Little Italy / University Village
Why we love it
Little Italy/University Village is a living legacy of Chicagos Italian-American past, with homes, restaurants, and shops that have been part of the community for generations. Its also home to University of Illinois at Chicago, infusing the whole area with a youthful energy.
The true heart of the neighborhood is Taylor Street, where youll find long-time restaurants and delis that span generations. You can dig into homemade lasagna, stock up on freshly made breads, enjoy traditional dishes in a classic white-tablecloth joint, and order Italian baked goods by the bagful.
The streets of Little Italy/University Village are also lined with eye-catching architecture and history, from Jane Addams Hull House Museum to The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii and the Notre Dame de Chicago. After you fill up on authentic Italian fare, take a stroll along Lexington Street for an eyeful of Italianate architecture, including the John Coughlan House built in 1871. The neighborhood is also known for its many churches, like Saint Basil and Holy Family.
Explore like a local
Create a picnic with fresh sandwiches and salads from Conte de Savoia, a neighborhood staple since 1948. Hunt for deals at 100-year-old Maxwell Street Market every Sunday. See a statue of Christopher Columbus, made in Italy for the Chicago 1893 Worlds Fair, at Arrigo Park.
Chicago Greeter: free guided tours
Visit The Millennium Park
Millennium Park which was once a railway yard is a must stop for many reasons. Housed in the west of Grant Park, the citys largest park, the Millennium Park rubs shoulders with major cultural institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the John G. Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History.
This 24.5-acre park features Frank Gehrys Pritzker Pavilion and serpentine bridge, sculptor Anish Kapoors 110-ton Cloud Gate and Jaume Plensas Crown Fountain, with its ever-changing array of locals faces. The Lurie Garden has year-round flower displays and monthly garden walks.
We spent some time playing with the refections at the 110-ton structure that captures the surrounding skyscrapers in its mercurial body. The Bean has become synonymous with Chicago and Ms. Peachy wanted to get some photos there, you cant miss doing this in Chicago during your Girls Weekend.
Where To Eat In Little Italy
Ok, theres a lot more to Little Italy than Italian food. Theres a plethora of Asian, some Mexican, some Middle Eastern and of course chains more suited to university students budgets.
I decided to stick with the Italian spots. While learning about the neighborhoods history, the theme that revealed itself to me was its overwhelming resiliency. Its survived- much like the gutsy immigrants who started it all. So I felt it was important to feature as many old-school, independent and family restaurants as I could.
Its incredible for a restaurant to survive its first year, let alone hit its 10th or 20th anniversary. But what makes a restaurant a neighborhood treasure is when it survives decades, passing through the hands of multi-generations. Its mostly hard, thankless work and many following generations would rather not have the headache of continuing the family legacy, so its incredible to find so many spots in Little Italy where thats not the case.
After fighting in World War I, Aniello Fontano opened Carms grocery store that would later morph into two businesses across the street from one another on the corner of Carpenter and Polk Streets.
The original Rosebud was founded in Little Italy on Taylor Street by Alex Dana. A bustling restaurant filled with handsome touches of wood carvings, old school glamor and plenty of photos of celebrity patrons line the walls like Frank Sinatra , Tony Bennett and recently Tom Hanks who declared the baked ziti the best hes ever had!
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Trees And Flowers Are Expertly Chosen To Mirror The Seasons
Have you ever noticed the falling leaves from the deciduous trees in Little Italy around September, the tulips in the spring, or poinsettias in December?
The Little Italy Associations ornamental landscapers make sure to create a feeling of seasonality in the community by changing out flowers and foliage each month.
Conquer Your Fear Of Heights
Sears TowerAs the tallest building in Chicago and the second-tallest in the U.S., the Willis Tower is undoubtedly one of Chicagos biggest attractions. Get up to the 103rd-floor Skydeck for birds eye view of Chicago.
It is pretty popular and if you want to skip the lines, get the $40 Fast Pass ticket that will get you to the top in no time at all. If you dare step on The Ledge, a glass balcony extending four feet outside the 103rd floor of Willis Tower. Your brain stays it is ok but your legs have a hard time moving!
360 ChicagoFormerly known as the John Hancock Observatory, 360 Chicago offers dining, sights and an interactive tour from above the city streets. At 1,000 feet up on the 94th floor, you can see up to 55 miles out and four states. A thrilling new addition is The Tilt, which allows you to step onto an enclosed platform that extends from the building tilts to a 30 degree angle.
Stop for a drink at the bar of the Signature Room, located on the 95th floor of the John Hancock building, which offers equally stunning views without the hassle. On a clear day, youll be able to see all of the city plus Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
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Plan Your Chicago Vacation
Planning your vacation has never been so easy. We have come up with the best and most trusted companies that will give you the best experience possible here on your vacation to the most wonderful city in the World Chicago Ill. We only recommend the best companies so sit back relax and have fun planning you vacation to Chicago. BTW Chicago has some of the best tours in the world!
Girls Weekend Guide To Chicago
The Windy City often tops the list as one of the Best Big Cities in The World! It is known for its architecture and its sports teams, but Chicago is perfect for a girlfriend getaway. There is a great theater scene and you can catch some nice comedy shows at the famous Second City. During summer the city hosts a wide variety of summer festivals in the many parks and outdoor venues.
I dont think I will survive winter in Chicago but Spring and Fall are a great time to visit when the city is less crowded. You can conquer your fears on the skyscrapers and do some shopping on the Magnificent Mile, eat some deep dish pizza, pamper yourselves with spa time at one of the many luxury hotels in the city and catch a show.
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Dinner At Eta In Loews Hotel Chicago
One of my favorite meals in Chicago was our dinner at ETA. ETA Restaurant + Bar inside Loews Hotel Chicago is warm and welcoming. The wood-ensconced dining room captures the essence of Midwestern luxury and takes you back to an era of fine inns and taverns. Ms. Peachy had a mocktail, while I enjoyed a Portland Rosé made with gin, pureed strawberry, black rose liqueur and brut Rosé. ETAs cocktails are not just delicious, they pay tribute to the bustling railway transportation era of yesteryear!
ETA serves traditional American fare but made some custom vegetarian dishes for us in addition to what was on their menu. We enjoyed a custom made flatbread, some truffle mac and cheese, crispy brussels sprouts and bucatini with walnuts and kale. We finished with some blood orange Creme Brulee with vanilla cookie crumbs and hibiscus sorbet and some chocolate mousse served in a jar.
The Oldest House In The Hood
One of my favorite secrets about Little Italy is that the oldest house in the neighborhood the A.W. Pray House, built in 1888 is now a wine bar called M Winehouse.
Its a tiny and adorable Gothic Victorian that has been granted historical status by the city. Stop by, check it out, and enjoy a glass of wine.
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San Diego Firehouse Museum
In July of 2015, the building that once was home to Little Italy Fire Station No. 6 celebrated 100 years and earned historic status.
It was the first station in downtown San Diego, and today is a museum where visitors can see fire fighting equipment and memorabilia from the 1800s including La Jollas very first fire engine.
Recipe Tables At Amici Park
Take a blank sheet of paper and a crayon to Amici Park to get a recipe rubbing or two. Around the park, youll find sculptures of tables with red and white checkered tablecloths that are actually glass mosaics.
On each table, there are sculptures of plates of food like stuffed artichokes and marinara sauce and next to each sculpture is a plaque with the recipe in raised lettering. The installation is called A Recipe For Friendship and was created by Nina Karavasiles in 2001.
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Top Restaurants In University Village/little Italy
The windy city is a cornucopia of modern art, fine dining, cutting edge comedy, and die-hard sports fans. Snap a photo of your reflection in the silver Cloud Gate sculpture at Millennium Park before heading to Grant Park to get hit with the refreshing spray of Buckingham Fountain. There are dozens of museums and theater companies in Chicago, so a cultural experience is never hard to find. Youre sure to laugh your head off at the Second City Theater, the professional launch pad of many famous comedians.
5.0 based on 4 reviews
Enjoy The Chicago Riverwalk And Cruise
If youre looking for breathtaking views of some of Chicagos most gorgeous architecture, you have to take a stroll along the Riverwalk. A series of public walkways offer access to boats and water taxis as well as waterfront cafes and restaurants. Chicago has some of the best Architecture and you have to go on a walking tour or boat tour to appreciate it better.
River CruiseDid you know Chicago is the birthplace of the skyscraper! Partly destroyed by the Great Fire in 1871, the city of Chicago was inspired to entrust the reconstruction of its center to its Institute for Architecture and Urbanism. By equipping the new buildings with steel frames and glass façades.
One of the best ways to learn more about the citys architecture is to join a Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise. You can admire the city skyline while slowly cruising along the river as the expert guides interpret over 50 buildings nestled along the Chicago River.
Known as the L The Chicago MetroTrains are a great way to get around the city, they serve over 140 stations located throughout the city and nearby suburbs. They run on elevated railways, in subways, or on the ground. There are places in the downtown area where you can see the metro train tilt as it turns on the elevated tracks.
Other family friendly things to do in Chicago that we didnt have time for
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National Italian American Sports Hall Of Fame
The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame dates back to 1978, following the enormous success of the Italian American Boxing Hall of Fame. The hall honors Italian American athletes from all sports including baseball, football, boxing and various Olympic sports. The hall boasts more than 200 inductees and features memorabilia from some of the worlds most revered sports figures, such as Vince Lombardi and Mario Andretti. As an added bonus, the hall has raised more than six million dollars in scholarships and charitable donations.
National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame
1431 West Taylor St.
Holy Family Catholic Church
5.0 based on 2 reviews
Reviewed By O6378WFannag – Park Ridge, United States
Ist is located next to the prestigious St Ignatius Prep School. Founded in 1857 by father Damen . The first Jesuit church in Chicago. It is also one of the only 5 public buildings which survived the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. I went there during Open House Chicago and I heard there that it was called “Ellis Island of Midwest”. A lot of Irish-Americans can trace their family tree back to this church which ones was the largest English speaking parish in US .A lot of historical Chicago figures belong or prayed at this parish .Unfortunately, due to shortage of funds to keep this church open, it is not so easy to get there to visit it. Check mass schedule.
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See Some Murals And Public Art
It was too early in the season to check out the Chicago Riverwalk, Navy Pier or River Cruise. We missed the opening by a week but we made up for it by going on a tour with Teresa Peek from Tour through a Lens, who took us on a tour to see all cool murals around downtown and gave us an insight into some of the architecture and other art in the city. The tour was one of my favorite things to do in Chicago!
Public art is plenty in Chicago. If you like art, allow for some time to track some of these amazing murals and sculptures during your Chicago Girls Weekend. We saw some vibrant murals, stopped at the Rookery a building redesigned by Frank Lloyd Wright, we saw the Tiffany glass mosaic panels at Marquette building lobby and the beautiful and elegant Palmer House. Teresa shared with us her secret Batman spot, you can see it here and more of the art we saw in Chicago including Picassos unnamed statue located in Daley Plaza and Alexander Calders 53-foot red Flamingo.
Relo’s Board Game & Dessert Cafe
5.0 based on 1 reviews
Relo’s Board Game & Dessert Cafe is the largest board game cafe in Chicago. We’re board games, desserts, coffee, all in one! Come join us for a fun day of board games with family and friends, and enjoy a wide variety of desserts including waffles, sundaes, cakes, and much more!
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Best Spots To See The Chicago Skyline View
If you want to get some photos with views of the Chicago skyline, you can see them from outside the Alder Planetarium. It was pretty windy when we were there, I just snapped one photo before heading inside the Planetarium. When the weather is nice and sunny, it is a great place to see a sunset.
Chicago is also called The City in The Garden, and has more than 7,600 acres of parklands over 570 individual parks. Summer is a great time to visit the Windy City but Spring and Fall are ideal times since it wont be crowded. You can see brilliantly hued trees against Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline during Autumn and the best views are from the top!
Thanks for capturing these photos for us Amit Thakral
The best spots to see the views of Chicago from the top are the Skydeck at Willis Tower and the 360 Chicago Observation deck. Rooftops bars in Chicago offer some great views as well but since Ms. Peachy was not 21 yet, we didnt make it to any this time.
We loved our mother daughter Spring break trip to Chicago. See here for other fun activities to do in Chicago with kids in Spring.
Secret Dining Room At Davanti Enoteca
Ask for Table 80. You have to have at least 810 friends to do so, but if its available, youll get to enjoy your own personal hideaway in the restaurants secret dining room.
If youre looking for a table for 2, however, ask to be seated on the patio. There are twinkling fairy lights in the branches of the overhanging olive branches, and youll swear youre back in the old country.
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Where To Stay In Chicago
We stayed at The Blackstone, a historic hotel that is now managed by Marriotts Hotels Autograph division. We loved that it was located onCultural Mile and surrounded by some of the citys most legendary cultural attractions, including The Art Institute of Chicago, Adler Planetarium . We had the Heart Our Art package which included In-Room Canvas with Paints, and Coloring Book with Colored Pencils. Perfect amenity for a Girls trip if you ask me!
The family-friendly Loews Hotel Chicago and Four Seasons Hotel Chicago are other great options if you are looking to do be near Michigan Avenue shopping areas and the restaurant scene in Chicago.
See here for other fun outdoor activities in Chicago and a Visual story of Weekend Getaway in Chicago
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San Diego Macaroni Factory
One of the secrets about Little Italy that I like to share is that history can be found right underfoot. Just outside of Hyde Edwards Salon, where the historic San Diego Macaroni Factory stood, is a piece of original sidewalk that marked the location of this Little Italy business.
The factory is long gone, but the stamp itself is a designated San Diego historical landmark.
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What Residents Say About Little Italy
I could live anywhere in the city, but I love Taylor Street cant help but to look down the street and see how it is now and what it used to be. Most of the people have left, but Im still here because I love it. My neighbors are students, but I can relate to them even though Im in my 70s. When I was a kid, there were seven or eight grocery stores on this street but now there arent any its kind of sad, but things are changing.
My fondest memories are of Sheridan Park. Even though its a new park, I remember the old park. Its the camaraderie wed play football, baseball, basketball and 16-inch softball there and played on our own without any parents. We played on dirt and grass, no artificial turf. My dad came here from Italy in 1939 and never left and neither have I.