July 21, 2024


Travel Finishes First

Chicago in the Summer: 8 Places to Go

As the pandemic ebbs in the United States, many travelers have been favoring outdoor, away-from-it-all getaways. According to the travel planning site TripIt, over Memorial Day weekend, major cities like Washington, D.C., and New York were trending down, while outdoorsy spots like Palm Springs, Calif., were newly popular. “Two-thirds of my clients are booking houses, ranch stays and hotels in smaller coastal communities,” said Shawna Owen, the owner of Huffman Travel, part of the Virtuoso Network.

But as residents of big cities know, their hometowns are roaring back to life. Take Chicago’s Loop neighborhood. It was a ghost town at the height of the pandemic. Now, the area south of the Chicago River, known for its architecture and art-infused green spaces like Millennium Park, is abuzz with new hotels and restaurants and performances at Grant Park, which have returned after a pandemic hiatus.

The nearby West Loop, an industrial quadrant that runs on the east side of the Chicago River, has been flourishing since pioneering chefs like Stephanie Izard (Girl and The Goat), Sarah Gruenberg (Monteverde) and Paul Kahan (The Publican) opened restaurants there about 15 years ago. Incredibly, new hot spots emerged during the pandemic, including a groovy boîte modeled after an old school Chicago “slashie” (a hybrid liquor store and bar).

All of this plus a star-studded lineup for Lollapalooza in late July signals what could be the tail end of the city’s Covid-19 cultural drought.

The Carbide & Carbon building has been turning heads on Michigan Avenue since 1929, its polished black granite and green-and-gold terra-cotta a testament to Art Deco bravado. It was reborn as the Pendry Chicago hotel in May, embracing the grandeur while incorporating contemporary conviviality into the 364 rooms and public spaces. Of particular interest: the 24th floor terrace, which has never been open to the public. Called Château Carbide for the summer season, the deck’s striped lounge chairs, rattan lanterns, palm trees and fragrant rosemary bushes aim to channel Provence’s Côte d’Azur. In keeping with the theme, there will be a rosé-focused wine list, charcuterie and French house music. From this perch, guests have an exceptional perspective of the skyline and the top of the Carbide & Carbon Building, which resembles a glittering champagne bottle. Reservations are recommended (230 North Michigan Avenue; 312-777-9000).

The Grant Park Music Festival is back after taking 2020 off, with 21 concerts at the Frank Gehry-designed band shell at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. On tap as part of the 80-year-old classical music festival: the Grieg Piano Concerto, the “New World Symphony,” the “William Tell Overture” and loads of Dvorak, Beethoven, Brahms and Haydn. Other Millennium Park events include a performance of “Goshen” by Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, featuring the gospel singer Le’Andria Johnson and, as part of American Ballet Theater’s ABT Across America, a production of Jessica Lang’s “Let Me Sing Forevermore,” set to the music of Tony Bennett; and “Indestructible Light,” a new piece choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie, featuring music by Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Billy Strayhorn. The series continues through Aug. 21 with concerts every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Free open seating is available in the Seating Bowl and on the Great Lawn. Reserved seating is $25.

Throughout the summer, a portion of State Street, the Loop’s main drag, from Lake to Madison, will close to traffic for a multi-block pop-up called Sundays on State. On tap: D.J. sessions with Soulphonetics, creative movement classes by Ballet Chicago, live mural painting, karaoke-style Broadway singalongs by Porchlight Music Theater, and a lounge by Southside Jazz Coalition where you can listen to vinyl. There will also be recreation (yoga, ballet, self-defense classes), dining and retail vendors on site. Events run July 11 to Sep. 12, with no events scheduled on Aug. 1 or 15; free.