In the 1970s, artists were attracted by huge spaces and low rents in the shuttered warehouses and industrial buildings in what was not yet known as River North, an area bordered by Michigan Avenue to the east and the Chicago River to the west and south.
River North attractions are different today. It is home to the highest concentration of art galleries outside of Manhattan, and its plentiful entertainment and dining options are unmatched by any other Chicago neighborhood.
If you’re wondering where to visit, here are some of our favorite things to do in River North:
Mid Summer Art Walk: Billed as Chicago’s largest summer art event, this year’s walk will be held July 13 and visit 20 of the district’s galleries. Exhibit openings, street entertainment, and food and drink specials are part of the free event.
Wendella Boat Tours: Architecture is the city’s hallmark. Wendella has been doing sightseeing tours along the Chicago River since 1935. Its dock at the base of Trump Tower is the launching pad for learning about Chicago’s many historic and iconic skyscrapers.
The Escape Game Chicago: In the heart of a touristy stretch of Ontario Street, The Escape Game is one of those River North attractions best experienced in a group — with whom you’ll be locked in a room and tasked with figuring a way out. Among the challenges posed by the game’s immersive environment? You could be on Mars, trying to repair a spaceship; in a museum stealing back a piece of art; or escaping prison.
Pizzeria Uno (and Due): Many claim to have invented Chicago’s ubiquitous deep dish pizza. Pizzeria Uno has as good a claim as any. It has been in business since 1943, and its owners added Due down the block on Wabash Avenue in 1955. This is where to visit when your out-of-town friends are craving a true Chicago pizza experience.
Baton Show Lounge: If you’re looking for some risqué, adult fun, The Baton Show Lounge has been bringing the bawdy since 1969. This long-running drag revue offers some truly stunning River North attractions. Reservations are a must.
Andy’s Jazz Club & Restaurant: Once a pub frequented by reporters and pressmen from the nearby Tribune Tower and Chicago Sun-Times buildings, Andy’s has for more than 30 years provided a jazz beat to its Hubbard Street spot down the steps and two blocks west of the Mag Mile. Intimate and authentic are two words that fit Andy’s well.
East Bank Club: For some, a fitness routine is as important as meals and sleep. East Bank Club, opened in 1980, boasts 10,000 members and 600 employees. It occupies 450,000 square feet and has among its many amenities a quarter-mile indoor running track, seven indoor tennis courts, three racquetball courts, a squash court, four swimming pools, two basketball courts, an indoor driving range, daycare, a car wash, fine and casual dining, a deli and more.
10pin Bowling Lounge: On State Street near the river, 10pin bubbles over with a vibe that elevates humble keggling. Twenty-four lanes, two lounges, eight huge video screens, a gastro pub, pingpong and billiards keep the fun moving.