Chicago is a massive city full of sights, sounds, and entertainment. When you add “Chicago” to your list of places to visit, you’re going to have to be a little more specific.
One of the more overlooked but impressive areas is the Illinois Medical District (IMD). Its name is accurate since the healthcare facilities in this community are reshaping the field of medicine for the whole world.
But there’s so much more beyond medical buildings to keep you entertained if you find yourself here. Whether you’re working, visiting, or living in the area, check out these nine unique activities in the IMD.
1. Polk Pink Line Station
The first thing you’ll want to do is familiarize yourself with the transportation, like the local train station that’s a section of the Chicago Transit Authority. Recently upgraded, the Polk Pink Line Station is part of the area’s history.
Railway stations like Polk opened in 1896 to connect the country together. Next to the Rush University Medical Center in the IMD, this one is an “L” station. The letter designation means it’s an elevated railway as opposed to a subway or ground train.
Although there have been some renovations, the Polk Pink Line building is almost unchanged from its original design. To get around the IMD, this is the easiest method of transportation.
2. The Cuisines on Taylor Street
Taylor Street is one of the main roads that cuts through the Illinois Medical District. As you can imagine, it’s a hotspot of the best restaurants.
You’ll find chains and local cafes, bars, and diners with a wide variety of cuisine options. No matter your budget or what you’re craving, Taylor Street has the food you want.
But if you’re a foodie looking for the best meals in the area, check out this article by Chicago’s Eater newsletter. It’s a guide to the top well-known and overlooked restaurants in the area.
Listen to the pros. They know where to go!
3. Explore the History
Dubbed The Windy City, you’ll want to learn how the nickname stuck and the history behind it.
Chicago was part of Prohibition and has a lot of gripping history, both good and bad. The city has been part of creating the political, cultural, and economic infrastructure of America.
As the largest city in the Midwestern area, there’s a lot to learn. Luckily, there are dozens of excursions for the rabid history buff. Many of these lie in the IMD. These self-guided walking tours are perfect for anyone on a time crunch.
4. The Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago building is both a museum and an academic institution. Take the Pink Line about 3.5 miles from the center of the IMD, and you’ll be able to explore this impressive historical landmark.
Founded by a group of artists back in 1879, it’s been a hubbub of creative activity for nearly a century and a half. New exhibits come and go regularly, so check the website if you’re looking for something specific. Certain displays require a special ticket you’ll need to purchase in advance.
The Art Institute is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays but is open during the weekend.
5. Millennium Park
Located less than five miles from the center of the IMD, Millennium Park is an urban cultural icon.
The many features of the park will keep you busy for days.
But if you’re on a tight time frame, make sure not to miss these must-sees:
- Mega-corporation Boeing regularly sponsors galleries and exhibitions for your entertainment and education
- Crown Fountain has water features to play in during the hot summer months
- Lurie Garden is a “secret” nature oasis amid the big concrete city
- Schedule bike tours at McDonald’s Cycle Center
- Don’t miss Wrigley Square’s famous monuments and sculptures
A stroll around Millennium Park is the ultimate way to get your exercise, fresh air, and culture all in one trip.
6. Shedd Aquarium
After you visit Millennium Park, stop by Shedd Aquarium to learn about the world’s aquatic life and Chicago’s ecosystem. It’s adjacent to the park and an impressive attraction!
The regular admission hours have changed post-COVID. We highly advise that you buy your tickets online and specify a time and date for your visit.
Make sure you check out the special exhibits, like the nocturnal ocean creature watches. The aquarium stays open late for guests to see what these animals are like during their nighttime adventures.
7. Skydeck Chicago
One of the biggest attractions in the area is the Skydeck at Willis Tower. From here, you get a 360-degree view of the massive city of Chicago.
If you’re brave enough to stand on The Ledge of the Skydeck, prepare to have your mind transformed. The view takes you out 4.3 feet over the solid floor, where you’ll stand in a glass box hanging out 1,353 feet above the ground.
It’s a view you can’t get anywhere else in the world. The building is already the tallest in the Western Hemisphere, and the glass ledge makes this one of the most popular activities in the city. Skydeck recommends purchasing tickets in advance.
8. Grant Park
A few miles from the heart of the IMD is the famous Grant Park. This venue opened over 80 years ago. Since then, it has become a major name in the world of music. You’ll find festivals going on there every summer.
In the past, Grant Park was a way to increase morale during the Great Depression. The concerts were so well-received that by 1935, they were a tradition.
For summertime visits, be sure to check the concert lineup. Every summer, the festival holds ten weeks of different types of cultural and musical community engagement.
9. Chicago Riverwalk
Take the Pink Line to the Riverwalk before you leave the area. You won’t regret it!
This public area starts at the southern point of the main branch of the widely-known Chicago River. You’ll find an assortment of local and chain bars and restaurants, rentals to take a boat or kayak on the river, and more.
To really get a feel for the culture and atmosphere of the area, a visit to the Riverwalk is a must.
Anyone who’s never been to the Illinois Medical District might imagine it’s a stuffy, dull healthcare area. Sure, parts of it are dedicated to providing patients with the best medical treatment in the country! But that’s not all the IMD is good for.
If you find yourself visiting the IMD or moving to the area, be sure to explore these nine unique activities. You’ll be entertained, and your opinion of the city will definitely change!
Brittany is the Assistant Property Manager at Atrio and a Senior Marketing Ambassador with Marquette Management. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations from Illinois State University and just moved to the city from the northern burbs. She enjoys exploring local restaurants and shops and taking her dog Lady for walks by the lake. Brittany has worked at four different Marquette communities and is excited to meet her new neighbors in the IMD.