Have we mentioned how much we love shopping! And have we mentioned how much we love Chicago? When you combine the two into shopping Chicago, with a bunch of snack breaks and lunches and dinners thrown in to refuel, plus new friends and sightseeing, you have the best vacation around. We wasted no time on our tour of Chicago, and shopping Chicago for the best restaurants, hangouts and stores was a blast. (We can't wait to return to make sure our list stays up-to-date.) Shopping Chicago is one of our favorite new pastimes and it's no wonder Chicago is one of the most visited cities in the U.S. For all addresses, be sure to check our Chicago SHOPS and Chicago HANGOUTS lists.
Shop til you Drop:
TopShop – there are only 2 brick and mortar stores in the U.S. and we are super proud to have been to both of them! Oh yeah, lofty goals and all. The Chicago store is fabulous - centrally located on Magnificent Mile and spotlighting all the latest fashion trends under 1 roof. ? Popcosmo tip: ask for a personal shopper to help you navigate the large store and use the large, less crowded dressing room downstairs.
Urban Outfitters Outlet – Mecca for the Urban Outfitter’s aficionado. This is the only Urban Outfitters outlet in existence. There is a little bit of everything in this store, from shorts to t-shirts, to coats, to leggings, to shoes. If you love it, buy it. Because it will be gone a few hours later. And if you have a friend who’s tired of shopping, they won’t mind hanging out here. Just point them towards the ping-pong table and get busy perusing.
Water Tower Place – If the weather is bad while you are in Chicago head here for the afternoon! Multiple floors keep it from being overwhelmingly crowded. And the store selection is varied enough to keep everyone happy. Make sure you stop in Akira, a local Chicago store with multiple locations, teen-friendly clothes, and teen-friendly prices, plus the sales staff is super-friendly and helpful. Mention the event you are shopping for and they’ll expertly pick a selection of clothes for you. And if walking down Michigan Avenue is making your wallet feel a little light, head on over to State Street for more wallet-friendly stores, like H&M and Forever 21, in a similar central location.
Belmont Area – This is the area for thrifting. We didn’t have time to thrift shop on our trip, but anytime we mentioned the word “boutique” or “thrifting” the stores Belmont between N. Clark and Broadway was repeatedly suggested. Check out our SHOPS for a complete list.
Frankie's On the Park - Cute store with everything from Soludos to jeans, to tanks to dresses, and a lot of local jewelry upstairs near the Graffiti Bar. Design you own t-shirt or anything imprintable - perfect for gifts! Our fave salesperson in all of Chicago tends the Graffiti Bar, with most enviable long blonde hair we've ever seen. Stop by, tell her hello, and that we sent you!
Molly’s Cupcakes – we met our new BFF, Loren from @FrockStock here, at her suggestion. We knew we could trust her suggestions because she has excellent taste (& the cutest affordable jewelry & clothing website around FrockStock). She chose the most darling spot in the city with delish cupcakes! Molly's is the standby you know you can take anybody of any age to and know they’ll love it. They'll rave over the décor (swings as barstools), the diversions (board games in case someone’s running late) and the cupcakes, which are to die for. We really have only one complaint: way, way too many choices and not enough time to try them all. Thanks, Loren!
Argo Tea – Chicago’s healthy version of Starbucks that’s delicious, cool, and sustainable, and did we mention yummy? Oh-so-friendly and with calorie listings right on the sandwiches and snacks so you can keep to your health goals and choose healthy meals and snacks (and know which is which). We want an Argo Tea everywhere… and have a feeling they will be soon.
iCream - the art of science and ice cream come together to create delicious ice creams, shakes, and hot puddings as featured on The Food Network. Add a dose of liquid nitrogen of to your favorite ice cream flavor, pick a color, and taste the sensation. Just be prepared to wait if you go during the summer... but it's worth it for the taste, and the absolute unique experience.
Doughnut Vault – If you like donuts, don’t miss this tiny gem of doughnut jewel box. It’s open Tuesday-Friday at 8:30 a.m. and Saturday at 9:30 a.m. until they run out of the 1,000 donuts they make each day. Which means the line is long and starts early. Arriving at 9:30 on Friday the wait was over an hour. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we found that there was a very limited menu as you can see below. Curiously, as doughnut connoisseurs and typically very picky, the whole family was happy and scarfed down the entire selection (it’s hard work doing research). Our advice: go early, take a book, be hungry.
Pizza – Deep dish is a Chicago institution. Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s and The Original’s Gino’s East of Chicago are all popular.
Hot Dogs - Also another local favorite. Some favorites are Hot Doug’s, Wieners Circle, Superdawg, Franks 'n' Dawgs and Portillo’s Hot Dogs.
Desserts – Try Big Bang Pies, Doughnut Vault (get in the morning for that night), Crumb’s Bake Shop, Magnolia Bakery, Molly’s Cupcakes or Garrett Popcorn.
Sites you must See:
Navy Pier – If you see the 15-foot Ferris Wheel, you are in the right place. There’s an IMAX theater, restaurants, summer fireworks, sightweeing cruises and Segway tours for 14+. This area is definitely a top tourist destination.
Millenium Park – Host to Lollapalooza, Taste of Chicago and free ice skating in the winter (just pay for skates). Millennium Park is home to the famous Cloud Gate or "Bean" sculpture, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Lurie Garden, and the Crown Fountain that spouts water from its digital faces. Seriously, Chicago has some of the most amazing parks in the country.
Skydeck Chicago in the Willis Tower – This is the tallest building in North America! Take a dedicated elevator to the 103rd floor and and if you are brave, step out onto The Ledge, a suspended glass box at Skydeck Chicago which is more than 1,000 feet in the sky. Our tip: purchase the Chicago City Pass which allows you to jump to the front of the line and saves you lots of money on most Chicago Attractions.
Lincoln Park Zoo – we stayed across from the zoo, so walked through it to go places. It’s free, easily accessible, and gorgeous. Our favorite stop was the polar bear, who you can watch swim underwater. Polar bears are surprisingly graceful underwater and it’s almost as much fun to watch the little kids watching the polar bear play underwater basketball ballet as it is to watch the polar bear!
Shedd Aquarium – In one word, it was "great." You can choose from 3 movies in 4D such as Happy Feet, Dora, or Planet Earth: Antartica and each lasts 12 minutes. There was an aquatics show with dolphins and Beluga Whales and a seal (separately, of course) and the show is free with the Chicago City Pass and lasts ½ hour. When we visited, there was a jellyfish exhibit that was small, but gorgeous.
Field Musuem – We saw a 3D movie about dinosaurs. You'll meet Sue, the largest, most complete, best preserved T. rex ever discovered (and then you can pose for a picture with the skeleton). We loved this movie because we actually felt like we were with Sue carousing with her dinosaur friends. It sounds dull, but it wasn’t. There were mummies, elephants, pterodactyls, lions, and more natural history showing how life on earth evolved.
Tips for getting around: Rent a bike at various places around the city. There is a rental spot near the Aquarium. The cost is $10 for the 1st hour and $5 every 30 minutes thereafter.
Where to Stay: We chose the Hotel Lincoln for it's location and price. The retro vibe at this JUST refurbished hotel will have you craving a malt from your bow-tied bellhop. Your parents will love the prices and you'll love the location 1/2 way in between everywhere. It's within walking distance of most locations you'll want to go in Chicago and we couldn't have been happier with our visit. Definitely ask for the bunk rooms, which are perfect for teens traveling with families and should be ready by the time we print this article!
Special thanks to Loren of Frockstock and Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau for recommendations for great places for shopping Chicago and eating and hanging out in Chicago!