The best things to do in the South Loop include seeing historic architecture, dancing the night away at one of Chicago’s top concert venues, and cheering for local football, soccer, and basketball teams.
Some of Chicago’s neighborhoods don’t have very strictly defined borders. This is the case when it comes to Museum Campus and the South Loop. There are maps that include Museum Campus in the South Loop, and other materials that say it is part of Grant Park in the Loop. We have included Museum Campus in both our guides to the Loop and the South Loop.
There are also inconsistencies regarding where the Loop ends and South Loop begins. There are maps listing the border as Ida B Wells Drive and other maps that say it is Roosevelt Road. We always try to include the maximum area in each of our guides.
Last updated: April 2022
Read More About the South Loop
Best Restaurants in the South Loop
Where is the South Loop?
The South Loop is directly south of the Loop. It borders both Lake Michigan and Chinatown.
How to Get to the South Loop
The Red, Orange, and Green Line trains all have stops at Roosevelt. In addition, the Green Line stops at Cermak-McCormick Place and the Red Line stops at Harrison and Cermak-Chinatown. Plus, the Metra stops at 18th Street, and McCormick Place.
Parks and Outdoor Activities:
Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens
A park located in the Prairie Avenue Historic District that honors the contributions that women have made to Chicago. The field house has an indoor play space for children, fitness facilities, a kid’s science lab, and community rooms while a garden features a sculpture honoring Jane Addams.
Northerly Island Park
A 119-acre park located on the shore of Lake Michigan just south of Museum Campus. The park has strolling paths, a pond, prairie grasslands with over 150 different species of native plants that is an important habitat for birds.
Prairie Avenue Historic District
Also referred to as Millionaire’s Row, this residential area features exceptional architectures from the 1800s. This historic district includes the 1800-1900 blocks of South Prairie Avenue, plus the 1800 block of South Indiana, and 211-217 East Cullerton. This area became a fashionable place to live after the Great Fire of 1871. Both the Henry B. Clarke House and the Glessner House are located within the Prairie Avenue Historic District. Several guided and self-guided tours of the district are available.
Henry B. Clarke House
The oldest surviving residence in Chicago is located in the Prairie Avenue Historic District and has been turned into a museum. Built in the Greek-Revivial style in 1836, house museum gives a glimpse into life in Chicago during the years leading up to the Civil War.
This residence turned museum tells the story of the Gilded Age and Prairie Avenue. The Glessner House is an urban townhouse mansion that was built for John J. Glessner between 1885 and 1887. The architecture is a departure from the ornate styles of the other homes on Millionaire’s Row. The Glessner House offers several different tours of the mansion as well se tours of Prairie Avenue.
River City Apartments
Brutalist architecture can lack personality, but this residential building constructed in 1986 almost seems to be smiling at you. River City was designed by Bertrand Goldberg, the same architect behind Marina Towers in the Loop. Tours aren’t offered since it is an apartment building, but any architecture lover would appreciate getting to see the exterior of the building in person.
Located in Printer’s Row, this train station was the primary arrival and departure point for trains heading west to California between 1920 and 1949. Dearborn Station was built in 1885 and has a 12-story Romanesque style clock tower. The station was used by passenger trains until 1971 and then in the 1980s it was converted into commercial space. It is one of the oldest remaining train stations in America.
Museum of Contemporary Photography
A Columbia College art museum that houses works from over 1,500 artists. Collection highlights include works by Alfred Stieglitz, Dorothea Lange, and Cindy Sherman.
According to the city’s website for Grant Park, Museum Campus is located within Grant Park. Yet, the city’s official map of community areas places Museum Campus in the South Loop. Museum Campus is home to the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium.
Chicago’s famous T-Rex, Sue, can be found at this natural history museum along with cultural collections and anthropological artifacts from all over the globe. This museum has exhibits that visitors of all ages will enjoy, including young children.
Chicago’s aquarium is home to a wide range of animals including dolphins, penguins, sharks, sea otters, and more. If you visit in the summer, you might want to plan your visit around the Jazzin’ at the Shedd outdoor concert series.
This was America’s first planetarium, and it’s the place to learn about astronomy and astrophysics. The planetarium has shows geared towards children (one involves Big Bird and Elmo) plus programming for adults. Each Wednesday, the planetarium is open until 10 pm for Alder at Night.
Things to Do in the South Loop
Chicago’s football team, The Bears, plays at Solider Field. The stadium doesn’t have a dome, so be prepared for crazy Chicago weather.
Chicago’s soccer team also plays at Soldier Field, and tickets are affordable starting at just $22.
Chicago Sky Basketball
Chicago’s WNBA team plays at Wintrust Arena. The team won the WNBA Championship in 2021. Single game tickets start at $19.
Printer’s Row is a small neighborhood and designated historic district located between Ida B. Wells Street, Clark Street, Polk Street, and State Street. During the 1880s this area was the printing hub of the Midwest. Today, the area has locally owned shops and restaurants and hosts an annual literary festival.
Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation/Chess Records
Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven runs tours of Chess Records, the studio used by Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and many more iconic blues musicians. Chess Records is also where Etta James recored “At Last”. It’s an important slice of music history.
Wabash Arts Corridor
An outdoor public art project run by Columbia College Chicago that spans South Wabash Street from the Loop to the South Loop. Murals of various sizes tackle topics like the Women’s Suffrage Movement, Native American Chicago, Polish culture, and themes like hope, the relationships between time and space, and hip hop culture. Guided tours are offered year-round.
Roosevelt Collection Shops
An open-air mall with retailers like Banana Republic, H&M, Loft, and Old Navy.
Motor Row Brewing
A brewery specializing in small batch beers located in a landmark building in a neighborhood once line with auto showrooms.
South Loop Farmers Market
This farmers market takes place during the summer on Thursdays at South Michigan and Roosevelt Road and on Saturdays in Printer’s Row Park. The market features vendors selling produce, baked goods, prepared foods, flowers, and more.
In the summer, major musicians make stops at Soldier Field. This year the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay, Elton John, and Kenny Chesney are all performing here.
An outdoor music venue on the lakeshore just south of Museum Campus that hosts major artists from May through September. In 2022, Alicia Keys, the Goo Goo Dolls, David Gray, Marin Morris, Florence + the Machine, and Norah Jones are on the calendar.
Buddy Guy’s Legends
A blues club with live music 7 nights a week. They also serve New Orleans inspired food. The club was opened in 1989 by blues musician Buddy Guy, and if you are very lucky he might just hop up on stage and perform. You might want to buy tickets in advance.
A dive-y bar known for hosting live cutting-edge rock bands.
Arie Crown Theater
This theater at McCormick Place hosts comedy tours and music events.
The Theater Building of Columbia College Chicago
The Getz Theater is the MainStage of the Columbia College theater program. Head Over Heels, a show that combines The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney with music from The Go-Go’s will be performed in April and May 2022.
Annual Events in the South Loop:
The annual Auxiliary Board fundraiser for the Shedd Aquarium is attended by a crowd of mostly 20 and 30 somethings and it brings together food and drinks from top restaurants, aquatic performances, dancing on the terrace, and fireworks.
The Adler Planetarium’s largest annual fundraising event.
Printer’s Row Art Festival
A free festival that features booths where fine artists, photographers, street artists, jewelers and more sell their work. Food and drinks are available from local restaurants. The event will take place from August 13-14 in 2022.
Printer’s Row Lit Fest
This is the largest free outdoor literary showcase in the Midwest. During the event hundreds of booksellers set up on South Dearborn Street to sell antique, new, and used books. The Printer’s Row Lit Fest is an opportunity to support independent bookstores and to hear talks from authors and journalists. In 2022, the event will be held on September 10-11.
The Chicago Auto Show
The nation’s largest auto show takes place in February and spans over a million square feet of exhibit space in McCormick Place. Over 20 manufacturers from all over the world participate and show every type of car you can imagine from concept cars to sports cars and family-friendly vehicles. The auto show kicks off with the First Look for Charity, a black tie fundraiser benefiting 17 local non-profits.
The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo is a comic, cosplay, and pop culture convention that takes place at McCormick Place in August. The event includes exhibitors, autograph sessions, panels, screening rooms, exclusives, After Dark events and a massive Artist Alley.
Annual Events in Grant Park:
A massive multi-stage music festival that takes place over four days in the middle of summer. The festival takes over Grant Park and dozens of bands perform. Expect a mix of household names and emerging acts to be on the lineup.
Taste of Chicago
The world’s largest food festival takes place over five days in July in Grant Park. The main attraction is the food with dozens of Chicago restaurants participating but there is also live music.