The ultimate Chicago travel guide: I’ll tell you where to stay, what to eat and how to burn it off!
Located just three hours away from my home here in Grand Rapids, I’ve probably visited Chicago at least 30 times in my 36 years of life. While this wasn’t my first visit to Windy City (and definitely not my last!), it was my first time featuring Chicago in my wellness travel series, What to Eat & How to Burn it Off.
Home base during my visit was one of my favorite Chicago hotels: Kimpton Hotel Palomar. I’ve stayed there many times over the years for both personal and professional visits to Chicago and it never disappoints.
Centrally located within walking distance of Magnificent Mile, River North and other popular attractions, you can’t go wrong with this hotel. The customer service is always above and beyond and their food & beverage and fitness offering are top notch. (More on that later!)
To kick us off, I’ve got two delicious breakfast recommendations. The first is State and Lake, a contemporary gastropub led by award-winning Executive Chef Nathan Sears.
What I loved most about this restaurant was the nice balance of healthy and indulgent breakfast dishes. Offering everything from fresh smoothies to organic steel cut oats to chilaquiles, there is something for everyone on their breakfast menu.
For a super healthy breakfast on-the-go, check out Hi-Vibe, an organic superfood juicery. Featuring smoothies, acai bowls, juices and bulletproof coffees, this place hit the spot and didn’t leave us feeling weighed down. In fact, I loved it so much I went back a second time during my visit!
For breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack, Eataly is a MUST during your visit to Chicago.
Located just steps away from the Palomar Kimpton, I visit this two story food emporium almost every time I’m in the city.
It’s a great spot for having a glass of wine with a friend, purchasing Italian ingredients to bring home as souvenirs or strolling around with a hot cup of espresso.
If you love Vietnamese food as much as I do (or are curious to try it for the first time!) look no further than Le Colonial. Located in the Gold Coast neighborhood, I have been eating here since I was a child.
My next dining recommendation is Sable Kitchen & Bar, located conveniently right inside the Palomar Kimpton.
Offering pre-prohibition inspired cocktails, Southern-inspired dishes (I’m talking the best fried chicken I’ve ever tasted!) and farm-to-table plates, I highly suggest booking a table at Sable for lunch or dinner during your visit to Chicago.
For a fine dining experience, I’m a huge fan of the RPM restaurants which is why I was so excited to check out RPM Steak for the first time.
Juicy steaks, fresh seafood, hot and crispy fries, it’s everything you want in a fine dining steak house, minus the pretension.
Full disclosure: I kept looking around for Bill and Giuliana Rancic while dining on my lobster salad but no dice. Maybe next time.
One of the most memorable meals of my visit was the newly opened Ēma, a Mediterranean restaurant showcasing Chef CJ Jacobson’s spin on mezze, dips, spreads and small plates. The spicy hummus, kefta and house-made labne were all enough to ensure I will definitely be heading back to Ēma the next time I’m in Chicago.
If you love rustic Italian food, be sure to add Piccolo Sogno to your Chicago itinerary. The squid ink pasta pictured above was perfectly cooked and filled to the brim with fresh seafood. Pro Tip: If you visit during warm months head out to their beautiful patio.
If you love beer as much as I do, stop by Columbus Tap for a local craft beer and super tasty appetizers. I’m not even a chicken wings fan and they were some of the best wings I’ve ever tasted! I was also super impressed by the fresh and healthy offerings which you don’t always see at a brew pub.
Last but not least in the What to Eat category: a visit to Chicago isn’t complete without bellying up to the beautiful bar at Bad Hunter. Situated in the super trendy West Loop neighborhood, I had so much fun watching their mixologists create some of the most thoughtful, beautiful and well-balanced cocktails I’ve ever tasted.
While we only had time to stop by for happy hour cocktails, be sure to check out their full menu featuring creative dishes like roasted cauliflower tartine, charred beet French dip and more.
So now that I’ve shown you all the best eats and drinks in Chicago, let’s get right into it: How to Burn it Off! One of the many reasons I love staying at the Palomar Kimpton Chicago is their wide variety fitness offerings including exhale’s signature Barre+Cardio class on the 17th floor outdoor terrace of the hotel.
You can’t beat the breathtaking view of the Chicago skyline and I really enjoyed taking my first ever Barre class. Visiting Chicago during the colder months? Fret not: all guests receive a 15% discount off all spa services, fitness classes and retail at exhale located just 1/2 mile from the hotel.
Since we were fortunate enough to visit during the summer, I took full advantage and booked my first ever Urban Kayak architecture tour of the Chicago river.
While I highly suggest taking the traditional architecture boat tour, I really enjoyed being even closer to the water on a kayak. The ride was so peaceful and scenic I hardly even noticed I was burning calories.
My third recommendation for burning it off in Chicago is to take a Barry’s Bootcamp class! An ideal option any time of year, no matter the weather outdoors, I was so impressed with my first ever Barry’s experience. The music the pumping, the instructor was high energy and everyone in the class was super supportive and passing out high fives like it was their job. Can’t wait to go back!
Last but not least, while this didn’t help us burn off any of the great eats, we had so much fun checking out the gorgeous skyline views on TILT!, the newest thrill attracting at 360 Chicago. While I’ve been to Chicago numerous times in the past, I’ve never seen it from this angle and it was truly unlike anything else.
What are your favorite Chicago hot spots? Did I miss anything? Since I live just three hours away I know I’ll be back soon so be sure to leave a comment below with your tips!
Where would you like me to head next? Any cities you’d love to learn more about? In the meantime, stay tuned for more great travel guides including Vancouver, Whistler and Palm Springs!
Disclosure: Choose Chicago coordinated my hotel accommodations, meals and activities during my stay. Photography by Alejandro Photography. I was not compensated to write this post. All thoughts are my own.
Check out more of my travel spots on my Pinterest board!