2023 AAO CONVENTION
The AAO returns this year to Chicago for the first time since 2011, with the annual session scheduled to run April 21-24. Here is JCO’s yearly preview of attractions, events, and restaurants in the convention city.
Weather should be cool during this unusually early meeting, with highs in the low 60s and lows in the mid-40s. Rain or even snow is possible.
Taxi fares from O’Hare International Airport to McCormick Place Convention Center run $30-40, although shared cab rides are available for a flat $24. Taxis pick up at every terminal, but rideshare services (Uber or Lyft) are restricted to terminals 2 (between doors 2A and 2D) and 5 (door 5B). The Blue Line station of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train system—called the “L” because of the elevated tracks—can be accessed by pedestrian walkways from each terminal; the standard fare is $5 each way. Midway International Airport offers similar options, but is closer to downtown: shared taxi rides are a flat $18. Rideshare companies pick up outside door 4, or the CTA Orange Line is available for a $2.50 fare. One-, three-, or seven-day CTA passes can be purchased with a Ventra transit account (transitchicago.com).
Chicago’s architecture ranks among the most noteworthy in the world. Start your exploration at the Chicago Architecture Center, a Mies van der Rohe building right on the Riverwalk; its Model Experience showcases more than 4,000 buildings, with interactive features. The center also sponsors a 90-minute river cruise and a number of walking tours, including one of the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright homes in Oak Park. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust provides interior tours of Wright buildings in both Oak Park and Chicago. An inspiration to the young Wright, the 1887 Glessner House offers tours and a museum.
Food tours are something of a specialty in Chicago, sampling all kinds of cuisines. Try Chicago Food Tours for a wide variety of offerings, or design your own craft-brewery tour from the itineraries listed at choosechicago.com.
The Chicago Explorer Pass (gochicago.com) is a discounted digital pass providing admission to three, four, or five of nearly 30 options, including cruises and tours. CityPASS (citypass.com/chicago) covers discounted admission to the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Skydeck Chicago, plus a choice of two from among the Adler Planetarium, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Science and Industry, and 360 Chicago, for a price of $114 for adults and $93 for children.
Two of Chicago’s tallest skyscrapers feature public observation decks, both recommending advance ticket purchases. Skydeck Chicago, on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), has a glass-enclosed ledge extending four feet out into space. The 360 Chicago deck, offering panoramic views from the 94th floor of the former John Hancock Center, includes a CloudBar and the Tilt thrill ride—a downward-facing view from 1,000 feet up.
Several of the city’s leading attractions are just north of McCormick Place along Lake Shore Drive: the Field Museum of natural history, presenting “Death: Life’s Greatest Mystery” and “Native Truths: Our Voices, Our Stories”; Adler Planetarium, the nation’s oldest planetarium; and Shedd Aquarium, featuring a shark-feeding tour and a beluga encounter.
The august Art Institute of Chicago is offering exhibits of Salvador Dalí, Lygia Pape, and Himali Singh Soin, along with kingfisher headdresses from China. The Museum of Science and Industry has a new show on Pompeii and a juried exhibition of African American art (closing April 23). The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is spotlighting the art of Duane Linklater and exhibits on “Art in the Caribbean Diaspora” and “Interiors” (both closing April 23).
A tourist shows off a handstand on the SkyDeck Chicago ledge. Photo © Jillian Cain, Dreamstime.com.
“What Is an Animal?” exhibition at the Field Museum. Photo © James Kirkikis, Dreamstime.com.
Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Photo © James Kirkikis, Dreamstime.com.
Adler Planetarium seen from Lake Michigan. Photo © Erik Lattwein, Dreamstime.com.
“Nightlife” (1943) by Archibald John Motley Jr. at the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo © Marina Endermar, Dreamstime.com.
For a more local viewpoint, visit the Chicago Cultural Center to see “Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited” and “Surviving the Long Wars: Reckon and Reimagine,” or the Chicago History Museum for “Facing Freedom in America.” More specialized museums include the American Writers Museum, the Chicago Children’s Museum, the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, the Illinois Holocaust Museum (in Skokie), the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, and the National Museum of Mexican Art.
Nature lovers can visit the Lincoln Park Zoo and Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Garfield Park Conservatory, or the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, as well as Millennium Park with its 3.5-acre Lurie Garden (don’t miss Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” sculpture, popularly called “The Bean”).
Shoppers will want to stroll the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue, still a nexus of department stores and boutiques despite pandemic-related closures. The Navy Pier off Lake Shore Drive offers not only a promenade of shops but also rides, tours, and cruises.
The celebrated Chicago Symphony Orchestra has an intriguing program scheduled for April 20-23: young Russian virtuoso Daniil Trifonov will perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s thorny Third Piano Concerto, conducted by Fabien Gabel, with Anatoly Liadov’s Kikimora and Igor Stravinsky’s Petrushka also on the bill. The Joffrey Ballet, in residence at the Lyric Opera House, is presenting The Little Mermaid (John Neumeier’s version, not Disney’s), April 19-30. The Harris Theater in Millennium Park showcases local artists—in this case, the Ballet 5:8 company, performing BareFace on April 22. Also on April 22, the Auditorium Theatre offers a tripleheader of dance troupes: Dorrance Dance, Trinity Irish Dance Company, and M.A.D.D. Rhythms.
Aerial view of the south pond at Lincoln Park Zoo. Photo © James Kirkikis, Dreamstime.com.
The 39th Chicago Latino Film Festival, run by the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago, is scheduled for April 13-23. On the live-theater front, the Goodman Theatre is running Anton Chekhov’s classic The Cherry Orchard. Steppenwolf Theatre Company presents Donnetta Lavinia Grays’s Last Night and the Night Before. The James M. Nederlander Theatre shows touring Broadway productions: Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill (April 11-23) and Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods (April 25-May 7). Another popular musical, Grease, is playing at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace. The Briar Street Theater features the long-running Blue Man Group show.
Chicago may be the world capital of comedy, led by the venerable Second City ensemble. The Second City offers nightly revues and shows, but the headliner on April 22 is Baby Wants Candy! The Original Completely Improvised Musical. Also on April 22, comedian Pat McGann will be live for two shows at the Chicago Theatre. The Annoyance Theatre & Bar offers its weekend comedy hour on April 21 and 22.
Chicago Theatre. Photo © Phah Sajjaphot, Dreamstime.com.
Goodman Theatre. Photo © Joe Hendrickson, Dreamstime.com.
The Chicago White Sox conclude a home stand at Guaranteed Rate Field with a series against the Philadelphia Phillies, April 17-19. On the North Side at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs face off against the Los Angeles Dodgers, April 20-23, and the San Diego Padres, April 25-27.
Restaurants and Nightlife
The dining scene is still highlighted by Grant Achatz’s Alinea, the only Chicago restaurant with three Michelin stars, and its one-star spinoff Next, where the prix fixe menu changes several times a year to reflect a different world cuisine. Other Michelin-starred contemporary restaurants with tasting menus include Claudia, Esmé, Ever, North Pond, Oriole, Schwa, Smyth, and Temporis. For variations on this theme, try Boka, featuring modern comfort food; Elske, which also offers an a la carte menu; or the Moody Tongue, which pairs its tasting menu with housemade brews and has a separate bar for a la carte ordering.
Idiosyncratic modern cuisine with a BYOB vibe can be found at EL Ideas or Goosefoot (BYOB is a trend in Chicago, so it’s a good idea to check ahead if you want a full bar and a wine list). High-end ethnic specialists include the Japanese omakase temples Mako (with only 22 seats) and Omakase Yume, as well as Galit (Middle Eastern), Kasama (Filipino), and Porto (Portuguese seafood).
Celebrity chef Rick Bayless is still operating Frontera Grill and the adjacent one-star Mexican restaurant, Topolobampo. On the seventh floor of the Park Hyatt Chicago, NoMI now contains three spaces—Kitchen, Lounge, and Garden—pairing chef Terence Zubieta’s elegant cuisine with fine wines. Longtime favorites Girl & the Goat (American, with goat specialties), Lula Café (a contemporary diner), and Piccolo Sogno (pasta and pizza) are other holdovers from the 2011 annual session.
Of course, deep-dish pizza is a Chicago hallmark; locals’ top-rated pizzerias include Pequod’s Pizza and Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria. Unfortunately, the South Loop near McCormick Place is not a dining mecca, although there are neighborhood eateries like The Chicago Firehouse Restaurant and Il Culaccino are available if you need a quick bite.
Blues clubs are the mainstay of Chicago nightlife, and most of them have reopened since the pandemic, either nightly or on weekends. The top spots are Blue Chicago, Buddy Guy’s Legends (featuring the 86-year-old founder), the renowned House of Blues Chicago, Kingston Mines, and Rosa’s Lounge. For a broader jazz idiom, try Epiphany Center for the Arts (in a former church) or FitzGerald’s in Berwyn.
Butch Walker performs at the House of Blues. Photo © Paperandwords, Dreamstime.com.
|Events and Attractions||Address*||Phone|
|Adler Planetarium||1300 S. Lake Shore Drive||(312) 922-7827|
|American Writers Museum||180 N. Michigan Ave.||(312) 374-8790|
|Annoyance Theatre & Bar||851 W. Belmont Ave.||(773) 697-9693|
|Art Institute of Chicago||111 S. Michigan Ave.||(312) 443-3600|
|Auditorium Theatre||50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive||(312) 341-2300|
|Briar Street Theater||3133 N. Halsted St.||(800) BLUEMAN|
|Chicago Architecture Center||111 E. Wacker Drive||(312) 922-8687|
|Chicago Botanic Garden||1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe||(847) 835-5440|
|Chicago Children's Museum||700 E. Grand Ave||(312) 527-1000|
|Chicago Cubs||Wrigley Field, 1060 W. Addison St.||(800) THE-CUBS|
|Chicago Cultural Center||78 E. Washington St.||(312) 744-6630|
|Chicago Food Tours||600 Grand Ave.||(312) 932-0800|
|Chicago History Museum||1601 N. Clark St.||(312) 642-4600|
|Chicago Latino Film Festival||Landmark's Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark St.||(312) 431-1300|
|Chicago Symphony Orchestra||Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave.||(312) 294-3000|
|Chicago Theatre||175 N. State St.||(212) 465-6000|
|Chicago White Sox||Guaranteed Rate Field, 333 W. 35th St.||(312) 674-1000|
|Drury Lane Theatre||100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace||(630) 530-0111|
|DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center||740 E. 56th Place||(773) 947-0600|
|Field Museum||1400 S. Lake Shore Drive||(312) 922-9410|
|Frank Lloyd Wright Trust||209 S. LaSalle St.||(312) 994-4000|
|Garfield Park Conservatory||300 N. Central Park Ave.||(773) 638-1766|
|Glessner House||180 S. Prairie Ave.||(312) 326-1480|
|Goodman Theatre||170 N. Dearborn St.||(312) 443-3800|
|Harris Theater||Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph St.||(312) 334-7777|
|Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center||9603 Woods Drive, Skokie||(847) 967-4800|
|James M. Nederlander Theatre||24 W. Randolph St.||(312) 977-1700|
|Jane Addams Hull-House Museum||800 S. Halsted St.||(312) 413-5353|
|Joffrey Ballet||Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive||(312) 386-8905|
|Lincoln Park Conservatory||2391 N. Stockton Drive||(312) 742-7736|
|Lincoln Park Zoo||2001 N. Clark St.||(312) 742-2000|
|Millennium Park||201 E. Randolph St.||(312) 742-1168|
|Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago||220 E. Chicago Ave.||(312) 397-4010|
|Museum of Science and Industry||5700 S. Lake Shore Drive||(773) 684-1414|
|National Museum of Mexican Art||1852 W. 19th St.||(312) 738-1503|
|Navy Pier||600 E. Grand Ave.||(8000 595-7437|
|Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum||2430 N. Cannon Drive||(773) 755-5100|
|The Second City||1616 N. Wells St.||(312) 337-3992|
|Shedd Aquarium||1200 S. Lake Shore Drive||(312) 939-2438|
|Skydeck Chicago||Willis Tower, 233 S. Wacker Drive||(312) 875-9447|
|Steppenwolf Theatre Company||1650 N. Halsted St.||(312) 335-1650|
|360 Chicago||875 N. Michigan Ave.||(888) 875-8439|
*Chicago, unless otherwise specified.
|Restaurants and Nightlife||Address*||Phone|
|Alinea||1723 N. Halsted St.||(312) 867-0110|
|Blue Chicago||536 N. Clark St.||(312) 661-0100|
|Boka||1729 N. Halsted St.||(312) 337-6070|
|Buddy Guy's Legends||700 S. Wabash Ave.||(312) 427-1190|
|The Chicago Firehouse Restaurant||1401 S. Michigan Ave.||(312) 786-1401|
|Claudia||1952 N. Damen Ave.||(773) 697-9486|
|EL Ideas||2419 W. 14th St.||(312) 226-8144|
|Elske||1350 W. Randolph Ave.||(312) 733-1314|
|Epiphany Center for the Arts||201 S. Ashland Ave.||(312) 421-4600|
|Esmé||2200 N. Clark St.|
|Ever||1340 W. Fulton Market|
|FitzGerald's||6615 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn||(708) 788-2118|
|Frontera Grill||445 N. Clark St.||(312) 661-1434|
|Galit||2429 N. Lincoln Ave.||(773) 360-8755|
|Girl & the Goat||809 W. Randolph St.||(312) 492-6262|
|Goosefoot||2656 W. Lawrence Ave.||(773) 942-7547|
|House of Blues Chicago||329 N. Dearborn St.||(312) 923-2000|
|Il Culaccino||2134 S. Indiana Ave.||(312) 794-5300|
|Kasama||1001 N. Winchester Ave.||(773) 697-3790|
|Kingston Mines||2548 N. Halsted St.||(773) 477-4646|
|Lou Malnati's Pizzeria||439 N. Wells St.||(312) 828-9800|
|Lula Café||2537 N. Kedzie Blvd.||(773) 489-9554|
|Mako||731 W. Lake St.||(312) 988-0687|
|Moody Tongue||2515 S. Wabash Ave.||(312) 600-5111|
|Next||953 W. Fulton Market|
|NoMI||Park Hyatt Chicago, 800 N. Michigan Ave.||(312) 239-4030|
|North Pond||2610 N. Cannon Drive||(773) 477-5845|
|Omakase Yume||651 W. Washington Blvd.||(312) 265-1610|
|Oriole||661 W. Walnut St.||(312) 877-5339|
|Pequod's Pizza||2207 N. Clybourn Ave.||(773) 321-1512|
|Piccolo Sogno||464 N. Halsted St.||(312) 421-0077|
|Porto||1600 W. Chicago Ave.||(312) 600-6338|
|Rosa's Lounge||3420 W. Armitage Ave.||(773)342-0452|
|Schwa||1466 N. Ashland Ave.||(733) 252-1466|
|Sepia||123 N. Jefferson St.||(312) 441-1920|
|Smyth||177 N. Ada St.||(773) 913-3773|
|Temporis||933 N. Ashland Ave.||(773) 697-4961|
|Topolobampo||445 N. Clark St.||(312) 661-1434|
*Chicago, unless otherwise specified.