Gold Coast (Chicago), Illinois
The Gold Coast region is one of the wealthiest in America and along with nearby Streeterville to the south is often compared to the Upper East Side in Manhatten. The neighborhood is part of Chicago's Near North Side Community Area and is just north of the Michigan Avenue retail district. What I found interesting about the area myself, was that it also had one of the only Main Street areas that I happened to stumble upon simply by luck. I had been in the area taking pictures of Michigan Avenue for the site. When I reached the northern end, I made a left on Oak Street and continued west. Oak Street itself felt like an extension of Michigan Avenue with its upscale boutiques and high-end restaurants. I then came to Rush Street and made a right. Rush Street was a narrow road with a village like feel full of bustling restaurants and shops. At this point, I realized I was far off from my original destination and was now in a whole different part of Chicago. A little research and asking around and I discovered that this was the Gold Coast community.
The Gold Coast area today is made up of large high-rise residential towers. The coast part of the name comes from its proximity to Lake Michigan. The southern border of the Gold Coast is Oak Street and is one of the major commercial streets in the area. Rush Street and State Street are two other commercial streets but they run mostly north and south, albeit Rush Street is a bit more diagnoal. The heart of the Gold Coast is the intersection formed by Rush Street, State Street, and Bellevue Place. The Oak Street commercial district extends between Rush Street to the west and Michigan Avenue to the east. But all of these areas, in a way, form one continuous commercial district. You could window shop continuously from the loop (Chicago's downtown) all the way up Michigan Avenue, turn left on Oak Street, be in the Gold Coast, and then turn right on Rush Street, and then continue north along State Street. Other communities in Chicago with a Main Street feel worth checking out include Old Town, Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, and Andersonville.
We start our tour of Chicago's Gold Coast right where we left off from our tour of Michigan Avenue—at the intersection of Oak Street and Michigan Avenue. This is a view looking east on Oak Street. The skyscraper in the background is the Waldorf Astoria Chicago.
Oak Street is known for its upscale shopping not unlike Michigan Avenue. While Michigan Avenue runs north and south, Oak Street runs east and west. We will be travelling west on Oak Street away from Michigan Avenue and away from Lake Michigan. Also, Oak Street forms the southern boundary of the Gold Coast neighborhood.
This is a view looking east in the direction we had just come from. In the distance in the far right of the picture, you can see a bit of the park that borders Lake Michigan and Lake Shore Drive.
Here are some more of the high-end shops you can find along Oak Street. In the background are some of the older high-rise residential towers in the area.
Shoppers stroll along Oak Street. A stand is set up, probably for valet parking in the evening.
More high-end boutiques across the street. Along some parts of Oak Street, you'll find retail on the second floor as well as on the ground floor.
A wide variety of architectural styles and wide sidewalks. Tall skyscrapers rise in the background.
The Esquire was originally a movie theater that opened in 1938. In 2006 it was gutted and turned into retail space and the Del Frisco's Steak House. The sign and some details were retained.
Heres another view along the north side of Oak Street. The Esquire sign is still a prominent feature along this stretch.
The skyscraper just to the right of the Esquire sign in this picture is One Magnificent Mile, just to give you an idea of how close we are to Michigan Avenue, which goes by that nickname.
A shopper takes a well-deserved break. Although we put Gold Coast and Michigan Avenue as two different pages on our site, you could walk continously between the two and window shop nonstop all the way down into Chicago's downtown, otherwise known as The Loop. So, yeah, you'll probably want to take a break. And drink lots of water.
We make it to out first intersection after Michigan. This is the corner of Oak Street and Rush Street. Rush Street is one of the area's Main Streets. Also notice the directory on the left side of the screen? It's decorated with oak leaves.
Here's a view of Barneys at the southwest corner of Rush Street and Oak Street. In the background is the Waldorf Astoria that we saw in the first picture.
This is a view looking south on Rush Street. Technically, if we head south of Oak Street, we're leaving the Gold Coast area, but since there is some retail and activity down here we'll break the rules and take a slight detour. Shall we?
Shoppers walk past the stores and a man waits at a stand. Again I'm assuming that he is a valet attendant.
Here's a view looking north at an Urban Outfitters on the northeast corner of Rush Street and Walton Street. In the background are Gold Coast high-rises.
And on the southwest corner of Rush Street and Walton Street we see the Waldorf Astoria. This time we see the base of the building. It too features retail at the ground level.
Across the street on Rush Street, south of Walton are more boutiques and restaurants.
If you go a little further south on Rush Street, you hit Wabash Avenue. From here, I was able to take this zoomed in shot of the Trump International Hotel and Tower, second tallest building in Chicago.
We turn around now and head back up to Oak Street and back into the Gold Coast. Here is a view of the northeast corner of Oak Street and Rush Street.
This is a view looking northwest on Rush Street. You can see high-rises in the background along with construction cranes. Many high-rises were going up at the time I was here.
Here is a view of the east side of Rush Street. The skyscraper in the background on the right is 900 North Michigan, which is located on the Magnificent Mile and is made up of offices, condos, the Four Seasons Hotel, and an indoor mall on its lower floors.
This is another shot of the same stretch of Rush Street, this time facing southbound. I just like the two story Starbucks with the balcony. Rush Street is an odd street for the area in that it runs diagonal unlike the other streets, and it is also very narrow, giving the area a more dense village feel.
Across the street, you'll find Hugo's Frog Bar with plenty of outdoor seating. This part of town features a wide array of dining options.
The Thompson Chicago Hotel is located in the heart of the Gold Coast at the corner of Rush Street and Bellevue Place.
Across the street is another restaurant where there is also plenty of outdoor seating. This building is much shorter than the others around it. It's also on a thin strip of land with Rush Street, Bellevue Avenue, and State Street forming three sides of a triangle.
And if we stay on Rush Street and cross north over Bellevue Avenue we come across yet another large restaurant. Okay, now I'm getting hungry.
This lady may be ready to take my reservation. Here's a view looking south in the direction we came from. If you look carefully, you can see Barneys in the distance on the right side of the picture.
Across the street is Mariano Park, formed by the small triangle of land where Bellevue Avenue, Rush Street, and State Street meet. This is probably closest to the heart of the Gold Coast commercial area.
Here's a closer view of Mariano Park. The park features a fountain, a Prairie-style pavilion, and plenty of seating. The park is named for Louis Mariano, a reporter and editor for the Chicago Daily News who spent time in the area.
A couple checks out their dining options at an Italian restaurant along Rush Street. This is close to the northern tip of Rush Street before it merges with State Street.
Here is a view of shops and restaurants along the west side of State Street. While Oak Street ran east and west, State Street runs north and south. Rush Street was a diagonal street, which is what gave us some of the odd shaped blocks back there.
We turn around and get a view of where we had just been. From here we can now see the Magnificent Mile skyline, including One Magnificent Mile, the John Hancock Center, and 900 Michigan Avenue.
We continue still further north and look back south and can still see the tops of the skyscrapers in the distance. We can also see the Thompson Chicago Hotel rising up in the heart of the Gold Coast district. Also, something I haven't pointed out too much on our tour yet—historic architecture.
Across the street on the other side of State Street and just north of Elm Street are some more shops and even a yoga studio.
Slightly further north are some fast casual establishments along with some older residential towers in the background.
We make it to the intersection of State Street and Division Street and therefore come near the end of our tour. Division Street is the northern boundary of the Gold Coast.
But if we turn left and head west on Division Street, we find some more shops and restaurants. From this point we continue down Division Street and up Wells Street to the Old Town section of Chicago. You can check out that page on our site as well.
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