As an East Coast girl, I can honestly say that my heart belongs to Chicago. It’s a city with amazing people, a gorgeous lake, and a skyline so perfect you would think it was planned that way. When visitors come, I use this advantage of their presence to head to some very obvious places that are iconic to Chicago. Frankly, touristy nonsense is fun, and it helps to use your guests as an excuse. With that said, I give you my tiny list of seeing Chicago Like a Tourist, pandemic style.
Seadog Architectural Tours
It is the corniest thing I could think of, and its fantastic. I love the architecture of Chicago, but I really don’t love tours. This is where Seadog comes in. This tour gives you a reasonably informative river tour of downtown Chicago architecture all from the comfort of the open top boat. They talk you through the lock systems on the Chicago River (which is absolutely bonkers) then you head out to the lake to get an absolutely picture perfect view of the city. After you get your bearings, they play corny music and speed up the coastline. They take a brief stop to tell you a little more about Chicago architecture. Then you go speeding back down to the southside for a little bit more about the buildings. Then you go speeding back to the Navy Pier. Nothing sums up Chicago like an informative architectural tour from a very fast moving vehicle.
Sydney R Marovitz Golf Course
This little nine hole course located in Lincoln Park is a beautiful and frustrating course. You really want to test your accuracy, lest you slice into the very crowded lakefront pedestrian/bike path. There are beautiful views of the city, a really laid back pro shop, and a fantastic little outdoor cafe at the end of the nine.
Garfield Park Conservatory
I love the flowers and wildlife of this place. There are even a couple of remnants from the Chihuly tour that the Conservatory managed to purchase. It’s a fantastic place where school children from all over Chicago have fond memories of field trips. Seeing as all the school field trips are cancelled for the duration of the pandemic, feel free to go whenever you like! No kids around for MILES!
Photo by Elizabeth Vande Griend
Art Institute of Chicago
With all there is to do, see, and eat, I can honestly say that the Art Institute of Chicago will forever be my favorite place in the whole city. Mind you, I am not at all an art snob. I couldn’t begin to tell you the difference between impressionism and expressionism. I just really love this place. From the dapper lions that stand guard, to the oh so inspirational “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” the odd Thorne Miniature Rooms, to the art of famous alumni like Georgia O’Keeffe, this place is the greatest hits compilation of the arts world. Use the entrance at the Modern Wing on east Monroe. It’s way less crowded.
International Museum of Surgical Science
Even pre-pandemic, this wasn’t a very high traffic museum. It’s really quiet, and with timed entrances, even more so. My husband and I came here on our first date. There is nothing more romantic than feeling like you have the whole museum to yourself while musing over their oddly large collection of specula.
The Bean at Millenium Park
There is a beautiful public installation by Sir Anish Kapoor called Cloud Gate. Everyone calls it the Bean, for very obvious reasons. When you have an opportunity, stand under it, look for your reflection, and take a picture. Everyone does, and it's ok to look like a fool.
Pot for fun
Maybe I shouldn't be mentioning this, but nothing helps take the edge off of a pandemic like some pot gummies, amiright? A lot of dispensaries are open for recreational use by appointment only, so be sure to check it out first. If you can, orange dark chocolate bars are literally the best thing in the world. Get me some.
That’s just a few things that you can do right now. Chicago is crushing the curve during these trying times, so be sure to check in and see if your favorite places are open.
I love this city.
When Connie’s not teaching math or hanging out with her son, she’s often writing her blog, The Adequate Mom. She’s an avid golfer and especially loves hitting the links with her parents in California. Connie is crushed she’s missing her first GenCon in years (for you non-nerds, that’s a game convention). If you ever meet her, get her to sing “Me and Bobby McGee.” Trust us on that.