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Laura Mittelstaedt | Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Greetings, fellow wanderers! This is the final article of my three-part series on Chicago. Though I could go on forever about things to do, this week’s article will be dedicated to shopping and some miscellaneous ideas to inspire you to explore Chicago some more on your own.

Shopping in Chicago

Shopping is always a fun — albeit expensive — way to explore cities, and Chicago is no exception. Here’s a list of some of the best shopping areas in Chicago, whether you’re looking to empty your wallet or do some window shopping.

 If you’re really in the mood to shop…

 The Magnificent Mile

The Magnificent Mile is an eight-block stretch of North Michigan Avenue, where shoppers can explore over 460 different stores and boutiques. Though The Magnificent Mile sometimes feels overly touristy, it’s incredibly convenient and has a huge variety of stores and products, in many different price ranges. There are also tons of hotels and restaurants in the area, so the Magnificent Mile is perfect if you just want to hang out downtown and get a feel for the city.  

State Street (between Randolph and Jackson)

 State Street has many well-known shops, like the famed Marshall Field’s (now Macy’s) and Garrett Popcorn (a small Chicago-based popcorn company that always has a line out the door, even when it’s freezing outside). There is also a new, two-story Anthropologie that has become one of my favorite stops in the city. Conveniently located near Broadway and ballet theaters, as well as Millennium Park and CTA stops, State Street another great shopping area when you’re downtown.

 If large crowds aren’t your cup of tea…


Lincoln Park

 Lincoln Park is a fun shopping area, with a large variety of specialty shops, boutiques and well-known brands. The area near West Armitage Avenue, North Halstead Street and West Webster Avenue has tons of shops, including Lululemon Athletica, Vosges Haut Chocolate (my favorite chocolate shop), BCBG and many others. Oz Park is also outlined by these three streets, and is a fun stop on warm days — it’s Wizard of Oz themed. Lincoln Park is a great area to wander, whether you’re shopping or looking for a bite to eat, as many of the businesses are unique and Chicago-based.

Wicker Park and Bucktown  

This is the area of Chicago that I keep telling myself I need to explore more. I spent quite a bit of time in Wicker Park over Christmas break, and I had a wonderful time floating in and out of shops. The main shopping area can be found near the intersection of North Milwaukee Avenue and North Damen Avenue. The Wicker Park and Bucktown area is very eclectic, with high-end boutiques mixed in with consignment stores. Though most of the shops in this area are locally owned, you can find Free People on Milwaukee Avenue and Marc by Marc Jacobs on Damen Avenue. Near the Free People boutique is one of my favorite coffee shops, Filter. The café is huge, with lots of couches and chairs, and it’s a fun spot to grab coffee or a snack and hang out when it’s cold outside.  

If you want to window shop…


Oak Street

In French, the word for “window shopping” is lèche-vitrines, which loosely translates to window licking. Every time I wander down Oak Street, I find myself drooling over all the beautiful clothes and shoes gleaming from the pristine windows. Just north of Bloomingdale’s, Oak Street has all those stores that you’re kind of afraid to go into, and that have completely gratuitous products and window displays — Jimmy Choo, Prada and Hermès to name a few. This is always one of my favorite areas, simply because everything is so beautiful and excessive. There are also many (reasonably priced) restaurants and bars in this area, including Bistro Zinc and Corner Bakery.



 Seeing comedy shows, Broadway performances or concerts in Chicago is always a lot of fun, and many theaters have special prices for students. Second City and Zanie’s have entertaining comedy acts, while the Oriental Theater houses many Broadway shows. For those of you who love film, the Gene Siskel Film Center, on State Street, shows independent, international, and classic films — it’s one of my favorite lesser-known spots in the city. I’m also always on the lookout for interesting concerts at Metro, a small concert venue on the north side that features alternative and rock bands; over Christmas break I saw The Hush Sound and Yeasayer, which were both outstanding. Blue Man Group has fantastic performances as well, at Briar Street Theater in Lakeview.

 So there you have it. I realize that I have probably omitted some amazing restaurants, shops, and the like from my articles, but I hope that this series on Chicago has given you inspiration to make a trip into the city and explore it for yourself. The opportunities in Chicago are endless, and we should all try to visit more often. Keep a look out for future “Wanderlust” articles with other fun things to do in the Midwest. Until then, fellow Domers, keep wandering.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Laura Mittelstaedt at [email protected]