3 Hour Activities


DENNIS WATKINS’S MAGIC PARLOUR
Palmer House Hilton Hotel, 17 E. Monroe St.
773-769-3832
themagicparlourchicago.com
palmerhousehiltonhotel.com

PICK A CARD, ANY CARD

  • Book a seat at the city’s most intimate and incredible magic show
  • Watch a third-generation magician read (and blow) the audience’s mind
  • Gape at the glam interior of a 1920s Chicago gem

Sure, Chicago’s improv troupes are so quick-witted they make comedy seem like magic (see “Laugh Your Head Off”). But one of the smartest and funniest spectacles in town features an actual magician, Dennis Watkins, who performs his Magic Parlour most Friday and Saturday evenings. Added bonus: The shows take place inside the stunningly restored Palmer House Hilton Hotel (sister property to the Conrad Chicago), a 1925 Beaux-Arts landmark in the Loop. The interiors alone are worth the visit, all glowing marble floors, ornately patterned carpets, and acres of velvet and gold leaf. Gawk at Louis Pierre Rigal’s Greek-myth-themed ceiling frescoes in the hotel lobby, then head up to the intimate suite where Watkins performs for just 44 guests. His father and grandfather were also in the magic trade, and while we won’t preview or divulge any of his mind-reading (and mind-altering) tricks, suffice to say few guests leave without bewildered expressions and ear-to-ear grins. Ask the Conrad concierge for the latest schedule, or check Watkins’s website for upcoming showtimes. The Magic Parlour is recommended for ages 10 and up, and cocktail attire is requested.

The Magic Parlour is staged inside the Palmer House Hilton Hotel, a 10-minute taxi ride (or a 30-minute walk) from the Conrad Chicago, in the heart of downtown. Save time before or after the show to explore the hotel’s grand public rooms.

DENNIS WATKINS’S MAGIC PARLOUR
Palmer House Hilton Hotel, 17 E. Monroe St.
773-769-3832
themagicparlourchicago.com
palmerhousehiltonhotel.com

iO THEATER
1501 N. Kingsbury St.
312-929-2401
ioimprov.com

LAUGH YOUR HEAD OFF

  • Get up-close-and-personal with Chicago’s legendary comedy scene
  • Meet the future stars of improv (and perhaps even SNL)
  • Watch a Shakespearean-style drama unfold entirely from scratch

Chicago has long been known for its fertile comedy scene, not least for its improv troupes—chief among them the legendary iO Theater, whose alumni include Mike Myers, Seth Meyers, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. Founded in the early 1980s by Charna Halpern and renowned improv guru Del Close, the iO (the name stands for “ImprovOlympic”) moved in 2014 to much larger digs in a converted warehouse space in Lincoln Park’s Clybourn Corridor. The iO’s Improvised Shakespeareshow is a cult sensation: The cast creates an impromptu Elizabethan drama—in iambic pentameter, no less—riffing off a suggestion from the audience; performances typically happen Thursdays and Fridays. Another great offering is The Scene, in which the troupe starts with a random word (say, karate) and develops a fully improvised story in multiple scenes, with each player taking turns directing the action. Cast members gather in the bar after the show, so buy them a drink and say hello.
The iO Theater is a 10-minute cab ride from the Conrad Chicago, on Kingsbury Street near Blackhawk Street. The Conrad concierge can book tickets in advance or (often) the day of the performance; check the iO website for the current schedule. Note that most shows contain adult language and are not necessarily appropriate for kids.

iO THEATER
1501 N. Kingsbury St.
312-929-2401
ioimprov.com

MAGGIE DALEY PARK
337 E. Randolph St.
maggiedaleypark.com

MILLENNIUM PARK
millenniumpark.org

EXPLORE THE LATEST AND GREATEST CITY PARK

  • Discover Chicago’s newest urban green space at Maggie Daley Park
  • Take a turn on the ingeniously designed ice-skating ribbon in winter
  • Catch a summer concert or an outdoor movie under the stars

Millennium Park changed the face of downtown Chicago (and lured many Chicagoans back downtown) when it opened in 2004. More recently, the local buzz has been all about Millennium’s smaller yet equally impressive neighbor, Maggie Daley Park, which debuted in 2014. Named for Chicago’s late first lady (the wife of former mayor Richard M. Daley), the park consists of 20 gently graded, ingeniously landscaped acres that feel convincingly organic; hardly any of its walking paths unfold in straight lines. The showpiece is the “Skating Ribbon,” a riverine circuit of ice that winds among the pine trees, changing elevation over its quarter-mile course. (Skates can be rented for $12; otherwise admission is free.) In warm weather, the ice is replaced by a walking path, and the faux-rock formations at the center of the ribbon are transformed into climbing walls. Their climbing walls are some of the largest outdoor in the world, at over 19,000 square feet of climbing space. And there’s plenty more to see in Millennium Park, just over the Frank Gehry–designed BP Pedestrian Bridge, whose twisting, scaly enclosure recalls a serpent coiled across the roadway. Just past the bridge, look for the Lurie Garden, a lush 2.5-acre oasis that’s ideal for a picnic or a quiet moment away from the crowds. Nearby, you’ll spot the outline of Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a wildly deconstructed band shell (also by Gehry) that hosts outdoor concerts and movies in warmer months. If writing about music is “like dancing about architecture,” as someone famously said, then the Pritzker Pavilion is architecture dancing to music: Its sinuous curves seem to capture melodies in shimmering steel.
Maggie Daley Park and Millennium Park are both an 18-minute walk or eight-minute cab ride from the Conrad Chicago.

MAGGIE DALEY PARK
337 E. Randolph St.
maggiedaleypark.com

MILLENNIUM PARK
millenniumpark.org

CHICAGO SUP
1601 N. Lake Shore Dr., on North Avenue Beach
773-575-4787
chicagosup.com

FIND INNER BALANCE

  • Try stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Michigan
  • Take a morning yoga class while balancing on the waves
  • Get a unique vantage on Chicago’s skyline from the water

The Lakefront Trail, a shoreline walking and biking path running 18 miles from 71st Street on the South Side to Lane Beach Park on the North Side, is ideal for a morning run (come at dawn to watch the sunlight set the skyline aglow) or a lengthy bike ride (rent wheels at Bobby’s Bike Hike, at Lake Shore Drive and Ohio Street). But to step up your cardio game and truly immerse yourself in the lake, head to North Avenue Beach—a 35-minute walk or eight-minute cab ride from the Conrad—and try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding (aka SUP). The well-run outfit Chicago SUP rents boards, paddles, and life vests from a hut right on the sand. Spend a solo hour or two gliding over the waves, or sign up for one of the guided evening “expeditions,” timed to the Navy Pier fireworks or the full moon. Chicago SUP also offers lessons (30 minutes of instruction followed by one hour of riding, $60 per person), and, on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, SUP yoga classes, where participants hold poses while balanced on their boards ($50 per person, $95 for a private class).

Chicago SUP is open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in season. You’ll find their rental hut on the southern edge of North Avenue Beach, just to the right of Castaways (the beachside restaurant that looks like an ocean liner). It’s a nine-minute drive or a 35-minute walk from the Conrad.

CHICAGO SUP
1601 N. Lake Shore Dr., on North Avenue Beach
773-575-4787
chicagosup.com

GIBSONS BAR & STEAKHOUSE
1028 N. Rush St.
312-266-8999
gibsonssteakhouse.com

MAPLE & ASH
8 W. Maple St.
312-944-8888
mapleandash.com

RAISE THE STEAKS

  • Choose between the Gold Coast’s two best steak houses—one classic, one contemporary
  • Sing along with the Sinatra-crooning pianist at Gibsons
  • Mingle with the beautiful people at Maple & Ash

Look, you’re in Chicago; you’re absolutely going to need steak. Happily for you, two of the finest steak houses in town—and, ergo, the whole country—are just a short walk from the Conrad in the tony Gold Coast. One’s timeless, one’s trendy, both are fabulous. If you prefer old-school, make it Gibsons. While it’s quieter in the formal dining room, we like to join the regulars eating in the bar, where the pianist plays Sinatra tunes every evening. Go large-format and share the massive USDA Gibsons Prime Angus tomahawk chop, or play solo with a 12-ounce marinated skirt steak with snappy giardiniera (Note for late-flight arrivers and other night owls: Gibsons serves dinner until well after midnight, in a part of town where it’s tough to find a late kitchen.) If you’re after a more contemporary vibe, head to nearby Maple & Ash, which opened in 2015 to rave reviews and some raised eyebrows (the $145 tasting menu is cheekily called “I Don’t Give a F*ck”). With its glammed-out interior lit by chandeliers and flickering candelabras, Maple & Ash draws a stylish clientele, and has brought in talent to match: Renowned sommelier Belinda Chang is in charge of the wine program, and Danny Grant, a Food & Wine Best New Chef winner, is behind the wood-fired grill. If Gibsons is a burly guy with a cigar, then Maple & Ash is a svelte young woman in Jimmy Choos. How to pick between them? Our advice: Choose both.
Gibsons and Maple & Ash are located a block apart, at the northern end of Rush Street (near Bellevue Place and Maple Street), a 12-minute walk from the Conrad Chicago.

GIBSONS BAR & STEAKHOUSE
1028 N. Rush St.
312-266-8999
gibsonssteakhouse.com

MAPLE & ASH
8 W. Maple St.
312-944-8888
mapleandash.com

THE GREEN MILL COCKTAIL LOUNGE
4802 N. Broadway St.
773-878-5552
greenmilljazz.com

ELIZABETH RESTAURANT
4835 N. Western Ave.
773-681-0651
elizabeth-restaurant.com

JAZZ IT UP, UPTOWN

  • Take a ride north to the 110-year-old Green Mill for an evening of live music
  • Catch a local jazz legend like Patricia Barber and her amazing band
  • Dine preshow at one of Chicago’s standout new restaurants

If you thought Wrigley Field was the oldest and most hallowed landmark on the north side of Chicago, think again: The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge turns 110 in 2017, and some would argue it’s seen more consistently great performances than a certain storied ballpark to the south. From its early years as a roadhouse to its heyday as a haunt of Al Capone’s, this unassuming tavern—located in the Uptown neighborhood, a 30-minute drive north of the Conrad—has managed to stay vital and relevant on the jazz circuit, with local and national acts performing regularly. (It’s also home to the raucous Uptown Poetry Slam, a crowd favorite since 1986.) Pretty much any night is a good night at the Green Mill, but if you’re able, try to catch a set from Patricia Barber and her trio or quartet. A gifted vocalist, pianist, and bandleader, Barber is a second-generation Chicago musician (her dad was in Glenn Miller’s orchestra), and she’s been a fixture at the club for decades. Dinner before the show? Start your night a few blocks west in Ravenswood, where you’ll find one of Chicago’s best new restaurants, called simply Elizabeth. It’s run by the brilliant self-taught chef Iliana Regan, whose fluency with foraged ingredients translates into pure deliciousness on the plate.
The Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is located in Uptown, a 30-minute drive (without traffic) north of the Conrad Chicago; Elizabeth is 1.6 miles due west, via West Lawrence Avenue, in Ravenswood.

THE GREEN MILL COCKTAIL LOUNGE
4802 N. Broadway St.
773-878-5552
greenmilljazz.com

ELIZABETH RESTAURANT
4835 N. Western Ave.
773-681-0651
elizabeth-restaurant.com

IKRAM
15 E. Huron St.
312-587-1000
ikram.com
10 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, closed Sunday.

MERZ DOWNTOWN
17 E. Monroe St.
312-781-6900
merzapothecary.com
10 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sunday.

OPTIMO HATS
320 S. Dearborn St.
312-922-2999
optimo.com
10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, closed Sunday.

FLORODORA
330 S. Dearborn St.
312-212-8860
florodora.com
10 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. –5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday.

FLORODORA SHOES
348 S. Dearborn St.
312-212-8860
florodora.com
10 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday.

SHOP ONLY-IN-CHICAGO BOUTIQUES

  • Meet the first lady of Chicago fashion
  • Find rare luxury bath products and imported soaps at a classic apothecary
  • Browse the latest styles at the city’s coolest shoe emporium

Conrad Chicago is ideally positioned for shopping the major fashion brands and department stores along Michigan Avenue and Oak Street. But step off those main drags and you’ll find one-of-a-kind local boutiques, all within striking distance of the hotel, in River North and the nearby Loop. First up: Ikram, two blocks from the Conrad, founded by Ikram Goldman, whom Vogue called “the first lady of Chicago fashion” (she’s Michelle Obama’s unofficial stylist). Behind the shop’s striking red façade, Goldman curates the best pieces from international names (McQueen, Rodarte, Proenza Schouler) as well as stunning vintage jewelry. There’s an in-store café and rotating art exhibitions on the second floor. Afterward, make your way to the Loop for hard-to-find bath and grooming products at the downtown branch of Merz Apothecary, a Chicago stalwart since 1875. (We love the shaving creams from Geo. F. Trumper.) A few blocks further south, the landmark Monadnock Building was the largest office building on the planet when it was completed in 1893. Today its tenants include three must-hit fashion stops: Optimo Hats, a Chicago-based hatmaker, that produces high quality mens classics such as fedoras and porkpies just to name a few; Florodora, with contemporary women’s clothing from labels such as Yoana Baraschi, Sita Murt and local designer Anna Hovet; and Florodora’s spin-off, Florodora Shoes, the style set’s go-to for funky, creative footwear by brands including Coclico and All Black.
Ikram is a one-minute walk north of the Conrad Chicago, on East Huron Street between Wabash and State. From there it’s a 10-minute taxi ride (or a 30-minute walk) down State Street to the boutiques of the Loop: Merz, in the Palmer House Hilton building on East Monroe Street between State and Wabash, and Optimo Hats, Florodora, and Florodora Shoes, all clustered in the Monadnock Building, three blocks further south on South Dearborn Street between Jackson and Van Buren.

IKRAM
15 E. Huron St.
312-587-1000
ikram.com
10 a.m.–6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, closed Sunday.

MERZ DOWNTOWN
17 E. Monroe St.
312-781-6900
merzapothecary.com
10 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sunday.

OPTIMO HATS
320 S. Dearborn St.
312-922-2999
optimo.com
10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, closed Sunday.

FLORODORA
330 S. Dearborn St.
312-212-8860
florodora.com
10 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. –5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday.

FLORODORA SHOES
348 S. Dearborn St.
312-212-8860
florodora.com
10 a.m.–7 p.m. Monday to Friday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday.