The Loop is the main section of Downtown Chicago. Its name comes from the elevated railway loop that encircles the area, originally built in the late 19th century. During that same time, some of the world’s first skyscrapers were constructed here, and the neighborhood today is home to some of the city’s most noted architectural landmarks. Today, the area is bounded by the Chicago River to the north and west, Lake Michigan on the east, and by Roosevelt Road to the South.
The area is the oldest in Chicago, beginning in 1803 when the United States Army erected Fort Dearborn here. Most of the area was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire, but what took its place created the commercial core we know in Chicago today. The Loop is now the second largest commercial business district in the United States behind Midtown Manhattan in New York City. Near LaSalle Street, you’ll find the Loop’s financial district, home to the Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Along with these financial headquarters, the area is home to a diverse array of restaurants, retailers, hotels, theaters, and some of the city’s most prominent attractions.
Chicago Loop Restaurants
Home to both office buildings and tourist attractions, the Loop offers it all when it comes to dining—from grab-and-go lunch outposts to formal dining. On top of that, there are unique food halls (like Revival Food Hall or Wells St. Market), an array of international cuisine, and some of the city’s top brunch spots. The Chicago Athletic Association is a historic hotel in the nabe with some seriously great dining options, including a rooftop restaurant, a steak lounge, and a Shake Shack. Or, dine atop the Chicago Stock Exchange at Everest, the city’s best known French restaurant. There’s also a restaurant that exclusively cooks up grilled cheese, the East Coast–inspired Luke’s Lobster, and an array of new-aged steakhouses.
Chicago Loop Hotels
Akin to its diversity of dining options, the accommodations in the Loop are equally expansive. Choose from small boutique hotels, well-known chains, affordable stays, or five-star accommodations. You can also stay in some of the city’s most famous buildings, like the St. Jane’s landmark Art Deco building inspired by a Champagne bottle. Have some money to spare? Splurge on a night at the Chicago Athletic Association, a 1890s building filled with mosaic tiles, a luxe entrance, and the original lap pool.
Chicago Loop Tourist Attractions and Tours
If you want to orient yourself to the area, consider one of the downtown Hop On Hop Off Tours from Big Bus, Gray Line Tours. If you prefer to orient yourself while delighting your tastebuds, there are also an array of pizza, food, and beer tours in and around the loop. You can also stroll through an array of museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Photography, American Writers Museum, Pritzker Military Museum, Design Museum of Chicago, Field Museum, and, if you’re feeling hungry, the U.S. Pizza Museum.
Of course, one of the area’s best-known tourist attractions is the Willis Tower (formerly, Sears Tower) and its Skydeck Chicago. The ledge’s glass boxes extend out more than four feet from the Skydeck, offering spectacular views spanning up to four states on the building’s 103rd floor.
You can also walk the Chicago Riverwalk, home to an array of entertainment and recreational opportunities throughout the year. The city dies the river green every St. Patrick’s Day, and you can get a great overview of the city aboard an Architectural Boat Tour.
Chicago Loop Architecture
One of the Loop’s most enchanting qualities is its architecture. After the area was destroyed in the 1871 fire, it was quickly built up as one of the country’s best examples of American ingenuity and grit. The Home Insurance Building, built in 1885, is generally accepted as the world’s first tower. It was followed by the 1888 Rookery Building and 1891 Monadnock Building. The Willis Tower was the world’s tallest building for nearly 25 years. Another Loop landmark is the original Marshall Field’s department store building, now housing Macy’s on State Street.
You can also walk the Loop and find impressive works of outdoor sculpture, including those by Pablo Picaso, Henry Moore, and Alexander Calder. Other landmarks include Buckingham Fountain, the Civic Opera House, Printing House Roe, and Symphony Center.
Chicago Loop Shopping
In the 1830s, State Street emerged as a prominent shopping enclave in the city, and it has remained so ever since. Although the Loop’s State Street has since been eclipsed by Magnificent Mile to the north, it still houses an array of historic department stores, specialty shops, and independent boutiques. The Macy’s on State Street is housed in a National Historic Landmark with Burnham Fountain and Walnut Room—the first restaurant in a department store. Across from Macy’s is Block 37, a hip shopping center with on-trend stores and eateries spanning Anthropologie to the Disney store.
Chicago Loop Theater
The Loop is also home to Chicago’s world-renowned Theater District. It’s home to historic theater houses including Chicago Theatre, Goodman Theatre, James M. Nederlander Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre, and CIBC Theatre, among others. These historic venues house opulent auditoriums, historic lobbies, and Art Deco architecture that nods to the city’s golden era. Here, you can catch some of the most prominent musical theater under the Broadway in Chicago offering. The Loop is indeed a prime destination for live performance highlighting some of the city’s best talents.
Chicago Loop Yearly Festivals And Events
The Loop houses Grant Park, which hosts many of the city’s most popular annual festivals. In May, enjoy Chicago House Music Festival, Chicago Gospel Music Festival, and Chicago In Tune Music Festival. The Grant Park Music festival is held several times throughout the summer, and there’s the Millennium Park Music series held for free on Mondays and Thursdays June through August. You can also attend the highly regarded Millennium Art Festival in June, and in winter months, flock to the park for ice skating. The area also hosts the highly anticipated Lollapalooza festival, welcoming some of the country’s leading alt rock, punk, hip hop, heavy metal, and EDM artists to the city. Foodies enjoy the annual two-week Taste of Chicago, attended by more than 3 million people sampling eats from more than 70 vendors each summer.
Chicago Loop Parks
The entire east side of the Chicago Loop is bordered by parkland. Grant Park stretches 319 acres and is home to Millennium Park and the smaller children’s area, Maggie Daley Park. Millennium Park houses some of the city’s most prominent Chicago attractions, including “Cloud Gate,” or the Chicago Bean. It also has the Crown Fountain, Lurie Garden, and Jay Pritzker Pavilion for summer outdoor concerts and events.