Situated in Northern Chicago right across the bridge from the Loop, River North has become one of the most culturally rich areas in the entire city. Defined by its brimming creative pulse and its inimitable vibrance, River North has been known for some time as a true artistic haven—but this wasn’t always the case. Prior to the 1970s, the neighborhood was mainly industrial, with large warehouse spaces scattered throughout. But when these factories closed, leaving massive former arenas of industry as vacant shells awaiting inhabitants, the area was hit with an influx of young artists. During the ’70s and ’80s, many of these warehouses were turned into art studios, galleries, performance spaces, and lofts, setting the stage for the evolution River North has experienced over the last few decades.
When a neighborhood is centered around art, all that extends from that core exists to serve the creative force that initially branded the area’s identity. For example, as more galleries and studio spaces opened in River North and the area eventually solidified its reputation for being a well-rounded fine arts district, the culinary and retail sectors soon followed suit. River North currently has the highest concentration of restaurants in all of Chicago, but this is not a quantity-over-quality scenario—the neighborhood’s culinary scene is as acclaimed for its diversity and refinement as it is for its abundance. Moreover, the area has become a premier shopping destination, and its nightlife has grown to become a swirling and unique attraction in its own regard. Chicago real estate agencies like Related Realty have a front-row seat to the impressive expansion the area has experienced. Spend a weekend in River North and visit the stunning galleries, antique shops, and boutiques and enjoy delicious dining and drinks.It will become immediately apparent why the area has become one of the most desirable in Chicago.
The Golden Triangle | 330 N Clark St.
Whether or not you’re in the market for a particular Asian or European antique, a stroll through The Golden Triangle is well worth your time. This massive showroom is filled with gorgeous antiques from Europe and Asia that span centuries. Visiting The Golden Triangle is akin to visiting a museum, as walking through the space is very much a history lesson on aesthetics and design. Moreover, if you are in the market for an intriguing piece with a fair amount of history behind it, The Golden Triangle is the ideal place to find it.
Driehaus Museum | 40 E Erie St.
Even from outside, the Driehaus Museum is remarkably striking. Housed within the famed Samuel M. Nickerson House, the Driehaus Museum is elegant and bright without appearing overly opulent—it gives off a level of sophistication that is meticulously refined. And inside is where the real attractions lie. Set up as a palatial 19th-century home, the museum boasts an impressive collection of period pieces. The experience of visiting the Driehaus is more immersive than most museums, as every inch is adorned with unique, historic creations. One of the well-known highlights is the Tiffany Studios section, a space so vivid, bright, and colorful that it’s nearly transportive.
Lightology | 215 W Chicago Ave.
For unique lighting options, there is no better place in the entire country than Lightology. Even if you’re not in the market for a lighting fixture after one trip to Lightology, you will be. Spanning three stories and 20,000 square feet, Lightology has any and every type of light fixture you could imagine, and many you probably couldn’t. A visit here will open your eyes to the artistry and high level of design that is present in this field. A trip to Lightology – coupled with a few choice purchases – can dramatically transform your home.
Echt Gallery | 222 W Superior St.
One of the best galleries for contemporary sculpture in all of Chicago, Echt Gallery currently features stunning work from Martin Blank, Pearl Dick, Mira Maylor, Joseph Rossano, and Marek Zyga as well as a host of others. Echt Gallery has been well known for some time as a premier destination for inventive and exciting sculptures that run through an array of styles.
Jean Albano Gallery | 215 W Superior St.
Since 1986, The Jean Albano Gallery has been a leading force in the contemporary art scene in Chicago and beyond. The gallery features drawings, paintings, and sculptures from a cadre of famous and not-yet-famous artists and is one of the more varied and diverse galleries in the area. Jean Albano is currently running a wildly diverse exhibition of various sculptures, paintings, and constructions from a group of artists in SOFA (sculpture, objects, functional art, and design) that runs until late December.
Berlanga Fine Art | 230 W Superior St.
If you’re a photography enthusiast, Berlanga is your ideal destination. Photographs and photo-related work are displayed throughout their space, many from famous photographers such as Howard Dearstyne, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Jean-Philippe Charbonnier, Barbara Crane, Vivian Maier, and numerous others. Many of their prints are decades old, and the curation here is meticulous, to say the least. Every photograph in Berlanga is simply beautiful, and each seems to capture life and the moments therein in truly inquisitive and exploratory ways.
Dinner & Drinks
Tanta | 118 W Grand Ave.
Tanta is a bright, vivid Peruvian restaurant situated on Grand Ave. The food is inventive, inspired, and – most importantly – delicious. The space is fairly large but far from daunting or impersonal, and the aesthetic is as bright and luminous as the food served here. Also known for incredibly well-crafted cocktails, Tanta always offers a top-notch experience, from ambiance to imbibing.
Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria | 439 N Wells St.
I mean, you’re in Chicago, you have to try the pizza. Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria is the antithesis of the classic Chicago-style pies that put the region on the map. For decades, Lou’s has been an acclaimed destination in Chicago, with its delicious and well-crafted deep dish pizzas featuring mozzarella that is so silky and smooth it all but melts in your mouth. In Northern Chicago, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better pizza option that Lou Malnati’s.
Bub City | 435 N Clark St.
Whiskey fans, you have found your mecca. Bub City is a charming establishment that stocks more than 150 different types of whiskeys. Bub City looks like an old saloon, providing an atmosphere that’s the ideal frame for whiskey tasting. Here, the aesthetic and vibe perfectly match the drinks they serve. The place just feels genuine and cohesive. If you like whiskey and/or country music (they serve up live music performances on a regular basis), do not miss Bub City.
Howl at the Moon | 30 W Hubbard St.
If you’re looking for something a bit more lively, Howl at the Moon is a dueling piano bar that is about as high-energy as a bar can dream to be. The space is always brimming with excitement thanks to the enthusiastic piano performances that fuel the entire experience. There a symbiotic relationship here between crowd and performers that is more palpable than at most other live music bars. At Howl, the music is always swirling, the liquor is always pouring, and the party is always on.