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Navigating Obama’s Chicago

Check out the Windy City in purely presidential style.


Barack Obama sightings won’t be quite so frequent in the president-elect’s hometown of Chicago once he moves the wife and kids into the White House. But that doesn’t mean you can’t check out the Windy City in purely presidential style.

Where to stay

Budget
Hyde Park Arms Hotel: If you want to crash in Obama’s South Side ’hood — the lovely Kenmore-Hyde Park — the Hyde Park Arms is the way to do it on the cheap. It’s a clean, safe hotel, providing just the basics. Rooms are leased weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. From $145 US/week; 5316 S. Harper Ave., 773-493-3500.

Mid-range
Hilton Chicago: The landmark downtown hotel is where Obama held his first press conference as the president-elect. The comfortable, classic hotel overlooks Grant Park, where he gave his election night victory speech. From $98/night; 720 S. Michigan Ave., 312-922-4400, www.hilton.com.

Deluxe
The Whitehall Hotel: The historic, surprisingly-large boutique hotel downtown is gorgeously appointed, restored meticulously to its original 1920s grandeur. It’s also a favourite of Obama-supporting celebrities. From $147/night; 105 E. Delaware Pl., 866-753-4081, www.thewhitehallhotel.com.

What to see:

Kenwood-Hyde Park neigh­bourhood: Dominated by the beautiful campus of the University of Chicago (where Obama taught constitutional law), the president-elect’s neighbourhood, Kenwood-Hyde Park, offers a fascinating collection of large homes from the late 19th century; the family resides in a large, red-brick home on Greenwood Avenue.

Learn about that Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building you’re gawking at by taking a walking tour of the area, guided by members of the Chicago Architecture Found­ation ($10, architecture.org). Afterwards, check out the Hyde Park Art Center, the oldest alternative exhibition space in the city; 5020 S. Cornell Ave., 773-324-5520, www.hydeparkart.org.

Lake Michigan shoreline: The Obamas are an active family, and one of their favourite Chicago pastimes is to take in the skyline views and water breezes from one the city’s more than 552 parks, including the South Side’s Promontory Point in Burnham Park (5491 South Shore Dr., www.chicagoparkdistrict.com).

Downtown’s Grant Park, often referred to as the city’s “front yard,” (Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue, www.chicagoparkdistrict.com) is where Obama’s jubilant election night party took place; it includes Millennium Park, featuring numerous public art areas, and the always perfect photo op of Buckingham Fountain.

Sears Tower: Take in the whole of Obama’s hometown from atop the 1,450-foot Sears Tower, the tallest building in North America. On a clear day, visitors on the viewing deck can see for 40 to 50 miles over neighbouring states Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin, or just marvel at Chicago’s stunning architecture; 233 S. Wacker Dr., $12.95, 312-875-9696, www.theskydeck.com.

U.S. Cellular Field: It’s almost essential that the American president is a fan of the great American pastime — baseball. Obama roots for the White Sox, who call the South Side’s U.S. Cellular Field home; 333 W. 35th St., Tel 312-674-1000, chicago.whitesox.mlb.com.

Where to shop


57th Street Books: This is where the president-elect liked to get literary. Now, of course, you can pick up an Obama-penned tome at this cosy, independent South Side bookseller; 1301 E. 57th St., 773-684-1300, semcoop.booksense.com.

J. Crew and The Magnificent Mile: Classic American casual wear is J. Crew’s forte — and a Michelle Obama favourite. The soon-to-be first lady famously wore a sleek yellow J. Crew ensemble on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in October.

The clothier’s outpost is on downtown’s Michigan Avenue, otherwise known as The Magnificent Mile, where shopping — from fashion to antiques to Chicago souvenirs — is serious business. J. Crew, 900 N. Michigan Ave., 312-751-2739, www.jcrew.com; www.themagnificentmile.com.

Urbanest/Anderonville: Chicago is known for its fabulous design sense, and the eco-conscious Urbanest offers the best well-priced modern home furnishings in town. Any piece in their Soho Collection would look stunning in the White House, but if you’re looking to furnish your house (and not spend thousands in shipping costs to get a piece back home), their accessories, including lamps and vases, are equally divine; 5228 N. Clark St., 773-271-1000, www.urbanestliving.com.

After a stop at Urbanest, Andersonville is a North Side neighbourhood worth lingering in; it’s a charming, diverse destination full of independent businesses offering boutique shopping, dining or a pint.

Where to eat:

Budget

MacArthur’s: In his book The Audacity of Hope, Obama reminisces about the turkey legs and dressing at MacArthur’s, a soul food (they prefer to call it “fine Southern cuisine”) icon in the city; 5412 W. Madison St.,773-261-2316, www.macarthursrestaurant.com

Italian Fiesta Pizzeria:
Obama loves the thin-crust pizza so much at this Hyde Park restaurant, the owners will be flown to Washington, D.C., to cook up their pies for his Jan. 20 inauguration;1400 E. 47th St., 773-924-5339.

Expensive:
Topolobampo: Celebrity chef Rick Bayless serves up Sopa Azteca and other Mexican specialties to the soon-to-be first family at this 70-seat, downtown foodie hotspot; 445 N. Clark St., 312-661-1434, www.rickbayless.com, reservations recommended two weeks in advance.

Spiaggia: The site of Bar­ack and Michelle Obama’s so-called first date after winning the White House, Spiaggia is a world-class Italian establishment with views almost as impeccable as the service and cuisine; 980 N. Michigan Ave., 312-280-2750, www.spiaggiarestaurant.com.

Where to go out at night

Green Mill Cocktail Lounge: Chi-Town’s unofficial, Prohibition-era politicians — gangsters — used this jazz club as their headquarters. The scene feels straight out of a James Cagney film; musically, it’s still a spot to find the best jazz in the city; 4802 N. Broadway St., 773-878-5552, www.greenmilljazz.com.

Signature Lounge: This lounge is on the 95th floor of the Hancock Building with breathtaking views of Chicago; 875 N. Michigan Ave., 312-787-9596, www.thesignatureroom.com.

Chicago

• Chicago is divided into four main sections: Downtown (which contains the business district called the Loop), the North Side, the South Side (where Barack Obama lives), and the West Side.

• O’Hare International Airport is 13 miles from downtown Chicago. A taxi costs approximately $30 to 50 US.

• Midway Airport is 10 miles from downtown Chicago. A taxi costs about $30.

• Visit www.choosechicago.com.

 
 
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