In a city famous for its wealth of landmarks, we wanted to spotlight its lesser-known treasures. Read on for our list.
Chicago is undoubtedly an impressive city, not only in size, but in its offerings of world-class museums, award-winning restaurants, and award-winning theater. But instead of spending the afternoon on the rides at Navy Pier, shopping along the Magnificent Mile, or retreading its other popular attractions, check out the city's most underrated things—and make your next trip stand out even more.
1. Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.
The city is famous for its deep dish pizza, but have you ever had one cooked upside down, in a bowl? Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. does just that with its pizza pot pie ($12) that flips out of the bowl and onto your plate into the form of a traditional pie. Beyond the food, the building is in a historic location, across the street from the site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929.
2. The Riverwalk
Lake Michigan is grand, with stunning views and sandy beaches, but for a different perspective, try the Riverwalk. The pedestrian walkway cuts through downtown along the Chicago River from Lake Shore Drive to LaSalle Street. It's currently under some construction, but you can still visit the restaurants and museums along the way, or rent a kayak to paddle down the river.
3. Bring Your Own Theater Productions
Second City and the Chicago Theatre are justifiably famous, but Bring Your Own Theater Productions is a new type of performance in the city that's making waves. "It's a bit different from any other live show I have seen or been a part of before," says Greg Torbeck, a performer with the company. "We go from concept to performance in 24 hours. Each month features a theme, voted on by attendees of the previous month's show, that isn't revealed to the performers until a Friday night pre-show meeting. After it's announced, writers and directors and actors are paired together, and the entire show—from writing to performance—is turned around by showtime on Saturday night at 8 p.m.
4. Ethnic Museums
This is the melting pot of the Midwest, and what better way to celebrate the local culture than by learning about the ones that formed it? Sure, Museum Campus is great, but wrap your mind around the background of local immigrants at places like the National Hellenic Museum, the Chinese American Museum of Chicago, the Swedish American Museum Center, and more.
5. Segway Tours
They're not just for tourists anymore. The wheeled wonders are actually fun and take locals and visitors alike on unique tours throughout the city, through Lincoln Park, on a gangster tour, or on a hot chocolate trip.
6. The Pedway
7. Ohio Street Beach
Small but centrally located, Ohio Street Beach has amazing views of the city and substantially fewer people than the ever-popular North Avenue Beach. Concessions and chair rentals are available, and it connects to the Lakefront Trail.
Jennifer Billock lives in Chicago and covers the city for Travel + Leisure.