As its name implies, Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood is a haven of luxury—and always has been. Its roots began in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire when in 1882, millionaire Potter Palmer built his mansion atop a swampy area that would later become Lake Shore Drive. Other members of the city’s elite followed suit and the neighborhood quickly became one of the wealthiest in Chicago. Today, the neighborhood is bounded by North Avenue, Lake Shore Drive, Oak Street, and Clark Street and is home to the city’s swankiest boutiques, restaurants, and historic hotels.
Gold Coast Dining
If you plan to stay or eat on the Gold Coast, be sure to bring your AMEX. The food in this nabe is as delicious, and pricey, as you’d expect. It is home to an array of highly rated upscale restaurants, serving an array of neuvo American, seafood, and European fare. Here, you can also find some of Chicago’s most iconic eateries, like Gibsons Steakhouse, Carmines, and the historic Coq d’Or at the Drake hotel.
Gold Coast Hotels
For those who wish to stay overnight here, options abound. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find a Motel 6. The Gold Coast is dotted with four- and five-star accommodations and such iconic outposts as The Waldorf Astoria, The Drake, and the Millennium Knickerbocker. While it may be a splurge, these stays offer a chance to sleep in some of the city’s oldest buildings. The Drake Hotel was built in 1920 and the Millennium Knickerbocker in 1927. Plus, hotels here offer impressive city and waterfront views.
But, if your budget calls for more affordable accommodations, head a few blocks south for a stay in Streeterville. The adjacent neighborhood is home to many trendy and boutique hotels with lower costs of entry.
Gold Coast Tourist Attractions and Tours
The Gold Coast has some of the city’s most beautiful architectural landmarks, which you can enjoy on a walking tour along Lake Shore Drive and in the Astor Street Historic District. If you prefer to sightsee on wheels, bus tours like Big Bus and Gray Line Chicago will take you through the Gold Coast and its most prominent landmarks.
Another unique stopping point here is the International Museum of Surgical Science, which details the history of surgery and its medical breakthroughs. Housed within a lakefront mansion, there are also an array of historic murals and statues.
Gold Coast Architecture
The architecture in the Gold Coast is second to none, highlighted by an array of Romanesque, Queen Anne, Art Deco, Tudor, and Modern styles. Walk the Astor Street District to enjoy rows of 19th-century homes. You can even tour the historic Charnley-Persky house, a mansion designed by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright (then a young apprentice).
Gold Coast Shopping
Like its luxury restaurants and hotels, shopping is another opulent experience on the Gold Coast. At the north end of the Magnificent Mile, find the Oak Street District, home to an array of high-end designer shopping. Akin to New York City’s Fifth Avenue, this tony enclave is home to some of the most coveted luxury designers like Prada, Chanel, and Hermés. You’ll also find fine jewelry makers including Harry Winston, Gragg, and Buccellati.
Gold Coast Theater
Though the Gold Coast doesn’t have as diverse a theater scene as several other Chicago neighborhoods, it is home to a few boutique productions. One such company is Porchlight Music Theatre, which offers live musical productions in an intimate venue at the Ruth page Center for the Arts.
Gold Coast Beaches and Parks
The Gold Coast is gold for another reason…It’s home to one of the city’s most popular sunbathing spots at Oak Street Beach. This gorgeous stretch of shoreline offers a sandy beach, volleyball tournaments, a restaurant, and unbeatable views of the Chicago skyline.
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