HOW Design Live’s 10 Cool Chicago Highlights

We’re looking forward to HOW Design Live and May in Chicago — the weather should (emphasize the should) be ideal: cool and breezy, ideal for exploring this dynamic city after the conference day is done. Each of the five conference days are packed with information and inspiration — your head just may explode. So you’ll need an after-hours break to connect with fellow designers, refuel and recharge. We’ve assembled a few Chicago highlights, activities and dining spots worth checking out while you’re in town.

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1) Know your neighborhoods: HOW Design Live headquarters, the Grand Hyatt Hotel on East Upper Wacker Drive is in the Loop district of Downtown, very close to Millennium Park. (The Loop is so named because Chicago’s elevated passenger train, the L, does a big loop through the area.)  River North is another Downtown neighborhood immediately north of the Loop. North Chicago neighborhoods known for their restaurants and nightlife include Wicker Park/Bucktown, Logan and Lincoln Squares. Neighborhoods are reachable via cab or Uber.

2) Explore Millennium Park: Gorgeous greenspace, notable architecture and sculpture, and public gardens occupy nearly 25 acres of what used to be industrial wasteland. And it’s right around the corner from the Grand Hyatt. Grab a bite and spend lunchtime outside. Don’t miss Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate,” commonly know as “The Bean.” You’ll also find a special installation of four large-scale sculptural works by Jaume Plensa in Millennium Park; he created the park’s popular Crown Fountain.

3) See historic art and design: At the Art Institute of Chicago (a few blocks south of the hotel on Michigan Avenue), check out the exhibit “Ireland: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690–1840.” Open during the HOW Design Live dates, it celebrates Ireland’s cultural legacy in the decorative arts, with more than 300 never-before-seen objects lent by private and public collectors including paintings, sculpture, glass, furniture and textiles.

4) Cheer Chicago’s favorite team: The Chicago Cubs are out of town during the week of HOW Design Live, so catch a game in the BIG Bar at the Hyatt. The White Sox, however, will be in town, playing May 5-10.

5) Get a few chuckles: Second City, Chicago’s most famous improvisational theater celebrates 55 years with “The Best of the Second City” — the best bits from 55 years worth of performances.

6) Take in Chicago’s glorious architecture: The Chicago Architecture Foundation hosts guided tours of the city’s iconic buildings by boat or on foot — if you’re an architecture or decorative arts buff, this is a must-do. You can explore the rise of the skyscraper on a walking tour of Downtown, or tour the Willis or Trump Towers.

7) Eat a pizza: Chicago’s famous for pizza, primarily deep dish. There are tons of options to suit your preference, for stuffed or nearly burnt thin crust. In the Loop, you’ll find: The Exchequer (226 S. Wabash) or Giordano’s (135 Lake St) for traditional Chicago-style deep-dish pizza; Tesori (65 E Adams) for thin-crust. Check out Zagat’s list of best pizza in Chicago.

8) Stay caffeinated: Coffee fiends should take note of the two Loop locations of Intelligentsia (53 E. Randolph and 53 W. Jackson). Real coffee geeks should check out La Colombe Torrefaction (955 W. Randolph).

9) Grab lunch: With about 3,000 conference-goers pouring out of their morning sessions ravenous for lunch, you’ll want to have a couple of options on hand for a quick bite. Options near the hotel include:

  • Corner Bakery — fast-casual salads, sandwiches and baked goods (360 N. Michigan Ave)
  • Tortas Frontera — Rick Bayless’ sandwich place (10 S. Dearborn St.)
  • Ba Le — Vietnamese bahn mi  sandwiches (166 W Washington St.)
  • Cafecito — Cuban sandwiches (7 N. Wells St.)
  • Native Foods Cafe — chain serving healthy and delicious vegan dishes (218 S. Clark St.)

10) Venture north: If you’ll allow a sisterly shout-out for my brother’s fantastic Baker & Nosh bakery and sandwich shop in Uptown (1303 Wilson Ave.). Grab some friends, hail a cab and head out for an early breakfast; enjoy La Colombe coffee and fantastic baked goodies before you start your conference day.

Now is your BEST time to register for HOW Design Live: Rates will increase after March 21. Register before March 21 to get the best price on your Big Ticket all-access conference pass. Be sure to book your hotel room soon for the best rate and location options.

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