5 Chicago Neighborhoods Every Shopper Must Visit

29 October 2015

Shopping in Chicago can be a daunting task. With so many great areas to choose from, it's difficult to know where to get started. Each neighborhood has its own little culture and vibe, which influences the retail opportunities you'll find there. But to have the most rewarding experience, here are five neighborhoods every shopper should find his or herself in.
Source: Mike Steele
Magnificent Mile (Downtown)
When people think of Chicago, a few iconic landmarks come to mind: The Sears Tower (or for non-locals, The Willis Tower), the bean-shaped Cloud Gate in Millennium Park, and Michigan Avenue. That is why this history-packed shopping strip is usually at the top of most visitors' lists, and for good reason. North Michigan Avenue, affectionately called the Magnificent Mile, stretches from the Chicago River to Oak Street. You won't find too many residents strolling along these city streets; the area caters mostly to tourists. With over 460 mid-range and high-end shops with storefronts of some of the world's leading department stores like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's, this area offers some of the city's best window shopping. For the avid fashionista, luxury boutiques like Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana and Vera Wang are aplenty. 

A trip to the Mag Mile isn't complete without a visit to Water Tower Place (835 N Michigan), an 8-level shopping plaza named for the nearby historic Water Tower, which was one of the only buildings to withstand the great Chicago Fire of 1871. This premiere shopping structure has nearly 100 stores, ranging from Macy's and CUSP by Neiman Marus to Forever 21 and Victoria's Secret. One could easily spend a single day exploring this place alone!
Source: Katherine Hughes
State Street (The Loop)
Perhaps considered by many to be the Mag Mile's little sister, State Street is lined with department flagships as well as popular boutiques and retail chains. State Street is located smack dab in the middle of the famous Chicago Loop, called such to describe the route of the elevated “el” rail tracks that circumvent the downtown area. The clatter of the El can been seen and heard from most spots along the street, adding to its urban charm. With stores like Gap, Sephora, Urban Outfitters, H&M and Nordstrom Rack, you can find something that will please almost everyone. Although still heavily populated by tourists, it’s not uncommon for Chicago residents to make this a designated shopping trip since it is often passed while commuting to and from work.

One of the most easily recognizable stores on State Street is Macy’s (111 N State), which occupies the historic Marshall Field’s building. During the holidays, Macy’s continues the tradition of Marshall Field’s by decorating its windows with whimsical displays, which often follow a storyline that unfolds as you walk along the outside of the building. It’s truly magical to behold, and well worth a trip during the year’s busiest shopping season.
Source: David Wilson
Armitage Avenue (Lincoln Park)
Further north from downtown in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood is an area lined with some of the best boutiques unique to the city. In Lincoln Park, the skyscrapers common downtown are replaced by brownstone townhouses lined with Hackberry trees. It is slightly more difficult to discern the tourists from the locals, as the area is known for attracting affluent young professionals. This neighborhood’s best shopping route makes an “L” shape, heading east from Armitage at Racine and then north on Halsted from Armitage to Belden. You might have the urge to stop in every shop, but if your trip must be kept short, try starting with All She Wrote (825 W Armitage) for cute stationery and paper goods, Vosges Haut Chocolate (951 W Armitage) for luxurious truffles and chocolate bars, Second Time Around (823 W Armitage) for affordable high-fashion on consignment and Lori’s (824 W Armitage) for one of the widest selections of shoes you will ever see.

Armitage isn’t just a hot spot for shopping; this area also plays host to some of the city’s best eats. If you can, make time to sink your teeth into a mouth-watering burger (Butcher and the Burger, 1021 W Armitage) or a sweet treat of delicious doughnuts (Glazed and Infused, 939 W Armitage) or homemade italian ice (Annette’s Italian Ice, 924 W Armitage) that you won’t find anywhere else in this world. 
Source: Robina
Southport Corridor (Lakeview)
To revisit my previous familial analogy, the Southport Corridor is akin to Armitage Avenue’s older sister. Although this area has the same trendy vibe as Armitage, it’s a bit more mature. The neighborhood is largely home to young families - you’ll often see ladies decked out in Lululemon athletic apparel jogging with babies in strollers - and draws a much more local clientele. The block offers a large selection of popular retailers, such as Anthropologie, Free People, and Athleta. But you can skip right past those and head into the many fabulous Chicago-native shops and boutiques. Keep an eye out for Southport Grocery and Cafe (3552 N Southport) whose shelves are stocked with locally-produced finds, Krista K. (3458 N Southport), whose racks are filled with upscale women’s clothing from emerging designers, and M2 Boutique (3527 N Southport) whose walls are decorated with affordable hand-crafted accessories. 

Southport Corridor is also a great place to grab a latte, a seat on a patio, and a great vantage point for people watching. Try Julius Meinl (3601 N Southport) for a quality cup of coffee and a wide selection of pastries, and enjoy watching Chicagoans bop in and out of some of the city’s best local businesses. 
Source: Kevin Zolkiewicz
Clark Street (Andersonville)
One of my personal favorite places to shop is in Andersonville along Clark Street. Andersonville is unlike any other part of the city. In fact, the area doesn’t look like much until you reach this quaint section of independent novelty and furniture shops and restaurants. At about 8 miles from the Loop, it’s a bit of a hike for both locals and tourists, but the eclectic charm of this section of the city is well worth the adventure. The pace is slightly slower this far north and moderately busy. As you wander in and out of these shops, you’ll get the sense that someone collected everything from your grandparents’ rummage sales and transported it all here. Shops that should top any shopper’s must-visit list include Roost (5634 N Clark) for antiques and vintage relics you might find at a small, Midwestern town flea market, Brown Elephant (5404 N Clark) for a huge thrift shop housed in an old vaudeville theater, Scout (5221 N Clark) for vintage furniture on the industrial side, and finally Brimfield (5219 N Clark) for mounds of aged flannel, upholstered home furnishings and timeless trinkets. 

Before you depart from Andersonville, make sure you stop in at Andersonville Wine and Spirits (5201 N Clark) for one of the city’s most stellar selections of liquors, beer and, of course, wine. 

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19 comments

  1. I've heard such great things about Chicago! love your guide, I really need to get there.

    Best,
    Sarah

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    1. Thank you, Sarah! Let us know if you ever decide to visit. I have plenty of suggestions! :)

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  2. There's so much shopping to do in Chicago! It's been about five years since I've been there, so I'd love to get back and hit the shops! I especially remember the Magnificent Mile!

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    1. SO MUCH SHOPPING! It really can be a shopper's paradise. And I didn't even bring up the wonderful little boutiques in the Wicker Park and Bucktown area!

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  3. These are all very useful. I have never been to Chicago, but it's a place l have often thought of visiting. I think shopping at cute little stationeries would be my favorite as l have totally lost my love for clothes shopping. Handbags not so much yet :-)

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    1. Thank you Fede! I couldn't agree with you more. Some of my favorite shops in Chicago are ones that offer little handmade greeting cards or gifts.

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  4. Very cool! I visited Chicago last year but I didn't do any shopping. Will have to check some of these places out on my next visit!

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    1. Thanks Dareia! There's definitely so much more to do in Chicago beyond shopping, so I'm not surprised! But sometimes it's fun to do a little window shopping. :)

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  5. I spent spring break in Chi-town some years back and no one told me spring doesn't exist there. It was still snowing and the wind was like a million knives slicing my clothing up to let in the very cold air. The best part of Chicago is by far the food, IMHO. Nice read.

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    1. It's true! We do have some of the best restaurants I've ever been to. And yes, the snow is definitely brutal. Every winter I wonder why I put myself through another one! Thanks for stopping by James!

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  6. As a child I spent my weekends in Chicago, but I never really understood the neighborhoods so its great to learn more about them. Thanks!

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    1. There are so many of them, and they each have a unique vibe!

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  7. andersonville seems perfect for a wino like me, i'll be honest.. haven't been to chicago yet. i've only been to the airport that loves delaying me for flights. i really wished the canadians could fly to the u.s. at better rates than we get.. loving how you captured the vibe outside the usual tourist spots. kudos!

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    1. Ha! Yes, sadly, most of my flights to some new destination get delayed to some degree. I guess that's what I get for living in one of the country's biggest stopover cities! And I feel the same way about flying to Canada. Your country is beautiful!

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    2. Ha! Yes, sadly, most of my flights to some new destination get delayed to some degree. I guess that's what I get for living in one of the country's biggest stopover cities! And I feel the same way about flying to Canada. Your country is beautiful!

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  8. First time I come across your blog, it's also the first time I come across 2 sisters blogging together, I'm sure it helps you create great and original content. Keep up the good work girls! Ps:I love your name's blog :')

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    1. Wow thank you Daniel, that's so kind of you to say! It definitely does make it easier to create original content when you have two people with two different travel schedules! :)

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  9. Great piece of advice!! :) I haven't been to the States yet but I love shopping! So whenever I will go I will make sure to consider your post and tips! :)

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    1. Thank you Matthias! I do hope you make it to the States!

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