Why Your Next Move Should be Chicago’s Gold Coast

The Windy City has a lot to offer newcomers in terms of dining and doing from Lincoln Park to Edgewater. Whether you’re hungry for a deep-dish pie or for a thriving arts and culture scene, there’s plenty to recommend Chicago as your new home base.

But potential renters and buyers taking another look at the Second City should take note: if you’re scouring housing and rental listings for a new place in Chicago, you’d do well to tour a listing in one of the city’s best neighborhoods: the Gold Coast.

Just north of downtown along the Lake Michigan shoreline, the Gold Coast is aptly named for its stately historic mansions and prime shopping destinations (not to mention its status among Chicago’s most affluent neighborhoods). While you can’t go wrong strolling the neighborhood’s landmark streets or stopping at a few boutiques, we’ve got a few suggestions on favorite Gold Coast haunts, from restaurants to shopping to neighborhood must-sees.

Charnley-Persky House

If you know any architecture fanatics, the Charnley-Persky House designed by Louis Sullivan (and notably, in collaboration with his then-junior draftsman, Frank Lloyd Wright) is one of the best places to visit in Chicago. The house, like many houses of the 1880s, was built during the Gold Coast’s initial building boom, begun by Potter Palmer, who built a famous (and formidable) castle on the neighborhood’s Lake Shore Drive. Palmer then bought several more tracts of land in the Gold Coast, building stately manors and lavish mansions sold to Chicago’s upper crust. Now, the area’s affluence persists, with rows of innovative and beautifully constructed historic houses, including the Charnley-Persky House.

The restored house is now open to the public as a testament to cutting-edge architectural design. Guided tours of the house are offered every Wednesday and Saturday–a perfect weekend afternoon activity.

The Pump Room

Maybe you’ve heard of it–or if you haven’t, you’d recognize some of the Pump Room’s notable diners, including Judy Garland, Ronald Reagan and David Bowie. And if you thought heard the restaurant namechecked by Frank Sinatra in a song, you heard correctly. Currently headed by 2011 James Beard award winner Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the Pump Room is a culinary institution in the Gold Coast, having served the area classic and delicious dishes since 1938. These days, the restaurant serves simple, farm-to-table dishes perfectly rendered and carefully crafted cocktails. But the Pump Room still has a characteristic panache that makes a spot to watch (and, potentially, watch for rising stars enjoying cucumber martinis and foie gras brulée.

Coq d’Or in the Drake Hotel

If you’re just dipping your toes into the Gold Coast, book a stay at the historic Drake Hotel. While you’re there, you’ll of course want to stop by the Cape Cod Room, where you’ll find Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio’s initials carved into the bar when the two were newlyweds. But a real neighborhood gem is the Coq D’Or bar, opened just after prohibition ended in 1933. Today, the bar and lounge serves craft cocktails alongside an extensive whiskey list, including a locally distilled blend by FEW Spirits.

But if it’s the bar’s classic feel and touch of nostalgia you’re after, their extensive menu takes foodies on an extensive culinary tour of the bar’s 80-plus year history. And for Gold Coast whisky aficionados, never fear–the Coq d’Or offers Whiskey Club memberships, offering special events and tastings. Be advised, though: at the Coq d’Or, whiskey goes down much smoother with a cup of the lounge’s classic red snapper soup.

Oak Street Beach

One of the biggest benefits of living on the Gold Coast? Living close to the Oak Street Beach, a balmy stretch of beach that has volleyball tournaments in the summer and a spectacular view of the Chicago skyline year-round. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the shore of Lake Michigan, or drop in at Oak Street Beach food and drink stand for a frozen margarita and a snack before you sun yourself and wade into the water. All the fun of a city staycation, paired with a beachy retreat.

The Magnificent Mile

Last but not least is of the best things to do in Chicago. It may not be fully a part of the Gold Coast, but requires a mention nonetheless: the famous shopping destination aptly named the Magnificent Mile. Funneling from the edge of the Gold Coast/Near North Side at Oak Street all the way down to the Chicago River, the Mag Mile includes premier boutiques like Cartier, Chanel, Prada, Bottega Veneta and Tom Ford. Even if you’re only planning on a little window shopping, the Mile has plenty of notable Chicago landmarks, such as the Tribune Tower, along with five of the tallest buildings in the world.

Make sure you’ve made Chicago’s Gold Coast your home for the holiday season, and you’ll be even closer to the Mag Mile’s yearly Lights Festival, where trees lining the street are lit for the holidays, with a day of free concerts and events for the whole family to enjoy.