Kimpton’s newest hotel in Chicago, The Gray, also marks new turf for the brand as it puts down roots in the heart of the city’s historic Financial District. While its blocks are lined with beautiful historic architecture, there’s also lots of culture and cool places to check out and explore during your stay.
First things first. When you’re hankering for coffee, get your fix at Dollop. A local institution with cafes all over the city, Dollop operates a sleek outpost under the L tracks on the southern edge of the Financial District. Finely roasted Metropolis coffee is adjoined by a dizzying array of pastries from Dollop’s bakeshop and from Hoosier Mama Pie Company. Don’t miss the biscuits!
While you’re there, hop across the street and fall down the literary rabbit hole that is the Harold Washington Library, the city’s main (and largest, by a long shot) library. With several floors of books to peruse, you could easily spend an entire day here. Be sure and ascend nine stories to the top floor to relax in the “winter garden” atrium, a lush and sun-drenched zen room great for reading a book or using WiFi.
Rapidly evolving into one of Chicago’s quintessential entertainment and shopping destinations in the Loop, Block 37 keeps getting better and better. The multi-story complex features one of those snazzy dine-in movie theaters on the fourth floor, so you can take in your favorite summer flicks with a cocktail or two. Famous brands like Anthropologie, Bucketfeet, Sephora and Akira comprise some of the numerous shopping options, while a Disney Store is sure to delight kids (and the kids at heart). Stay tuned for an upcoming Zara, which is currently in the midst of construction as it prepares to expand its size and scope in the Loop.
Maybe it has something to do with Chicago being the birthplace of the skyscraper, or maybe even that our Midwestern landscape is as flat as a pancake and we view tall buildings as makeshift mountains, but this city really loves to provide ample opportunities for height. Case in point, the observation deck way up on the 103rd floor of the Willis (née Sears) Tower, one of the most famous buildings in the world. And it just so happens to be mere blocks from the hotel! Convenient, no? Your ears will most likely pop on the elevator ride up, but as long as you’re not crippled with fear by heights, you’ll be in for a seriously memorable treat. The Ledge is the main attraction up here, a glass enclosure that juts out the west side of the building, providing a skyscraper experience like no other for visitors brave enough to step onto it. You’ll feel like you’re floating, with an uninhibited panorama of Chicago and the Midwest at large. You won’t find an Instagram opportunity like this anywhere else, we assure you.
One of the best aspects of the Financial District is its beautiful mix of old and new. While fresh and hot new shops are popping up all over the place, it’s always nice to hit up the historic destinations that made the area great in the first place. This includes stores like Optimo Hats in the historic Monadnock Building, for hats that recall a bygone era of pomp and circumstance, and Central Camera, an olden photography shop filled with the type of camera equipment you’d expect to see in a black-and-white movie. You’re also conveniently close to Jeweler’s Row, a strip of old-timey jewelry shops that runs along Wabash Avenue under the L tracks. Just head four blocks directly east of The Gray to find yourself in diamond heaven.
If opera holds a special place in your heart, you’re staying in the right place. One of the foremost opera houses in the country, the Civic Opera House, is mere blocks west of The Gray. With several productions per season, there’s plenty to see and marvel at, or you can pay the building a visit and stare in awe at the striking architecture of this palace-like structure.
A shining star of the holiday season around these parts is the beloved Christkindlmarket, which takes place Thanksgiving through Christmas in Daley Plaza, a couple blocks northeast of The Gray. During this festive time, the plaza is transformed into a German wonderland of toys, cuckoo clocks, glassware, ornaments, scarves, accessories and any other trinket you can imagine. Be sure and try some of the German Gluhwein, a warm mulled red wine served in commemorative boots that you get to take home.