U.S. Cellular Field, Chicago (Picture by Chris McGuire)Winter in the Midwest is not for wimps. Once the last leaf falls to the ground, Chicago becomes one of the coldest places in the country. For the better part of the year, the sky is sullen and grey, and it becomes a monumental struggle to venture outside. With the effects of Lake Michigan, wind chill and freezing temperatures are enough to make Chicagoans wish they lived somewhere else. That all changes once spring rolls around, and everyone remembers why they love Chicago. Green buds begin to sprout and flowers start to bloom as the Windy City emerges from hibernation. Summer is truly glorious once festival season is in full swing. Locals head to Wrigley Field or U.S. Cellular Field to root for their favorite baseball team. And all across the city, people congregate on rooftop bars and outdoor patios to indulge in a favorite Midwest pastime. For conferences and meetings, summer is when landmarks and city attractions come to life. Visitors can feel like kids again on Navy Pier or take a group photo in front of the Bean in Millennium Park. In villages such as Schaumburg and Elks Grove Village, groups can explore quaint town centers and access the great outdoors. The options are as endless as summer itself.
Chicago City Slicker
It’s an exciting time to visit Navy Pier, which celebrates its 100th year of operation this summer. The most visited landmark in the Midwest, welcoming more than 8 million visitors annually, it is in the midst of a multiphase makeover to unveil park enhancements, special events, more dining options and a bold, new focal point.
Navy Pier, Chicago (Photo by Choose Chicago)The old Ferris wheel has been dismantled to make way for Centennial Wheel, a 200-foot-tall attraction that boasts sky-high views of Lake Michigan and Chicago’s skyline. The wheel can hold around 500 people at a time, and features temperature-controlled gondolas that are operable year-round. During the summer, Centennial Wheel lights up the sky alongside weekly fireworks shows. “Seeing is believing, and we can’t wait for our guests to experience firsthand the changes at Navy Pier,” says Marilynn Gardner, president and CEO of Navy Pier, Inc. “Now more than ever, Navy Pier will be a go-to, special place for family outings, exhilarating nightlife, entertaining out-of-town guests or enjoying a beautiful walk by the lake.”
For visitors who want to stay overnight, Navy Pier will soon open its first hotel. The five-story building, which has yet to be named, will overlook the South Dock from more than 200 guest rooms. Construction of the privately funded $90 million hotel is expected to begin in 2017, with an opening slated for late 2018.
Dining in Chicago's Loop (Photo by City of Chicago)
Rooftop LoungingSwanky decor and skyline views are best enjoyed with a cocktail in hand on one of Chicago’s many rooftop retreats. Loews Chicago Hotel boasts the city’s largest outdoor terrace, with 9,000 sq. ft. of grassy lawn space, complete with outdoor cabanas and high-top dining. The urban oasis can be rented for events of 50 or more.
Loews Chicago Hotel
Last spring, Hyatt Centric the Loop Chicago opened Aire, a new outdoor rooftop bar with panoramic views from the hotel’s 24th floor. The bar serves handcrafted cocktails and light fare in a sophisticated ambience with revolving art exhibits and open fireplaces. Catering from popular city restaurants will soon be offered for private
The Terrace at Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, offering some of the best views of the Chicago River, is the place to see and be seen. The high-rise space features contemporary lounges and outdoor fire pits, and can seat up to 200.
Hors d'oeuvres at Trump International Hotel & Tower ChicagoA larger rooftop venue is available on the city’s first trilevel hotel at the newly opened LondonHouse Chicago. The exclusive Beaux Arts Cupola on the 23rd floor offers a private dining experience like no other.
Al Fresco Dining
Locals relish the change in seasons by sitting outside at one of Chicago’s premier restaurants, with views to boot. In the West Loop, also known as Restaurant Row, City Winery has 33,000 sq. ft. of sprawling outdoor patio space and an outdoor wine garden on the revamped Riverwalk. For shared plates, Bar Takito serves Latin American fare and boasts a patio that seats 80. Kaiser Tiger is located a few blocks down and offers a good time in its 200-seat beer garden that has bocce ball courts and ping pong tables.
Kaiser Tiger, Chicago
Chicago Northwest Nature LoverOn the outer edge of O’Hare International Airport (ORD), the communities of Northwest Chicago are a breath of fresh air outside city limits. Just 25 miles north of downtown, villages and townships lend a slower pace for meetings held during the summer. Getting here is also easy, whether attendees are driving or flying.
“The Chicago Northwest region is one of the Midwest’s most affordable and sophisticated destinations for summer meetings, with over 60 hotels with nearly 10,000 well-appointed rooms, and high-tech meeting venues including the 100,000-square-foot Schaumburg Convention Center,” says Dave Parulo, president of Meet Chicago Northwest. “We are especially attractive to the summer attendees who desire quick connections.”
Legoland Discovery Center Chicago, SchaumburgMeeting groups with families in tow can cross Legoland Discovery Center off the warm-weather bucket list. The Schaumburg theme park boasts brand-new attractions, including Lego Nexo Nights 4D Adventure. But it’s not just for kids. Throughout the year, adult nights feature themed activities and out-of-the-box networking opportunities. German settlers founded Schaumburg in the late 19th century. One of the few remaining ways to visit the village of yesteryear is a trip to Volkening Heritage Farm in Spring Valley Nature Sanctuary. Open seasonally, the farm allows groups to experience a rural German community by helping with farm chores, interacting with livestock and riding on a horse-drawn cart. More outdoor excursions abound in neighboring Elk Grove Village. As its name suggests, a small heard of nonnative elk brought from Montana in the 1920s call the village home. The wildlife stay near a grove at the eastern edge of Ned Brown Forest Preserve, also known as Busse Woods. Groups can hike and bike on an 11-mile paved loop trail. There’s also fishing, canoeing, kayaking and sailing along 20 miles of shoreline on Busse Lake.
Plenty of Golfing
Eaglewood Resort and Spa, ItascaGolf enthusiasts can swing away at a range of premier golf clubs. Arlington Lakes Golf Club is an 18-hole, par-68 course designed to challenge even the most advanced player. The 90-acre fairway encompasses 14 beautiful lakes. Fox Run Golf Links offers 18 holes from sunrise to sunset, and has a club house pro shop, restaurant and bar. Groups can stay at one of the top golf properties in the area, AAA Four Diamond Eaglewood Resort and Spa in Itasca. The Golf Club at Eaglewood is an 18-hole, par-72 championship United States Golf Association-certified course that offers group lessons and golf outings.