Have you ever wondered what Chicago looks like from above? What about that building you’ve passed a bunch of times, but have never been in. Now is your chance to get a look at over 200 buildings throughout the city…for free.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve lived in Chicago city proper for about nine years now. I’ve passed by numerous buildings that I’ve always been curious about. I’ve been inside many iconic Chicago buildings, but as a city known for it’s architecture, I wanted to see more.
In 2014, my husband and I learned about a great event called Open House Chicago, where you get to go inside many buildings you otherwise would not have the chance to do, including some spaces and club houses not typically open to the public. Our first year, we spent downtown exploring gems like the Allerton Hotel, where we saw Michigan Avenue from above, and the Railway Exchange Building, a beautiful home to famous architecture firms. The second year, we got out of downtown to see a few churches in Ukrainian Village, but we didn’t miss the opportunity to view Grant Park from the Aon Building.
If you’ve never participated in Open House Chicago before, I highly recommend that you check it out. It will give you a behind-the-scenes look into what makes this city truly beautiful. Here’s three tips to help as you begin to plan your Open House Chicago weekend.
Before Open House begins, the Chicago Architecture Foundation (our gracious hosts) releases a list of all buildings that will be open for viewing. This year, there’s 200 buildings to choose from. Of course, there’s no way you can hit all of them in a weekend, but it helps to plan your route ahead of time so you can see everything you’d like!
One of the best kept secrets, outside of actually attending Open House, is that you can volunteer. But why volunteer for a free event. Well, if you intend on hitting many of the downtown sites, you can likely expect to wait in line. Rough, I know. BUT if you volunteer, you can get a priority pass for free. Typically, you’d have to buy these VIP passes if you want to skip the line, but if you have four hours to spare over OHC weekend, this is definitely worth the time.
Plus, if you volunteer, you get to spend time and learn more about another building. Our first year volunteering, we were assigned to St. Volodymyr Ukranian Orthodox Cathedral, steps away from our old apartment. Four hours seemed to fly by when you’re spending time in a beautiful place!
Explore A Neighborhood You’ve Never Seen Before
Another reason, among the many, that I love OHC is that it gives you a chance to explore a part of Chicago you may not have been before. You can find gems on the far south side to explore and head north as far as Evanston to see even more. As much fun as it is to see all the iconic buildings in the Loop, there’s so much more to the city.
That being said, if it’s your first year participating in OHC, I’d suggest at least spending one day exploring downtown. It’s truly magical to walk into various skyscrapers, theaters and more, to see all the hustle and bustle of downtown from a completely different angle.
- McCormick Bridgehouse Museum / Downtown
- Railway Exchange Building / Downtown
- Chicago Temple / Downtown
- Auditorium Theater/ Downtown
- Metropolitan Club At Willis (Sears) Tower / Downtown
- Berger Park North Mansion / Edgewater
- Holy Name Cathedral / Gold Coast
- University Of Chicago Rockefeller Memorial Chapel / Hyde Park
- Portage Theater / Portage Park
- Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church / Lakeview