As a recent Chicago transfer, I considered myself a Chi-town virgin, and one who was paperback guidebook-less. Yet, I have an affinity for social media and was armored with an array of technology. So, where did I turn to find that praised Chicago donut (see my tried-and-true favorite at Stan’s) or a WiFi-friendly coffee shop that proved faithful while I still lacked Internet and cable? Instagram.
By following certain Instagram accounts, I was able to make a list of “musts”: places to dine at and dash to in my new city. By using Instagram’s geotag function (pictures linked directly to each location with a map), I built my own experience full of places to go and things to do. Accompanied by these places’ addresses and friendly Instagrammers’ recommendations, I moved somewhat seamlessly (insert grievances on the Chicago Transit Authority here), from hidden shopping gems to capturing the famous “city-reflection-in-the-Bean” shot.
The next time you’re traveling to and around the Second City, let these number one Insta-players increase your own travel game.
1) Dining, wining, and all in between: There’s more to Chicago cuisine than what “meats” the eye. Although the city’s known for the Chicago Dog—a hotdog topped with yellow mustard, white onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle, tomato slices, short peppers, and celery salt—the city is a foodie haven beyond its popular encased meats. Don’t get caught in a countrywide chain restaurant when you can really delve into the world of dining—both fine and casual—by checking out recommendations from these Chi-town culinary experts.
2) Local finds and buys: Sure, the windows at Tiffany’s are idyllic and the attraction of Neiman Marcus is undeniable but don’t waste your time getting to know Chicago by pretending to be the Second City’s very own Carrie Bradshaw. After taking a walk, just a walk, down Chicago’s Michigan Avenue to window shop, bring your plastic playmate of a credit card somewhere else. By clicking through Buy Chicago, Discover Chicago and John.Khuu’s most recent posts you can easily find the best places to stimulate the economy.
3) Timelessly (and touristy) helpful: Midwestern Nice, essentially the opposite of how New Yorkers treat city passersby, makes being a city neophyte much easier in Chicago. Despite universal judgment of fanny-pack wearers, being a tourist—even with the pouch—in Chicago is widely accepted and encouraged. It’s as if Chi-town locals hope visitors look lost so that they can nonchalantly approach them and utter the hospitable words, “Can I help you?” Just as welcoming as the Midwestern Nice locals are, the following ‘grammers are there to pave your path from an architecture boat tour on the river to Millennium Park for art you can both oogle at and play with.
4) City of Architecture: Another reason for the name “Second City” is that today’s Chicago is a rebuilt version of the original after being burned in 1871. This post-Chicago Fire city is now an architectural icon, known for its originality rather than its antiquity. Thrill seekers rejoice: Chi-town has capitalized on its skyscraper fame through sightseeing opportunities available at 1,353 feet only at the Skydeck’s Ledge. But Chicago is favorable to ground lovers too through architecture guidance provided by the Insta-players of Danny Mota, Chicago Matt and Chi Architecture.
5) City of Art: Home to a plethora of renowned pieces, celebrated artists and burgeoning craftsmen and women, Chicago is a perfect playground for art enthusiasts. Yet with what feels like an infinite number of museums, galleries and the like, a Chi-town visitor could get lost amongst the options. Here to help you decide which institution is of interest to you is Chicago Culture Couple. Partner this account with museum-specific Instagrammers like Art Institute Chi and MCAChicago to navigate your way from Adams to Zaitz.
Now I’m not saying to trash that trustworthy Frommer’s, but carrying it throughout Chicago is simply unnecessary. Not only does the guidebook not fit in your pocket—and likely not an average-sized fanny pack— it also proves redundant when you already have a travel companion like Instagram in the palm of your hand. And hey, if the above Insta-players don’t up your game, check out my Chicago travels as I post too many donut images and foliage photos @ekbacharach; I’d be happy to be a guide (clearly the Midwestern Nice is contagious).