lifestyle,  north america,  travel,  united states

Chicago Bucket List

As PhD students, the impending deadline for our dissertations and the steady passage of time loom large in our consciousness. As my fourth year nears its end, I am keenly aware of the fact that I have (hopefully) just one year left. While that fact is distressing/exhilarating on a number of levels, it also means I likely have only one year left living in Chicago. I feel like we have had the opportunity to eat and drink at some wonderful establishments and the good fortune of seeing some amazing things here. However, this is the third-largest city in the US, and as such, there is a wealth of unexplored territory. We’ve started creating a Chicago bucket list filled with all the things we’d like to see and do and eat, either for the first time or re-visited, before we leave.



  1. walk the Chicago Riverwalk
  2. go to a musical
  3. watch a baseball game at Wrigley Field
  4. watch an outdoor movie in a park
  5. go shopping on Armitage Avenue and in Wicker Park

I’ve passed the Chicago River many times whilst traversing downtown, but I’ve never taken the opportunity to (1) walk along the Riverwalk, a pedestrian walkway along the south bank of the Chicago River. Definitely would be a fun way to spend a sunny afternoon. Chicago has such a vibrant arts scene, that it would be a shame not to take advantage of it and (2) catch a show. Broadway in Chicago has an amazing line up coming up, including Cabaret and A Gentleman’s Guide to Murder that I’d love to see. I readily admit that I’m not a sports fan, but Chicago is such a sports town that it would be a travesty to not (3) catch a game at the historic Wrigley Field before leaving. Chicago seems to have an abundance of (4) outdoor movie screenings, something I’ve never done before (didn’t seem to be a thing in Vancouver, or at least not that I knew about), but sounds like it would be a ton of fun on a warm Chicago evening. Thrillist has a handy list of all the screenings going on this summer. Finally, perhaps unsurprisingly, I’d love to go for (5) a shop on Armitage Avenue, around the Armitage brown line stop as well as in Wicker Park on Damen Avenue. These areas are purportedly hubs for boutiques and small shops stocking local designers.



  1. Boka
  2. Les Nomades
  3. Blackbird
  4. Avec
  5. The Publican

We love to eat, so this particular list will be ever-expanding, as I come across new interesting places to eat. I’ve had (1) Boka on my list for a little while now. It looks to be a gorgeous, fun space (pictured above), serving New American food and delicious cocktails. It comes from the same restaurant group as the renowned Girl & the Goat and GT Fish & Oyster, so it should be good. (2) Les Nomades has also been on the culinary wish list for some time, being one of the most reputable French restaurants in the city–a bastion of fine dining where jackets are required and you speak in hushed tones at the table. A bit old-fashioned perhaps, but sometimes an occasion calls for a bit of pomp and ceremony. The prix fixe only option is a bit steep for our grad student budget, so perhaps we’ll wait until we graduate. (3) Blackbird, (4) Avec and (5) The Publican are all culinary siblings and share a very modern aesthetic. The Michelin-starred Blackbird is known for its inventive, New American fare, while Avec is Mediterranean-inspired, offering intriguing sharing plates such as veal tongue and suckling goat. The Publican is really on this list for David, as it is (according to them) an “homage to beer, pork and oysters”, which are basically his 3 favourite food groups.



  1. RM Champagne Salon
  2. Longman & Eagle
  3. Bedford
  4. Aviary
  5. The Green Mill

My love for bubbles is pretty well-known, so it’s perhaps not surprising that I’d like to visit (1) RM Champagne Salon, known for its romantic patio and its wide assortment of sparkling wine and desserts (not to mention $1 oysters on Tuesdays). (2) Longman & Eagle is a Logan Square inn (which would be fun to stay at for the night) that is supposed to have great cocktails and an extensive whisky list, upwards of 300 choices. (3) Bedford is set in a 1920s bank vault and is purportedly a classy lounge with killer cocktails. I’m looking forward to checking out their Thursday night special of $1 oysters and half-priced bottles of bubbles. We’ve both recently developed an appreciation for craft cocktails, so the (4) Aviary, owned by Grant Achatz of Alinea fame, is an obvious choice to try, as they are known for their inventive, whimsical and superbly-crafted cocktails. Finally, it would be fun to homage to a Chicago institution, (5) The Green Mill, a 108-year old jazz lounge that once saw the likes of Al Capone frequenting it.



  1. Lincoln Park Zoo
  2. The Art Institute of Chicago
  3. Grant Park
  4. Museum of Science and Industry
  5. Chicago architecture

Perhaps one of my favourite places I’ve visited in Chicago is the (1) Lincoln Park Zoo. I remember being dubious upon first visiting that there’d be much to see considering that it was free, so I was truly amazed at how much there was to see. Gorgeously-situated, with a fantastic view of downtown Chicago, it is definitely a spot I’ll be re-visiting before I leave. Similarly, (2) The Art Institute of Chicago has such a fabulous collection of art in a beautiful, expansive space, that it is a must-visit for us before we depart. We have visited portions of (3) Grant Park, as Millennium Park, the Art Institute and even Museum Campus are all contained within it. However, I haven’t really spent time walking through it and taking it in as a whole, and I haven’t seen the famed Buckingham Fountain. Being scientists, it is a bit shameful we haven’t been to see the (4) Museum of Science and Industry yet. It’s always difficult to know how “adult-friendly” it’ll be, or if it’ll veer to heavily into the “kid-friendly” territory, which is why I think we’ve avoided going down. Though, they do have a new “Robot Revolution” exhibit now, which could be fun to see. Finally, it would be a shame to leave Chicago without taking one last look at its (5) amazing architecture. Coming from Vancouver, which was always a big city in my mind growing up, I was shocked at how truly “big city” Chicago feels, with its soaring skyscrapers and sense of history in its buildings. It can be seen and appreciated in a variety of ways, on a fabulous boat tour or on one of the many walking tours put on by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Of course, we could just go up to the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center and enjoy a drink at the Signature Lounge while overlooking the city.

Photo credits: 1 |  2 | 3 | 4

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