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Downtown Chicago is fresh and where it’s at
Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. Even Chicago’s downtown area is made up of several communities. The downtown area is where the city of Chicago conducts its business, but it is also the residence of 21,000 people. Hence, the reason why downtown Chicago is so accessible, beautiful, inviting, and welcoming to visitors.
There’s nothing like midwestern hospitality. You’re going to have a good time in downtown Chicago because we know how to show people a good time.
In this article, I focus on the downtown Chicago neighborhood of Streeterville. I will discuss:
- why you will love Streeterville
- where to stay
- what to do
- where to eat
What You Should Know About Chicago’s Streeterville Neighborhood
Streeterville is the home of Northwestern University (downtown location), Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Navy Pier and the Magnificent Mile. The residents of Streeterville are very proud of these distinctions, and these influences are seen throughout the neighborhood.
The neighborhood of Streeterville begins north of the Chicago River on Michigan Avenue and is pretty much the area between Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan.
Depending on who you speak to, it also includes Rush Street, which is just west of Michigan Avenue. Although technically, Rush Street is part of the River North neighborhood.
Chicago Streeterville’s humble beginnings
The neighborhood of Streeterville came about from a sandbar caused by a boat that ran aground. That boat was owned by George Streeter.
In 1886, Captain Streeter laid claim to the sandbar and the surrounding area (a total of 186 acres) naming it “District of Lake Michigan.” He made money through money schemes that involved taxing and selling parts of the land he laid claim to.
Decades of court battles and shootouts with lakefront property owners followed. Finally, in 1918, the courts sided against Captain Streeter claims of ownership and he was hauled off to jail.
And now what started as a sandbar in Lake Michigan is the home of some of the most expensive real estate in Chicago.
Why you will love Chicago Streeterville neighborhood
Lake Michigan shoreline curves and angles in the neighborhood of Streeterville making for its amazing proximity to the lake. Lake Michigan’s backdrop adds to the attractiveness of this neighborhood. Imagine waking up every morning to the sun rising over the lake. Simply gorgeous!
Most visitors will stick to the Magnificent Mile along Michigan Avenue. However, sandwiched in between the Mag Mile and Navy Pier is the best parts of the neighborhood of Streeterville.
Stroll through Streeterville, and you will notice its urban vibe mixed with fashionable high-end appeal. A lot is going on in this neighborhood with its mix of high-rise expensive condo buildings, big-money shopping on the Mag Mile, and healing of the sick (Northwestern Memorial and Lurie’s Children Hospital).
Bring your dog and enjoy a stroll
Streeterville is very dog-friendly. You and your dog will love the Lake Shore Park on Chicago Avenue and Dewit Place.
Or take a walk along the Lake. The pedestrian access tunnel (right by the playground at Lake Shore Park) will lead you to Lakefront Trail. It’s beautiful to walk along Lake Michigan, no matter the time of year.
Is this neighborhood safe?
It’s very easy to let your guard down in this neighborhood and relax. Streeterville is one of the safest communities in Chicago, thanks to the Chicago Police and Northwestern University Police. But you still want to exercise caution while you hang out here.
Chicago Transit Authority has several public transportation options in Streeterville. Many buses service this neighborhood. You can catch the Red Line “L” at Red Line stop at either Grand Avenue or Chicago Avenue near State Street (West of Michigan Avenue). For more information on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), click here.
Where to Stay in Chicago Streeterville
There are plenty of hotels in this area. However, nothing beats checking out Streeterville as a temporary resident.
What do I mean by a temporary resident? Try Airbnb and check out how it would feel to live in this community. I will be visiting Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood in October of 2019. Here’s the Airbnb I will be staying at >>>> click here <<<<<
If you have your heart set on staying at a hotel, I recommend staying at the following Chicago Streeterville hotels – Fairfield Inn and Suites (216 East Ontario) or Ivy Boutique Hotel (233 East Ontario).
Where to eat
Here are some of my favorite Streeterville restaurants and spots for food:
- Ron of Japan – 230 East Ontario – Kinda like Benihana’s…a Chicago old-school favorite.
- West Egg Cafe – 620 North Fairbanks Ct – Great for breakfast and lunch.
- Timothy O’Toole Pub – 622 North Fairbanks Ct – Awesome buffalo wings (a local favorite).
- Garrett’s Popcorn (address is 625 North Michigan Avenue but enter on Ontario) – don’t even think about leaving Chicago without experiencing the “Chicago Mixed.” This location is always crowded. If you’re inpatient (like I am) check out the location down the street inside the Water Tower Place (835 North Michigan).
- TGIFridays – 153 East Erie – nothing special about this chain restaurant other than tons of fond memories of after-work meetups for happy hour.
- Trader’s Joes – 44 East Ontario – a great place to get groceries.
Things to Do In Chicago Streeterville Neighborhood
1. Shopping on the Magnificent Mile – The Mag Mile runs from just across the Michigan Avenue bridge to about Walton Street where the 900 North Michigan Shops are located. The Mag Mile can be congested with traffic and slow walking pedestrian that can be a little overwhelming and frustrating.
If you’re not in a shopping browsing mood, Columbus Drive is a great North and South alternative. You can cut through the one-way streets (Illinois to Oak street) running east and west if you need to venture onto Michigan Avenue.
There are tons of flagship stores and shops lining both sides of Michigan Avenue. If you’re looking for some mall action here is a list:
- Shops at North Bridge (525 North Michigan Avenue)
- Water Tower Place (835 North Michigan Avenue)
- 900 North Michigan Shops (900 North Michigan)
2. Navy Pier (600 East Grand Avenue) – Navy Pier is a major attraction that has something for everybody:
- Ferris wheel
- children’s museum
- IMAX theaters
- Shakespeare Theater
- Beer Garden
- Fireworks in the summer
- Access to many tours such as Bigbus, architecture and sightseeing excursions, Bike & Roll Chicago
It is worth checking out Navy Pier as a first-time visitor to Chicago. In my opinion, it is fair to say that the Pier is a bit touristy but don’t let that stop you from enjoying your visit here. Be prepared to spend a lot of money to eat, drink, and partake of any type of amusement here due to Chicago’s amusement tax.
3. Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station (806 North Michigan Avenue) – The Chicago Water Tower was built in 1869 and is the second-oldest water tower in the United States. The water tower was built to hide a 138 feet standpipe used to pump water from Lake Michigan. It was one of the few structures that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Admission to the Chicago Water Tower is free, and there is a gallery inside featuring exhibitions from local artists and photographers. For more information on the Chicago Water Tower, click here.
4. If you are an architectural geek, you will want to check out the Magnificent Architecture of the Magnificent Mile Tour. This walking tour explores the structural makeup of the Magnificent Mile. Click here for tickets and information on the Architectural Walking Tour of the Mag Mile.
How to get to Chicago
Two airports service the Chicagoland area – O’hare Airport (ORD) and Midway Airport (MDW). You are going to have plenty of ground transportation options once you land.
However, the fastest and cheapest way to get downtown is by public transportation. Both airports are easily accessible by public transit; the Chicago ‘L’ trains.
Traffic from the airports is horrible unless you fly in very early or late (after 7 PM). Unless you love sitting in mind-numbing traffic, I recommend taking the ‘L.’ During rush hour (6 AM- 10 AM and 2 PM – 6:30-7 PM), it can take up to 2 hours to reach downtown from either airport (even though MDW is a lot closer to downtown).
Three expressways run through the Chicagoland area: Interstate 90/94, Interstate 55, Interstate 290.
Staying Safe in the Big City
Yes, parts of Chicago can be dangerous. But don’t most cities (both U.S. and abroad) have elements that are considered not safe? With a little street-savvy and awareness of how you’re presenting yourself, you will be fine.
- Just like any city that you visit, always be aware of your environment.
- Try not to appear touristy.
- If you’re like me and love carrying huge-ass purses, make sure the bag has a shoulder strap that you can wear across your body.
- Never leave your purse on the back of your chair. Especially if you are enjoying a meal at one of Chicago’s many sidewalk cafes/restaurants.
- Do not take shortcuts through alleys. No matter how tempting.
- When going out at night, stick to well-lit sidewalks, main streets, and parks. The lakefront is gorgeous at night. Full of good people with neighborly and friendly mid-western values. Join them and enjoy the amazingly beautiful city that is Chicago. I never get tired of the welcoming energy of my city.
- Enjoy yourself.
For more information on Chicago neighborhoods, check out the following articles:
- Where to stay in Chicago: An Insider’s Guide to Chicago Hotels
- 17 Chicago Festivals and Events You Don’t Wanna Miss
- What You Wanna Know About Where to Stay in Chicago Downtown Loop
- Why You Will Love Wacker Drive As I Do