Chicago Tourist – Great Walks

Last week was my first trip ever into downtown Chicago. 

My viewpoint is the imagery of Chicago for a first-timer. I love architectural design and Chicago is one of the world’s great cities for architecture. Yet there are park spaces within the vicinity of the downtown hotels on both the south side and north side of the Chicago River.

I am a natural urban explorer. I purchased a 7-day CTA pass at the airport for $23 which is good for travel on the trains and buses from ORD through the entire downtown Chicago area. I do not even think I used $23 worth of trains and buses since I primarily walked around the city.

The Loop area of downtown Chicago (south of river) has extra noise from the elevated trains

I found Chicago to be an easy walking city with many of the primary tourist attractions located within one mile of the lakeshore.  

The Chicago River where it primarily runs west to east near the lakeshore creates a natural central city divider.

Chicago River meets Lake Michigan - view east from Sheraton Chicago

Millennium Park on the south side of the river provides a green and waterfront two-mile walkway to the museums around Soldier Field. The Field Natural History Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium are about two miles south of the river and this is a great location for viewing the Chicago skyscraper skyline.

Chicago Skyline view from Shedd Aquarium

Chicago Field Museum

 Buckingham Fountain is a spectacular piece of waterworks.

Chicago Buckingham Fountain SW view

Chicago Buckingham Fountain looking north

Willis Tower Chicago (Sears Tower) view from Shedd Aquarium

Chicago Millennium Park near Pritzker Pavilion (Pritzker's are the Hyatt Hotels family)

Chicago Millennium Park Pritzker Pavilion

The absolute coolest structural art in Chicago is Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate or affectionately known as “The Bean”.

Chicago Millenium Park Cloud Gate or The Bean

The Bean - Chicago Abstract

Chicago Cloud Gate

Portrait of a Tourist - Chicago Bean

Hyatt Regency Chicago, Swissotel,  Westin Riverfront and Sheraton Chicago are located alongside the river.

Hyatt Regency Chicago and Radisson Blu Chicago Aqua Tower

Interestingly, the Michigan Avenue Bridge was renamed on October 15, 2010 to DuSable Bridge during my stay in Chicago. I came across the dedication ceremony at noon on my walk back to the Sheraton Chicago.  Here is the WGN Chicago news story print version telling how DuSable was a freed black man from Haiti who was the first documented non-native settler of Chicago in the late 1700s.

Chicago Michigan Avenue Bridge renamed DuSable Bridge October 15, 2010

The Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue North begins at the Wrigley Building on the north side of DuSable Bridge and is truly about one mile of top end stores and hotels like InterContinental Chicago, Conrad Chicago, Marriott Chicago on the south end of the Magnificent Mile and north of the river. Embassy Suites Chicago is one block north of the river across from the Sheraton Chicago adjacent to the river.

InterContinental Hotel Chicago on Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile

Midway up the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue North) is the historic Chicago Water Tower.

Chicago Water Tower and Ritz Carlton Tower in upper right

On this block are The Peninsula, Park Hyatt Chicago, and Four Seasons Ritz-Carlton Chicago. There is not a comma missing in the previous sentence. The Ritz-Carlton Chicago is not affiliated with Marriott’s Ritz-Carlton Hotels  and is actually a Four Seasons brand hotel.  Not to be confused with the Chicago Four Seasons Hotel, more northerly by a couple of blocks. The northern end of the Magnificent Mile has the historic Drake Hotel, a Hilton brand on Michigan Avenue that has the coolest elevators.

Style Points to The Drake Hotel (Hilton) Chicago for elevator couch

Other treasures along the Magnificent Mile stretch include Sofitel Chicago, Knickerbocker, Elysian, and a variety of chain hotels like Fairfield Inn, Four Points, Hilton Suites, Homewood Suites, Crowne Plaza Hotel Avenue, Omni, Wyndham Chicago, and Courtyard, which mostly sit a block or two off Michigan Avenue.

Sofitel Chicago (Accor Hotels) has new world design style

The Lincoln Park Zoo is less than three miles north of the Chicago River.

Chicago Lincoln Park

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. Wonderful photos of downtown Chicago! I lived 2 years in one of those highrises pictured in the Millenium Park bridge photo. Chicago architecture, dining, sports, and theater are all underappreciated. I can’t wait to try that Radisson hotel in the Aqua building.

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