The WTTW Chicago Loop Walking Tour narrated by Jeffrey Baer is excellent. Get the app here.
Several online reviews said the app was slow but I found it to be fine and it works on my ancient iphone on ios7. Walk through the Loop and hear Jeffrey Baer talk about many of our great buildings. He describes the exteriors and interiors (where you can gain access) of 26 Chicago architectural treasures old and new. You can stop and start, or skip parts of the tour as well. Within the app you can click on a button and read more details about the architects who designed the buildings. There’s a handy map to follow or print out. The app says it takes about 2.5 hours and covers 3 miles. Wear good walking shoes.
I’ve added some extra stops along the way to check out and included the reasonably priced places to stop for a bite and/or a beverage.
- Auditorium Building, Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, 1889 430 S. State Street. The view of Grant Park and the Lake from their library is spectacular. I recently tried to talk my way in to get a snap but no go. Theater tours are given on Mondays: 10:30AM and Noon and Thursdays: 10:30AM. Get tour tickets here. Consider stopping at the rooftop at the Plymouth Restaurant, 327 S Plymouth Ct, 4th floor (312) 362-1212. Monday – Sunday: 11 a.m. – 12AM. Menu. The roof is retractable so it’s open year round. Nice view of the Harold Washington Library Center. Has indoor area also. Cheap eats South Loop.
- Second Leiter Building, William LeBaron Jenney, 1891 403 S. State Street.
- Harold Washington Library, Hammond Beeby and Babka, 1991, 400 S. State Street. The Library has an extensive art collection. They give tours on the second Tuesday of every month at 1:00PM – 2:30PM. More info here. Go up to the beautiful 9th floor winter garden.
- Manhattan Building, William LeBaron Jenney, 1891, 431 S. Dearborn.
- Old Colony Building, John Holabird and Martin Roche, 1894, 407 S. Dearborn/37 W. VanBuren. This building is being converted into a swanky dorm for Roosevelt University.
- Fisher Building, Charles Atwood of Daniel Burnham, 1896, 343 S. Dearborn.
- Monadnock Building, John Wellburn Root for Daniel Burnham, 1891, 53 W. Jackson.
- Chicago Federal Center, Mies van der Rohe, 1964, Dearborn between Adams and Jackson. The Federal Plaza Farmers Market runs 7am–3pm Tuesdays from May 17–October 25.
- Marquette Building, John Holabird and Martin Roche, 1895, 140 S. Dearborn Street.
- Inland Steel Building, Skidmore Owings and Merrill, 1958, 30 W. Monroe. Consider stopping for an adult beverage at Aire, Hyatt Centric, 100 W. Monroe, 24th Floor, (312) 236-1234.
- The Four Seasons, Marc Chagall, 1974, Chase Tower Plaza, 230 S. Dearborn at Jackson.
- Sullivan Center, Louis Sullivan, 1903, 1 South State Street. Bring your list and shop at the Target on the ground and second floors.
- Reliance Building, Daniel Burnham and John Wellborn Root, 1891 32 N. State Street. Have a drink at the Atwood Grill (Glass of wine $17 with tax and tip) or grab a margarita, sangria and/or a bite across the street at Latinicity in Block 37, 108 N. State Street.
- Marshall Field & Co. (Macy’s as of 2006), Daniel Burnham, 1892, 111 N. State Street. Pick up to-go food at the Frontera Fresco and eat it along State Street (read #15 below). Closes at 2PM. Cheap eats around State Street.
- State Street streetscape, 108 N. State Street. Take your torta to-go from Macy’s (#14 above) and dine in the little plaza located on the median on State Street between Lake Street and Wacker Drive. Consider stopping for a drink at the Roof at The Wit, Doubletree, 201 N State St, 27th floor, Raised, Renaissance Hotel, 1 W. Wacker Drive, (312) 372-7200 and/or Cerise, The Virgin Hotel, 203 North Wabash, 26th floor, (312) 940-4774.
- Chicago Theater, Rapp and Rapp, 1921 175 N. State Street. The iconic “Chicago” marquee is not the original. It was replaced in 1986 with a new sign built to the original specifications for $500k. If you’re really into looking at the sign go to the 2nd floor of the Walgreens next door where you will be eye level with it. Get discount theater tour tickets here.
- Page Brothers Building, John Mills van Osdel, 1872, 177 N. State Street.
- Oriental Theater, Rapp and Rapp, 1926, 24 W. Randolph. Get discount tickets for a theater tour here.
- The Chicago Picasso, Pablo Picasso, 1967, Daley Plaza 100 W. Washington. The model of this sculpture, created by Picasso, is located in the Art Institute. Extra stop: First United Methodist Church, 77 W. Washington St. which has the worlds tallest church spire.
- James R. Thompson Center, Helmut Jahn, 1985, 100 W. Randolph. When it opened the temperature in some of the offices would rise to over 100 degrees so the State had to spend millions to fix the AC. Now the building has fallen into such a state of disrepair that Governor Rauner is considering selling it so it can be torn down and the site redeveloped – probably into overpriced rental apartments. When you enter the lobby look up. Cool!
- LaSalle Street Canyon, Randolph and LaSalle.
- 135 S. LaSalle, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, 1934. Mr. Baer points out some details that I wasn’t aware of so I had to go over and see for myself.
- The Rookery, John Wellburn Root for Daniel Burnham, 1888, Lobby renovated by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905, 209 S. LaSalle.
- Federal Reserve Bank, Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, 1922, 230 S. LaSalle. If you have time stop in the Free Money Museum in the Lobby.
- Chicago Board of Trade, John Holabird and John Wellborn Root, 1930, 141 W. Jackson.
- Willis Tower, Skidmore Owings and Merrill, 1974, 233 S. Wacker Drive. Guide to Willis
If you are collapsing from exhaustion at this point and can find the strength limp over to 200 S. Wacker and catch the Water taxi (check schdule) to Navy Pier where you can rest up and enjoy a final cocktail and a bite.
Otherwise you can catch walk over the Adams Street bridge to Canal and catch the 124 which makes it’s way to Washington and then to Michigan Ave. ending at Navy Pier. Or walk over to Quincy and Wells and catch the Brown or Orange Line.
FYI The Loop got it’s name from the steam-powered cable cars circulated downtown, in a Loop. Later, the elevated tracks and trains of the “L” made the Loop even more accessible to people throughout the Chicago region.