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Chicago Business Travel Guide

Although its roots are that of a working-class city, Chicago attracts professionals of all kinds and from every corner of the world. In other words, there's more than meets the eye — and a whole lot of sophistication going on. This is a city where the past and present commingle in the most amazing way, from its legendary, age-old architecture and grand hotels to its picture-perfect parks, lakefront views from storied shoreline parks and happening dining scene. As to the latter, you will encounter seriously low-key — but over-the-top — culinary lounges, casual, approachable restaurants and gastropubs from celebrity chefs such as Rick Bayless, Stephanie Izard and Paul Kahan.

Since the city's start in the early part of the nineteenth century, Chicago's economic expansion has all but exploded, making it a manufacturing hub modeled by other cities worldwide. Its allure shows no signs of stopping now.

Today, Chicago remains among the most integral economic and business locales in the United States — and beyond — thanks to financial institutions like the Chicago Stock Exchange. From its famous (but now-defunct) stockyards that processed more meat than any place in the world, to its position as the primary transportation center in the United States, attracting the likes of Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck and Company early on. These days, it's where companies such as Boeing, Motorola and McDonald's call home.

That said, this city hardly adheres to the motto, "all work and no play." Chicago has a diverse, artistic fiber that includes an unparalleled theater scene and a longstanding tradition in musical innovation, from its rich blues and jazz movement to its flourishing underground rock scene. This "second" city is one cosmopolitan town, welcoming visitors — business travelers in particular — with gracious, open arms.

You've probably heard the term, "Midwestern hospitality." Here, it certainly rings true.

Facts to Know Before You Go — Chicago Business Travel


Public Transportation: The Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) Blue Line runs 24 hours a day from O'Hare terminals 1, 2 and 3 between the airport and Forest Park and until after midnight to and from O'Hare and 54/Cermak. A one-way ticket to downtown is a steal at $2.25, but the trip will take about 45 minutes. The Orange Line also connects Midway travelers to Chicago's Loop, but there is no service between about 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Monday-Saturday or past midnight on Sunday. All lines, except the yellow, go downtown to Chicago's "Loop." If you are spending a few days in Chicago, it's smart to buy a one-, three- or seven-day pass, which allows unlimited rides on the CTA and El ($5.75, $14 and $23, respectively). To purchase them, head to a currency exchange, or buy them at the machines at some of the larger stations. To find out more, visit

Taxi cabs and shuttles: Whether you're coming from Midway or O'Hare, catching a cab curbside upon arrival is easy. Service is metered, and a trip downtown typically will cost around $45 from O'Hare and about $32 from Midway. Numerous airport shuttle services offer bargains to those who don't mind sharing a ride. An average one-way fare between downtown and O'Hare will cost approximately $2, while a trip to Midway costs about $20.

Rental Cars: If you're planning to do business in the suburbs, you should seriously consider renting a car, since the public transportation system outside of the city is limited at best. All the major rental car companies are located within O'Hare and Midway airports, and many downtown hotels either have rental car counters or can arrange pick-up and drop-off services. If you're staying within city limits, however, it's best to skip the car since parking in city lots and garages is cost-prohibitive and street parking is hard to find.


The Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune are general interest newspapers that publish daily business sections.

Crain's Chicago Business, a weekly periodical, offers company profiles and comprehensive regional business news.


Visitors can access wireless connections at both Midway and O'Hare throughout many of the concourse areas. You can choose from a few options: Boingo Unlimited Access and Boingo AsYouGo ($7.95 for 24 hours, $9.95 a month), or you can opt to use your wireless Internet service provider account through the city's alliance with several roaming partners.

For more travel ideas, see our 72-Hour Vacation guide to Chicago.

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Where to Stay — Chicago Business Hotels

The Fairmont Chicago
200 N. Columbus Dr. (E. Lake St.)
Chicago, IL 60601
312-565-8000, 800-527-472

The Fairmont Chicago

Big on amenities, this luxurious, business-minded hotel features 692 sizeable, rooms with pillow-top mattresses and posh public spaces. A major revamp has lent a much more contemporary feel to the hotel, which now features popular wine, cheese and chocolate lounge ENO in the sunken lobby. In the well-appointed rooms, expect marble-tiled bathrooms with gracious tubs and separate showers with rainfall-style heads, 42-inch flat-screen TVs and iPod docks as well as wireless Internet access. The hotel also features mySpa, an 11,000-square-foot oasis offering massage, skincare and body treatments that'll help you relax when off-the-clock. In addition, there's a fully equipped, spa-level fitness studio with cardio equipment, circuit training and free weights. Just five miles from the hotel you'll find the nine-hole Sydney R. Marovitz golf course along Lake Michigan.

JW Marriott Chicago
151 W. Adams St.
Chicago, IL 60604
312-660-8200, 888-717-8850

Accommodations at JW Marriott Chicago

Located in the heart of the Loop in a Daniel Burnham-designed building, this twelve-story, 581-room, 29-suite property caters to business travelers with 40 meeting rooms spanning 40,000 square feet of space. There's even a stylish function room tucked into The Florentine, a hyped modern Italian spot where pasta and innovate shared plates impress. Gracious guest rooms feature beds swathed in luxurious down bedding and custom duvets, while bathrooms sport bathrobes and Jacuzzis. Other business perks include desks, dual-line phones with voicemail and high-speed Internet access as well as a full-service business center and fitness center. Plan to rent a car if you want to golf at Cog Hill: it's a worthwhile 29-mile trip from the hotel.

The Palmer House Hilton
17 E. Monroe St. (N. State St.)
Chicago, IL 60603

The Palmer House Hilton in Chicago

This restored, 1925 Beaux Arts-style hotel was originally opened in 1871, just thirteen days before the Great Chicago Fire reduced it to ashes. Chicago real estate baron Potter Palmer immediately built a new hotel on the site at three times the size of the original and ten times the cost. It was the first Chicago hotel to have fireproofing, elevators, electricity and telephones and was the home-away-from-home of such colorful figures as Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde. Now, the 1,639 rooms and suites sport an array of rich, regal colors with modern appeal. Some of the hotel's artwork, not surprisingly, is informed by the property and city's rich history. (Updates, however, have lent contemporary flair.) Rooms feature modern amenities like high-speed Internet access, large work desks and marble bathrooms. For added convenience, book an executive room, which comes with a morning newspaper, continental breakfast and access to a private elevator. While you're here (and expensing it), be sure to check out the hotel's crown jewel: Lockwood, an upscale American spot that's sure to impress clients is on the lobby level.

Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel
221 N. Columbus Dr.
Chicago, IL 60601

The 1,723-square-foot Aqua Suite at Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago

Set just off of frenetic Michigan Avenue, steps from Millennium Park and the Financial District, this fashionable, business-friendly property has all the makings of a great stay, from complimentary, wireless Internet access to on-site event planners, 28,000 square feet of meeting space and the option to book business class rooms with access to a lounge serving complimentary breakfast. Meanwhile, these 17th and 18th-floor, iPad-equipped rooms — which overlook the skyline or park — are outfitted with espresso machines, flat-panel LCD TVs and creature comforts, such as turndown service, Anne Semonin bath amenities, slippers and bathrobes. The rooms themselves are modern, serene retreats, neutral in hue with pops of color and lean, sleek lines. Onsite, Italian-leaning restaurant and bar, Filini, pours more than 100 wines from "the boot," alongside a likeable lineup of modern antipasti, small plates and memorable pasta.

Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago
Read our in-depth feature!
401 N. Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
312-588-8000, 877-458-7867

Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago
Located in the heart of the city, this Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed luxury hotel with sweeping city views welcomed its first hotel guests in January 2008. Situated on floors 14 through 27 of a 92-story residential tower by the Trump Organization, it features 339 luxuriously appointed, contemporary guestrooms and one-, two- and three-bedroom suites with modern, fully appointed kitchens, ten-foot floor-to-ceiling windows, sitting areas with sofa beds, Wi-Fi, 42-inch LCD TVs and luxury bathrooms outfitted with Kohler deep soaking tubs, separate showers and in-mirror TV portals. Also on site is Sixteen, a fine dining restaurant featuring modern American cuisine. Added appeals include top-tier meeting and event space and a chic lounge that's sure to wow associates. Attaché services — including a customized fully stocked refrigerator and complimentary personalized stationary on request — are among the hotel's further perks.

See our list of Chicago's 10 Best Business Hotels

Where to Dine — Chicago Business Restaurants

619 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60661


Blackbird restaurant in Chicago offers classic dishes with a unique twist

Paul Kahan continues to make culinary magic in this stylish, if loud and cramped, West Loop dining room with high-tech seating and a menu that turns classic dishes with a unique twist. (Take the Caprinelle Pyrénées cheese salad with parsnip cake, pickled green tomatoes, mâche and candied coriander, for example, or the butter-poached lobster with lime-pickled turnips, flageolets, sea beans and spiced fig broth.) And if the choice to dine here didn't already make you a shoo-in, seal deals over desserts like criollo chocolate with cupuaçu, milk meringue and tonka bean ice cream. There's an equally slick private room with its own bar, kitchen, restrooms and entrance — the answer to your function woes — upstairs.

Gibsons Steakhouse & Bar
1028 N. Rush St. (E. Bellevue Pl.)
Chicago, IL 60611


Gibsons Steakhouse & Bar, a top steakhouse in Chicago

The upscale chains all over town have nothing on this home-grown steakhouse. The bar and hallway are packed nightly with businessmen in dark suits, lovelies in little black dresses, sports figures, politicos and average Joes and Janes waiting for tables in the clubby, wood-paneled dining room. Prime aged steaks — displayed raw tableside along with giant lobster tails — are the main draw, but chops and fish also rank high. Consider kicking it old-school with a starter of chopped chicken livers. Everything is on a gargantuan scale, from the how-do-they-get-them-so-cold martinis to cakes that easily feed four. You don't have to spend a fortune, however: affable servers encourage sharing entrées, and the burger and other bar food items can be ordered in the dining room.

Girl & The Goat
809 W. Randolph St. (N. Halstead St.)
Chicago, IL 60607

Contemporary/ American/ Small Plates

The interior of the much talked-about Girl & The Goat restaurant in Chicago
Plan ahead and make an impression (reservations are hard to come by); Stephanie Izard's come-as-you-are West Loop haunt is among the most talked about in town. The constantly changing menu is informed by area purveyors; accordingly, the Top Chef winner forged relationships with area farms, visiting them first-hand, while getting inspired by their bounty. Depending on the season, that may mean pan-fried shishito peppers with Parmesan, miso and sesame; grilled baby octopus with accompaniments of serranos, treviso, celery root, braised pistachios and Red Bliss potato; or goat liver mousseline, hit with ham hock jus and apple mustarda alongside crumpets. Toast money-making over house wine.

Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago
401 N. Wabash Ave. Kinzie St.)
Chicago, IL 60611

Modern American/Global

The dining room of the posh and highly rated Sixteen restaurant in Chicago

Located on its namesake floor of the Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, this über-classy, curvaceous dining room is adorned with a massive Swarovski-crystal chandelier, soaring ceilings and a sweeping skyline view. The food — as pricy as the setting is posh — hits global notes morning, noon and night. When entertaining clients, consider the six-course tasting menu or a blind tasting menu of ten courses so you can focus on the business at hand. Looking to lube the conversation? Be sure to check out bottles from the glass-enclosed wine gallery, which is flush with expense account-worthy vintages.

676 N. St. Clair St. (Huron St.)
Chicago, IL 60611


The art-adorned main dining room of TRU in Chicago

Reinvigorated by new executive chef-partner Anthony Martin, TRU is not only the best restaurant in the Windy City; it is also one of our 2012 Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S. Enjoy progressive French fare in the soaring, art adorned dining room via the three-course design-your-own menu or pre-set six-to-nine-course collection. Chad Ellegood's wine list features more than 1,800 bottles and is thoughtfully curated.

See our list of Chicago's 10 Best Business Restaurants

Off the Clock — Chicago Business Entertainment

Chicago Neighborhood Tours
Chicago Cultural Center
77 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60602

Explore Wicker Park via Chicago Neighborhood Tours

Learn more about the city with the help of Chicago Neighborhood Tours, which unearths the history of more than 35 enclaves citywide, from Wicker Park and the Urainian Village to historic Bronzeville, Pilsen and Little Village. There are themed tours, too, like Daniel Burnham's Chicago, and special interest tours that delve into Chicago's Greek or Polish heritage. And, on The White City tour, participants can relive the 1893 World's Fair. A boon for business-travelers, private group tours can also be arranged.

Magnificent Mile
Michigan Avenue From Oak Street to Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60611

A carriage on Chicago's Magnificent Mile

This ever-pulsing North Michigan Avenue shopping haven is home to more than 200 restaurants, 50 hotels and 460 shops and boutiques, from Vosges Haut Chocolat to Boss Hugo Boss, Bottega Veneta and Escada. It's also where you'll sometimes encounter breathtakingly picturesque seasonal events, from a holiday lights festival to eye-popping tulip displays in spring.

Millennium Park
Columbus Drive and Randolph Street
Millennium Park in Chicago

A series of redevelopment projects are infusing downtown Chicago with a little of the architectural spirit the city is known for. Millennium Park extends the reach of Grant Park and adds 21st century pizzazz. Two 50-foot glass towers display changing video images and spout water in the park's dramatic Jaume Plensa-designed fountain. Wander through the Lurie Garden with its more than 200 species of flowers, go ice skating or hear the Grant Park Orchestra perform at the futuristic Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Designed by Frank Gehry, the 4,000 seat amphitheater epitomizes the soaring stainless steel creations he's known for. Think Guggenheim Bilbao or the Disney Concert Hall.

Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603

Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago houses twentieth and twenty-first century art

Wander through the impossibly stylish Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing, a 264,000-square-foot wonder dedicated to art of the 20th and 21st centuries. Marvel at the collection of European paintings and sculptures, hailing from 1900 to 1950, and explore the third-floor galleries where works from Pablo Picasso can be found. Whether looking at surrealist creations or abstract works from Constantin Brancusi, there are many ways to pass the time. Be sure to mull things over at in-house Terzo Piano, Tony Mantuano's stellar lunchtime spot.

Vertigo Sky Lounge
Dana Hotel and Spa
2 W. Erie St.
Chicago, IL 60610

The chic Vertigo Sky Lounge in Chicao attracts an A-list crowd

Perched on the top of the eco-chic Dana Hotel and Spa, this minimalist lounge — all sleek modular seating inside, patio oasis outside — fills with an A-list crowd looking to be seen. Servers preparing drinks from rolling carts lends an air of exclusivity. When you've had enough chitchat, there's always the screening room, which shows flicks both kitschy and classic. Needless to say, there's a light menu, too. Don't rule it out in winter either: its signature, outdoor Fire and Ice Bar, complete with seasonal cocktails, is a hoot. (Author: Jennifer Olvera)

Going to Illinois? Check our Guide

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* Images courtesy of the respective properties. Millennium Park Monument (Peristyle) image by Peter J. Schulz/City of Chicago.

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