Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

10 Things To Pass On In Chicago

My best friend is coming to visit at the end of the month.  Whenever you have company visiting from out of town you try to be a good host.  That’s not always an easy proposition.  You need to figure out how to balance the really traditional touristy things with the things locals do every day.

Having lived in Chicago for roughly 6 years (over two different stops), I’ve got a fairly good handle on what’s worth seeing and doing…and what’s not.  There’s hundred of lists for what to do in Chicago, but I’ve never seen a list on what to avoid doing in Chicago.  Being the feisty guy that I am, I figured who better to create that list than me?  So without further adieu, here’s 10 things to pass on in Chicago.

  1. North Avenue Beach – The beach is small, it’s packed, the drink and food options are very limited.  You’ll spend more time trying to find a place to sit down/lay out than you will actually sitting/laying out.
  2. Navy Pier – I’m torn on this. Sure, it’s iconic, but there’s very little to actually do here unless you have kids.  And even if you have kids, it’s challenging to get to, tourist trap priced and overall not a good return on the effort.
  3. Wieners Circle – There are many hot dog options in the great city of Chicago.  Winers Circle is usually on a must try/eat list.  I would pass in favor of Hot Dougs.
  4. East Bank Club/The Wit – The places to see and be seen.  I live close to EBC and I have to say, it’s just not the people you want to hang out with.  Too much flash and not enough substance; oh and the price (even for just the sun deck or a simple mojito) will make you wonder if you are in Cannes or the Amalfi Coast.
  5. Little Italy – Tragic, for a city known for its great Italian food, Little Italy just doesn’t deliver the goods.  Little Italy is roughly 5 blocks by 5 blocks.  For comparison, that could fit into one corner of Little Italy in New York City.  Getting to Little Italy is tough, it’s away from the center of the city and when you get there, there’s not much to do or eat.  Even the authentic Italian Bakery concept is missing.
  6. Field Museum – It’s big, but lacks oomph.  Choose the Shedd Aquarium instead.
  7. Mag Mile Shopping – There are plusses and minuses here.  Yes, there’s lots to shop, but none of it unique to Chicago.  Instead, head to Lincoln Park in the Halsted/Armitage area for shopping that’s not so chain focused.
  8. John Hancock Center/Observatory – You really have two options for being able to see the city from a high vantage point.  The Hancock Observatory is one and the Sears Tower is the other.  The Hancock building is often mobbed because it’s right on Michigan Avenue.  The Sears Tower however offers a similar spectacular view, but without the lines.
  9. Gino’s East – Yes, deep dish pizza is on the menu, but I’d pass on Gino’s in favor of Giordano’s or Lou Malnatti’s.
  10. O’Hare Airport – Fly into Midway, not only is it faster, cheaper and easier to get into the city, but then you can fly Southwest…and that’s always a win.
For what it’s worth, because I’m not a total curmudgeon 🙂 here’s a list of 10 things I would have on my Chicago must see/do list:
  1. The Bean – I know the official name is Cloud Gate, but the “Bean” sounds cooler.
  2. The Drake Hotel –  It’s a piece of iconic history.  The bartenders are top shelf.  Not only do you get to see a true classic, you’ll have a great drink inside of a stunning hotel bar like no other.
  3. Lou Malnatti’s – Different than other Chicago Deep Dish institutions because of the cheese to sauce ratio.  In my opinion, it’s the best pizza in Chicago.
  4. Grant Park – Even if it’s only to see the fountain, it’s a nice experience and great for picture taking.
  5. The Art Institute Of Chicago – The best collection of impressionist art work I’ve ever seen.  Not badly priced, but note on most nights the doors close at 5.
  6. Wrigley Field – Baseball fan or not, it’s such an amazing experience.  The people watching alone coupled with the bar scene surrounding Wrigley makes it a must do.  Make sure to get an Old Style beer.
  7. Billy Goat Tavern – No fries, chips and your choice of a single, double or triple burger.  The legend of the Billy Goat lives on today.
  8. Tree Streets – This area is where all the high end shopping is.  But, you aren’t going to visit for that reason.  Nope, it’s all about the people watching.  More salmon colored shirts and deck shoes than you could shake a stick at.  At night the scene is so over the top, it’s almost impossible not to take your camera out and start snapping photos.
  9. Architecture Tour – How can you beat a boat, water, the sun and some serious knowledge?  You can’t, well unless you paired it all with a beer.  It’s a nice leisurely experience and something that’s 100% unique to Chicago.
  10. Steak – Chicago has no shortage of great steak places.  Some of the few I’d recommend are Smith & Wollensky, Gibsons and Gene and Georgetti.  The portions are usually huge and cooked to perfection.
So there you have it, the good and the bad.  See, I’m fair!