As its name suggests, South Loop is located within the greater Chicago Loop neighborhood. The area is covered by everything south of Ida B. Wells Drive between Lake Michigan and the Chicago river (except Chinatown). The area was historically a notorious vice district, home to brothels, bars, arcades, and burlesque theaters. In the 1970s, inexpensive residential hotels on Van Buren and State Street made it one of the city’s Skid Rows.
Since, the area has seen a serious glow-up. Former warehouse and factory lofts have been converted to swanky residential buildings, and new highrises and townhouses have been developed. The area is also home to the lakefront and Museum Campus, home to three of Chicago’s biggest museums. You can also find jazz clubs, celebrated restaurants, and historic areas like Motor Row and Prairie Avenue District.
South Loop Hotels
South Loop is home to an array of accommodations, mostly small boutique hotels and affordable chains. There are, however, some swanky stays overlooking Grant Park, like the four-star Blackstone hotel. It’s a great place to stay if you’re looking for a slightly slower pace than the crowded stays near Millennium Park and the Chicago River.
South Loop Restaurants
South Loop has pretty much whatever you could crave as far as dining—from trusty lunch spots to classic pubs and Michilan starred restaurants. There’s the classic Kasey’s tavern, where you can grab a $3 beer. Or, eat at Lobo Rey, owned by Daniel Espinoza, a former contestant on Mexico’s Top Chef. If you’re feeling fancy, Acadia can’t be missed. The South Loop’s Michelin-starred restaurant is famous for its a la carte meals, fancy burgers, and oysters.
South Loop Tours and Attractions
The biggest attraction in South Loop is Museum Campus. The 57-acre museum park near Lake Michigan hosts three of the city’s most notable museums: the Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, and Field Museum of Natural History. The campus is also home to the Soldier Field football stadium (home field to the Chicago Bears) and the Lakeside center of McCormick Place.
Locals recommend a ride on Shoreline Sightseeing Water Taxi’s Lake Route, which will let you off right at Shedd Aquarium. The aquarium is home to more than 32,000 creatures, and the planetarium also boasts a laboratory, classroom, and scientific community. The Field Museum is famous for Máximo the Titanosaur, SUE the T-Rex, and its other millions of ancient artifacts.
South Loop Architecture
Roam South Loop’s Prairie Avenue District to stroll Millionaire’s Row. Here, you’ll find mansions like the historic Glessner House Museum, once home to the Chicago elite. You can also wander the Wabash Arts Corridor, adorned with sky-high murals along highrises.
South Loop Yearly Festivals and Events
In the South Loop, it’s all about the good eats and drinks. The Taste of Chicago festival—the nation’s premier free outdoor food festival—is held here in Grant Park each July. And in Women’s Park every summer, the South Loop Beer and Cider Fest offers an array of more than 100 beer and hard ciders from Illinois and beyond. And in June, the Chicago Food Truck festival is held in South Loop along Wabash Avenue.
South Loop Parks
The eastern border of South Loop is Grant Park, and a large part of the 319 acre green area is in the neighborhood. The southern end of the park is also Museum Campus, home to three museums dedicated to the sciences and home of the Bears, Soldier Field. On the parks western edge, at the Ida B. Wells Drive/Michigan Avenue Intersection, you can find Congress Plaza, a ceremonial entrance with two semicircular plazas with gardens, fountains and artwork. While there are no sandy beaches in Grant Park, it does have two Lake Michigan marinas for boaters.