YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO CHICAGO’S BEST [FOOD, SHOPPING, LEISURE, FAMILY, AND MORE!]
The wonderful city of Chicago has been my sweet home for over 10 years now, and I’ve gotten to know this place pretty well.
People always ask me what my favorite spots are from restaurants to shopping to spa treatments, and everything in between.
No matter how cold it gets outside (today it’s below 0 and may be the coldest day ever!), there’s always something fabulous to do in Chicago.
Visiting Chicago? Looking for the best the city has to offer? I’ve got you covered with the hottest spots in town.
In this post, I’ve listed for you the top restaurants, hotels, shopping destinations, beauty and wellness spots, plus great excursions for the family! Keep reading for the complete “best of” lists…
Chicago’s TOP 20 Best Restaurants
Lunch, Dinner, Tapas, and Sushi in Chicago
Purple Pig – This is one of my favs and reigns the most popular in Chicago. The biggest flavors come out of this tiny kitchen. They don’t take reservations, so be prepared to wait. Trust me, the bone marrow, beet salad, and panna cotta are worth it! Try to arive between 3-5pm so that you can be seated quickly.
STK Chicago – This hot spot is a great place for steak and drinks with its sexy atmosphere.
Juno – By far the best sushi in town! I especially love their signature nigiri and uni.
Momotaro – Amazing sushi, gorgeous decor, super trendy.
Lena Brava – You don’t want to miss this dining experience by the brilliant chef Rick Bayless. Lots of favorites on the menu. If you are a uni lover like me, make sure to order the Uni Tlayidita.
Nico – This spot is known for their homemade pasta, excellent service, and beautiful atmosphere, especially with their gorgeous outdoor seating during the summer months. Must try dishes include the Bronzino fish and the homemade ragu.
GT Fish and Oyster – This trendy spot is your oyster destination in Chicago.
Nomi – I love sitting on the rooftop in the summer for lunch, and their burgers and sushi are delish!
Big Star – This fun Mexican spot is all you need for trendy tacos, whisky, and honky tonk.
Cindy’s Rooftop Bar – Reserve a spot at Cindy’s to get the full-on Chicago experience, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of this popular dinner spot.
Parachute – This contemporary Korean American spot offers a truly exceptional dining experience, and they even have their extensive wine menu online for you to check out ahead of time.
The Publican – Farm and fisherman fresh cuisine, the Publican is a great spot for homey, comfort food with a gourmet touch.
GT Prime -The sister restaurant of GT Fish And Oyster (mentioned above) is a great spot for meat lovers looking to support local and seasonal cuisine. The brussel sprouts and steaks are to die for!
Girl and the Goat – The restaurant of Top Chef winner, Stephanie Izard, is your go-to place for locally brewed beer on tap, funky cocktails, and unique, comfort food inspired dishes.
3 ARTS CLUB CAFE – Conveniently located at Restoration Hardware, this is literally the most inspiring space I can think of. Perfect for a brunch and shopping date with the girls!
Rosebud – Always family friendly, not too crowded, great food.
Boho – I love their original menu which is inspired by Czech, German, and Austrian cuisine. The service is always exceptional, and I just love the bohemian decor. Their open fish salad sandwich with quail egg is my personal brunch favorite.
Pierrot Gourmet Cafe at The Peninsula – This is the place for a classic European dining experience in Chi-town. I especially love both the rotisserie chicken and chicken salad. The outdoor seating area is not to be missed when it’s nice out. And Katya approves! (She always orders a steamed milk which we like to call a cappuccino!)
Afternoon Tea Time
Chicago’s Top 8 Best Hotels
Chicago top 8 Must-see family activities
by the way, even if you’re without the kids, don’t miss out on these must-see attractions!
Navy Pier now has their awesome newly renovated ferris wheel which we’ve enjoyed with every out of town guest, and it never gets old! How could you get bored of these extraordinary views? Don’t forget your camera!
New Riverwalk is a great place to take a walk through the breathtaking sites of the city and enjoy a glass of wine at the Winery City.
Architectural Boat Tour is a summer must. The kids will love the most stunning city views! I recommend going in time to enjoy the sunset, and make sure to bring your camera.
Lincoln Park Zoo is beautiful and free! The kids will love the enchanting zoo lights, especially in the wintertime when outdoor activities are limited.
The Bean at Millennium Park is an iconic, picture perfect spot, and you can grab brunch or lunch at Cindy’s (mentioned above) because it’s nearby.
The Museum of Science and Industry is one of our favorites. One day just isn’t enough!
Maggie Daley Park is a year-round favorite; it’s perfect for ice skating in the winter and hands down the funnest park for playdates and afternoon outings with kids in the summer.
Chicago Winterland with kids during the holiday season is a must! Katya and I go at least twice every winter.
Chicago’s top 11 Best Shopping destinations
Water Tower Mall at Michigan Avenue
Neiman Marcus – Classic retailer with the best of the best. Not much to add here! [Click the link for local store hours and address]
Nordstrom – grab bite at Purple Pig (mentioned above) after your shop. [Click the link for local store hours and address]
Ikram – a Chicago institution, come get inspired and even enjoy lunch at their cafe upstairs. This is the place where all the celebrities shop.
Intermix – a stylist’s favorite with independent, emerging contemporary designers.
Felt – my favorite shopping destination! Superior service, totally kid friendly.
Christina Karin – Chicago based designer for bold, contemporary fashions.
Dana Rebecca Designs – Chicago based jewelry designer available at Nordstrom.
Lana Jewelry – Chicago based jewelry designer available at Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.
Akira – great spot to find trendy, versatile pieces that won’t break the bank. I especially love their store at 1814 W. North ave.
Chicago’s top 9 beauty spots [Best Spa, Salon, and Wellness]
Zazu Salon – Alexa at Zazu has been doing my hair for years, ever since they used to be across the street from me. Their new gorgeous location in River North is worth the short 3 block commute.
B Salon – My girl Alex always has me walking out feeling like a million bucks.
It’s All About Maggie Eyebrows – Maggie is a magician when it comes to brows, and she always has candy on hand for Katya and champagne for mama, making each visit fun.
Soho House – Also known as Cowshed, this spa with locations in Miami, NYC, and Europe, always makes for a truly zen experience, and their signature line of facial and beauty products are both luxurious and natural.
Salon 1800 – Located at Lincoln Park, Salon 1800 offers a full array of services, but their facials are the best. Ask for Dita.
Leah Chavie – Leah, of Chicago’s own Leah Chavie Spa, is a queen of her craft and always make time for me when I need to squeeze in a quick facial!
Chuan Spa at The Langham – Chuan is the ultimate spa destination in town, and I’ve yet to have a more relaxing, pampering experience elsewhere.
Enjoyed my Chicago’s Best recommendations?
Have a hot spot you love that isn’t mentioned here?
I love hearing about your experiences and learning about new must-see destinations in Chicago. Comment below or contact me to add to the list!