Itching to stretch your legs after days sitting in your meetings or sessions? So many Chicago attractions allow attendees to take a break from the convention hamster wheel. Whether you feel like throwing an axe or tossing a few drinks back, enjoying a relaxing walk or taking in some culture, eating some sweets or dining fine, we’ve got options for you to have a great day in Chicago.
Start your day on Michigan Avenue at Fairgrounds (12 S. Michigan Ave.), a coffee shop that serves brews from boutique roasters including Chicago-based Dark Matter, Halfwit and Passion House, plus morning sustenance in the form of breakfast tacos. Take your cup across the street and marvel at the towering digital screens and spouting streams at The Crown Fountain, a public work of art by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa. Wind your way the four-season Lurie Garden and snap an Instagram-worthy pic or just soak in the view.
If you’re the museum type, you could easily spend the entire day at the Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan Ave., admission $25), wandering the ongoing exhibit of The New Contemporary collection or any of the temporary exhibits of photography, paintings, sculptures, prints, and more. Break for a leisurely lunch at Terzo Piano in the museum’s stunning Modern Wing.
If you’d rather work up a sweat that stroll through galleries, hop the westbound Green Line at the State/Lake station for your choice of offbeat activities in the West Loop, one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods. Get off at the Morgan stop to scale the walls at indoor climbing gym Brooklyn Boulders (100 S. Morgan St.), where a first-timers can take a Learn the Ropes class ($79) and experienced climbers can opt for a day pass ($25). Or proceed to the Ashland stop and walk three blocks to Bad Axe Throwing (165 N. Loomis St.), where you can channel your inner lumberjack and practice the competitive sport of axe-throwing ($20 an hour for walk-ins; check website for hours and wear closed-toe shoes). Or if it’s below freezing, head to Kaiser Tiger (1415 W. Randolph St.), whose beer garden curling rink’s season is November-March ($40 per lane per half hour; cash only and first come, first served).
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, walk east along Fulton Market, where some of the city’s trendiest restaurants reside. On your left, you’ll pass Google’s Chicago office (320 N. Morgan St.) housed in the historic Fulton Cold Storage Building. If you planned ahead and made a reservation — or you don’t mind trying your luck with a walk-in — stop for a meal at Duck Duck Goat (857 W. Fulton Market), the festive Chinese restaurant from beloved local chef Stephanie Izard.
Or for a quick late lunch or early dinner, grab a gourmet deli sandwich at Publican Quality Meats (825 W. Fulton Market), open until 5 p.m. daily except 6 p.m. Saturdays). If you only have time for a sweet treat before heading back to your hotel, hang a right on Green Street and snag an order of bombolini (tasty Italian doughnuts) or gelato from BomboBar (832 W. Randolph St.), a walk-up window with picnic tables set up on the sidewalk.
If you’re staying downtown and don’t want to stray too far for a laugh, keep the night going at The Comedy Bar (500 N. LaSalle St.), which hosts shows on two stages and serves legendary deep-dish pies from Gino’s East to boot. If you’re craving live music, speakeasy-style joint Untitled (111 W. Kinzie St.) hosts everything from swing to soul Wednesday through Saturday nights. If ending the night with cocktail is more your style, make your way to underground tiki lair Three Dots and a Dash (435 N. Clark St., enter through the alley), where an array of rums and other tropical treats await.
Lisa Arnett is a freelance writer in Chicago, Illinois.