It’s that time a year. Time to dust off my most comfortable pair of shoes (that I reserve only for SHRM) and get ready to head to Chicago for this year’s Annual SHRM Conference and Exposition.
So besides attending all of the resourceful sessions and seeing some interesting speakers (Hillary Clinton), I'm excited to explore Chicago.
This isn’t my first time to The Windy City, but I’ve had so much fun in the past, that even though I’ve done a lot of the “touristy” things I’m willing to do them again, so here is my list of the Top Ten Things to Do in Chicago while at SHRM (for first time visitors and veterans travelers).
- Navy Pier: One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Lake Michigan is at Navy Pier, Chicago’s number one tourist attraction (not sure if that’s encouraging or a deterrent). Over the last 100 years, Navy Pier has become a must. It has dozens of shops, restaurants, live-theater, an IMAX, botanical gardens, museums and more (a Ferris Wheel). You can easily spend a day there, so keep track of your time, because we have sessions to attend people!
- Millennium Park: If you haven’t seen “The Bean” this is where you’ll find it. Millennium Park is located in The Loop along Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Cool fact, the park covers 24.5-acres and sits atop a parking garage and commuter rail station, so it is considered the world’s largest rooftop garden. After Navy Pier, it is the most visited tourist attraction in Chicago.
- “Sears Tower”: I need to check out the Willis Tower, I mean afterall, last time I was there it was still called the Sears Tower, so I need to see what else has changed (I assume not much). But nevertheless it’s cool to ride the elevator to the top and experience Chi-town from up above. If you don’t want to pay to go to the top, you can always go to top of the Hancock building and in exchange for the view, you can buy a drink (so technically you’re still paying, but now it’s yummy).
- The Magnificent Mile: If your feet start to hurt and you need to buy a new pair of shoes, I mean an expensive pair of shoes or new luggage to bring home all your swag, head over to the Mag Mile—Michigan Avenue is your shopping destination in Chicago.
- Architecture: Another thing Chicago is known for is its architecture. The destruction the Great Chicago Fire caused led to the largest building boom in American History. The era of te skyscraper also stemmed from here and has been adopted by many other cities around the world. One of my favorite things to do is the Architectural Boat Tour that takes visitors on the Chicago River to see how the city evolved in less than 100 years. Besides the great skyscrapers, you can also see some great works by architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. You can check out several of the Prairie Homes that he designed in the nearby suburb of Oak Park. There are tours you can take or you travel out to Oak Park on your own.
- The Second City: Since 1959, The Second City has been known as the improv theater that gives comic geniuses their start. You might recognize some of their names: Bill Murray, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chris Farley, Dan Aykroyd, and Stephen Colbert. Check out their schedule and see a show. Who knows you might see the next Tina Fey or Steve Carell (they came out of The Second City too).
- Food: Yes, of course you’ll have to eat while you’re in Chicago, but don’t just eat anything. While you’re there you NEED to indulge in deep dish pizza, Italian beef, and hot dogs! If you’re looking to eat healthy—sorry. If you go out for a pizza tasting—let us know if you have a favorite!
- The Art Institute of Chicago: If you’re an art lover like myself than The Art Institute of Chicago is a must see! But plan your trip accordingly, it is the second largest art museum in the US (after the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York) so there is A LOT to see. The museum is most famous for its collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and American paintings. Highlights include, more than 30 paintings by Claude Monet, important works by Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cassatt, Edward Hopper (Nighthawks), Grant Wood (American Gothic), and Georges Saurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (remember that scene in Ferris Buller’s Day Off?).
- Museum Campus: If you’re interested in visiting three of Chicago’s most notable museums, the Adler Planetarium (Space!), Shedd Aquirium (Fish!), and the Field Museum of Natural History (Dinosaurs!), they’re all easily accessible to each other near Lake Michigan.
- Lincoln Park Zoo: It’s the perfect time of year for a day at the zoo. And the best part—it’s free! Check out the newest arrivals: six trumpeter swan cygnets and three harbor seals.
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