Michigan Avenue (Chicago), Illinois
The Magnificent Mile is Chicago's premier shopping district. In fact, it's one of the premier shopping districts in the nation, right up there with Fifth Avenue in New York and Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. The Magnificent Mile is the nickname given to the stretch of Michigan Avenue that runs from the Chicago River to the south, up to Oak Street to the north. And those boundaries are important. On the south, the Chicago River is the border between the Loop (what Chicago calls its downtown) and the Near North Side community area, which the Magnificent Mile runs through. The Near North Side is one of Chicago's most affluent neighborhoods. Michigan Avenue serves as the boundary to two of these neighborhoods with River North to the west and Streeterville to the east.
The Magnificent Mile is visited by tourists and local shoppers alike. Many chains can be found along the stretch. In fact, the Michigan Avenue address is one that many retailers pine for, so many chains choose that for a flagship location. You'll also find plenty of department stores and several indoor malls along the stretch as well. The area is also known for its abundance of hotels and restaurants. There are also numerous high-rise residential and office towers many serving advertising agencies and media firms. The wide variety of architecture itself is a major attraction along the Magnificent Mile. It is not uncommon to see highly decorative turn of the century towers standing side by side next to modern skyscrapers. And these are still some of the tallest buildings in the world. Yet on the ground floor Michigan Avenue still provides Chicago with a Main Street feel. Other communities in Chicago with a Main Street feel worth checking out include Gold Coast, Old Town, Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, and Andersonville.
We start our tour of the Magnificent Mile at the Michigan Avenue Bridge otherwise known as the DuSable Bridge, which carries traffic over the Chicago River. From here, we will continue north along Michigan Avenue. Michigan Avenue has been dubbed the Magnificent Mile due to its upscale shopping.
Here's a view of the Chicago River taken from the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The Chicago River separates the downtown area, known as the Loop, from the affluent Near North Side to the north. The Magnificent Mile runs through the Near North Side. On the left is the Streeterville community located in the Near North Side. On the right is the Loop.
You'll find plenty of interesting architecture all over the city. The Trump International Hotel and Tower is the second tallest tower in Chicago and fourth tallest in the US. The corncob shaped buildings on the left are called Marina City and were completed in 1964 as part of an urban renewal project.
This is a view looking due north from the Michigan Avenue Bridge towards the direction we will be heading in. You can see the beautiful sculptures on the bridge tender houses below. The building on the left with the clock tower is the Wrigley Building and was completed in 1921 by the chewing gum magnate William Wrigley. The neo-Gothic building on the right is the Chicago Tribune Building.
But let's turn our attention to where "Main Street" is located, since that is what this site is all about. Here you can see some pedestrians walking by some shops and a cafe on the ground floor of the Chicago Tribune Building. Speaking of impressive architecture, the office building is very reminiscent of standing outside a French gothic cathedral.
You'll find major high-end stores and major chains. And most major department stores, such as Nordstrom's, have a location along Michigan Avenue.
The Shops at North Bridge is one of the indoor malls located along Michigan Avenue. Nordstrom's is an anchor of this mall.
In Chicago, many of the roads, such as this part of Michigan Avenue, run underground. The stairs pictured here head down to such an underground passage. From there, you can head to the Navy Pier, a short walk away. The Navy Pier sits on the water and features attractions such as shops, dining, museums, and rides.
A view of the east side of Michigan Avenue. Everything east of Michigan Avenue along this stretch is part of the Streeterville community and home to some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world.
A view looking southbound along Michigan Avenue. Across the street you can see the exterior of the Shops at North Bridge, which has an adjacent Marriott hotel. At the top of the picture, you can see the Trump International Hotel and Tower rising above the other buildings.
At the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Ohio Street are more boutiques tucked away in this neoclassical building.
You can find all kinds of attractions along Michigan Avenue, including street performers who pose as living statues.
Here's a structure with retail on multiple floors. You have small boutiques on the ground floor with the big box stores, TJ Maxx and Marshalls on the upper floors.
And this is another view of that same building, this time from Michigan Avenue and Ontario Street. From this angle, you can see that the Grand Lux Cafe occupies the top floor.
Here's a view looking west on Ontario Street. A large skyscraper rises in the distance. The James was the boutique hotel where I stayed when I was in Chicago.
Let's take a brief detour down Ontario Street. This is the same building we had been looking at previously. This time at the intersection of Ontario and Rush Street. Inside, you can see the escalators to get up to the larger department stores on the upper floors.
Here's a view looking back east towards Michigan Avenue along Ontario Street. The small Mexican restaurant belies the large scale of the tall buildings around it. Su Casa was founded by the same people who founded the original Pizzeria Uno nearby.
Oh yeah, here's that same building again. Yes, it also has a movie theater inside of it as well.
We continue down Ohio Street as we circle around the block. Eataly is a huge food market. By the way this area we are exploring now is called the River North community. Basically, the area west of Michigan Avenue and north of the Chicago River is River North.
At the intersection of Ontario Street and Ohio Street is the Bloomingdale's Home Store. Originally known as the Medinah Temple, the structure was built in 1912 by the Shriners in the Moorish Revival style of architecture. It's easy to see how powerful an industry retail has become in the area when you see what the building's current use is.
Across the street is the original location of Pizzeria Uno, a well-preserved building when you consider the other structures towering over it, including the parking garage behind it.
We make it back to Michigan Avenue. At the intersection of Michigan and Ontario Street is the Burberry Store. The five-story location is the second largest in the U.S. You can see the the building features the unique Burberry design. It just goes to show the power of having an address on Michigan Avenue.
Wide sidewalks provide plenty of room for pedestrians and shoppers. Also when I was there taking pictures, the tulips in the planters were in full bloom. Also notice the area has plenty of directories, some with ads featuring supermodels.
We continue to make our way north along Michigan Avenue. At the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Erie Street is a multi-story Crate & Barrel store.
Looking north along Michigan Avenue, you can see the well-maintained planters and the directories. Also, high-end chains like Cartier line the streets. The Allerton Hotel on the right-side of the picture was built in 1924 and was designated a Chicago Landmark.
More chains and more shoppers along Michigan Avenue. And of course, this is where Apple would put their store.
At the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Huron Street is Chicago Place. This used to be an indoor mall but will be converted into office space. Fortunately, the bottom floor exterior retail will remain.
Here's another view of Chicago Place. You can see the Saks Fifth Avenue is still a tennant. We're looking at the building from the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Superior Street. Yes, the streets around here are named after the Great Lakes. Also, the east-west streets along here are pretty close together, so we have been coming across a lot of intersections.
The Disney Store celebrates Chicago's nickname as The Windy City.
At the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Superior Street is the Neiman Marcus department store.
Across the street is Tiffany's a bastion of major upscale shopping districts just like the Magnificent Mile.
We come to the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Chicago Avenue where we find the Chicago Water Tower, the second oldest water tower in the United States. The castle-like structure was built in 1869 and is today home to an art gallery. Michigan Avenue curves around the imposing structure. Water Tower Place on the right is an indoor mall that gets its name from the nearby water tower.
Across the street, the Chicago Avenue Pumping Station was also built in 1869 for the purpose of drawing water in from Lake Michigan. Together with the Water Tower, the two are contributing properties to the Old Chicago Water Tower District. They were two of the few structures to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. To the right, we can see more of Streeterville's high-rise apartments.
If we turn our heads left, we can see more stores down Chicago Avenue.
We can make a circle around the Water Tower and head up Tower Court. Here we find a horse-drawn buggy. The beautifully-restored historic architecture makes this a favorite destination for many visitors to Chicago.
Here's another view of the Water Tower facing east from Tower Court. In the ninteenth century, it was not uncommon to decorate structures that had otherwise industrial uses.
This time we're looking at the tower from the corner of Pearson Street and Tower Court. In this view, you can see both the Chicago Water Tower and the Chicago Avenue Pumping Station to its left.
And from that same spot, if we turn our head just to the right, we see a location of Hershey's Chocolate World. Did I mention this was a favorite spot for tourists?
We make it back to Michigan Avenue. This is a view of the corner of Michigan Avenue and Pearson Street just across the street from the Water Tower Place mall that we saw in a previous picture.
And if we go across the street and inside, here is an interior shot of the Water Tower Place mall.
Just north of that, at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Chestnut Street is the John Hancock Center. It is currently the fourth-tallest building in Chicago, and the seventh-tallest in the United States. When the tower was built in 1968, it was the second tallest building in the world and the tallest outside New York City.
Now look up. From the 95th floor restaurant, diners can look out at Chicago and Lake Michigan. The Observatory (360 Chicago), has a 360 degree view of the city, up to four states, and a distance of over 80 miles.
Here's another view of the ground floor. As you can see, the retail here is in a sunken plaza. You have to go down to go up to the observatory. There's also a Best Buy and a Cheesecake Factory. The trolley shaped booth sells tickets to bus tours. In the background you can see the outside to the Water Tower Place mall.
Directly across the street from the John Hancock Center is the Fourth Presbyterian Church built in 1912 in the Gothic Revival style. It is definitely a marked contrast from the enormous tower just across the street. Also, this is one of the few stretches along the Magnificent Mile where retail is not prominent.
Here is another view of the Fourth Presbyterian Church. And just to the north is the 900 North Michigan Avenue Shops, the third indoor mall we have seen on our trip. This one is anchored by Bloomingdale's.
We cross over Delaware Place (that's the name of the east-west cross street) and find ourselves in front of the 900 North Michigan Avenue Shops.
This is an interior view of the 900 North Michigan Avenue Shops. As you can tell, even from the inside, yes, Bloomingdale's is the main anchor.
We head back outside and find more luxury shops just across the street.
And just another block north across Walton Street is The Drake Hotel, built in 1920 in the Italian Renaissance style. We're actually looking at the backside here but it faces Oak Street, Lake Shore Drive, Lake Michigan, and Oak Street Beach on the other side.
We make it to the northern end of Michigan Avenue and an end to our tour of the Magnificent Mile. But our tour of Chicago's retail districts doesn't end there. We have just reached Oak Street. Turn right and continue heading west along Oak Street for more upscale shopping. We feature this community as well over on our Gold Coast page.
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