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10 new places to visit during Open House Chicago

Written by
Madeline Wolfson

This weekend, we get extra access to some very special Chicago buildings when they unlock and open their doors for the public as part of Open House Chicago. This annual celebration of our city’s best architecture, organized by the Chicago Architecture Foundation (thanks, guys!), lets us into soaring skyscrapers, gorgeous cathedrals and innovative spaces. Last year, Ukrainian Village, Edgewater, Bronzeville and Lincoln Square were added to the neighborhood roster. In 2015, we get inside even more dazzling venues with 13 sites in Evanston, more to explore in West Town and exclusive Loop newcomers. We’ve combed through the long list of additions to this totally free event and have recommendations for you to explore this weekend. Don’t forget to check back this weekend for our own photo coverage.

The Rookery (209 S LaSalle St) This Loop-dwelling architectural masterpiece may be known for its lobby, (designed by everyone’s favorite, Frank Lloyd Wright), but the incredibly recognizable building was designed by Burnham and Root and completed in 1888. Since Wright renovated the skylit lobby in 1905, the building has been exquisitely maintained. This weekend we get special access to the glass block walkways and basement vault. (Sun 9am–5pm)

Millennium Knickerbocker HotelPhotograph: Eric Allix Rogers

The Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel (163 E Walton Pl) This elegant Gothic Revival work originally built as the Davis Hotel is more notoriously known as for its run as the Playboy Hotel, purchased by Hugh Hefner in the 1970s until 1999, when Millennium Hotels restored the historic site. We recommend visiting Sunday, when visitors get access to the Crystal Ballroom, featuring a stunning domed, gilded Georgian ceiling. (Sat 9am–2pm, Sun 10am–4pm)

Congress Plaza Hotel & Convention Center (520 S Michigan Ave) After multiple expansions, this colossal space remains one of Chicago’s largest and most eye-catching hotels. Explore the massive and eclectic space this weekend, and make sure to admire its beautiful Gold and Florentine ballrooms. (Sat 9am–5pm, Sun 9am–3pm)

Cinespace Film Studios (2558 W 16 St) You don’t have to go to LA to get behind-the-scenes access to working soundproof stages and sprawling backlot. After Ryerson Steel shut down its 50-plus-acre facility, 1.45 million square feet of buildings was repurposed to become film and television studios, where stages are rented for shows like Empire and Chicago Fire, not to mention blockbusters like Transformers and the Divergent series. (Sat 9am–5pm)

St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic ChurchPhotograph: Eric Allix Rogers

St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church (1429 W Wellington Ave) Completed in 1896, this stunning Lakeview church is one of the most celebrated in Chicago. Take in its striking Gothic Revival interior featuring murals, stained glass and iconic royal blue ceiling with gold ribwork. While many churches have been added to Open House this year, this is the one not to miss. (Sat & Sun 9am–5pm)

Cards Against Humanity HeadquartersPhotograph: Eric Allix Rogers

Cards Against Humanity Headquarters (1917 N Elston Ave) You're well-acquainted with the laugh out loud card game that doesn’t care if it’s “too soon,” but did you know that Card Against Humanity is headquartered in Chicago’s Goose Island? One of the quirkiest additions to this year’s roster features an equally quirky interior with themed meeting spaces like the Zen and Moroccan rooms. See where “the card game for horrible people,” gets made. You can always repent later. (Sat & Sun noon–4pm)

Aon Center (200 E Randolph St) This year, the third tallest building in Chicago opens its doors and one special floor to the public. The former Standard Oil Building couldn’t hack it in our frigid winters and got a cozy new granite coat in 1992. Visit with a valid ID this weekend for a free ride to the 71st floor to take in spectacular 360-degree views. (Sat & Sun 9am–5pm)

Lacuna Artist Lofts, PilsenPhotograph: Eric Allix Rogers

Lacuna Artist Lofts (2150 S Canalport Ave) By now you already know about Chicago’s hottest arts neighborhood (and if you don’t, we’ve got you covered with our Pilsen guide). This weekend you can get into one of Pilsen’s most creative and wonderfully bizarre studios. Explore the maze-like interior that many local artists call home. (Sat & Sun 9am–5pm)

Medinah Athletic Club (505 N Michigan Ave) This historic building blends Egyptian, Greek, Mesopotamian and Medieval architectural styles, culminating as one of our city’s most unique works, wearing a bulbous golden cupola, originally intended as an airship dock. See exotic lobbies, gorgeous ballrooms, the King Arthur Court and Camelot Room (how regal!), with exclusive Open House access. (Sat & Sun 9am–5pm)

McCormick Place Rooftop FarmPhotograph: Eric Allix Rogers

McCormick Place Rooftop Farm (2301 S Indiana Ave) Take stock of the largest farm-to-fork rooftop garden in the Midwest and inhale breathtaking city views from the 20,000-square-foot sky-high farm, producing 8,000 pounds of produce each year. The massive terrace has been growing grub since 2013, when Chicago Botanic Garden's Windy City Harvest program transformed the space. (Sat & Sun 10am–3pm)

RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Open House Chicago

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