Where would you take a newcomer to Chicago? Readers gave us hundreds of ideas.
We heard a lot of the usual suspects — like downtown landmarks. But this local’s guide to the city is filled with spots, too, that speak to neighborhood knowledge.
With people getting out more now that more are vaccinated and COVID-19 restrictions largely are lifted, we asked Sun-Times readers to tell us where they’d take someone visiting Chicago for the first time.
Hundreds of people responded, offering their collective take on a local’s guide to the city.
Everybody had at least a few must-sees to suggest. There were the expected downtown landmarks, of course, but also beloved spots across the city.
“1.) An old-school neighborhood tavern — I like Stanley’s at 43rd and Ashland. 2.) Take the Brown Line to the end of the line so they get a bird’s-eye view of, like, 10 different neighborhoods. And 3.) Take the Pink Line to Ashland, and walk around Pilsen to see the murals and pop in to one of the many great Mexican restaurants around there.” — Paul Mulchrone
“A day at the Shedd Aquarium, then water-taxi to Navy Pier. Water-taxi from downtown to Chinatown. Go to the Signature Lounge for a drink and a stop at the women’s restroom with an amazing view of the city. Go to the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago History Museum and then the J. Parker [rooftop restaurant].” — Kate Gronstal
“For the perfect day, head over to Hyde Park and the University of Chicago — where you can walk the campus and appreciate the amazing architecture and vibe. Then, just a stone’s throw away, is the wonderful Medici on 57th restaurant for a fabulous breakfast, lunch or dinner. Finally, end your afternoon with an awesome browsing experience at 57th Street Books. You will not be disappointed!” — Patti Joyce
“For the full experience, it would have to be the top of one of the buildings, so they can see it all at once. Only then would I start taking them around to the obvious: Navy Pier, the Bean, the Magnificent Mile, Wrigley Field, etc.” — Sandy Gulliver
“Get a Top Notch Beef Burgers burger in Beverly, a jibarito on Division Street, a tavern-style pizza from a neighborhood pizzeria and dim sum to go and eat at in Ping Tom Park in Chinatown. Go on an architecture tour along the river, get birria from Birrieria Ocotlan on 106th, then a walk around Steelworkers Park and picnic at Promontory Point in Hyde Park. Eat at Original Soul Vegetarian on 75th, and get BBQ in Washington Park. Spend a day at Montrose Beach, and walk around Devon and get some food, of course. Plus, go to whatever neighborhood festivals are going on while they’re here. See some music at Jazz Showcase or in the parks, get some Ethiopian food at Ethiopian Diamond or Demera, then see a show at the Green Mill. Walk down 26th, and get some tacos or churros or paletas — or all of it. Grab lunch at Manny’s Deli, and maybe, if we have leftover time, Millennium Park and downtown.” — Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle
“After they do the standard tourist stuff downtown, we go to Logan Arcade because Chicago is the pinball capital of the world.” — Will Reynolds
“Navy Pier, Water Tower Place, Grand Lux Cafe, Sox park, Hyde Park and the University of Chicago, Grant Park, Willis Tower, the Field Museum and Museum of Science and Industry, Odyssey cruise, Riverwalk and more.” — Mary L. Fleming
“Mostly South Side stuff: Rainbow Cone, DiCola’s Seafood in Beverly and Vienna Beef at 38th and Morgan. Also Weber’s Bakery on Archer and Vito & Nick’s on Pulaski. Get breaded steak from Ricobene’s on 26th. That should hold ‘em for a while.” — John Czerwiec
“Get an all-day water-taxi pass — it’s a relaxed way to see different parts of the city, with unlimited on-off privileges, so you can hop off if an area looks interesting. Up to Goose Island, out to Navy Pier, Michigan Avenue, and always end the day in Chinatown so that you’re getting back to where you started while the city is all lit up.” — Carolyn Leeb
“Lou Mitchell’s for breakfast, Lou Malnati’s for deep dish and Gene & Georgetti for steak. It’s all about the food!” — Donna Mazarka
“Chicago is a beautiful city. Go for a lakefront bike ride, go on the Chicago River architectural boat tour to visit the Art Institute and museum campus. But, most of all, visit the neighborhoods — Chinatown, Greektown, Little Italy. Also the Botanic Garden and Morton Arboretum.” — Jill Sorensen-Davis
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“My usual itinerary is to begin at Union Station, then breakfast at a nearby greasy spoon and a walk down Michigan Avenue to burn off the fats. See Buckingham Fountain, drive around Lake Shore Drive to see the aquarium. See the art museum, Marina Towers, Water Tower, Sears (Willis Tower), Hancock, Wrigley, Soldier Field and the nearest White Castle. Stroll Navy Pier, cruise Old Town, then head south to the Museum of Science and Industry. End with a dipped beef and peppers from Johnny’s for a nightcap.” — Bruce Lorenzana
“The 95th in the Hancock, then on to the Sears Tower (Willis Tower) and the Art Institute. Next: shopping on Michigan Avenue and a boat cruise on the river to get a real feel for the city. A must for food would be deep dish at Pizano’s, a steak at Gibsons and dinner at Girl & the Goat to really showcase that Chicago is a global city with some of the best food. We would go to a Cubs game and then Divvy on the lakefront for activity. Last, I would find some good music — not sure if any blues bars are open, but, if Kingston Mines is, then that's a must. I would also go to Reggies in the South Loop — great for people-watching and music.” — Rosalyn A. Ford
“Go to Wrigley Field — for the history and hopefully a ‘Go Cubs Go’ serenade, Navy Pier for a chance to see the skyline from the lake, the Art Institute to see the world-class creativity, the Goodman Theatre or one of the Broadway in Chicago theaters to see outstanding actors who’ve been idled way too long.” — Paul Lockwood
“Dinner al fresco at Gibsons on Rush. Live music at Kingston Mines or Buddy Guy’s and drinks at Bar 94 in the Hancock. Zanies would be a second choice for entertainment. The second night, we would go to Rosebud or Tufano’s on Taylor, a Chicago Blackhawks game, and have a nightcap on Rush.” — Frank Mandros
“A night on Devon is pretty unique to just about any city in the U.S. You can get great Indian or Pakistani food — maybe Khan BBQ or Annapurna — and go to some incredible old Chicago-style dive bars like Cary’s or Casey’s Corner or Smilin’ Jim’s. If you're still going at 2 a.m., you could pop up the Mark II. Once you are done there around 4 or 5 a.m., you could get some tacos at Lindo Guadalajara at Lawrence and Clark. Sadly, most of the North Side south of Lawrence has lost most of its character.” — Paul Richter
“Chicago History Museum, Art Institute, Mr. Beef, Club Lago, the Green Door, Twin Anchors, Old Town Ale House, Miller’s Pub, Laschet’s Inn, Gibsons and Gene and Georgetti.” — Jan Smid
“My go-to list: 1.) Hot dog at your favorite place (mine is Superdawg); 2.) Field Museum; 3.) Walk down Michigan Avenue; 4.) Oak Street Beach; 5.) Dinner at a great steak house — so many, but my go-to would be Chicago Cut Steakhouse; 6.) Drinks on the 95th floor of the Hancock; 6.) Museum of Contemporary Art; 7.) Art Institute; 8.) Buckingham Fountain; 9.) Agora sculptures in Grant Park; 10.) A great Mexican feast at Frontera Grill.” — Robert Lisowski
“Lunch in Chinatown, CAC River Tour and dinner at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba, then on to a Beverly neighborhood watering hole with a live band. Run Lake Shore Drive, and take side streets for the scenic views.” — Kelly Dahle
“Definitely a nighttime Wendella boat ride with fireworks. The Art Institute, The Bean and a walk on the Riverwalk with lunch. Go to Water Tower, and have dinner at the top of the Hancock. Ride on Lake Shore Drive south to Hyde Park and the Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago. Take in a game at Wrigley and some blues on Lincoln. See Blue Man Group, visit Boystown, then hop the Red Line to Chinatown for a meal, and take a water taxi downtown. Don’t miss the Shedd and the Field. And, if it’s summer, a stroll around the Museum Campus and along Grant Park. Head to Buckingham Fountain and the rose garden. Also, visit the Lurie Garden, the BP Bridge and maybe see a concert at Grant Park. Sooo much to do, food to eat, music, festivals.” — Sarah Lipman