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Chicago Style

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.

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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.


Fig. 1 A tourist shows off a handstand on the SkyDeck Chicago ledge. Photo © Jillian Cain, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 2 Chicago Theatre. Photo © Phah Sajjaphot, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 3 “What Is an Animal?” exhibition at the Field Museum. Photo © James Kirkikis, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 4 Adler Planetarium seen from Lake Michigan. Photo © Erik Lattwein, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 5 “Nightlife” (1943) by Archibald John Motley Jr. at the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo © Marina Endermar, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 6 Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Photo © James Kirkikis, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 7 Aerial view of the south pond at Lincoln Park Zoo. Photo © James Kirkikis, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 8 Goodman Theatre. Photo © Joe Hendrickson, Dreams­time.com.
Fig. 9 Butch Walker performs at the House of Blues. Photo © Paperandwords, Dreamstime.com.


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