Our theme for the month of March is “cities.”

The View on East Solidarity Drive

This is the best view of the city. That’s not just my opinion—this is where the local news stations get their shots of the Chicago skyline.

Large concrete steps line the street, and at high tide, the lake laps at the walking path. In front of you, the skyline stretches high and wide, and skyscrapers dwarf the trees in Grant Park.

In high school, I volunteered at the Adler Planetarium, which sits on a peninsula at the end of East Solidarity Drive. At the end of my shift, I’d eat some deep-fried museum food and take in the view.

Northerly Island

This pocket of nature is on the same peninsula as the planetarium. Lesser known than Grant Park, the trails are less crowded and more beautiful than its more famous counterpart. It’s not the best way to see the city itself, but if you want to bask in the vastness of Lake Michigan, I cannot recommend this enough.

After some other museum shifts, I’d walk along the lake and listen to the birds, thinking about how strange it was that a man-made peninsula became a spot of natural beauty amongst glass skyscrapers.

Revival Food Hall

The cheapest way to get food downtown is to go to McDonald’s, but if you’re looking for more local flavor, you can grab lunch at Revival Food Hall. Take your pick of poke, dosa, burgers, empanadas, barbeque, and more. It’s not dirt cheap, but the prices are reasonable.

Each wall of the building has windows, but because it’s a large room with low ceilings, the sunlight doesn’t travel far. Instead, spherical, glass ceiling lamps bathe the room in a warm light. It feels like a different realm than the rest of the concrete, blue-toned Chicago.

My friend found this place. We met up downtown on winter break, and she suggested this since she found vegan options. My friend and I chatted about our families and love lives, laughing at the businesspeople who took themselves too seriously in their stiff suits.

Harold Washington Library Center Winter Garden

Most of the library is exactly what you’d expect a library to be—worn metal shelving, old books, ancient carpeting. But the top floor is a beautiful sight.

The glass roof, tall ceilings, and indoor trees give it a wedding venue feel, but it’s mostly used as a study space. And since it’s the ninth floor of the library, it’s a rare pocket of near silence in a noisy city.

I went a couple times in high school after my dad suggested that I check it out, and even with his extravagant descriptions, I was taken aback by the grandeur. Stop here if you need a moment of peace in a long day downtown.

Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center is across the street from the Bean. With a rotating list of art exhibits, free performances, and unforgettable architecture, it’s the best way to see the life of Chicago without paying forty dollars for a museum ticket.

When my family went downtown one January, my dad mentioned that there was a pianist performing at the Chicago Cultural Center. The performance was under the Grand Army of the Republic Dome, a sixty-two-thousand piece glass dome completed in 1897. Even on that cloudy day, the light shining through the multicolored glass was radiant, and the pianist played with otherworldly grace. I visited a few more times, and I have never been bored or disappointed.

If you’re going to see one thing on this list, check out the Cultural Center.

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