Spotlight on the Magnificent Mile

No visit to Chicago is complete without exploring the Magnificent Mile. While most people think of a 13-block stretch of North Michigan Avenue as the main thoroughfare, the reality is the Magnificent Mile District is actually larger and is bordered by Randolph Street to the south, North Avenue to the north, Lake Michigan to the east, and the Chicago River to the west. Within this vicinity, visitors will find some of the city’s legendary landmark buildings, buzz-worthy restaurants, world-class shops, hotels, cultural attractions, and so many interesting things to do.

Big Bus Tours passing the Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium

Seeing the Sights

Travelers who want to learn more about the fascinating area and how it came to be the Magnificent Mile should join a guided tour to hear the stories, see the amazing architecture, and get the lay of the land. Big Bus Tours provides a great introduction with a hop-on and hop-off Classic Tour experience where guests learn how the area got its name as well as discover some of the thoroughfare’s most iconic buildings including the Historic Water Tower and Pumping Station, the only two structures in the area that are still standing after the Great Chicago Fire wreaked havoc on the city and the John Hancock Center (now renamed 875 North Michigan Avenue), which soars 100 stories and was the world’s second tallest building at its opening in 1968.

If you want a bird’s eye view of the Magnificent Mile and beyond, including Lake Michigan and four different states, the 360 Chicago Observation Deck in the iconic John Hancock building does not disappoint, especially if you’re brave enough to take a peek from TILT, an enclosed moving platform that tilts over Michigan Avenue from the 94th Floor.

Calder at the MCA

For those who prefer exploring closer to the ground, the Magnificent Mile is also home to several cultural organizations. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago has an impressive collection of works and exciting exhibits such as its most current “Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech,” which showcases the native Chicagoan and designer’s cutting-edge works including collaborations with another famous local, Kanye West, and Japanese artist Takashi Murakami through September 22, 2019. Meanwhile, the Chicago Sports Museum is a sports lover’s dream with high-tech, interactive installations that celebrate the city’s legacy in the world of sports. Of course, you can expect to see a lot of Chicago Bulls, Cubs and Bears memorabilia as well as fun exhibits including “Measure Up” where visitors get to test their skills against all-time greats such as #23 Michael Jordan.

Money Saving Tip. If you want to take a Big Bus tour, visit 360 Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art and more check out the Go Chicago Pass or an Explorer Pass which include all three and many more.

Literary types will enjoy the lesser-known Newberry Library and its treasure trove of curious things such as the first edition of Alice and Wonderland, correspondence between Jack Kerouac and his publisher, among other rare items.

Finally, when retail therapy is in order, the Magnificent Mile is certainly the right place to go with three vertical malls, 900 North Michigan Shops, Water Tower Place and the Shops at North Bridge offering one-stop shopping and dining. Looking ahead, don’t miss the colorful store window displays, the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival and the Grand Tree Lighting Parade which kick off the holiday season in late November.


Leave a Comment