Chicago is the jewel of the Midwest. An international city of culture, sports, and dining–with a stunning lakefront–Chicago draws visitors from all over the world. People come for the hospitality, the sights and sounds, the food and drink, and that indefinable Chicago quality that you just can’t find anywhere else.
Because Chicago is a destination city, companies, associations, professional organizations and individual people all plan events here. These events might be for local friends and families and for people who come from out of town. They include gatherings from weddings to bachelor parties to professional conferences to annual membership meetings and more.
If you are thinking about hosting an event, whether you are a local or an out-of-towner yourself, Chicago is a fantastic place to do it. The Windy City has everything you need to produce an incredible experience, one that will be remembered for a long time to come. For anyone planning an event that involves out of town travel, here are five tips for planning out of town events in Chicago.
1. Keep the season in mind
Although the story might not be as cut and dry as it seems, calling Chicago the Windy City is fitting recognition of the city’s weather. Chicago’s weather varies widely by time of year and, at times, it can be rather harsh. When the cold winds blow off of Lake Michigan, Chicago is not for the faint of heart.
Chicago weather is not like a southern or western city where you can pretty much guess what you’ll get 365 days a year. The city on the lake has four distinct seasons, each with its own pros and cons. As mentioned, the winters can be very cold, windy, and snowy. The summers, while usually not as hot as in some other places, can be very humid.
The best time to plan an out of town event in Chicago is either in the spring or the fall. These are the most temperate times when you can enjoy all the indoor and outdoor offerings Chicago is famous for.
2. Pick a Central Location
Chicago is a big city but is relatively easy to navigate with a little bit of knowledge and some strategic planning. The city is basically a rectangle that sits on the western shore of Lake Michigan. It is about 25 miles long and 15 miles wide. The two airports, O’Hare and Midway are located on the western outskirts of the city to the north and south sides.
The area of the city with the most accommodations and points of interest for out of town guests is roughly in the middle (north and south-wise) and all the way east on Lake Michigan. The area known as the Magnificent Mile is the commercial center of the city and is a good place to start your venue search.
Say you’re planning a Chicago baby shower. This list from Party Slate has a number of venues that would be located near prominent Chicago hotels. They would also be in walking or a short can or public transit rides to many major bars, restaurants, and famous Chicago attractions.
3. Find the right accommodations
Once you have your central location narrowed down, it is time to find the right accommodations for your guests. The neighborhoods slightly outside of the city center have lots of rental options through sites such as Airbnb or VRBO. If you are looking for hotel accommodations though, the Magnificent Mile and surrounding areas is the way to go.
This area gives you a great selection of hotels. You will be able to find the right lodging for you and your guests no matter what kind of hotels you prefer. This area is home to classic luxury hotels like the Fairmont and the Waldorf Astoria Chicago. Or, if you prefer more modern accommodations, check out the Conrad or the Soho House Chicago.
If unique boutique hotels are more your thing, you can find them in Chicago too. There are amazing one-of-a-kind hotels in Chicago such as the Langham Hotel, Publishing House Bed and Breakfast, or the Chicago Athletic Association.
4. Sample the local cuisine
Chicago is a foodie paradise and anyone from outside the city will love to sample the local flavor. When visiting the City of Big Shoulders, everyone has to try the local delicacies. This includes things like deep-dish pizza, Chicago dogs, and Italian beef.
But the city is more than just its well-known tourist-fare eats. Each neighborhood within the city has its own vibe and flavor. You can find trendy spots, traditional spots, or unique spots all over the city, not to mention world-class ethnic cuisine including great Greek, Polish, Chinese, Middle-eastern, and Mexican.
The city is also home to many celebrity chefs and high-end restaurants. Make sure when you are planning your event you consider checking out one of these hotspots. Girl & the Goat from chef Stephanie Izard, Frontera Grill from Rick Bayless or Grant Achatz’s Alinea should all be near the top of your list.
5. See the Chicago sights
Whether your Chicago event is a baby shower, a bachelor party, or something much more professional, you need to leave time to see some of the best sites Chicago has to offer. Everyone will have their own Chicago “must-see” list but there are some universal spots that should not be missed.
Lake Michigan and the Chicago River are the bodies of water that power the city and you can take boat rides on both to see the sites. You can also check out Navy Pier and Millennium and Lincoln Park while you are in town. The Cloud Gate sculpture (aka the Bean) is a city icon as is the 100-plus-year-old Chicago Cubs baseball stadium, Wrigley Field. World-class museums like The Field Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago are must-sees, as is the Museum of Science and Industry and more–almost all located along the lakefront.
Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra once sang, “Chicago is my kind of town.” If you plan or attend an event in the city, you and all the attendees are sure to be singing the same tune. Just make sure you keep these tips in mind. Pay attention to the seasonal weather, find a great place to stay in a central location, and eat and see as much of Chicago as you can while you’re here. Your event will be a hit if you do.
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