This is the year to #TakeADay and embrace Project: Time Off.
With studies indicating that nearly half of Americans did not use their vacation days in 2015, the time to travel is now.
Chicago has a lineup of spectacular new openings and major anniversaries in 2016, plus a plethora of cultural happenings and neighborhood explorations to help shape those yet-to-be-told travel memories.
Whether for a bleisure (business + leisure) trip, a new urban adventure, or a return visit, be sure to add these events, sites and experiences to your Chicago itinerary for 2016.
Often nicknamed the “American phoenix” since its ascent from the ashes after the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago is a city whose spirit of rebirth and modern urbanism are still strong today as seen in the recent transformation of some historic buildings, underutilized/expanded public spaces and iconic sites.
Some of these projects include The 606, an elevated running/walking trail on the northwest side of Chicago that was once a railroad track; hotels such as the Chicago Athletic Association hotel and Virgin Hotels Chicago, both of which occupy historic landmark buildings and offer a new way to experience them; and the private-airstrip-turned-park-and-lagoon along Lake Michigan known as Northerly Island.
In keeping with innovation and this spirit of rebirth, the following projects and 2016 openings will add to Chicago’s dynamic offering:
- LondonHouse Hotel – Set to open spring 2016, this 452-room luxury lifestyle hotel is a combined restoration and redevelopment of the London Guarantee Building near the Chicago River that will also feature the addition of a new 22-story Modernist tower.
- Kimpton Hotel’s fifth Chicago property – Also opening this spring is The Kimpton Gray Hotel in the historic 14-story former New York Life Building in Chicago’s central loop district, making this Kimpton’s fifth Chicago adaptive reuse project.
- A reimagined Navy Pier – in celebration of its centennial year, Navy Pier is undergoing major changes that will give the iconic attraction new life making it a “bolder, greener and more contemporary urban space.” As the city that introduced the first Ferris wheel at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (a.k.a. The World’s Fair), it is only appropriate that Chicago will debut a new, taller wheel as part of the centennial celebration. Construction began on the new Ferris wheel this January and is expected to be completed by Memorial Day weekend.
- Final stage of the Chicago Riverwalk Expansion – if reversing the flow of the Chicago River was not impressive enough, visitors will now be able to marvel at the ingenuity of the river’s diverted flow from the newly expanded Chicago Riverwalk, designed as a recreational space and expected to complete its third and final development phase this fall.
- Destination West Loop – to describe Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood as having a burgeoning dining scene would simply be scratching the surface. This Michelin-star studded neighborhood, once a gritty industrial area at the edges of downtown, is welcoming even more culinary greats with the highly anticipated openings of power house Rick Bayless’ brewery Cruz Blanca, husband-wife chef team and Trotter alum John and Karen Shield’s Smyth and The Loyalist, and much-acclaimed chef Grant Achatz and partner Nick Kokonas’ Roister.
GET ACTIVE IN AN URBAN PLAYGROUND
From an 18-mile lakefront path to a 19,000 square-foot-outdoor rock climbing wall, there’s plenty of recreation to be had in Chicago.
The opening of The 606 and Maggie Daley Park in 2015 expanded Chicago’s open green spaces and gave visitors more reasons to get active. The following projects and new openings, both indoor and outdoor, will add to Chicago’s urban playground.
- SPiN opens in Chicago – Co-founded by actress Susan Sarandon SPiN is a social hangout for ping pong enthusiasts – novice players and professionals alike. This low impact, high-energy sport is growing in popularity, and with the dance parties that SPiN is known for, this may prove to be an excellent alternative to outdoor recreation in Chicago come February when the club opens its doors.
- The Revetment Project – as part of an initiative to improve the lakefront trail, The Revetment Project is creating separate walking and biking paths east of the current shoreline at Fullerton Avenue and also adding 5.8 acres of parkland.
- The Chicago Riverwalk expansion is reason enough to take a stroll/run along the banks of the river, but for those wanting a more immersive experience, kayak rentals are available along the Riverwalk. Visitors can also enjoy an array of dining experiences while taking in the spectacular skyline views.
- Big Marsh – Also referred to as Park No. 564, Big Marsh is a project aimed at turning 278 acres of open space in the Calumet region on Chicago’s south side to a multi-purpose eco-recreation park with trails for walking, running and biking. It will also serve as a special playground for cyclists and will feature a Cyclocross course and tracks for young riders. The first phase of the park is set to open spring 2016.
NOT-TO-BE-MISSED SPORTS EVENTS
If the Chicago Bears, Bulls, Sky, Blackhawks, Cubs, White Sox and Fire teams, as well as the thousands of fans that clamor into stadiums and hundreds of sports bars throughout the city each year are any indication of what an epic sports city Chicago is, then it will come as no surprise that the following events will be quite epic too.
- NFL Draft returns – After a successful NFL Draft 2015 in Chicago, which attracted more than 200,000 fans and generated a total economic impact of $81.6 million according to a Sport Industry Research Center at Temple University study, the Draft will return to Chicago April 28-30. The Draft will once again feature the highly popular Draft Town, a free, three-day outdoor interactive fan football festival in Grant Park.
- America’s Cup – The world of international sailing will witness the first America’s Cup freshwater race in the event’s 164-year history when Chicago hosts The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series at the newly reimagined Navy Pier (June 10-12). Guests can watch the best sailors in the world up close as they compete in this qualifying event for the 2017 America’s Cup in Bermuda. The east end of the Pier will be transformed into a single venue for spectators looking to experience the excitement of watching AC45 catamarans racing at speeds of up to 40 mph on beautiful Lake Michigan.
- NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Midwest Regional – The Big Ten Conference, as official host of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Regional, in collaboration with the Chicago Sports Commission and the United Center will welcome some of the nation’s top collegiate basketball teams to Chicago (March 25 and 27) for this year’s tournament.
- Copa America 2016 – Futbol fans from across the Americas are preparing for the Centennial Copa America event this year, and Chicago will be part of the 100-year anniversary celebration as hosts of preliminary group stages (June 5, June 7, June 10) and a semifinals event (June 22) at Soldier Field. This will be the first Copa America held in the U.S., 16 teams will participate, and Chicago is one of 10 U.S. cities to be part of this momentous occasion for the CONMEBAL and CONCACAF federations and their fans.
Chicago boasts a vibrant arts and culture scene with robust programming available all year long. Whether it’s a thought-provoking, interactive exhibition at one of the city’s acclaimed museums, or exhilarating dance and theatre performances, Chicago’s 2016 cultural line up is sure to dazzle.
This year marks 400 years since the death of literary great, William Shakespeare. In honor of Shakespeare’s legacy, Chicago will host the largest global celebration of the infamous playwright’s works.Shakespeare 400 Chicago is a year-long festival, spearheaded by Chicago Shakespeare Theater that aims to bring together leading artists from around the globe and across Chicago’s leading cultural institutions to present more than 850 events throughout the city, including uniquely crafted dishes by 38 Chicago chefs all inspired by Shakespeare’s works in a project called Culinary Complete Works.
2016 is also the Year of the Monkey. Chicago’s third annual Chinese New Year celebration (February 8 – 22) offers two-weeks of citywide programming, including a first-ever Midwest tour performance by Jackie Chan’s Long Yun Kung Fu Troupe (February 9 and 13). In honor of the Lunar New Year, the Field Museum will introduce the exhibition China’s First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors(March 4, 2016 – January 8, 2017) to complement its newest permanent exhibition Cyrus Tang Hall of China.
DINE YOUR HEART OUT
As one of the world’s star-studded dining scenes, Chicago is definitely a place for food lovers to whet their palette. Between newcomers and old favorites along Restaurant Row (Randolph St. between Halsted and Ashland streets) and neighboring Fulton Market, the options are deliciously in your favor. The northwest neighborhood of Logan Square is also coming up as an area for great eats and drinks, but with Chicago’s richly diverse dining scene visitors are bound to find many favorites among the 4,900+ restaurants throughout the city.
Following the 9th annual Chicago Restaurant Week (January 22 – February 4), Chicago will gear up to host the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards and Gala for the second year. Taking place on Monday, May 2, the awards -the Oscars of the food industry – honor the best chefs, restaurants, mixologists, and writers throughout the nation, set in one exciting culinary destination.
Then, Chicago will welcome, again, the Chicago Food + Wine Festival 2016 in Lincoln Park. In addition, to the dozens of neighborhood food festivals and the annual Taste of Chicago festival, food lovers will get a chance to savor some of the best of Chicago’s dining scene again in the fall during Bon Appétit presentsChicago Gourmet (September 23-25).