For longer than I care to admit, my experience of Chicago existed within the confines of River North and Streeterville. Chicago, in all its glory, existed within blocks of Michigan Avenue. But now, even as a cynical one-time local, I still have to admit that despite the hordes of tourists, Michigan Avenue is still pretty, well, magnificent.
Extending from the glittering river to the stunning lake front, this part of the city boasts iconic bridges and perfect city views. It’s central, architecturally stunning and very walkable, but a little more retail focused than business focused like the Loop (which is a ghost town on the weekends). Between the red and brown lines, you can pretty easily get up and down the city too.
From the biggest Starbucks in the world to the famous historic Water Tower (and the beloved Water Tower Place), from the iconic John Hancock Tower (yes, we’ll keep calling it that, thank you very much) to a building large enough to once have its own zip code, from the always popular Eataly to the hilarious block that consists of an unnecessarily large McDonalds, Hard Rock Café and Rainforest Café all in one view, River North will always have a special place in my heart.
It’s not hard to dodge the tourists. They don’t venture too many blocks beyond the Magnificent Mile. Just a few blocks more and you’ll hit the Merchandise Mart and north of that, my personal favorite part of the neighborhood. A little more residential, a little more local with an everyday rhythm to it. And of course on the other side, the lakefront is always a nice walk (though warmer months may mean dodging bikes and joggers and vloggers left and right). This one is worth the tourists.
Sure River North and Streeterville have an insane amount of hotels, many tourist trap restaurants and can at time feels like a suburban mall with a glow up, but nothing beats walking on the wide streets among the tall buildings, warm drink in hand for holiday shopping.