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Things To Do In Chicago’s West Loop Neighborhood

Who gets the credit for West Loop? Undoubtedly, the area separated from the very heart of downtown Chicago by the Chicago River sports some of the city’s trendiest addresses — more than 4,000 rental units were added to the neighborhood between 2008 and 2016 — attractive for their walking distance from downtown employers and easy access to public transit and three major highways.

But as recently as the 1980s, West Loop Chicago was rough territory, mostly notable for flophouses and empty warehouses. Then along came Oprah. And Michael. Now, there is no shortage of things to do in West Loop.

In 1989, Oprah Winfrey opened Harpo Studios on Washington Boulevard. In 1991, the year Michael Jordan’s Bulls won the first of six championships in seven seasons out of their Chicago Stadium home a few blocks away on Madison, restaurants started opening on Randolph Street. A loft boom joined the restaurants, with more than 6,000 units being added to the area from 1990 to 2006.

Coffee Shops to Work From Home West Loop in Chicago

Post-Oprah West Loop

The West Loop lifestyle is still sporty. No doubt, the local community got to know the area as they got to know Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, eventual superstars and three-time Stanley Cup champs who debuted with the Blackhawks in 2007.

McDonald’s international corporate headquarters opened in the old Harpo space in the spring of 2018, so there’s no shortage of professionals to populate West Loop hot spots.

Speaking of which …

Technically, the United Center lies just beyond the Ashland Avenue western boundary of West Loop, but the home to the Bulls and Blackhawks hosts countless national concert acts and more — and, postgame or show, you can walk to the Billy Goat’s West Loop location for a world famous cheezborger.

Beyond that, when you’re looking for things to do in West Loop, here are some of our favorite options:

Shopping in the West Loop If you’re looking for unique vintage finds, check out Randolph Street Market. Is it a flea market? A place for pickers? An arcade for antiquers? Yes. Throw in some emerging fashion design talent and you have probably the best place in the city to buy, sell and people watch. Head a few blocks further east down Randolph or over to Fulton Market for the West Loop’s prime shopping scene, with boutiques as well as favorite brands like Free People, Anthropologie, Blue Mercury, Lululemon, and Aesop.

Union Park: Nearly 14 acres of green space. There are outdoor tennis and basketball courts, a pool, and a fieldhouse with a fitness center. West Loop also has Mary Bartelme Park, a one-block hotspot that features a sunken dog park, a fountain plaza and a children’s play area; and Skinner Park, a seven-acre area that includes a community garden, baseball fields and basketball courts, and shares the facilities at neighboring Whitney Young High School. The West Loop’s Skinner Park also features the adjacent Bark Park 569 dog park, which even has doggie pools set up in the summer months.

Twisted Spoke: Part biker bar, part whiskey aficionado’s nirvana. The Ogden Avenue veteran keeps late hours, serves breakfast until mid-afternoon, and has an expansive craft beer menu outstripped only by a prodigious whiskey menu it claims is the best in Chicago.

Artopolis: A cup of coffee and something sweet to cap off an evening? Something stronger? A place to linger a bit longer with that special someone? Artopolis, a relative newcomer among Greektown’s Halsted Street stalwarts, is such a place. An unbelievable array of desserts, and wonderful specialty coffees draw many happy returns.

Bad Axe Throwing: Truly, there are things to do in West Loop that you can’t imagine finding anywhere else. Once such activity takes place at Bad Axe Throwing, where you can — well, throw axes. Plus, it’s a block north of Randolph Street Market, so heave a few hatchets to work up your appetite.

Au Cheval: Randolph Street, known as “Restaurant Row”, is home to several Michelin starred restaurants, fast-casual spots, coffee shops, and trendy patio bars. The one that takes the cake is undeniably Au Cheval — known for having the best burger in the country by several lists. Wait times and be long and Au Cheval does not accept reservations, so put your name in and grab a drink or appetizer at Bandit, Lone Wolf, or Bar Siena while you’re waiting. Whether this nationally recognized burger appeals to you or not, if you’re looking for places to eat or top restaurants in the West Loop near you, be sure to head over to Randolph Street. There’s truly something for everybody!

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