Look beyond the main attractions, and you may find yourself surprised by what the Windy City has been hiding in plain sight. From a riverfront pagoda to a breathtaking cafe tucked away in a home furnishings store., these six Chicago hidden gems will take you on a journey through the city’s lesser-known, though no less hip places.
The Baha’i House of Worship
The only Baha’i House of Worship in the United States, this “Temple of Light and Unity” was designed as a sacred universal gathering space meant to bring all races and people together for the betterment of civilization. Regardless of religious beliefs or architectural interests, you’ll find it’s easy to pass an hour here on the North Shore, swept up in the quiet yet powerful beauty of the Baha’i House and its nine gardens, Eastern-inspired reflecting pools, and gleaming white dome, under which over a thousand people can come to meditate at once.
Pickwick Coffee Roasting Co.
Just look for “COFFEE” spelled out in lights. This tiny shop is one of the Loop’s latest caffeine additions—and one the locals would love to keep for themselves to avoid the long lines of nearby caffeine stops. Hidden at the end of a charming alley aglow with warm twinkling lights, the cafe will make you want to linger over a delicious cortado and freshly baked scone, leaving a feeling as if you’ve traveled into a place out of a Harry Potter novel.
The Violet Hour
When locals want to duck out of sight in Wicker Park, they head to The Violet Hour, a speakeasy-style bar with a no-cell phone policy. A key house rule also governs the Violet Hour — “Please don’t bring anyone that you wouldn’t bring to your mother’s house for Sunday dinner.” This civilized spot is perfect for enjoying offline conversations as you sample a cocktail list including flaming Mai Tais and absinthe-based libations.
There’s no going back to chain Mexican food after trying Surf/Burrito Lab. Everything about this Logan Square gem is bright, flavorful, and exceptionally fresh—from the rotating menu of inventive burritos (order the ballpark-inspired “Cubbie Dog” filled with a hot dog, grilled onions, and French fries) to the colorful surfboard art gallery that will prompt memories of your best beach days.
3 Arts Club Café
The tall trees, crystal chandeliers, and grand fountain at the center of the 3 Arts Club Cafe‘s atrium belie its location inside a sprawling landmark building on the Gold Coast that’s also home to a branch of Restoration Hardware. Once a women’s dorm for creative arts students, building (constructed circa 1914) is a dreamy place to have a meal, interior design aficionado or not. While reclining on comfortable couches, enjoy a smoked salmon board, the truffle grilled cheese and a peach Bellini (or two).
Ping Tom Memorial Park
For a totally unique Chicago outing you won’t find in the guidebooks, board the Chicago Water Taxi and get out at Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown. Walk five minutes to arguably the city’s best dim sum at Cai, then stop by Saint Anna Bakery for traditional Cantonese pastries (locals are partial to the chestnut sponge cake). Get the pastries to go to savor in the park’s riverfront pagoda.
Although the 12-acre park boasts many amenities — including a children’s playground, a boathouse offering kayak rentals and a recreational facility with an indoor swimming pool, gym, and green rooftop patio — it’s not widely known by visitors. That means you will get to revel in the sweet moments of otherworldly peace all to yourself.
Ready to explore? Book an IHG hotel in Chicago and discover your new favorite hangouts.