MUSEUMS AND SITES OF INTEREST
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF THE HILTON
Michigan Avenue on the West and Lake Michigan on the East, from Randolph Street to the North to Roosevelt Road to the South
Covering 319 acres and considered “Chicago’s front yard,” Grant Park rivals New York’s Central Park for the most beautiful urban green space in America (and New York doesn’t have a Great Lake!). Designed by architect Edward Bennett in the Beaux Arts and Art Deco styles and built in 1844, it originally was known as Lake Park, but it was renamed in honor of famous Illinois resident, President, and Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant in 1901. The original plans for the town of Chicago left the area east of Michigan Avenue and south of what had been the site of Fort Dearborn vacant and unoccupied. Part of the debris from the Great Chicago Fire was dumped in the area in 1871, increasing the amount of park land.
Of special interest within the park are:
Centerpiece of the park and one of the world’s largest fountains, designed to resemble a wedding cake, and dedicated in 1928. The fountain operates from April to October with a fantastic light and water displays every 20 minutes from 9 to 10 p.m.
Ceremonial entrance located on the park's western edge at Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue. The statues known as The Bowman and the Spearman are positioned as gatekeepers to the park.
There are numerous gardens scattered throughout the park, most of them paid for by the Lollapalooza music festival, whose attendees demolish them every August.
The Abraham Lincoln Monument
Sculpted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, this tribute to the 6th President of the United States can be found north of Congress Parkway and west of Columbus Drive in the Court of Presidents (a more ambitious sculpture garden that was planned but never completed). As for more recent Presidential history, we have…
At the southern end of Grant Park, and usually a series of dusty softball fields, this is the location where famous Chicagoan Barak Obama celebrated his first inauguration as President in front of hundreds of thousands of supporters.
Chicago Lakefront Trail
One of the most scenic parts of the 18-mile trail along Lake Michigan runs through Grant Park, though the whole trail extends far north and south beyond the park, and it makes for fantastic hiking or biking.
Didn't bring your bike to Chicago? NO PROBLEM! Divvy Bikes are a bike-sharing/rental service based on the European model, and there are many stations throughout Chicago. Much more information can be found here. Divvy rental stations near the Hilton include 150 E Pearson St., Michigan Avenue at E. Lake St., and 203 N. Michigan Ave.
The Columbus Monument
A memorial to the explorer sculpted in bronze by Carlo Brioschi and located at Columbus Drive (appropriately enough) at Roosevelt Road. It was created for the “A Century of Progress International Exhibition,” also known as the 1933 World’s Fair.
Finally, of special interest to Expo Attendees:
The John J. Logan Monument
Inside Grant Park just off Michigan Avenue at Ninth Street, Gen. Logan is depicted on horseback rallying his troops during the Civil War. This larger-than-life statue was sculpted by renowned Beaux Arts sculptors Augustus Saint-Guadens and Alexander Phimister, with the obvious inspiration of similar poses in statues of Joan of Arc. Born in downstate Illinois, Logan became a hero for his victories against the South, but was much more controversial for his actions during the Mexican-American War. A lawyer as well as a general, he later became an Illinois state senator, a Congressman, a U.S. Senator, and finally an unsuccessful candidate for vide president of the United States. He also was a driving force in the creation of Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day.
The statue was a key rallying point for protestors during the 1968 Riots at the Democratic National Convention. Also, on the pop-culture tip, there’s a neighborhood in Chicago named in Logan’s honor, Logan Square, which has in the last decade become a hotbed for gentrifying hipsters who love craft beer. It’s 7 miles north and west of the Hilton Hotel and has replaced Wicker Park (immortalized in Nelson Algren’s The Man With the Golden Arm) at the city’s hippest hipster hood.
Back to history: The Logan Monument is the inspiration for the logo for World Expo Chicago 2017, an idea that came courtesy of the late, great Sheperd Paine.
Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe streets, .9 miles from the Hilton Hotel
The northwestern corner of Grant Park was renovated between 1998 and 2004 and rechristened Millennium Park. It is now home to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which hosts free concerts throughout the summer in addition to performance by the Grant Park Symphony; “Cloud Gate,” the controversial metallic sculpture most Chicagoans call “the Bean”; the Crown Fountain (a huge favorite with the kids), and the Lurie Garden.
Maggie Daley Park
337 E. Randolph St., 1.1 miles from the Hilton Hotel
Cross from Millennium Park via a pedestrian bridge named for a global corporate petroleum company and you arrive at this children’s park named in honor of the second Mayor Richard Daley’s late wife Maggie. Kids love the state-of-the-art playground, which is spectacular, and free.
The Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Avenue, .6 miles from the Hilton Hotel
Built in 1893 on the western edge of Grant Park, the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the most renowned art museums in the world, and justifiably so. Its collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works rival those in Paris, and its holdings also include landmarks of American art, Old Masters, prime examples of European and American decorative arts, and excellent exhibits of Asian, Islamic, and Egyptian art, in addition to the new modern wing and an extraordinary collection of arms and armaments.
The Art Institute traces its history to a free art school and gallery founded in 1866. When the Great Chicago Fire destroyed its original building near the same site in 1871, Chicago’s business community came together to raise the funds for the beginning of the current landmark in 1882, and the museum has been expanding ever since, with one of the biggest expansions coming in 1982, timed to the World’s Columbian Exposition. Among the many masterpieces house in the permanent collection: 30 paintings by Claude Monet, including six of his “Haystacks” and several “Water Lilies”; Gustave Caillebotte’s “Paris Street; Rainy Day”; Paul Cézanne’s “The Basket of Apples” and “Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair”; Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s “At the Moulin Rouge”; Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte”; Henri Matisse’s “Bathers by a River”; Vincent van Gogh’s “Bedroom in Arles” and “Self-portrait, 1887”; Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”; Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks”; Mary Cassatt’s “The Child’s Bath”; Pablo Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”; René Magritte’s “Time Transfixed,” and, in decorative arts, hugely influential pieces by architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and designers Charles and Ray Eames.
Construction of the Art Institute’s new Modern Wing began in 2006, and in 2015 it received one of the largest gifts of art in history, with collectors Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson donating a treasure trove of work by Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Roy Lichtenstein, and Gerhard Richter.
In addition to paintings, the Art Institute holds many other exhibits, some of special interest to Expo attendees. Located on the lower level are the Thorne Miniature Rooms, which 1/12th scale interiors showcasing American, European, and Asian architecture and furniture from the Middle Ages through the 1930s, when the rooms were constructed. Then there is the incredible collection of Arms and Armor from the Medieval and Renaissance periods which, again, is considered to rival any similar collection in Europe.
104 S. Michigan Ave., .6 miles from the Hilton Hotel
Founded in 2003 by Col. Jennifer N. Pritzker, then known as James Pritzker and a member of one of Chicago’s wealthiest and most philanthropic families, the Museum and Library was designed as an institution for the study of “the citizen soldier as an essential element for the preservation of democracy.” Its collection includes more than 70,000, among them books, periodicals, videos, artwork, posters, rare militaria, and photographer, from the Civil and Spanish-American Wars through the present, with a sizable special collection devoted to Winston Churchill. The collection is open to the public, but not everything is on display at a given time, and membership is required to borrow circulating materials.
600 S. Michigan Ave., .1 miles from the Hilton Hotel
This small but excellent photography museum was founded by Columbia College Chicago in 1984. In addition to revolving exhibits by some of the best fine-art photographers working today, it boasts a permanent collection including work by Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, and Dorothea Lange, among many others.
1400 S. Lakeshore Drive, .8 miles from the Hilton Hotel
The Field Museum is one of the largest natural history museums in the world, and the centerpiece of Chicago’s Museum Campus just South of Grant Park, where its neigbors include the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aqaurium. In addition to a revolving number of visiting exhibit, many of them geared toward children, permanent exhibits (some dating to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893) include animal exhibitions and dioramas such as Nature Walk, Mammals of Asia, and Mammals of Africa; the Grainger Hall of Gems, a large collection of diamonds and gems from around the world; the Underground Adventure, which gives visitors a bug’s-eye view of the world beneath our feet; Inside Ancient Egypt, which includes 23 human mummies and 5,000-year-old hieroglyphs; Evolving Planet, which tracks the evolution of life on Earth over 4 billion years, and the Ancient Americas, which charts the last 13,000 years of life in the Western Hemisphere. There also are numerous working laboratories where visitors can watch DNA extraction or fossil preparation, among other activities, and there are (a drum roll for the kids, please) DINOSAURS! The skeletons and exhibits include one that is probably the most famous of all, the 80-percent-complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton unveiled in 2000 and known as Sue in honor of the archeologist who discovered it, Sue Hendrickson. The sex of the dinosaur itself is unknown, but regardless, he, she, or it is something to behold.
1200 S. Lakeshore Drive, .8 miles from the Hilton Hotel
With 32,000 animals, the Shedd for a time was the largest indoor aquarium in the world, and it was the first inland aquarium with a permanent collection of saltwater fish. Popular permanent exhibits include Waters of the World; Caribbean Reef; Amazon Rising; Wild Reef; Stingray Touch (which invites children to touches these odd-looking beasts) and the Abbott Oceanrium. Again, kids love the place, and it’s great for a picnic on the Lakefront before or after visiting.
1300 S. Lakeshore Drive, 1.3 miles from the Hilton Hotel
The last of the trio of attractions on Museum Campus is this museum dedicated to the study of astronomy and astrophysics founded in 1930. The Adler is home to three full size theaters, extensive space science exhibitions, and a significant collection of antique scientific instruments and print materials. In addition, it is home of the Doane Observatory, one of the only research-active, public urban observatories. Permanent exhibits include Planet Explorers; Our Solar System; The Universe: A Walk Through Space and Time; The Historic Atwood Sphere; Telescopes: Through the Looking Glass; Astronomy in Culture, and Mission Moon, which focuses on the story of astronaut James A. Lovell, Jr. and features his restored Gemini 12 spacecraft and personal collection of space artifacts.
1410 Museum Campus Dr.
Home of the Chicago Bears football team, and not far from the Hilton, though it’s not football season during Expo, and nothing will be happening there. The original (older) part of the stadium is nonetheless beautiful architecturally. Ask any Chicago about the (newer, UFO-shaped) addition, and be prepared to hear some vitriol!
FURTHER AFIELD IN CHICAGO
1060 W Addison St., 6.8 miles by cab from the Hilton, or take the red line El from Harrison to Addison (28 mins.)
Home of the Chicago Cubs, which demand an inordinate amount of loyalty from local baseball fans, despite the fact that they have not won a World Series since 1908. Check the link above to see whether the team is in town and playing while you’re visiting. Tickets may be available outside the stadium or via the concierge at the Hilton.
333 W. 35th St., 3.4 miles by cab from the Hilton, or take the Red Line El from Harrison to the stadium (16 mins.)
Home of the Chicago White Sox, who have won a World Series much more recently (2005). Whether one supports this South Side team or the North Side Cubs is a divide in Chicago as dramatic as the one between the North and the South during the Civil War. Check the link above to see whether the team is in town and playing while you’re visiting. Tickets may be available outside the stadium or via the concierge at the Hilton.
5700 S. Lake Shore Dr., 6.7 miles from the Hilton by cab, or take the Blue Line El from Michigan and Balbo to 57th St. (28 mins.)
Well worth the trip via cab or public transit from the Hilton, this is the largest science museum in the western hemisphere and Chicago’s second largest cultural attraction Among its diverse and expansive exhibits are a full-size replica of a coal mine, a 3,500-square-foot model railroad, the first diesel-powered streamlined stainless-steel passenger train (the Pioneer Zephyr), the Apollo 8 that carried the first humans to orbit the Moon, and, of special interest to Expo attendees, the German submarine U-505, which was captured during World War II, brought to the museum, and recently restored to tour as a one-of-a-kind display sure to fascinate everyone who visits. Just before entering the sub, you’ll also encounter two displays that Expo co-founder Shep Paine had a hand in: the Bonhomme Richard and the firing of a Polaris missile from a more modern sub.
700 E. Grand Ave., 2.3 miles from the Hilton by cab, or take the Blue Line el from State and Balbo to Pioneer Court, transfer to the Grand Avenue bus, then walk (35 mins.)
Hyping itself as “Chicago’s number one tourist attraction,” many who live here chuckle at an old joke about Navy Pier: If you ever plan to cheat on your spouse, meet your date at Navy Pier, because you’ll never run into anyone you know from Chicago! This is to say, it’s full of tourists, and over-priced tourist attractions. Nevertheless, a few of these will amuse the kids, starting with the tall ships that dock alongside the piers (tours are available, complete with crew affecting bad pirate accents); the admittedly incredible and recently refurbished Ferris Wheel; an IMAX theater, and the Chicago Children’s Museum. Much more information can be found at the link above.
500 to 5700 N. Lakeshore Drive
Chicago’s second great lakefront park begins about 2 miles north of the Hilton and continues further north for several miles. In addition to more beautiful green space and an incredible walkway and bike path along the lake, it is home to two wonderful free attractions.
2001 N. Clark St., 3.3 miles by cab, or take the Red Line el from Harrison to Clark and Division, then walk to the Blue Line el at LaSalle and Division and take it to Stockton and Fullerton (30 mins.)
Considered by many to be America’s best free zoo, kids will love the penguins, the Lion House, the Chimp House, the polar bears, and the otters.
2391 N. Stockton Dr., 4.2 miles by cab, or take the 143 Belmont Bus from Congress Plaza and Michigan Avenue to Stockton and Arlington (38 mins.)
Need a break from the urban bustle? You are sure to find serenity amid the incredible bounty of plants and flowers in this green oasis.
Other Chicago Museums
Thought we were done? We've only scratched the surface! here is a great guide via ChicagoTraveler.com. Click on the links for more information.
Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture
Cernan Earth and Space Center
Chicago History Museum
DuSable Museum-African-American History
Evanston Art Center
Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center
Illinois Holocaust Museum
Illinois Railway Museum
Kohl Children's Museum
Latvian Folk Art Museum
Lederman Science Center
Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
Museum of Broadcast Communications
Museum of Contemporary Art
National Museum of Mexican Art
National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum
Oriental Institute Museum
Polish Museum of America
Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows at Navy Pier
Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies
Swedish American Museum Center
The Chicago Athenaeum
The David & Alfred Smart Museum of Art
The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Ukrainian National Museum
And two more museums that may be of special interest to Expo Attendees
1S151 Winfield Rd, Wheaton, IL 60189 (about 45 minutes from Chicago by car); (630) 668-5161
Cantigny is a 500-acre park in Wheaton, 30 miles west of Chicago, on the former estate of Joseph Medill and his grandson Colonel Robert R. McCormick, publishers of The Chicago Tribune. Among several family-oriented attractions described in depth on the Website linked above is a museum where the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division comes to life via interactive displays that capture the proud history of the “Big Red One,” from the trenches of World War I, the beaches of Normandy, to the jungles of Vietnam. Outside, the iconic tank features a stunning overview of 100 years of armored vehicles. The currently is undergoing a renovation and update, but it is expected to reopen in the summer of 2017, in observance of the centennial of the 1st Infantry Division and World War I. Check the Website for the most current information.
1200 West 35th Street, Ste 0E-5010, Chicago, IL 60609; 773-376-1982
Chicago's newest museum "aims to become recognized as the leading authority on our waterways and their significance to Chicago and the world in the past, present and future." Displays chronicle Chicago's growth as a busy port city connecting the produce and products of the Midwest with a national distribution system of lake vessels, canal boats and railroads. (The number of ships arriving and leaving the Port of Chicago in 1910 exceeded any port in North America and rivaled all the great harbors of the world including London and Hamburg.) Visit the Web site via the link above for more information.