From giant sandwiches to tiny French pastries, there’s so much to eat, see, and do in the West Loop. The West Loop is a foodie’s paradise. This former industrial neighborhood has been transformed into some of the city’s hottest restaurants by an explosion of great eateries.
Chicago French Market
If you need to take a Metra train from or into Ogilvie station in the West Loop, you can end or begin your day’s journey with a trip to Chicago’s French Market on the north side of the station. There, you can grab breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just a bag full of fresh vegetables, meat, or seafood to take home. Also tempting are the arrays of desserts, like delicate French macarons, refreshing gelato, authentic crepes, or warm baguettes. Whatever your tastes or budget, you can walk away full and happy from the French Market’s array of vendors.
Randolph Street Market Festival
Once a month, bargain hunters, hagglers, and collectors flock to the West Loop to peruse the wares of more than 100 sellers at Randolph Street Market. During the summer, the bazaar fills the parking lot of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Union Hall, filling it with antiques, records, classic movie posters, clothing, jewelry, and other trinkets. When the weather turns colder, the market shifts inside, but there are still plenty of sellers prepared to make you a deal. Don’t forget that your market ticket is valid for both days of the event.
National Hellenic Museum
The first and only major museum in the country dedicated to Greek-American culture is housed in a 40,000-square-foot facility just off the bustle of the restaurant-studded stretch of Halsted Street in Greektown. The permanent collection comprises artifacts and papers depicting the Hellenic immigrant experience as well as the origins of Chicago’s Greek community.
Summer festival goers know Union Park as the site of the annual Pitchfork Music Festival, but this West Loop park is worth a visit even when no stages are put up on the lawn. You can swim in the pool, visit the auditorium, work out in the fitness center, or show off your abilities on the basketball and tennis courts. It’s also a good place to walk after a meal at a neighboring restaurant on Randolph Street or Fulton Market.
Old St. Patrick’s Church
When you visit Old St. Patrick’s Church (also known as Old St. Pat’s) you’ll see a building that is one of Chicago’s oldest public buildings. Originally built in the 1850s, the church survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and you can take a tour. If you visit on July 15 or 16, 2011, you can also attend “the world’s largest block party,” an annual event held outside the church where you can enjoy food, drink, and live entertainment. The party also has a reputation for being a singles event: Old St. Pat’s claims that over 70 couples have met at the party and subsequently gotten married.
This iconic Chicago landmark, built in 1925 to replace an 1881 train station, is still in use today as a transit center for Amtrak and Metra trains in and out of the city. Film buffs should visit Union Station’s Great Hall, which has appeared in films such as The Untouchables, My Best Friend’s Wedding, and Flags of Our Fathers, among others. If you have time to explore, look for the two Henry Hering statues, one clutching a rooster and the other an owl, which symbolise the station’s 24-hour operation.
Sculpted by Mary Brogger, the Haymarket Memorial commemorates the site of the historic Haymarket bombing in 1886, which has become a powerful symbol for a diverse cross-section of people, ideals and movements. Its significance touches on the issues of free speech, the right of public assembly, and fights for justice and workers rights. The sculpture marks the precise location where the historic events occurred.
Mary Bartelme Park
This West Loop park, located in Greektown, is best renowned for its ADA-accessible children’s playground, which allows for inventive, non-linear play without typical play equipment, but it does have swings, slides, and a variety of other cool things to run about on. Canines enjoy the subterranean dog park, which has a constantly filled, enormous dog dish, ramps, ledges, steps, and an artificial grass exercise area. The viewing hill is up to six feet high and offers a wonderful view of the park with the Chicago cityscape in the background.
Chicago’s Lyric Opera House
Chicago’s Lyric Opera House sits on the banks of the Chicago River, with an imposing building constructed in the 1920s. Inside, one of the most world-renowned opera companies performs year round to music and theater lovers alike. Catch a performance between September and March each year and you’ll have an average of eight different productions to choose from, some of which could be world premiers.
Manny’s Deli in the West Loop offers visitors hundreds of reasons to sit down and enjoy a big meal. With a menu of Jewish deli favorites that seems never-ending, you’ll be hard-pressed to walk (or waddle) away hungry after a stop here.
Blommer Chocolate Company
Any day in the West Loop can be improved by taking in a big breath of fresh air – especially when that air is filled with the sweet smell of Blommer chocolate. Founded in 1939, the Blommer Chocolate Company has been filling the air of downtown Chicago with a sweet “just baked cookie” aroma for almost a century now. Grab a sweet bite at their retail shop at this still family-run business that’s grown to be one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in North America!