If we were to write a shopper's guide to the city, it would begin and end with the granddaddy of all Chicago retail, The Magnificent Mile. This cosmopolitan, history-packed strip on downtown Michigan Avenue between the Michigan Avenue Bridge and Oak Street leads you from department stores to multi-story megamalls to luxury boutiques to brand name retail chains – all in a row.
The Mag Mile's history dates back to 1871 when the Great Chicago Fire sent the city up in smoke. Miraculously, the flames spared the Water Tower and Pumping Station, which still stand as reminders of the structures that once lined this now famous street. Michigan Avenue is also punctuated by the neogothic Wrigley Building and Chicago Tribune Tower, as well as the John Hancock Center, Chicago's fourth tallest building with postcard-worthy views from its 94th floor observatory.
But the real reason visitors – and of course, locals – flock here is to shop.
MAGNIFICENT MILE SHOPPING
Among the Magnificent Mile stores, upscale outlets Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, Macy's, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue anchor the area with elaborate window displays and proffer some of the biggest style names.
For the avid fashionista, Burberry, Bottega Veneta, Bulgari, Chanel, La Perla, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Salvatore Ferragamo and Giorgio Armani are among the collection of exclusive designer labels along Chicago's Mag Mile.
Adding some sparkle to the spectacular 8-block, you'll also find fine jewelers and watch designers such as Cartier, Rolex, David Yurman, Swarovski and Tiffany & Co. in addition to "Chicago's most original jewelry store" Lester Lampert.
Not to be missed, three Magnificent Mile malls offer a gateway to your retail dream:
900 North Michigan Shops (900 N. Michigan) is an emporium of style and sophistication with over 70 luxury lifestyle shops on seven levels. The exquisite selection includes Gucci, Michael Kors, Lululemon Athletica, Montblanc, Williams-Sonoma, L'Occitane, MaxMara and many more.
Water Tower Place (835 N. Michigan) is where you'll find everything from Chicago souvenirs at Accent Chicago, artful treasures at Atlas Galleries, handbags at Coach and shoes at Clarks. The eight-level atrium is also home to beloved doll store American Girl Place, The LEGO Store and a delightful candy museum at Candyality.
- The Shops at North Bridge (520 N. Michigan) sprawls six chic blocks with 50 world-class specialty shops, 20 sumptuous restaurants and five elegant hotels. It has just about anything you could be in the market for at stores such as BOSS Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Ermenegildo Zegna, Louis Vuitton, Stuart Weitzman, The Art of Shaving, Kiehl's, Vosges Haut-Chocolat and Sephora.
Between the big boys along the grand boulevard lie hundreds of popular chain stores and specialty shops. Browse familiar favorites such as the Disney Store, NIKETOWN and the Apple Store; try on something new at Victoria's Secret, Topshop/Topman and the Gap; or get great gifts like travel and business accessories at Tumi and outdoor gear at Columbia Sportswear.
Housewares gifts – or for that specialty piece for your own home – can be found at massive furniture and accessories retailers Room & Board and Crate & Barrel. And don't miss the Bloomingdale's Home Store, located within the stunningly-ornate shrine that is the historic Medinah Temple.
Not looking to splurge? For the bargain hunter, walk away with deals from Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls and HomeGoods. And you can also stay on trend with affordable, yet fashionable, looks from H&M and Forever 21.
DINING & SPECIAL EVENTS
Of course, shopping is no fun on an empty stomach. Get your fill without having to go far at Magnificent Mile restaurants. Water Tower Place takes mall food to the next level, with M Burger, the 14 kitchens at foodlife and the Foodease market. On and near Michigan Avenue, you can keep it casual with Bar Toma, go farm fresh at Harvest, dig in at Shaw's Crab House or visit a Chicago classic, The Cape Cod Room at The Drake Hotel. NoMI Kitchen and The Signature Room at the 95th both offer stellar views overlooking Michigan Avenue's grand expanse, while The Purple Pig is just steps from the hustle and bustle. And if it's fine dining that you desire, Spiaggia is the only four-star Italian restaurant in Chicago.
When you need just a small pick-me-up from your shopping spree, follow your nose to Garret Popcorn Shops for the caramel/cheese temptation known as The Chicago Mix, or treat yourself at Ghiradelli Chocolate Company and Hershey's Chicago.
And special events run throughout the year on the iconic avenue. The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival® presented by BMO Harris Bank brings a twinkling holiday cheer every November, while The Magnificent Mile Shopping Festival presented by MasterCard mashes fashion, culture and entertainment each summer. Visit in the spring and you'll be dazzled by vibrant tulips that bloom beginning in May.
With over 460 stores, as well as incredible restaurants, hotels and attractions packed in, the Magnificent Mile is a whirl of activity year-round. Get the inside scoop on where to shop and what's new from our Chicago Like a Local