The best attractions and things to do in the West Loop

There's no shortage of art galleries, parks and things to do in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood
Hallie Duesenberg
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Chicago's West Loop neighborhood has a lot going for it. The area boasts fantastic bars and restaurants, spectacular specialty grocery stores and an insane number of top Chicago gyms. In addition to the city's must-see mega museums, you can explore tons of terrific art galleries and find plenty of things to keep you busy in the West Loop. 

RECOMMENDED: Our guide to the West Loop

 

The best attractions in West Loop

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Photograph: Jason Little
Music, Music venues

City Winery

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Just like this chain's locations in New York City, Napa and Nashville, the West Loop's City Winery serves up plenty of food, beverages and live music. The booking leans heavily on adult contemporary artists (Bilal, Bob Mould) and legacy acts (Dr. John, Lucinda Williams), attracting an older crowd that enjoys dinner and a show. If you're looking for a music venue with a wine list that goes deeper than "red or white," stop by City Winery for a glass or two.

Things to do, Literary events

Union Station

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This classic Chicago landmark opened in 1925 as a replacement for an 1881 train station. Today, the transportation hub runs Amtrak and Metra trains in and out of the city. Union Station also features a variety of retail stores and eateries and offers a grand ballroom for banquets and weddings.

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Shopping

Randolph Street Market Festival

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More than 200 vendors hawk their antique housewares, furniture, ephemera, clothing and more at this indoor-outdoor festival. Stop in for vintage clothes and jewelry, a vinyl swap meet, a fancy food market and global goods bazaar or bring your own items for appraisal. This event typically occurs on the last weekend of each month. During the warm-weather months of May–September, the market adds an outdoor area, offering even more vintage shopping and a beer garden.

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Photograph: Mark Wright
Kids

Mary Bartelme Park

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The children’s play area at this West Loop park is ADA accessible, which allows for inventive, non-linear play without traditional play equipment, though it does have swings, slides and a lot of other cool things to run around on. In the rest of the park, canines love the sunken dog park—complete with a continuously filling, oversized dog bowl, ramps, ledges, steps, and an artificial grass exercise area. The viewing hill is up to six feet high and provides a stunning view of the park with a backdrop of the Chicago skyline.

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Shopping, Markets and fairs

Chicago French Market

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Chicago’s indoor and year-round marketplace is the place in the West Loop to pursue offerings from accomplished purveyors, family-owned businesses and other great vendors. You can grab delicious prepared meals, pick out specialty food items or just relax as you browse the European-inspired marketplace. Enjoy a crepe, select some brie and shop gifts and local goods. 

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Photograph: Courtesy Brooklyn Boulders
Sports and fitness, Climbing

Brooklyn Boulders

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This expansive West Loop rock climbing facility offers classes for beginners and advanced climbers. The building also houses something called an "Active Collaborative Workspace," a collaborative office where creatives can conveniently insert a little physical activity into the workday.

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Hotels

Soho House

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This private club and hotel geared toward creative types doesn’t seem very Chicago, and it isn’t. Soho House started in London, then added locations around Europe, as well as in New York and Los Angeles. Memberships—which include a members-only gym, screening room and spa—start at $2,000 per year ($1,000 a year if you’re under 27, so hey), and the general vibe on a Saturday night is River North turned up a notch. That said, if you don’t want to shell out that much cash, you can also visit the three public restaurants like Chicken Shop, Pizza East and the Allis. If you’re looking for an upscale spot in West Loop, consider this a chic investment.

 

Art, Galleries

Aspect Ratio

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The West Loop Chicago art gallery is the place to go for video art. It’s the only commercial video art space in the city and curates with the medium in mind. While gallery hopping in the West Loop, make sure to visit this visceral venue to see top film-focused exhibitions and performance art from emerging contemporary artistic voices.  

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Photograph: Tom Van Eynde
Art

threewalls

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Arguably the most community-focused gallery in Chicago, threewalls' exhibitions and public programs—conversations, symposiums, lectures, performances, publications and more—are dedicated to creating a "locus of exchange" among local, national and international contemporary art communities. Some of threewalls' most impactful programs include artist residencies; the biannual Hand-in-Glove conference; and Phonebook, a directory of independent art spaces, programming, and projects across the United States.

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