city guide

Chicago Travel Guide

CHICAGO TRAVEL GUIDE

I can't believe that it is my last day in the US! I am leaving tomorrow to head to Europe for 3 months, and I am so excited about it (along with anxious and slightly nervous, but excitement is definitely the leader of the pack). I can't wait to put together travel guides of so many wonderful places that I've always dreamed of exploring, and to share the details of many adventures ahead. 

So what have I been doing with my last few days here in the states? Last week I paid a visit to Chicago: one of my absolute favorite cities in America (especially in the summer). I've been dozens of times over the years (I technically have more family that lives there than anywhere else) and I always love finding an excuse to go back. This time my excuse was to see Coldplay with my friend Sarah (and I could probably write an entire blog post alone on how amazing the show was, but I'll stay on track.) The bottom line is that Chicago is jam-packed with amazing things to see and do- so much that I couldn't even begin to fit them all into a blog post. With that said, I've found some places that I particularly love during my last few trips, so I wanted to compile what I've been "loving lately" in the Windy City for those of you who plan to visit soon. 

 

STAY

CHICAGO ATHLETIC HOTEL

chicago athletic association hotel

I love finding hotels that are unique to the city I'm visiting, and Chicago Athletic Hotel is certainly that. The 1890s athletic club was reborn to this bustling Michigan Avenue hotel (featuring some of Chicago's finest restaurants and nightlife). The building is a revelation of historic architectural detail, from the grand marble staircases to the rooftop terrace at Cindy's Restaurant & Bar with views across Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. It's also a prime location if you're looking to explore the city by foot and be in the center of Chicago's most popular attractions.

Photos by Sarah Catherine Design

Photos by Sarah Catherine Design

12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

 

EAT

3 ARTS CAFE

3 arts cafe chicago restoration hardware

Standing outside of Restoration Hardware in Gold Coast, you may not think the building is anything special at first glance. But the moment you step foot inside, you'll realize there is more much more than meets the eye. The building has received tons of press (and for good reason- it's gorgeous) but aside from serving as a typical Restoration Hardware, there's also a restaurant in the main level courtyard. It has an all-day menu with breakfast, lunch and dinner options. We didn't have room in our stomach for any more food when we arrived, but I've heard it's delicious (and I can assure you the ambiance alone is enough reason to go). 

1300 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60610

 

BAR SIENA

bar siena chicago

We went to Bar Siena for dinner before the Coldplay concert, and I loved the ambiance. Located in the West Loop (an area with a remarkable food scene) it's rustic, two-story space offers casual seating throughout the entire restaurant. While it's inspiration stems from a quaint, casual and energetic bar and restaurant called La Taverna in Siena, Italy, the menu reflects the regionality of the whole country of Italy- not just Siena. Dishes are share-friendly and heavy on the antipasta (try the bread and ricotta or the grilled shrimp and artichoke). And don't leave without trying one of their pizzas, cooked in an 800-degree oven named Bella. 

832 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607

 

CHICKEN SHOP AT SOHO HOUSE

chicken and farm shop soho house chicago

Is it any surprise that chicken is the main attraction at a restaurant named Chicken & Farm Shop? But that's not the only tasty food they serve. To say we braved the rain to venture to Soho House (where Chicken Shop calls home) would be the understatement of the century. But then again, so is calling their food merely tasty. Contrary to popular stigmas you may have about a members only establishment like Soho House, Chicken Shop is open to the public and couldn't be more inviting. The staff was incredibly warm and went out of their way to tell us about everything from the menu, to the restaurant's origin in the UK. Though their menu items like the burger, chicken and macaroni and cheese may sound simple, it's all very far from it. Everything we ate (and drank) was fantastic, and I definitely plan on going back. 

chicken and farm shop soho house chicago

113 N. Green St, Chicago, IL, 60607

 

 

CINDY'S ROOFTOP

cindy's rooftop chicago athletic association hotel

Cindy's is without a doubt my favorite public rooftop in Chicago (part of Chicago Athletic Hotel), and their menu is fantastic. I discovered this hidden gem last November when I was in Chicago with my friend Haley and we were on the hunt for a good brunch spot. Needless to say, we struck gold. So naturally, I put it at the top of my list when I came back this time. Cindy's has incredible views of Lake Michigan, Millennium Park and the Chicago Art Institute. It has floor to ceiling windows (and actually... the ceiling is glass too) so the place is bright and cheery and flooding with natural light. Aside from the spectacular ambiance, the food is out of this world (but be warned, portion sizes are intended for sharing- look at the size of that parfait!) 

Photos by Sarah Catherine Design

Photos by Sarah Catherine Design

cindys rooftop chicago

I can honestly recommend anything on the menu (both food and drinks) because it's all been delicious. Just be sure you show up hungry!

Photos by Sarah Catherine Design

Photos by Sarah Catherine Design

12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603

 

 

GIRL & THE GOAT

girl & the goat chicago restaurants

I didn't make it to Girl & the Goat on this most recent trip to Chicago (too many wonderful places to try!) but I loved it so much when Haley and I went in November that I couldn't not include it. Located on Restaurant Row (along with Bar Siena and Chicken Shop) they opened with the goal of serving bold flavors with global influence in a fun and lively setting. They also boast the title of James Beard Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes, along with awards from Eater including: Restaurant of the year, Chef of the year, Shaker of the year... the list goes on. Whether you go for a full meal or simply drinks and appetizers, do yourself a favor and just make sure you get there when you visit Chicago. 

809 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL, 60607

 

 

TRENCHERMEN

trenchermen chicago wicker park

Sarah and I stumbled upon Trenchermen when we were in search of a brunch spot during our most recent trip (thanks OpenTable!) and I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised. The building was beautiful (and originally opened as the Luxor Russian Baths in the 1920s). As it remained a spot to steam, grab a drink and have a bite throughout the middle of the century, Trenchermen was born in 2012 as an idea of a meeting place for the community. If you go for brunch, their avocado toast may be the best I've ever had. 

2039 W. North Ave. Chicago, IL 60647

 

 

DO

WICKER PARK

wicker park chicago

You've probably heard that Michigan Avenue is the place to go shopping in Chicago. And while I won't disagree (I certainly do my fair share there), I personally love exploring Wicker Park. The neighborhood is crawling with great shops (many unique to Chicago) and has it's own personality with a little bit of spunk. It's also where you'll find Saved By The Max, Chicago's own recreation of Saved By The Bell's beloved diner, The Max. Wicker Park is full of unique finds and I never have trouble wasting time here. 

 

 

CHICAGO RIVERWALK

Photos by Sarah Catherine Design

Photos by Sarah Catherine Design

Again, you've probably been told to stroll down Michigan Avenue (and again- I love doing it too). But when you hit the DuSable bridge where Michigan hits E Upper Wacker, be sure to take the steps down to the River Walk (disclaimer: this is more of a recommendation if the weather is nice. Winter may not be the season to do this!) Here, you can stroll along the river by foot, hop on a boat for one of Chicago's many tours, or find a restaurant to stop in for a snack or drink. 

E Upper Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60601

 

 

MILENNIUM PARK

 

millenium park chicago bean

I've been to Chicago more than I've been to a lot of places, and I've never failed to visit "The Bean" in Millennium Park. Call me a tourist, but I love the energy that buzzes around this place. It never fails that you'll find people smiling and laughing trying to take their picture in the reflection of this art installation (myself included). But aside from being a popular attraction, Millennium Park is also home to hundreds of free cultural programs including concerts, exhibitions, tours and family activities. Whether a special event is happening or it's just another day at the park, it's definitely worth visiting every time. Some things never get old.

201 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60602

 

WRIGLEY FIELD

Photos by Sarah Catherine Design

Photos by Sarah Catherine Design

No matter who you cheer for, you can't deny Wrigley is a special place. If you're in town for a Cubs home game, be sure to go and drink and Old Style (in true Chicago fashion). If no games are happening, you're still bound to find plenty of entertainment exploring Wrigleyville's lively scene of restaurants and bars. 

1060 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60613

 

Chicago continues to surprise me and steal a little piece of my heart every time I go back (I guarantee this won't be the only post you ever see me do here). If you've never been, it's without a doubt somewhere you need to add to your list. I'm so happy I got so spend some time "home away from home" and I can't wait to come back.

 

But for now, I'm off to Europe! Be sure to follow along on my adventures on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat (blonde_atlas) and Facebook. And if there is specific travel content that you want to see on the blog, let me know!

 

CHICAGO TRAVEL GUIDE

 

 

Asheville Travel Guide

ASHEVILLE TRAVEL GUIDE
asheville north carolina mountains blue ridge

For years, I've heard all kinds of people rave about Asheville: beer lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, epicurean aficionados - the list goes on. I strive to be at least 2 out of those 3 (wine will forever be my first love) so I decided it was time I finally experience Asheville for myself. From the moment I arrived, I fell in love with everything about this quaint little mountain town, and was blown away by how much there was to do there. I basically ate and drank non-stop for 72 hours (it's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it) and put together this guide of my favorite places to help you plan a trip of your own.  

STAY

THE WINDSOR ASHEVILLE

windsor boutique hotel asheville
windsor boutique hotel asheville nc
windsor boutique hotel asheville NC

When you travel as much as I do, hotel rooms can start to feel stuffy and cold, (not complaining- I'd still sign up for it any day) but I loved what a breath of fresh air The Windsor was. It had the beauty of a luxury hotel, but felt warm and homey like an apartment would.  Asheville has come to be known for its art scene (living up to it's title of "Paris of the South") and The Windsor certainly has no shortage of it. Whether the artwork has been shipped in from Parisian antique markets, or sourced locally from the artists (which are also available for purchase) it's all hand selected and curated by the hotel's Art Director. In fact, just about every detail of the hotel has been carefully thought out (from chocolates on the pillows, to local coffee and soaps) so that you're sure to experience as much from local Asheville artisans before you even leave your room. 

Overall, the staff was incredibly hospitable, the location is ideal for exploring the best of Asheville by foot, and the experience is unique from most everything else . 

renaissance hotel asheville nc

Just a couple blocks over from The Windsor, you'll find the Renaissance. This is another great lodging option if you prefer to forgo the intimate boutique setting for a more traditional hotel experience that most of us are used to. The staff was great, the interior was pristine and waking up looking over the Blue Ridge mountains made it nearly impossible to get out of bed in the morning (so I didn't for a while... #vacation). 

 

 

EAT

RHUBARB

Rhubarb was our first stop when we pulled into Asheville, and it set the bar for the weekend high. Their executive chef John Fleer was named one of the “Rising Stars of the 21st Century” by the James Beard Foundation and is a three-time finalist for the James Beard “Best Chef in the Southeast” award. The atmosphere was beautiful and the entire menu was enticing (I went with the Wood Roasted Whole Sunburst Trout with farro, shallots, charred sunchokes and lemon sherry vinaigrette -and loved it). 

 

SOVERIGN REMEDIES

sovereign remedies asheville nc
pimento cheese puffs sovereign remedies asheville
sovereign remedies asheville
sovereign remedies asheville nc

We met Charlie, the owner of Sovereign Remedies, for some drinks before dinner and it was easily one of my favorite places we visited in Asheville. The ambiance was a perfect balance of elegant and relaxed, and their pimento cheese puffs rocked my world. But the real star was their delicious cocktails (my favorites were The Viva Rhu and the Wet Hot American Winter). They even have a pre-hangover tonic to keep you going strong all night (milk thistle, tumeric, alfalfa, evening primrose, prickly pear, shatavari and coconut water). Worked like a charm. 

the nightbell restaurant asheville

Nightbell is a contemporary American small plate restaurant with a craft cocktail bar and lounge. The menu is a blend of comfort food and inventive twists on the classics (all with a serious commitment to local farmers and sustainable products). Bartenders create ever-changing concoctions using seasonal ingredients and hand-carved ice. The atmosphere is dim and romantic with eclectic vintage-inspired decor, reminiscent of Asheville’s Art Deco heritage. I loved everything we ate, but don't leave without trying their Deviled Egg (served in the shell), Grilled Maitake Mushroom or Hamachi Crudo. 

CURATE TAPAS BAR ASHEVILLE

Cúrate transported me back to my time in Spain last summer with their lively tapas bar traditions. The name Cúrate literally means ‘cure yourself’ in Spanish. They believe in the curative effects of sharing good food and wine with family and friends (can I get an Amen?) I let our server surprise us by placing our order, and he did an incredible job because I loved everything I tried. My favorite dish was the combination of cerdo ibérico a las finas hierbas (100% pure ibérico pork, “skirt steak” with fresh rosemary and thyme) paired with setas al jerez ( mushrooms sautéed in olive oil with a splash of sherry). 

 

TOP OF THE MONK

top of the monk asheville cocktail

Top of the Monk prides themselves in presenting you with nothing but the best quality cocktails, so you won't find a food menu here. They put their focus into freshly squeezed juices and create their own bitters, tinctures, infusions, drams, flavored syrups and shrubs. They're also a members only club (North Carolina state law requires it if you only serve alcohol without food). The good news is that a lifetime membership is only $1. And the "no food" part is only half true, because with each cocktail, you're given a key to unlock a treat from an old PO Box- genius. The location is prime and the patio has sweeping views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

 

 

SKYBAR

If the weather is nice, don't miss grabbing a drink from Skybar- a rooftop bar with panoramic views of Asheville, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and everything in between. 

 

ALSO TRY:

OVEREASY (delicious brunch and juice selection).

THE MARKETPLACE

CUCINA 24

 

 

DO

BILTMORE ESTATE

BILTMORE ESTATE ASHEVILLE NORTH CAROLINA

The Biltmore is one of the most iconic landmarks in Asheville, and for good reason. The Vanderbilt family’s 250-room French Renaissance chateau is a true marvel, the largest undertaking in residential architecture. The property has more history than I could even begin to touch on, and you could spend the entire day soaking it all in. If the history is what fascinates you, there are a variety of tours to choose from. If you're like me, there's wine tasting. Regardless of your reason for visiting, you're sure to be impressed. 

 

ALSO VISIT: 

WICKED WEED (killer patio, food, and a wide variety of beers to taste).

BATTERY PARK BOOK EXCHANGE (bookstore meets champagne bar- aka heaven).

KAREN DONATELLI (stop in for an Americano and croissant for breakfast or a mid-day pick-me-up). 

ASHEVILLE MARKET BASKET (European Dry Goods Store that'll make your traveller's heart pitter-patter).

 

Asheville is an awesome town with tons to see, eat and do. No matter what the occasion for visiting or what you're in the mood for, you're bound to be satisfied with what they have to offer. I'm already looking forward to my next visit. 

asheville north carolina