Your Kind of Town
Start your tour at the Chicago Cultural Center (77 E. Randolph St., 312-744-6630, explorechicago.org), which was once the main site of the Chicago Public Library. Inside the Randolph Street entrance, the Visitor Information Center has maps, brochures and free Chicago Greeter tours to get you started. Head upstairs to Preston Bradley Hall to see the world’s largest stained glass Tiffany dome.
To help appreciate Chicago’s spectacular skyline, the Chicago Architecture Foundation (224 S. Michigan Ave., 312-922-3432, architecture.org) hosts many interesting tours of the city, including a popular architectural river cruise. Put on your walking shoes for the “Historic Downtown—Rise of the Skyscraper” tour, a two-hour walking tour that highlights early skyscrapers.
Across the street from the architecture foundation is the Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan Ave., 312-443-3600, artic.edu/aic), which has a fabulous collection of famous paintings. Head to the second-floor Impressionist and Post-Impressionist galleries to see artwork by Seurat, Renoir, Monet and more. The new Modern Wing is a stunning addition to the museum, with not-to-be-missed modern and contemporary art from Picasso to the present.
Enjoy great views of the city’s skyline as you cross the pedestrian bridge from the top of the Modern Wing to Millennium Park. Have lunch at Park Grill (11 N. Michigan Ave., 312-521-PARK, parkgrillchicago.com), which accommodates gluten-free diners with its contemporary American menu.
Parks dot Chicago, due to the city’s long history of support for public space, greenery and outdoor sculpture. The crown in the city’s park system is Millennium Park, just off Michigan Avenue between Randolph Street to the north and Monroe Street to the south. In Millennium Park, the highly polished stainless steel Cloud Gate sculpture, nicknamed “The Bean” with its shiny metallic finish, reflects the city’s stunning architecture above and tourists below. The Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion hosts many free outdoor concerts in summer. Check millenniumpark.org for a list of events. Stroll south along the promenade to the Crown Fountain, two towers that display changing electronic pictures of faces of Chicago’s citizens. Pack swimsuits for the kids—in summer, the faces spit out sprays of water to the delight of children who splash below.
After 5:00 pm is a great time to see twinkling night views from the Skydeck (233 S. Wacker Dr., 312-875-9447, theskydeck.com) at the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), the tallest building in the city. The 103rd floor Skydeck has a stellar vista of the city—actually a span of up to four states—as well as a breathtaking view from The Ledge, a glass balcony that extends in midair, 1,353 feet above the ground.
For dinner, hit Hub 51 (51 W. Hubbard St., 312-828-0051, hub51chicago.com), part of the Lettuce Entertain You (leye.com) restaurant empire. Almost all Lettuce restaurants have gluten-free menus and staff trained to accommodate food allergies and gluten-free requests. Hub 51 offers an eclectic gluten-free menu, from sushi to pulled chicken tacos.
Next: Day 2