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Where to Find Gorgeous Winter Landscapes Around Chicagoland

Where to Find Gorgeous Winter Landscapes Around Chicagoland

Here in Chicagoland, the weather outside can be frightful — but the winter scenes can be oh, so delightful! From the city to the suburbs, our region has plenty of locations where you can find gorgeous winter landscapes perfect for making the most of the season. 

Especially now, seeking out these stunning winter vistas can be a great opportunity to get a new perspective and a bit of fresh air. Ready to really rediscover the beauty of Chicagoland in this unusual winter season? Bundle up and fire up the GPS as you walk or a drive through these gorgeous winter landscapes: (more…)

9 Creative Ways to Enjoy Valentine’s Day In Chicagoland

9 Creative Ways to Enjoy Valentine’s Day In Chicagoland

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner — and for many people, that means it’s time to start dreaming up the perfect holiday plan. This year, instead of battling the crowds for a dinner reservation or falling back on an old standby, why not switch it up and look for a creative new way to spend this romantic day?

Breaking up the cold and dreary month of February, Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to go out and experience what makes Chicagoland magical — whether you’re celebrating with a sweetheart, hanging out with friends, or taking some much deserved solo time for yourself.

Want to take a whole new approach to Valentine’s Day in Chicago and the suburbs? Here are nine fun, unique, and unexpected ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day in our area: 

1.) Get Immersed In Nature

If the weather outside is cooperating, why not go out and see one of Chicagoland’s most amazing natural sights? The area is full of indoor spots to soak in the beauty of nature, including the Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Garfield Park Conservatory. Outside of the city, the Morton Arboretum houses one of the Midwest’s most astonishing collections of flora and fauna, while the Chicago Botanic Garden hosts a spectacular display of orchids and a build-your-own terrarium date night in honor of the occasion. 

2.) Relax and Unwind at a Chicagoland Spa

Whether you’re spending Valentine’s Day solo or looking for a way to relax with a significant other, why not spend some time getting pampered at a luxurious spa? The Chicagoland area is full of incredible and unique options. In the city, look into the sprawling thermal baths of AIRE in River West, or the historic pools of Red Square Spa in Wicker Park. You’ll also find plenty of amazing retreats around Illinois, including the upscale Eaglewood Resort and Spa in Itasca and the aquatic-focused Kohler Waters Spa in Burr Ridge.

3.) See the City From a New Angle

Chicago has one of the most legendary and striking skylines in the world, and Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful opportunity to see the cityscape with fresh eyes. Around the area, countless rooftop restaurants and observation decks present an unparalleled look at the city. You could also get an overhead view from the comfort of a private helicopter tour, or from the enormous Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier. Prefer to keep your feet on solid ground? You can also get a gorgeous view of the skyline from spots like Museum Campus, Promontory Point, or the lakefill in Evanston. 

4.) Enjoy a Show

From the city to the suburbs, you’re never far from amazing entertainment in Chicagoland. You could laugh through the holiday with friends at one of the area’s legendary comedy venues, such as iO or The Second City. Or, you could enjoy the magic of live theater at playhouses around the region, which put on options ranging from Broadway-caliber musicals to cutting edge modern plays. For a different kind of show, the Chicago Auto Show often takes up the floor at McCormick Place around Valentine’s Day. And throughout the area, movie palaces like the Music Box and the Logan often show classic romance films to celebrate the holiday. 

5.) Indulge Your Sweet Tooth

Who says you need to have a four-course meal on Valentine’s Day? Instead of overdoing it on the savory options, embrace your sweet side this year. You could go out for ice cream at any number of iconic Chicagoland spots, including Margie’s, Original Rainbow Cone, Hartigan’s Ice Cream Shoppe in Evanston, or Christie’s Dairy Delights in Palatine, to name a few. For sweet treats and unique candy, there’s Candyality, Amy’s Candy Bar, or the Ferrera Pan Candy Company in Forest Park. Looking to warm up? Why not stop for a mug of cocoa at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate or BomboBar to wind down the night? 

6.) Explore a Museum

Valentine’s Day can be a great chance to visit some of our area’s great cultural institutions. The Art Institute of Chicago hosts a fun Valentine’s Day scavenger hunt event each year, and you can also take the day to explore destinations like the Museum of Science & Industry or other cool spots around Chicagoland. For an immersive, artistic experience, you may want to check out your local art gallery, or book a ticket for an off-the-wall exhibition-style experience like Nevermore Park or the WNDR Museum. 

7.) Take an Exciting Class

For a Valentine’s Day you won’t soon forget, why not sign up for a class or a fun activity? All around Chicagoland, you’ll find plenty of new opportunities for expanding your horizons in a fun, supportive environment. Many local dance schools — including Duet Dance Studio and Ballroom Dance Chicago — offer Valentine’s Day classes. You and a friend could also learn how to think like a chef at a local cooking class, or bring home a new treasure after a session painting, throwing pottery, or blowing glass. 

8.) Make a Meal at Home

Why not celebrate Valentine’s with a cozy night in? After a romantic stroll through a local market — such as the Chicago French Market in the West Loop, or Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights — you could whip up a tasty meal and truly enjoy your kitchen and dining room. For a festive finishing touch, why not change up your decor or make a centerpiece — and invite over friends and family to have a party, while you’re at it? 

9.) Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Looking to enjoy a little fresh air this Valentine’s Day? There are plenty of fun and festive ways to enjoy the great outdoors, even in February. Many ice skating rinks around the area will still be open on Valentine’s, including the scenic and popular Millennium Park ice rink. Or you could jog for a good cause as a part of the Cupid’s Undie Run, a hilarious party and fun run that raises money and awareness for a good cause. 

What’s Your Favorite Chicagoland Destination?

At Baird & Warner, we’re all about connecting people with Chicagoland — past, present, and future. After all, we’ve been a part of shaping the region’s history since 1855. That’s a lot of holiday celebrations under our belt! 

Whether you’re planning to sell, looking for a new home, or just want a recommendation on a hidden gem in your dream neighborhood, talk to your local Baird & Warner agent. Our experienced and knowledgeable brokers are hyperlocal experts who always have tips, secrets, and stories to share!

10 Bucket List Things to See and Do in the South Loop

10 Bucket List Things to See and Do in the South Loop

The South Loop is an area steeped in history — while always evolving and adapting for the future. Sometimes known as Chicago’s “front yard,” the South Loop has been a major shipping and transportation hub, and was the epicenter of the Midwest’s printing industry up until the 1960s. It was also the home of some of Chicago’s most famous families throughout the early 19th century. 

Today, the South Loop is a lovely and mellow area, full of great restaurants, incredible music venues, lots of parks, and some of Chicagoland’s most famous museums and tourist destinations. 

So, what should be on your “bucket list” of things to see and do in the South Loop? Here are ten amazing South Loop experiences not to be missed: 

Learn and Explore on Museum Campus

Museum Campus is one of Chicago’s crown jewels. This sprawling area is home to some of the Midwest’s most famous museums and cultural institutions. For anyone who wants to learn more about the universe with fun, hands-on exhibitions and shows, Adler Planetarium is a must-see. Shedd Aquarium is a great place to learn more about the fascinating animals and plants that call our lakes and oceans home. Meanwhile, the Field Museum is a Chicago icon, as its centerpiece exhibition, Sue the T-Rex. On top of its unique cultural offerings, Museum Campus offers some lovely greenspaces, and breathtaking views of the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan. 

Jam Out at Some of Chicago’s Most Unique Music Venues

The South Loop is one of Chicagoland’s best neighborhoods for music lovers. Buddy Guy’s Legends is a classic place to take in some Chicago-style blues, as is Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation — a museum dedicated to the sounds and history of Chess Records, a historic Chicago record label. Not too far away, Reggie’s is a go-to spot for punk, metal, and alternative fans. Since 1947, Jazz Showcase has been one of the region’s best spots for live jazz music. And Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island is a huge outdoor venue that houses some of the biggest names in music when they pass through Chicagoland. 

Enjoy a Nature-Filled Oasis in the City

Don’t let its proximity to downtown fool you! Whenever you’re ready for a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, the South Loop is full of spots to escape into nature. Just south of the rolling green lawns of Museum Campus you’ll find Northerly Island Park. This 119-acre natural area features strolling paths that lead you through prairie grasslands, fishing ponds, and more than 150 different varieties of native plants. Tucked in a quiet corner of the South Loop neighborhood is the Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens, a 3.23-acre park which honors the contributions women have made to Chicago throughout its history. Opened in 2000, this serene area offers a community garden and gorgeous, landscaped grounds. 

Cheer the Home Team at a South Loop Stadium

There aren’t too many Chicagoland destinations more iconic than Soldier Field. Located in the heart of the South Loop, this legendary stadium is home turf for the Chicago Bears, and recently became the home base of Chicago Fire FC, the city’s MLS soccer team. Soldier Field also hosts concerts, live performances, and charity events throughout the year. Nearby, basketball fans line up for incredible indoor action at Wintrust Arena, which houses DePaul University’s basketball programs, as well as the Chicago Sky, the city’s dominant WNBA team. 

Sample One of the South Loop’s Legendary Festivals

The South Loop puts you close to some of Chicago’s liveliest local festivals and outdoor events, including Printers Row Lit Fest and Printers Row Art Fest, which set up shop in one of the South Loop’s coziest and most historic districts each year. Spend a summer day in the South Loop, and you’ll also be in a prime spot for one of Grant Park’s many seasonal festivals, including Taste of Chicago, Lollapalooza, and the Chicago Blues Festival, to name just a few. 

Roam Grant Park

Stretching along the easter edge of the city, Grant Park is one of Chicago’s most historic and iconic offerings. This sprawling park offers countless attractions and sights, including the world-famous Buckingham Fountain. Grant Park is also home to a Bark Park perfect for letting your furry friends run free, along with a skate plaza that welcomes anyone with a passion for boarding. Meanwhile, look out for incredible views of Lake Michigan from Queen’s Landing, or lounge out in the grass at Hutchinson Field. To the north, Grant Park also feeds into Millennium Park, home to the Art Institute of Chicago and Cloud Gate, one of the area’s most Instagram-worthy sculptures. 

Experience Some of Chicago’s Best Bars and Breweries

From the era of Prohibition to today, the South Loop has long been one of Chicagoland’s favorite spots for grabbing a drink. Today, the South Loop is one of Chicago’s liveliest areas for nightlife, home to restaurants and bars for every taste. If you’re looking to explore Chicago’s world-famous craft beer scene, you may want to pay a visit to Moody Tongue Brewing or Motor Row Brewery. Acadia is a local favorite for innovative cocktails, while First Draft is a go-to hangout for serious beer lovers. 

Step Back In Time In the Prairie Avenue Historic District

Before the Gold Coast became the name for old world Chicago opulence, the city’s wealthiest residents set up shop along Prairie Avenue. Sometimes known as Millionaire’s Row, the Prairie Avenue Historic District is a local and national landmark, and is a living monument to the architectural wonders of the 1800s. Today, several of this area’s most iconic dwellings have become museums, including the John J. Glessner House and the Henry B. Clarke House, which is Chicago’s oldest surviving residence. Several other Prairie Avenue manors have been converted for new purposes, including the Wheeler Mansion —  now a boutique hotel — and the Marshall Fields house, which has been converted into condos.  

Start the Day With Brunch

Aficionados of all things breakfast are sure to enjoy a trip to the South Loop, which is home to plenty of popular spots for enjoying the most important meal of the day. For a sweet treat, you could start your morning at Stan’s Donuts & Coffee, or pop into Chicago Waffles for a full-service brunch. The Spoke & Bird is a popular cafe and restaurant with a variety of breakfast and lunch options. Eleven City Diner offers the charms of New York-style deli in a cavernous space, while Meli Cafe and Little Branch Cafe serve up classic breakfast favorites with a side of Chicago charm. 

Find a Local Treasure at a South Loop Shop

Full of unique stores and boutiques, the South Loop is a great spot for window shopping. Sandmeyer’s Bookstore pays tribute to the neighborhood’s literary heritage, while yarnify! and Artist & Craftsman Supply are popular destinations for Chicagoland’s creative crafters and makers. Jugrnaut is a local hotspot for Chicago-style streetwear and apparel, while Roosevelt Collection is a beautiful open air shopping complex featuring local shops and high end national chains. 

Want to Keep Exploring the South Loop?

Want to get to know this active and energetic Chicagoland community even better? To see market trends, properties for sale, and more, please visit our guide to South Loop real estate, available here.

Five Chicagoland Neighborhoods for Winter Lovers

Five Chicagoland Neighborhoods for Winter Lovers

Winters in Chicagoland are famous — or infamous, depending on who you ask. While some people dread the months of snow and blustery winds, others look forward to them all year long. 

After all, there’s a lot to love about winter, whether your favorite pastime is making snow angels, sledding down hills with the whole family, or simply cozying up with a good book and a warm cup of tea. 

From the city to the suburbs, Chicagoland is full of neighborhoods perfect for enjoying all of the great things about wintertime. Here are five Chicagoland communities that serious winter lovers may want to consider calling home: (more…)

Where Should Beach-Loving Chicagoans Live for Maximum Lake Michigan Access?

Where Should Beach-Loving Chicagoans Live for Maximum Lake Michigan Access?

Does an early morning stroll or jog on a beautiful beach before taking on the daily hustle sound like an appealing addition to your morning routine? Perhaps an evening visit to unwind or a social gathering of friends and family on the weekend?

Between tough winters, wildly unpredictable conditions in the fall and spring, and beautiful summers, nobody knows how to maximize summertime weather like Chicagoans do. Convenient beach access directly from your Chicagoland place of residence could be a game-changer, but not all beaches are created equal. Where should a Chicagoland beach fanatic live to be within walking distance of a good one?

Living in walking distance to a beach can be more affordable than you might think. From the north to the south end of the city, here are the best beach-accessible Illinois locales to try.

Zion

This first one actually isn’t walking distance, but Illinois Beach State Park is worth an easy drive over. Extensive facilities for biking, hiking, fishing, beaching, and camping await you here, as well as a beachside hotel which also features a restaurant, spa and fitness center.

Lake Bluff & Lake Forest

True to its name, Lake Bluff is set on a bluff above the shore line. Below the bluff, but still in easy walking distance from many homes, is beautiful Sunrise Park Beach. Entrance is free for town residents, and complimentary beach chairs are provided. Over in Lake Forest, a handful of homes are within walking distance of their town beach, but let’s just say these properties don’t usually come cheap.

Glencoe

Glencoe’s beach is easily accessible from neighborhood streets, opening it up to a large number of homes to walk from. It also boasts an impressive amount of watersports and beach equipment available for rent. However, even for residents, admission is $14/day or up to $95 for the year.

Lighthouse Beach in Evanston

Lighthouse Beach in Evanston

Wilmette & Evanston

Many Wilmette residents live near spacious Gillson Beach, which costs them $7 for a day pass or $50 for the season. This one’s chock-full of amenities. Evanston, meanwhile, boasts six beaches, nearly all of which are well-integrated into adjacent neighborhoods providing strong access. They still come with a cost of admission, although it’s worth noting their season “tokens” are much cheaper than most.

Rogers Park

City beaches are free to access, but you wouldn’t know it based on Rogers Park’s numerous intimate, exclusive-feeling “street-end” beaches. Unlike most other city beaches, they are unconnected by public parkland, so they don’t attract the crowds others do. They are quite literally downstairs or a stone’s throw away from many Rogers Park condos. However, their small sizes have made them particularly vulnerable to Lake Michigan’s high water levels this year, and even when open, they feature minimal amenities (except Loyola Beach).

Foster Beach in Edgewater

Foster Beach in Edgewater

Edgewater & Uptown

Edgewater boasts two large, amenitized beaches to be proud of: Osterman (Hollywood) Beach and Foster Beach. Osterman is known as particularly LGBTQ-friendly, and new restaurant Lakebreeze is quickly becoming a favorite. Foster offers bike rentals and a dog beach.

Down in Uptown, big Montrose Beach features a fenced-in dog beach, dog-friendly bar and restaurant, kayak rentals, and volleyball. However, this one is at least 10 minutes walking from even the nearest residences.

Oak St Beach in the Gold Coast

Old Town, Gold Coast, & Streeterville

Perhaps three of the most iconic Chicago beaches are those at North AveOhio St, and Oak St. They might also be the three most crowded beaches in the city, but for the true “urban beach” aesthetic, they can’t be beat. All three offer food and drinks, and North Ave has jet skis for rent.

Prairie Shores & Oakland

Beyond Museum Campus and McCormick Place, affordable lakefront living is in bigger supply. These two neighborhoods include walkable access to incredible hidden gems in 31st St Beach and Oakwood Beach, respectively. These modern facilities offer fantastic skyline views with food and drinks, yet less crowds.

31st St Beach in Prairie Shores

31st St Beach in Prairie Shores

South Shore

South Shore beaches go above and beyond with the amenities. South Shore Beach, at 71st St, nestled in behind the South Shore Cultural Center, tennis courts, and a nature sanctuary, and nine-hole public golf course. Rainbow Beach, off 75th St, features tennis and handball courts, baseball diamonds, a fitness center, and multipurpose rooms.

East Side

Nestled into the northern pocket of the little-known East Side neighborhood, Calumet Beach is well out of the way of most Chicagoans–leaving Calumet all for the locals. Fields for seemingly all sports, a running track, and a taco stand are among its highlights.