It’s that time of the year: The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) is holding its annual corporate travel mega-convention in Chicago August 3-7. If you’re one of the nearly 8,000 people planning to attend GBTA, here are 10 things we think you should do during your downtime (or fun time) in the Windy City.
1. Millennium Park, in the heart of downtown Chicago, is a great way to break away from the crowd, stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat from one of the many food vendors that ring the park, or just take a minute to sit outside and do a little people watching. The park also features the Insta-worthy Cloud Gate – a shiny, mirrored bean-shaped sculpture that makes for that ever-so-perfect selfie. When the work day is over, retro soul music fans will be thrilled to catch “Love Love Love,” a tribute to R&B great Donny Hathaway (Aug. 5 at 6:30 p.m.).
2. New Yorkers may shake their heads in disbelief when it comes to deep dish pizza, but you’d be remiss if you didn’t seek out one of the city’s pizzerias. No matter where you are in the city, you’ll find a place that honors the pizza pie – a simple online search will let you know about locals’ favorites and foodies’ delights. Best of all, if you can’t make it in person, there’s always delivery.
3. Need to get out of the hubbub? Navy Pier, a historical landmark on the shore of Lake Michigan, is a quick ride from downtown that offers plenty of dining options, sightseeing cruises and the largest rooftop deck in the country, the Offshore Rooftop & Bar. It’s summer in Chicago — time to soak it up. And we all know that business travel can wreak havoc on your body, so before you indulge in that happy hour and decadent dinner, get your steps in with a quick walk along the Pier.
4. Sometimes you just need a little peace and quiet. If you’re in need of some hushed tones, head over to the Art Institute of Chicago. Whether you like the classic paintings of Édouard Manet or the modern illustration of London’s poster artists, this world-class museum has something to offer everyone.
5. For those who aren’t afraid of heights or suffer from vertigo, a visit to the Skydeck is in order. At 1,353 feet in elevation, the Skydeck has fully enclosed glass boxes — aptly called the Ledge — that extend more than four feet from the building. The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, visitors are treated to views of four different states. We’re guessing sunsets from the Skydeck are sure to be memorable.
6. Baseball fans will rejoice that the Cubs are playing at the infamous Wrigley Field Saturday Aug. 3-4 against midwestern rivals the Brewers and Aug. 5-7 against the Oakland A’s. White Sox fans will have to wait until the weekend for a three-game series against the A’s that kicks off Aug. 9.
7. It’s summer in Chicago, and that’s something to be celebrated. Had a hard day? Need to clear your head before you head into the morning meeting? Rent a bike to cruise through Chicago neighborhoods or take a stroll along the 606, an elevated former railroad track that stretches from Humboldt Park through Logan Square and ends in Wicker Park, and rivals New York City’s High Line as one of the country’s finest urban parks.
8. San Francisco may have its Chinatown, but don’t dismiss Chicago’s. Getting to Chinatown is also a two-fer deal: Take a water taxi so that you can soak in Chicago’s storied architectural history before you dock for some unforgettable dim sum.
9. Want a peek into Chicago’s storied mob history? If you’re not feeling the urge for the full-on Al Capone tour (complete with costumed characters) and you’re interested in seeing some of the mob’s favorite hangouts up close, head over to the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge — a joint that comes with hidden underground tunnels for an easy escape — or the Twin Anchors, one of the city’s infamous speakeasys.
10. When it comes to catching a breeze, relaxing with a cold cocktail, and nibbling on some of the city’s finest dishes, head to one of the many rooftop restaurants or bars that are scattered throughout downtown. The options are plentiful, but Cindy’s, Z Bar, Devereaux, and Cerise top a lot of lists.