The Magnificent Mile Walking Tour, Chicago

The Magnificent Mile Walking Tour (Self Guided), Chicago

The stretch of Michigan Avenue from the Chicago River to Lake Shore Drive, otherwise known as the Magnificent Mile, is regarded as one of the world’s great avenues – or Chicago’s version of Fifth Avenue. Take this self-guided walk to explore its whole stretch and surrounding area, featuring a wide selection of amazing stores/malls, world-known museums, restaurants and spectacular architecture.

Begin at Michigan Avenue Bridge by taking the bridge steps up to the street and looking across the river to see the Wrigley Building. The tower is best admired from outside, where you can take in the French Renaissance-style architecture and magnificent clock tower.

Afterwards, admire the giant Abraham Lincoln statue at the nearby Tribune Tower’s entrance, and look closely at the relief pieces on the lower level. Many rocks and materials from famous buildings around the world have been laid into the brick.

For a fun throwback blast from the past, visit the Original Billy Goat Tavern – so fun that it’s below street level! Beer is in cold frosty glasses, burgers hits the spot, and you’ll love the old-school diner vibe.

Walking further along the Magnificent Mile means passing alongside several other iconic buildings such as the super stylish and historic InterContinental Hotel, the second-oldest water tower in the U.S. (built in 1869), and the John Hancock Center with its popular ‘360 Chicago’ experience.

Don’t miss the three main department stores (900 North Michigan Shops, Water Tower Place, and the shops at Westfield North Bridge), as well as the many cultural diversions along the way, topped by the scenic Oak Street Beach at the end of the route.

For an excellent day out on and around the Magnificent Mile, follow our self-guided walking tour!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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The Magnificent Mile Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: The Magnificent Mile Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Chicago (See other walking tours in Chicago)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 18
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • DuSable Bridge
  • Wrigley Building
  • Tribune Tower
  • The Original Billy Goat Tavern
  • Westfield North Bridge
  • InterContinental Chicago Hotel
  • Garrett Popcorn
  • Bloomingdale's Medinah Home
  • Saint James Cathedral
  • Holy Name Cathedral
  • Chicago Water Tower
  • Museum of Contemporary Art
  • John Hancock Center / 360 Chicago Observation Deck
  • 900 North Michigan Shops
  • Palmolive Building
  • Drake Hotel: History, Elegance and Fine Dining
  • Oak Street
  • Oak Street Beach
DuSable Bridge

1) DuSable Bridge

Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, commonly regarded as the "Father of Chicago," was thought to be a native of the French colony Saint Dominique in the Caribbean. He is credited with being the first settler in the area of Chicago. His name is on schools, a museum, a park, and the DuSable Bridge spanning the Chicago River.

The bascule-style bridge was erected in 1928. It was part of a plan to link the south and north side parks of Chicago with Grand Boulevard. On the north, it connects with the 1780s homestead site of Jean Baptiste du Sable. The south side ends at the early 19th-century location of Fort Dearborn.

Also called the Michigan Avenue Bridge, the DuSable Bridge is a double-leaf, double deck, fixed counterweight, trunnion bascule bridge. It has a roadway on both levels. Edward H. Bennett was the consulting architect of the project, and William A. Mulcahy was the chief engineer.

Sculptures in the bridge tender houses by artist Henry Hering depict Discoverers, Pioneers, the 1812 Battle of Fort Dearborn, and Regeneration after the Great Fire of Chicago. The bridge also has 28 flagpoles for flags of the United States, Illinois, and Chicago and other banners as needed.
Wrigley Building

2) Wrigley Building

The Wrigley Building is a skyscraper located directly across Michigan Avenue from the Tribune Tower on the Magnificent Mile. It was built to house the corporate headquarters of the Wrigley Company. The building was modeled on the Giralda tower of Seville's Cathedral combined with French Renaissance details. The 425-foot (130 m) south tower was completed in April 1921 and the north tower in May 1924. Walkways between the towers were added at the ground level and the third floor. At night, the building is brightly lit with floodlights.

The Wrigley Building was Chicago’s first air-conditioned office building. If one walks through the center doors, they will find themselves in a secluded park area overlooking the Chicago River.

The Wrigley Building is one of the most beautiful buildings in Chicago, amazing from all angles and at all times of day, easy to get to, and surrounded by other cool architecture – a must-see in the downtown area.

Tours of the building are available inside.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-6pm; Sat: 8am-12pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Tribune Tower

3) Tribune Tower

The Tribune Tower was completed in 1925. Today it houses the city's major daily newspaper, called Chicago Tribune. This Neo-Gothic skyscraper remains a remarkable architectural monument. The building's highlights, besides architecture and design, are the many famous stones incorporated in the wall, like rock fragments from the Alamo, the Colosseum and the Chinese Wall.
The Original Billy Goat Tavern

4) The Original Billy Goat Tavern

Located across from the United Center, now the home of the Chicago Bulls and the Blackhawks, the Billy Goat Tavern originally became famous as a rowdy and popular sports bar. The owner came to adopt a lost goat and so it gained its name. Baseball fans know the story of the "Curse of the Cubs", which originated here because the goat was not allowed in Wrigley Field during the 1945 World Series. The tavern's other claim to fame is its tie with the Saturday Night Live "cheezborger" skit where they were mocking the stereotype of Chicagoans.

Served on a kaiser roll (a welcome change!), the burger is handed on a tissue paper and you may add your own condiments: lettuce, onion, pickles, ketchup and mustard are available. There are other options, too, such as breakfast and a good booze selection (flowing from the beer taps is a special Berghoff brew), but this place is more about the experience in a true Chicago old-school pub.... and watching a Chicago game and/or reading the old (1930s) newspaper clippings on the walls while you're at it. The interior is really quite cool and definitely Instagram-worthy for those coming from afar.

Tourists, don't be afraid of this place, nor fear its location under the main avenue. It may be dingy and divey, but that's part of the allure! A big sign will tell you to "enter at your own risk". Worry not! Expect to be yelled at a little but it is all in fun and part of Chicago's personality.

Opening Hours:
[Kitchen] Mon-Thu: 6am–1am; Fri: 6am–2am; Sat: 6am–3am; Sun: 9am–2am
[Bar] Mon-Thu: 7am–1am; Fri: 7am–2am; Sat: 7am–3am; Sun: 10am–2am
Westfield North Bridge

5) Westfield North Bridge

Westfield North Bridge provides 50 high caliber specialty shops, 20 refined restaurants, five hotels and one magnificent shopping center supported by Nordstrom. Westfield North Bridge houses the famous LEGO Store selling here more than 400 LEGO products, and the only free-standing Spa Nordstrom in the country.

Operation hours: Monday - Saturday: 10:00 am - 8:00 pm; Sunday: 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
InterContinental Chicago Hotel

6) InterContinental Chicago Hotel

Built in 1929, at the peak of Chicago’s skyscraper glory, this hotel combines a mix of Egyptian, Greek, Art Deco, Gothic, and medieval architectural styles for an impressive tower with various carved sections topped with a golden cupola. Originally home to the Medinah Athletic Club, the 42-story hotel included a boxing arena, an archery range, and an Olympic-size swimming pool, which is still intact.

If you're in the area, stop by the concierge desk to pick up an iPod featuring an audio tour of the original Athletic Club public spaces. The tour takes less than 30 minutes and directs you to some interesting interior rooms, at one flamboyant and elegant. Did you know that the center light fixture in the Grand Ballroom is a 12,000-pound Baccarat crystal chandelier, the largest in North America? There is also a more masculine "smoking lounge" with heavy timbering, lavish stained glass, and a hand-painted ceiling depicting the stories of King Arthur and Parsifal.

There is a lot more to see here – last but not least the elevated full-size indoor pool which holds 120,000 gallons of water and was named after Johnny Weissmuller, the famous Olympic athlete and actor who trained in it. Its blue Spanish majolica tiles and terra-cotta fountain of Neptune remain unchanged and will make a trip here even more worthwhile. There's also a Starbucks and Michael Jordan's Steakhouse at the ground level, plus Garrett’s Popcorn as well as the NBC studios just around the corner.
Garrett Popcorn

7) Garrett Popcorn

While strolling down the Magnificent Mile, you can smell this popcorn store a block away. Garrett Popcorn shops have been popping kernels in old-fashioned copper kettles since they first opened in 1949.

Indulge in the ever-popular Chicago Mix (which they now refer to as Garretts Mix), a blend of caramel and cheese corn – the mix of sweet and salty is not as crazy as it sounds. Fill a souvenir Chicago skyline tin with your favorite flavor, from buttery to caramel corn with pecans or with cashews. The line can get long but moves fairly quickly, and prices are quite reasonable considering all its fanfare. Prices start at $26 for a 1-gallon tin, and go up to $197 for a 6.5-gallon tin of three deluxe flavors. For a less pricey option, a small bag starts at $4.

Tip #2:
The popcorn is best when eaten soon after it's popped, so if you're going to enjoy it right away, definitely get the better deal of the bag. If, on the other hand, you want to buy it as a gift to friends or family as a little piece of Chicago, consider picking up a tin that keeps it fresh much longer (~2 weeks). There's also a location at the O'Hare Airport if you don't want to lug it around town.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thu: 10–8pm; Fri, Sat: 10am–9pm; Sun: 10am–7pm
Bloomingdale's Medinah Home

8) Bloomingdale's Medinah Home

Originally a Shriner's Temple with an ornate three-level auditorium, the Medinah Temple is a beautiful, elaborate example of Moorish Revival architecture. Besides its pointed, bulbous domes and horseshoe arches that reflect the Islamic influence so popular in the design of many Shriner's Temples, many of the key elements – including the intricate geometric patterns around the windows and doors – remind of mosques and palaces usually to be found in Spain.

After giving home to some of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's most famous recordings from the late 1960s through the 1980s, this Chicago landmark has been repurposed and today houses a Bloomingdale's home store. Although the interior was gutted to create space for retail displays, the dome was restored and the stained glass windows and exterior were repaired to keep the original building's character intact.

The home store is sleek and well organized, with a spacious layout and beautiful crystal and other great items for the kitchen/dining room, but even if you don't plan to shop here, it is a nice place to have a meal or some nice hot tea from the T2 display, and enjoy exploring the nooks and crannies that lead to the stained glass windows.

The 2nd-floor women's restroom may pique your interest, as it boasts the title of Chicago's most beautiful bathroom.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thu: 10am–7pm; Fri, Sat: 10am–8pm; Sun: 12–6pm
Saint James Cathedral

9) Saint James Cathedral

St. James Cathedral is the motherchurch of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America Diocese of Chicago. It is the oldest church of the Anglican Communion and Episcopal tradition in the Chicago area, having been founded in 1834. It received the status of cathedral in 1928 after the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul was destroyed in a fire in 1921, but the arrangement was terminated in 1931. On May 3, 1955, St. James was again designated the cathedral and was formally set apart on June 4, 1955.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Holy Name Cathedral

10) Holy Name Cathedral

Holy Name Cathedral is one of the biggest Roman Catholic dioceses in the USA. It was built in the Gothic revival architectural style while at the same time integrating motifs symbolic of the message of the modern Church. The church building is 233 feet (71 m) long, 126 feet (38 m) wide and can seat 1,110 people. In 1969 its design was completely altered, but it still retains its beauty and elegance. Holy Name Cathedral is one of the busiest parishes in the city.

Why You Should Visit:
A friendly-sized church with a homely, intimate feel.
Great location near the Water Tower and Magnificent Mile.

Make sure you look up at the beautiful wooden ceiling with painted details.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 5:30am-7pm; Sat: 7:30am-9pm; Sun: 6:30am-7pm
Chicago Water Tower

11) Chicago Water Tower

The great Chicago Water Tower is located at 806 North Michigan Avenue in the Magnificent Mile district. It sits in the small Jane M. Byrne Plaza. The Tower was made to house a huge water pump used to draw water from Lake Michigan. These days, The Water Tower serves as an art gallery for photographers and filmmakers.

The Tower was created in 1869 by architect William W. Boyington. It is almost 183 feet high construction, built of yellow Lemont limestone. It was used together with the Chicago Avenue Pumping Station to control water surges and assist in firefighting. Oscar Wilde once said, "it was a castellated monstrosity with pepper boxes stuck all over it."

It is thought that the Water Tower's castled style inspired the design of the White Castle restaurants. The Chicago Water Tower was named an American Water Landmark in 1969. The tower was featured in the reality television finales of The Amazing Race 6 and The Amazing Race 29.
Museum of Contemporary Art

12) Museum of Contemporary Art

The Museum of Contemporary Art, often abbreviated to MCA, is a contemporary art museum near Water Tower Place in downtown Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. The museum, which was established in 1967, is one of the world's largest contemporary art venues. Its collection is composed of thousands of objects of Post-World War II visual art. It has hosted several notable debut exhibitions including Frida Kahlo's first U.S. exhibition and Jeff Koons' first solo museum exhibition. Koons later presented an exhibit at the Museum that established the museum's current attendance record for an exhibition. The museum also presents dance, theater, music, and interdisciplinary arts.

Why You Should Visit:
The museum's substantial global status means that it welcomes and presents the best exhibitions.
This is truly contemporary art, of the last generation, not the well-known modern art of other historic and excellent museums.
There are a variety of exhibitions in all sorts of artistic mediums, while the gift shop has an excellent mix of expensive and more reasonable items.

Needless to say that this museum is not for everyone, so please check the current exhibits before you visit.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Thu, Sat-Sun: 10am-5pm; Tue, Fri: 10am-9pm;
Closed: Mondays, New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
John Hancock Center / 360 Chicago Observation Deck

13) John Hancock Center / 360 Chicago Observation Deck (must see)

In the section of Michigan Avenue known as the "Magnificent Mile," you'll find a 100-story skyscraper called the John Hancock Center. Construction of this very tall downtown Chicago building began in 1965 and reached completion in 1969. At that time, it was the second-tallest skyscraper in the world. This iconic high-rise was officially renamed "875 North Michigan Avenue" in 2018.

Construction was financed by the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, thus giving a name to the original structure. The building was designed by architect Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan. The John Hancock Center's longtime nickname used by locals is "Big John."

This multi-use building features retail and office space on the lower floors and luxury residences on the higher floors. On the 44th floor, you'll find the beautiful sky lobby, a full-service grocery store, and a state-of-the-art exercise room. There's even an indoor swimming pool! There are also several restaurants in the building.

On the 94th floor, over 1,000 feet in the air, is the 360 Chicago Observation Deck. Visitors to this deck can see stunning panoramic views of the city skyline. For the ultimate thrill ride, try 360 Chicago's TILT. TILT has you hanging over the edge of the building where, behind a moving glass platform, you get a downward look at the city far below!
900 North Michigan Shops

14) 900 North Michigan Shops

The 900 Shops are housed by the 900 North Michigan skyscraper. It is one of the premier shopping destinations in Chicago. The 900 Shops provides a unique experience of over 70 luxury lifestyle shops and a strong line-up of national brands perfectly complimented by an eclectic collection of unique boutiques and a diverse selection of delectable dining options.

Operation hours: Monday - Saturday: 10:00 am - 7:00 pm; Sunday: 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Palmolive Building

15) Palmolive Building

The Palmolive Building, formerly the Playboy Building, is a 37-story Art Deco building. Built by Holabird & Root, it was completed in 1929 and was home to Colgate-Palmolive-Peet. The Palmolive Building came to be known as the Playboy Building when it was home to Playboy magazine from 1965 to 1989. During this time, the word P-L-A-Y-B-O-Y was spelled out in 9 feet (2.7 m) letters. It was designated a Chicago Landmark in 2000, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Today, the building has been converted for residential use by developer Draper and Kramer. The first two floors house upscale office and retail space. High-end condos make up the rest of the building. Notable residents of the building include Vince Vaughn and Lou Piniella.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Drake Hotel: History, Elegance and Fine Dining

16) Drake Hotel: History, Elegance and Fine Dining

Chicago's original luxury hotel, opened in 1920, the Drake was always recognized by high society as a quintessential social hotspot. Popular with visiting celebrities, politicians and royalty, it blends modern convenience with the charm of days gone by, and from the moment you enter the main lobby, it just screams elegance – especially if you settle down for afternoon tea.

PALM COURT has been serving tea for almost a century and it shows. The impossibly large floral fountain is a glorious backdrop to a sumptuous tea and the harpist completes the afternoon experience. Bites include scones and lemon poppyseed muffins, cucumber or roast beef sandwiches, salmon mousse, Thai spiced chicken tarts, orange creamsicle macarons, french silk tarts, blueberry buttermilk panna cotta, and strawberry shortcake bellinis. You can add a cocktail to your service if you'd like, or just stick with tea (of which there are about twenty different kinds) and watch the pastry tower being constantly refilled.

If you're looking for an old-time, cocktail-lounge vibe, the piano bar at the hotel – COQ D'OR – is a clear standout. It claims to have opened the day after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 and has a masculine decor: wood paneling, leather accents, and flatscreens set to sports. This dark and sexy bar is perfect for a nightcap, and as far as eating goes, the signature Bookbinder (red snapper) soup is a favorite as is the brownie dessert, gooey and warm.

The 3rd dining option here, called CAFE ON OAK, is a cozy breakfast nook with nautical vibes. Remember how Marilyn Monroe and Joe Di Maggio carved their initials into the old wooden bar in the Cape Cod Room? Well, whether or not you do, this cafe serves the "MM + JD benedict", a culinary rendition of the famous couple's favorite meals, along with other delicious options from the griddle: fluffy buttermilk pancakes, buttery Belgian waffles, and lots of tasty, creamy egg preparations – from skillets to omelets to eggs-your-way.
Oak Street

17) Oak Street

A stretch of Oak Street between Michigan Avenue and Rush Street is one of Chicago's most prominent shopping areas. Contrary to nearby Magnificent Mile, which holds upmarket chain stores and huge department stores, Oak Street is noted for its exquisite boutiques. The Street is a true international style hub, and accommodates many of the world's top class boutiques and salons. It attracts most discerning shoppers from around the globe who settle only for the best. Oak Street is an ultimate "destination" and a place where passion relies on sophistication, elegance and precision.
Oak Street Beach

18) Oak Street Beach

This small patch of beach in the busiest part of the city, just a walk away from Navy Pier and the Michigan Ave. strip, is crowded with Chicagoans and visitors seeking fun in the sun and splash dash in the cold Lake Michigan water. In good weather, sitting right on the beach, with the beautiful Chicago skyline as a backdrop, is a good idea as the sand looks clean and actually well-groomed. The lake itself has lovely clear water and a sandy bottom with a gradual slope – perfect for kids or timid swimmers.

In a city of (mostly) concrete, having a sandy beach, right on the lake, is very nice, though there is also a grassy area across the bike-pathway, where you can watch cars zoom by on Lake Shore Drive. Tons of people-watching can be done in all directions while you relax to the sounds of big city life. Even with lots of crowds (in the summer weekends), it is still a great time to be had alone or with family.

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