Stuff to See and Do in Chicago

Ed Wenck | May 29, 2019

Heading to Chicago for the CEDIA Leadership Conference and Awards Celebration? You’ll want to walk the Magnificent Mile and take a cruise along Lakeshore Drive at the very least – but if you really want to drink in this jewel of the Midwest, here are a few suggestions on stuff to do and see before or after the CEDIA festivities.

The Architecture

Chicago’s beloved skyscrapers include the Willis Tower (which has a “Skydeck” observation space, including a feature called “The Ledge” — yep, it’s a glass box with a clear floor that sticks out four-plus feet from the deck) that affords a view of The Windy City 103 floors up. (That’s 1,353 feet if you’re counting.) The Hancock Tower (now officially referred to as 875 North Michigan Avenue) has its own observation deck, and the entire structure features a unique “X” bracing system that’s visible from the street. Other notable buildings include the Wrigley Building (also on North Michigan), Marina City (the round towers featured in the original “Bob Newhart” show), and many others – all of which can be spotted from lakeshore and river cruises that roam the water’s edge. A jaunt out to the neighborhood called Oak Park reveals a treasure trove of homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Parks and Public Artworks

Chicago’s biggest park, the sprawling and lush Grant Park, includes several smaller parks — the most famous of which may be Millennium Park, which features a massive work affectionately called “The Bean.” This reflective piece of curved sculpture (which, for the record, is titled “Cloud Gate”) provides wild perspectives in its mirrored surfaces. The video renderings of local Chicagoans, 50 feet high, with water pouring from their mouths (titled “Crown Fountain”) is nearby, and a short walk will take you to the enormous, untitled Picasso in Daley Plaza. Navy Pier is a treasure in itself, with restaurants, rides, games, music, fireworks, and even live Shakespeare works on stage. A great many tours depart from the pier, too.

The Museums

The Art Institute of Chicago boasts one of the most broad and deep collections of every era of fine art, sculpture, and even medieval armor and weapons of war. The collection’s highlights include some of the most recognizable works of the modern era, including Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” George Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece “A Sunday on La Grade Jatte,” a beautiful stained glass installation by Marc Chagall, and works by Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keefe, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, and Jackson Pollock. The Field Museum of Natural History is a must for any parent raising young dinosaur fans: It now features the skeleton of Maximo the Titanosaur, the largest dinosaur that ever lived, among its other ancient creatures (including SUE the T. rex). The Shedd Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry also offer tremendous and fascinating exhibits.

The Food

Sorry, fans of molecular gastronomy – the incredible Alinea is already sold out for July 24-25. You can get on a waitlist, however. If the $300-plus-per-person pricetag is too daunting, how about a steak? This Eater article is pretty solid when it comes to covering the biggest bases.
Oh, you’re here for that casserole that Chicagoans call “pizza?" This link includes the traditional big guns as well as some of the newbies that are offering their own unique twists.

And if it’s a Chicago hot dog you want, head to the Wieners Circle. The staff will insult you. You will insult them. There will be profanity. Some customers will be drunk. The dogs will be tasty. There will not be any ketchup.

 There are more options to be had, of course, and the concierge staff at the Drake can point you in the right direction for terrific Polish, Greek, Italian, or any other options.


Fan of the blues? There’s no shortage of excellent venues representing Chicago’s best-known musical style. Here’s a decent rundown.
There are a number of festivals slated for the weekend following the Leadership Conference and Awards Celebration (including the incredible-sounding “National Taco Championship”), and a list can be found here.

One More Thing

One of the best breweries in North America is just south of Chicago — if you’re a craft beer fan, a drive to Three Floyds in Munster, Indiana, is absolutely worth it.