10 Things to Do in Chicago
The list of things to do and places to visit in Chicago, the host city for the 2019 AHA annual meeting, is long. We asked AHA staff members who’ve lived in the Windy City to winnow the options down and to give us some suggestions that’ll take you off the beaten path.
VIEWS LIKE WHOA: 875 N. Michigan Ave. (a.k.a. the John Hancock Center)
You could drop ridiculous cash on city vistas at the observation deck here (or at the Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower). But the Signature Lounge, on the 96th floor of the Hancock Center, has views to die for and chic to spare. OK, the drinks are pricey (beer and mocktails start at $10, specialty cocktails at $16.50), but the altitude is a rush in itself.
SHOP TALK: Marshall Field and Company Building, 111 N. State St. (Free)
Even though it now houses a Macy’s, this 1891–92 building plays in the imagination of historians of retail, the urban experience, and gender. It’s also just a wow, from the elegant Walnut Room (“the first restaurant in a department store”) to the Tiffany Ceiling, made of “1.6 million pieces of hand-fired iridescent glass.” The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers tours of the building.
WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED: International Museum of Surgical Science, 1524 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Housed in a historic lakeside mansion, “North America’s only museum devoted to surgery” hosts “an Austrian amputation saw with reversible blade (c. 1500); original X-rays taken by radiology pioneer Emil Grubbé (c. 1910); the Lindbergh perfusion pump, which enabled doctors to keep organs functioning outside the body, invented by the renowned aviator Charles Lindbergh and Nobel Prize-winning surgeon Alexis Carrel (1935); and a unique collection of trephined skulls from ancient Peru.”
GARDEN PARTY: Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave. (Free, suggested donation)
Beat the cold by visiting this “landscape art under glass.” Opened in 1908, the conservatory features about two acres of indoor displays of thousands of plant species. Get warm in the Palm House, cozy in the Fern Room, and downright toasty in the Desert House. For those willing to brave cooler temperatures, the conservatory also features over 12 acres of outdoor gardens.
HEAVENS ABOVE: The Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Stargazers can catch a show and marvel at the wonders of the universe at this planetarium, founded in 1930, located in Chicago’s Museum Campus. Don’t overlook the planetarium’s museum, which houses “one of the largest and most significant collections of historic scientific instruments in the world.” That includes a medieval astrolabe made in Baghdad!
ECLECTIC COLLECTION: Woolly Mammoth Antiques & Oddities, 1513 W. Foster Ave.
This self-described “curiosity cabinet of odd, amusing & eclectic items resurrected from the past” specializes in antique taxidermy, medical items and tools, maps, specimens, and more. Visitors have reported finding a mounted catfish head, surgical instruments, and a jar of teeth on TripAdvisor. Just make sure you can take your loot back on the plane!
ANCIENT HISTORY: The Oriental Institute, 1155 E. 58th St. ($10, suggested admission)
Located on the University of Chicago campus and established in 1919, this museum will inspire you to write. You won’t find the real Rosetta Stone here (it’s a reproduction), but you’ll come away awed by the ancients’ urge to communicate and preserve their own cultures.
VAUNTED HOUSE: Frederick C. Robie House, 5757 S. Woodlawn Ave.
If you’re going to be on the University of Chicago campus, schedule a tour at this home, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Considered “the consummate expression of his Prairie Style,” the house is uniquely important to North American architectural history.
HOCUS-POCUS LOCUS: Chicago Magic Lounge, 5050 N. Clark St.
OK, we haven’t been, but locals vouch for the close-up magic on offer at this speakeasy-like establishment. We hear it’s a thing with the hipsters, so naturally we don’t feel qualified to go.
BOUND FOR GLORY: Leather Archives & Museum, 6418 N. Greenview Ave. ($10/$5 students; must be over 18)
The LA&M preserves an overlooked aspect of the history of sexuality: the “leather, kink, BDSM, and fetish” communities. You can visit the museum or make an appointment to do research at the archives. The collection’s been growing since the 1950s, and the museum continues to accept donations.
Allison Miller is editor of Perspectives. She tweets at @cliopticon. Kritika Agarwal is managing editor of Perspectives. She tweets @kritikaldesi.
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