meals.

To help combat the spread of Covid-19, some venues below may be closed or by appointment or reservation only. Note that masks are required in all venues except when you’re eating.

Things are changing rapidly. We do our best to update openings, closures, and hours. All information published below was correct at the time of writing.
Magellanic penguins, Shedd Aquarium. Photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez

If you’ve got kids in tow, we recommend making Shedd Aquarium your first stop (advance tickets required). This enormous aquarium is home to more than 32,000 animals, from blue-spotted salamanders to Magellanic penguins. Beyond educating visitors through a slew of engaging exhibitions, the museum works with partners on animal rescue, plastic pollution reduction, and protecting wildlife habitats.

The Shedd sits right on Lake Michigan in the South Loop. If you got an early start and need a bit of caffeine, drive 6 minutes or walk 13 to Little Branch Cafe.

The Arts of Africa Gallery, Art Institute of Chicago. Photo © Art Institute of Chicago

If an art museum is more your speed, book tickets in advance for the renowned Art Institute of Chicago in Grant Park or the Museum of Contemporary Photography, just outside Grant Park and part of Columbia College Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago’s collection spans 300,000 pieces and 5,000 years and is astounding in its breadth: from a late 19th century Ivorian face mask to contemporary large-scale paintings by Chicagoan Kerry James Marshall. The Museum of Contemporary Photographer opened in the 80s and now has a collection of 16,000 pieces from 1,500 artists, including many from Midwestern states. Exhibitions include “What Does Democracy Look Like”, from Columbia College Chicago faculty, and “In Their Own Form”, which looks at Afrofuturism.

Phoenix. Photo © Michelin North America

After your aquarium or museum visit, drive 10 minutes south to Chinatown for dim sum at MICHELIN Plate restaurant Phoenix, where meals come with a side of skyline views. Deftly use chopsticks to eat cha siu bao, steamed buns filled with barbecue pork, har gow, shrimp dumplings, and garlicky stir-fried gai lan (Chinese broccoli).

Kristoffer's Café & Bakery. Photo courtesy of Kristoffer's Café & Bakery

From lunch, drive 10 minutes to Pilsen, a lively Latinx neighborhood with a wide variety of Latin American restaurants and bright murals. If you’re craving something sweet, stop in to Kristoffer’s Café & Bakery in East Pilsen, a favorite for tres leches cake.

Pajaro Cosmico, W 16th Street and Ashland Avenue. Photo courtesy of Yollocalli Arts Reach

Next stops are the Pilsen Murals, a collection of vibrant murals, including Francisco Mendoza’s glass-tile mosaics at Orozco Community Academy (1645 W 18th Pl at S Damen Ave), two blocks from the National Museum of Mexican Art. Chicago Architecture Center and Walk Chicago Tours both run walking tours of Pilsen CAC (closed for season, check back in spring.) For more murals, drive 15 minutes northwest to the Humboldt Park neighborhood, where there are more than 60 beautiful murals between Western Avenue to the east, Division Street to the south and Rockwell Street to the west. Don’t miss Las Puertas del Paseo Boricua (the doors of Paseo Boricua, another name for Division Street) by curator/artist Sam Kirk, a striking line of doorways by Latinx artists (along Division St. between California and Western).

Humboldt House. Photo courtesy of Humboldt House

If you’ve got time, there are a handful of shops on N California Ave between W Augusta and W Thomas: Humboldt House (airy, modern home goods and accessories); Space Oddities (bookstore with art from local artists); and Vintage Quest (vintage and antique furniture and homeware).

Frederick C. Robie House. Photo Courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust/Choose Chicago

Hop back in the car and drive 30 minutes to Hyde Park, home to the University of Chicago and the Obama family. Before dinner, stop by Robie House, built in 1910 and designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and exemplifying his Prairie style. The house is now part of UChicago and has limited open hours, but you can also admire it from the outside.

Interview of Chef Erick Williams of Virtue, Hyde Park, Chicago. Film courtesy of Isabelli Partners

From Robie House, it’s a five-minute drive to MICHELIN Bib Gourmand restaurant Virtue, a welcoming Southern American restaurant helmed by Chicago native Erick Williams. Especially during Chicago’s cold months, a plate of Williams’ shrimp with cheddar grits from Geechie Boy Mill on Edisto, SC is wonderfully warming.

Where to Stay:

The Hoxton, Chicago. Photo by Anthony Tahlier/Tablet

The Hoxton, Chicago: The 182 rooms at this warehouse-turned-hotel in Fulton Market are sized Snug, Cosy, and Roomy and have mid-century inspired-furnishings, leather headboards, custom-designed bedding from local artist Cody Hudson, and marble-and-tile bathrooms. Set up shop in the coworking space or ditch your computer and head to the rooftop pool and ceviche restaurant.

See the entire MICHELIN Guide selection for the US, plus articles on cooking, travel, chefs, and more.

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Hero image: Wall of Hope, 1856 S Loomis St, Pilsen, Chicago. Photo courtesy of Yollocalli Arts Reach