The South Loop is one of Chicago’s fastest-growing residential neighborhoods.
Many of the large, light-filled warehouses and factory lofts of the area’s industrial past have been reborn as stylish condos, and the presence of Columbia College Chicago has bolstered the area’s reputation as a cool, cultural enclave. The South Loop Lakefront is also home to glass condo towers that boast what many believe are the best views of the city.
Grant Park | Monroe Harbor
Start your weekend with a Friday-evening stroll along Lakefront Trail in “Chicago’s Front Yard,” the exquisitely landscaped and expansive 319-acre Grant Park. An active public space, Grant Park plays host to musical and theatrical performances as well as festivals of all sorts throughout the year. This fall, as part of the multi-venue World Music Festival Chicago that will run September 11-22, Grant Park will help launch festivities on Friday, September 11, with the assistance of Passistas Samba Dance Troupe & Planeta Azul Band, a Brazilian music-and-dance ensemble. The Passistas are Chicago’s best-known Brazilian dance company. True to form, the group’s performance will begin with dance lessons from 6-7 p.m. followed by music from 7:30-9:30. All ages are welcome.
Mercat a la Planxa | 638 South Michigan Avenue, Renaissance Blackstone Hotel
If your Samba session in Grant Park has you eager for a hearty meal that’s rich in flavor and variety, head to Mercat a la Planxa, where you can sample chef Jose Garces’s original take on traditional Catalonian tapas. Inventive tastes of Barcelona include the chef’s signature espinaca a la Catalana (Catalan-style spinach), Marcona almond gazpacho with smoked sturgeon and pickled gooseberries, butternut squash dumplings, rabbit agnolotti with brandied cherries and truffle-chestnut purée, and tocino con cidra, or cider-braised pork belly. Desserts such as sweet potato cake with cardamom cream cheese and candied pecans or horchata ice cream with dark chocolate, cinnamon, puffed rice, coconut cream, and Marcona almond brittle are unlike anything you’ve had elsewhere, and the extensive wine list hails almost exclusively from Spain.
Art Institute of Chicago | 111 South Michigan Avenue
What better way to spend a Saturday in Chicago than by visiting the standout attraction in South Loop, the Museum Campus, an array of institutions including the Field Museum of Natural History, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium. Nearby, the Art Institute of Chicago houses one of the finest collections of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts in the world. The AIC is the second-largest museum in the United States after New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and one the nation’s most visited, attracting more than 1.5 million visitors each year. The permanent collections span the millennia of art itself, featuring over 260,000 works of art, some dating back as far as 5,000 years.
Antiquities aside, the AIC is renowned for its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection. Its galleries are home to iconic paintings like Paul Cézanne’s “The Basket of Apples,” six of Claude Monet’s “Haystacks” and several of his “Water Lilies,” plus George Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece (and subject of the broadway musical Sunday in the Park with George) “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” American painters are well represented, too: the Institute is home to Grant Wood’s “American Gothic,” Mary Cassatt’s “The Child’s Bath,” and Edward Hopper’s atmospheric “Nighthawks.” You could spend all day taking in the permanent collections, but don’t miss the temporary exhibitions focused on special topics and single artists. This fall, check out Kesa: Japanese Buddhist Monks’ Vestments, which includes breathtaking examples of the traditional rectangular garments worn by Buddhist monks and priests in Japan. A Voyage to South America: Andean Art in the Spanish Empire focuses on works produced during the viceregal, or colonial, period (i.e., when Spain ruled the Andes) including devotional paintings, portraits, and maps.
Dining options near the Museum Campus include Zapatista (Mexican) and Gioco (Italian) on South Wabash Avenue, with plenty of other choices on surrounding streets.
Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation | 2120 South Michigan Avenue
Another great choice for a Saturday afternoon is Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation, where the legacy of the blues legend is alive and well. Located on the former site of Chess Records, which has been called one of the greatest American blues labels, Blues Heaven Foundation hosts guided tours that feature vintage memorabilia and historic artifacts such as the original Ampex reel-to-reel recorder used in the studio. Guides also share stories of the great musicians who recorded here including Bo Diddley, Etta James, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and Aretha Franklin.