Cultural Chicago: Top Picks For Arts, Walks & Food

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Have a few days to spend in Chicago? Take in the following list and explore the city. There’s no shortage of cultural things to see and do, from museums, to walks to restaurants and bars. Have a look at our top picks.

Millennium Park

What is now Millennium Park was first conceived in 1997 with a vision of turning the area into a new public space for residents of Chicago. It is one of my absolute favorite parks in the world. I can wander around this park for hours looking at the public art and beautiful architecture and design of the open spaces. And that’s pretty much exactly what I did.

The Cloud Gate Sculpture (a.k.a The Bean) is probably one of my top 10 things to photograph in the world. The elliptical, mirrored sculpture is a photographer’s dream. You can sit and come up with so many unique ways to photograph it utilizing your manual settings to get creative. My best advice – go at different times of the day – walk around it, lay down, crouch, touch it, and see what great composition you can come up with.

Cloudgate photos

Cloudgate in all of it’s bean shaped glory!

Chicago bean photos

Playing with exposure and light on the bean.

The Crown Fountain is another favorite stop in the park. The fountain consists of two 50-ft glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images of faces of Chicagoans which move and even spit out water like the gargoyles on old European architecture. You can walk through the shallow pool and enjoy the reflections and ripples from a photographic perspective.

Crown Fountain Chicago

Crown Fountain cooling things down on a hot day.

Crown Fountain photos

Reflections in the Crown Fountain

Bridgehouse Museum

I also took the time to visit a little known museum in Chicago that is right under everyone’s nose – the McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum. The Michigan Ave. bridgehouse is a building that thousands of people walk by every day and is one of the most photographed buildings in Chicago – yet I bet you didn’t know you could actually go inside! I first learned of the museum from my friend Lisa when she spent a ‘Night at the Museum’ and I knew that the next time I was in Chicago I wanted to go check it out for myself.

Chicago bridgehouse museum

The little known Bridgehouse Museum

I met the museum director, Ozana, who walked me through the museum and it’s fascinating history. It’s a chance to learn about the significance of the Chicago River – which has a dirty (literally) history but it is the sole reason why Chicago exists today. The exhibits cover the settling of Chicago, the growth, the creation of the bridges, sewage and pollution issues, and finishes up with a plan for the future to continue to make the River a focal point in Chicago’s landscape. You can even go down to the ground floor and see the mechanical gears and machinery that lifts the bridge. You can also view the somewhat rare bridge lifts (only 40 a year) from the museum in the fall and spring. It fits any budget too – only $4 and every Sunday it’s free!
More info on the Bridgehouse Museum Website

Chicago River Walk

After the Bridgehouse Museum – I spent some time on the river and along the River Walk. The River Walk is a beautifully manicured path along the river where you can catch a different vantage point of the skyscrapers lining the river as well as stop and enjoy lunch or watch the boats go by. It was created in 2008 and every year more and more gets added to it every year making it a real destination for tourists and locals.

River Walk Chicago view

The view from the River Walk always makes the buildings look more spectacular and tall.

Ride the El to the Burbs

I also took some time to get out of the Loop and downtown area and rode the iconic Elevated Train (the El) out to Lincoln Square to meet my friend Lisa for dinner. She is a true ambassador to Chicago and was eager to show me some other neighborhoods with a flavor all their own. We went for sushi and wandered the streets of this German neighborhood where there were lederhosen shops and sausage stores!


El Ideas

I did one big splurge in Chicago. I decided that checking out a new restaurant idea was worth the trip to the questionable neighborhood and the dent in my pocket book.

The night was incredibly fun and memorable as I spent most of my night back in the open kitchen watching the inner workings of the art and science of gastronomy. You can see and read about my whole experience here – Looking for Ideas in Chicago.

restaurant plating

Plating the final course – Huckleberries, chocolate, and marshmallow.

El Idea chicago

Brussels sprouts, seaweed, bellota and ash. The ash was actually burned brussel sprouts and was entirely edible.

I spent the rest of my time in Chicago eating at food trucks and places where I could conserve my money in order to prepare for my night at El Idea! Here were a few of the places I went:


Xoco torta

Chef Rick Bayless’s take on Mexico’s most beloved street food. I had a crusty torta (Mexican submarine sandwiches) with Tallgrass flank steak, chimichuri, local mushrooms, & homemade crema with Watermelon Lime juice.



Filini Restaurant pasta

Filini is the modern restaurant at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel . I had the Fettuccine – homemade porcini pasta with mixed mushrooms, spicy greens, poached farm egg.

Food Truck

Curried Away food truck chicago

I was pretty excited when I checked the Chicago food truck website and found Curried Away parked right outside my hotel! I took my lunch and

Disclosure: This is a “sponsored post.” Regardless, everything I have said in the post reflects my honest observations and opinions.

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