The cultural scene in the South Loop is second-to-none. The neighborhood is home to more major tourist attractions than any other in Chicago. People come from around the globe to spend an afternoon at the internationally-renowned Field Museum, where Sue (the world’s most complete assemblage of Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils) is a memorable fixture in the main foyer. All the best traveling exhibits, such as King Tut, pass through the Field Museum and its permanent displays never seem to get old. The museum is located in what is referred to as The Museum Campus, a long stretch of lakefront occupied by several museum sites, the city’s professional football stadium, and Northerly Island (a peninsula packed with great day trip options).
Other highly-prized tourist stops in The Museum Campus are the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. Shedd houses several state-of-the-art marine habitats for more than 32,500 aquatic animals that range from tiny tadpoles to beluga whales. The aquarium’s highlight is the Oceanarium, a natural environment auditorium surrounding a huge saltwater tank that overlooks Lake Michigan through multi-story windows. Designed to simulate the look and feel of the Pacific Northwest Coast, the Oceanarium transports guests to a far-off setting where dolphins swim and baby belugas play. Out on the point of Northerly Island, Adler Planetarium is top pick for Chicago stargazers. The observatory’s high-powered telescope offers the best view of Chicago’s night sky and the theater shows are a fun, virtual reality glimpse of outer space.
Besides Chicago’s most-visited museums, the South Loop lays claim to Grant Park—often referred to as Chicago’s “front yard.” The park stretches north into the Loop, but the bulk of its landscaped green space is in the South Loop. The city’s big annual festivals and concerts are all hosted here, the largest of which are the Taste of Chicago (4th of July), the Chicago Blues Festival (early June) and Lollapalooza (early August). Millions of people from across the country come to the South Loop to attend these events. Music stages, food and beverage vendors, merchandise stands, and activity tents take over the entirety of the park, creating an electric, fun-filled vibe throughout the neighborhood.
During the condo boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, developers took advantage of the vacant land and old properties available in the South Loop to build sleek, new high-rise condominiums and trendy loft conversions. This spark in residential expansion led to a fresh influx of restaurants and businesses. A local favorite for weekend brunch is a diner called Yolk on South Michigan Avenue where eggs are the order of the day and your coffee cup is always full. With Chinatown bordering the neighborhood’s southwest edge, the South Loop has its fair share of Asian restaurants, including fine Thai, sushi bars, gourmet Chinese and Japanese steakhouses. And—this is Chicago—so there are a number of pizza places in the area with tasty slices. Pat’s Pizzeria on Clark Street has excellent thin crust pie that is said to be in the city’s Top Ten.
Lake Shore Drive is a multi-lane roadway that runs along the lakefront offering motorists the fast-track through the city (during non-rush-hours). The Drive cruises right through the South Loop, and buses also head in that direction along Michigan Avenue and State Street. If you want to check out Chicago’s top tourist sights, the #12 swings through The Museum Campus with stops at all the major attractions.