art + design

Stroll Chicago’s Downtown Museums

So many museums sit within walking distance of our hotel

Chicago offers world-class museums, art and theater all over the city, but did you know how much of that sits within walking distance from the Chicago Athletic Association hotel? Just pop outside the doors of our Venetian gothic tower in any direction and you’ll find an abundance of culture to absorb in a variety of venues and media.

The most obvious is the Art Institute of Chicago, which opened its doors in 1893, the same year as the original Chicago Athletic Association. Both openings corresponded with the World’s Fair in Chicago that brought millions of people into and through the city. The Art Institute sits just down Michigan Avenue from the hotel and holds one of the world’s greatest collections of art, including by masters like Chagall, Seurat, Picasso, Monet, Rembrandt, van Gogh and Grant Wood, who painted the iconic American Gothic. And its adjoining Modern Wing houses masterful pieces from some of the most respected modern painters, sculptors, architects and photographers like Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, Frank Lloyd Wright, Cindy Sherman and Jackson Pollock.

The Museum Campus, while a bit farther of a walk, plays host to the Field Museum of Natural History, where you can see full-size dinosaur skeletons, mummies and more amazing artifacts from throughout history. Just behind that building sits the Shedd Aquarium, one of the largest collections of sea life in the world with whales, sharks, turtles, penguins and fish of all kinds. And then farther east from there, jutting out into Lake Michigan, is the Adler Planetarium, which, if you’re into the cosmos, is truly a super cool experience.

The American Writers Museum, one of Chicago’s newest museums, opened in 2017 at 180 N. Michigan Avenue to honor the cultural impact writers have had on America and the world. Its interactive exhibits and permanent collection spans five centuries and covers poetry, song lyrics, speeches, journalism, drama, fiction and non-fiction. If you’re more into imagery than the written word, the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College (600 S. Michigan), is a must-visit. This international collection showcases works both vintage and modern from the likes of Ansel Adams, Marina Abramovic, Robert Mapplethorpe and dozens more names you may not recognize, but whose work will amaze you.

Walk a few blocks west into the Loop and into Block 37 to find the Chicago Design Museum (108 N. State), which blossomed from a pop-up into a full-fledged museum following a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014. Drop by to check out the intersection of beautiful design through graphics, drawings, branding, broad ideas and more. One of our favorite things about Chicago is its street art and there’s no better place to capture larger-than-life murals than by walking south along the Wabash Arts Corridor where you can see massive works by local and international artists like Hebru Brantley, Don’t Fret and Ella & Pitr. Last, while not a museum per se, the Chicago Cultural Center, a certified landmark that opened its doors in 1897, holds dozens of exhibits at any given time. In addition to the countless installations showcased, the building itself with its Doric columns, mahogany doors, marble, mosaics of Preston Bradley Hall and the stunningly beautiful stained glass dome that’s modeled after the one in the Doge’s Palace in Venice, Italy, is worth the visit.