The Loop is, in many ways, Chicago’s heartbeat.
Among the many Loop attractions are the city’s financial district and its theatre district, City Hall and Orchestra Hall. The Picasso rests there, and Cloud Gate (aka the Bean) welcomes Loop residents to neighboring Millennium Park.
Knowing where to visit in the Loop is to know the city’s institutions. These things to do in the Loop are the things that make up what it means to live in a great city:
Chicago Riverwalk: Completed in 2016, this 1.25-mile path traces the main branch of the Chicago River from Franklin Street to Lake Shore Drive. Its six coves have distinctly different personalities — from The Marina Plaza’s bustling docks to The River Theater’s dramatic, tree-shaded steps; or the family-friendly fountain fun of Water Plaza to the stunning floating gardens of the riverbank, where the river’s three branches meet. Food, drink and amazing architecture line the route.
Millennium Park: Chicago’s No. 1 tourist attraction as of 2017, the park is noted for the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion, a band shell and steel lattice-covered lawn; Cloud Gate, a giant, polished chrome “bean” sculpture; and Crown Fountain, two LED obelisks flanking a black granite reflecting pool. In summer, Lurie Garden is the park’s primary oasis. In winter, Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink welcomes skaters by the thousands. Gehry’s fanciful, curving BP Pedestrian Bridge over Columbus Drive connects Millennium Park to Maggie Daley Park, while the Nichols Bridgeway connects the south end of the park to the Modern Wing of the Art Institute.
Maggie Daley Park: Opened in 2014, this tribute to Chicago’s former first lady bustles with activities. This most interactive of Loop attractions includes a quarter-mile-long ice-skating ribbon, rock-climbing walls, tennis courts and Play Garden, a combination of six play areas for children ages 12 and under.
Theatre District: Chicago’s theater scene is vibrant. It is not uncommon for major shows to get a Chicago tryout before moving to Broadway. Cadillac Palace Theatre, Oriental Theatre and CIBC Theatre typically host traveling Broadway musicals. Goodman Theatre is known for mounting a wide range of new works and revivals — as well as a traditional winter run of “A Christmas Carol.” Chicago Theatre and Auditorium Theatre are landmarks typically percolating with live music or dance. All are within a few blocks of each other, most in the Randolph/Dearborn corridor.
Art Institute of Chicago: Founded in 1879 and guarded since 1893 by two bronze lions flanking the stairs of its original Michigan Avenue building, the Art Institute is the second-largest art museum in the United States. The museum contains American classics such as Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” and Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” as well as works by Picasso, Matisse, Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock, and more than 30 paintings by Claude Monet.
Chicago Architecture Center: Scheduled to open Aug. 31, 2018, the new home of the Chicago Architecture Foundation will tell the story of Chicago’s rich architectural history as well as serve as a launching point for many of the CAF’s lauded architectural tours.