A rail yard a little more than two decades ago, a Pete Dye golf course after that, Lakeshore East now boasts some of the most spectacular addresses in Chicago. Yet, this 28-acre parcel framed by Randolph Street and Wacker, Lake Shore and Columbus drives remains a bit of an unknown commodity when pondering where to visit amid the shadows of the city’s newest and boldest skyscrapers.
Still, Lakeshore East attractions are plentiful if one knows where to look.
Speaking of which, one of the first things to do in Lakeshore East may be to take the Chicago Architecture Center’s Aqua and Lakeshore East Tour — a one-hour walk around the Aqua, the tallest U.S. building designed by a female-owned firm, the hidden gem that is Lakeshore East Park and several other vistas in the forward-looking planned community.
Lakeshore East Park is roughly six acres of outdoor space featuring a tots playground, an interactive water feature, formal gardens and a designated dog area — along with walking paths and enough open space to toss a Frisbee®, baseball or, this being Chicago, a 16-inch softball.
The children’s park is gated and includes play structures and water areas. Bordered by shade arbors, there is plenty of seating for parents to keep an eye on their young ones.
The park, with an array of fountains and lights, is designed to be as attractive at night as it is during the day.
The temptation is to simply gaze upon Jeanne Gang’s 82-story Aqua building. Ribbed in rippling concrete balconies, each unique in size and shape to invite interaction between floors and minimize wind shear, Aqua is both sculptural and a feat of engineering.
Inside, the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, which occupies the first 18 floors of the building, there are a couple of worthy places to visit:
It might be considered heresy to recommend an out-of-town-owned steakhouse in a great steak town such as Chicago, but III Forks is a worthy exception. A great rooftop bar offers views of Lake Michigan, the Chicago River and the skyline. Wet-aged steaks and massive cuts stack up well with venerable local competition. Its happy hour is consistently mentioned among the city’s best.
Millennium and Maggie Daley parks are always among the answers when the question is “Where to visit?” They aren’t technically Lakeshore East attractions, but they’re literally right across Randolph Street, on either side of Columbus Drive.