Chicago is the perfect city for a girls’ weekend getaway, especially if you’re a sports fan. The city’s celebrated teams include the Bears; the Bulls, and the NHL Stanley Cup champs, the Blackhawks. A game or two over a few days coupled with visits to one of the city’s famous deep-dish pizzerias or delis would be considered a good time for many.
But for those whose tastes veer more toward the arts and less toward athletics, Chicago has other, equally compelling options for women travelers. The Windy City’s world -renowned architecture dates back to late 19th century in the form of industrial warehouses to its Art Deco period to Mid-Century Modernism, the Post-Modern era to contemporary styles.
This progression is best appreciated through a series of tours, starting with the Chicago River architecture tour. The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s First Lady Cruise, is a perennial favourite. Here you can learn about of the history of the city and the origins of vastly different building styles such as the historical Wrigley Building, which was influenced by a Spanish cathedral with French Renaissance details; the mid-century Marina Towers (round and “corn-husk” like in appearance) to the spare lines of the Trump Tower.
The walking architecture tour, also by the Chicago’s Architecture Foundation, is highly-informative. Small groups can walk through the area known as Loop to see the Board of Trade building, the world’s oldest exchange building, and Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower), which was at one time the tallest building in the world (it is currently just the 12th), to the more recent curvy innovation, the Aqua Building, among many others. In addition, a stroll through Millennium Park showcases the interactive elements of the Crown Fountain (which combines digital videos of facial imagery with timed intervals of water sprouting for a “spitting” effect); architecture by Frank Gerhry, and the landmark “Cloud Gate” sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor (colloquially known as “the Bean”, it is an Instagram favorite).
The Architecture Foundation bus tour is the most comprehensive of the three and includes building sites in the Loop and Hyde Park, the upscale Gold Coast area, renowned architect Mies van der Rohe’s IIT campus and the Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s most pre-eminent architect.
Then there is the Art Institute of Chicago, located in the Grant Park area. The Art Institute is the second-largest art museum in the U.S, second only to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Its collection is expansive with retro works including Renoirs and Rembrandts while the Modern Wing houses Matisse, Modrian and Marc Chagall’s windows. For those with edgier tastes, the Museum of Contemporary Art showcases performances, educational programming and though-provoking collections and rotating exhibitions.
Cultural aficionados should also make some time to enjoy the city’s performing arts as Chicago’s music scene is legendary – Its history of blues music has evolved since the 1950s spawned blues greats such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon and Buddy Guy. Meanwhile Chicago’s famous Second City Comedy troupe is considered the incubator for some of the world’s best comedic talent, several alumni have gone on to become regulars on Saturday Night Live.
Speaking of Second City, one of the city’s notable boutique hotels pays homage to the arts in a unique way. The James Hotel Chicago “Cultural Collection” guest experience series hosts conversation series with acclaimed artists and writers (these have included director Judd Apatow and beloved teen author, Judy Blume). In addition, for those staying at the James on business, there is the Second City Curated Meeting Break Curated Meeting Break that teaches participants presentation and business networking skills, with the help of a SC improv teacher. Who knows, one could arrive in Chicago a mere patron of the arts, and leave as the next comedy troupe hopeful.
Architecture Boat Tour provided by First Lady Cruises. Admission to Museum of Contemporary Art provided by the museum. Walking tour and admission to Art Institute of Chicago courtesy of Choose Chicago. Hotel accommodations were subsidized by the James Hotel Chicago.