From James Beard Award ceremonies to major sporting events and national conventions, Chicago is the ideal host city. Take cues from the city's most popular and groundbreaking gatherings to build your next exciting Chicago special event.

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When you plan a meeting or convention in Chicago, it's anything but conventional. Event planners swoon for our stunning spaces, buzzing urban energy and state-of-the-art accommodations, restaurants and entertainment.

Here's who's hosting and thriving in Chicago:

james beard press conference

Culinary Kudos
A true epicurean destination, Chicago has a rich history with the James Beard Foundation, delivering winners in 23 out of 24 years. For the first time in the premier culinary award show's 25-year history, the James Beard Awards were held outside of New York City. The prestigious gathering, dubbed "the Oscars of the food world" by Time Magazine, relocated in 2015 when the Lyric Opera of Chicago hosted the glittering night celebrating the best and brightest culinary professionals in America.

In 2016, the James Beard Awards Ceremony and Gala was held at Chicago's Civic Opera House and the city welcomed nearly 2,500 of the country's top chefs, restaurateurs, food media and culinary enthusiasts. The city is playing host again on May 1, 2017. 

The biggest chefs in the industry and on TV are also choosing Chicago to base their restaurant empires, proving that, for those who love to eat, there is no better place to gather than in Chicago. Award-winning chefs making their mark here include: 

Grant Achatz, whose restaurant Alinea has been called the Best Restaurant in the World (Elite Traveler, 2015). His talents are also on display at Next and Aviary (pictured below).

The Aviary

Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill and Topolobampo share a front door and are quintessential Chicago culinary experiences. XOCO is the chef's take on Mexican street food and Cruz Blanca is a hip West Loop brewery.

Stephanie Izard first made a name for herself as the Top Chef Season 4 winner, but it's her homey West Loop restaurant The Girl and the Goat that put her on the James Beard map. Her Chinese concept, Duck Duck Goat, has become one of the hottest tables in town.

Paul Kahan boasts seven Chicago restaurants. He's been racking up accolades for redefined Midwestern cuisine (Publican), Mediterranean and Middle East flavors (Avec, pictured below), and Tex-Mex (Dove's Luncheonette).


A Stunning Stage for Filmmakers
The city's unmistakable skyline, fountains, parks, lakefront and buildings have made countless cameos in film and television. Hundreds of filmmakers have been inspired by Chicago's architecture and vibrancy, creating blockbusters like Home AloneThe UntouchablesThe Blues BrothersRisky BusinessThe Dark KnightFerris Bueller's Day Off (below), and High Fidelity.

Ferris Buehler

An unprecedented number of TV dramas are being filmed in Chicago. Producer Dick Wolf is creating a franchise of Chicago-based hits for NBC that include "Chicago Med," "Chicago P.D.," "Chicago Fire" and spinoff "Chicago Justice." A long list of popular television shows have been filmed in Chicago, including "Shameless," "Mike and Molly," "Cake Boss," and "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Ground-breaking Attractions & Events
We attract and unveil the next big things. And we're homebase for the events everyone is talking about.

Chicago has been selected as home to the new American Writers Museum. Opening in March 2017, the museum will be the first and only of its kind in the nation, celebrating American writers through themed galleries, interactive exhibits, educational programs and special events.

Another prestigious designation, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama selected Chicago's Jackson Park as the site of his presidential library, slated for 2021 completion. The South Side park will house Chicago's first presidential library, an estimated $500 million project that will encompass a presidential archive library, museum and the Obama Foundation. 

Cultural events gravitate towards Chicago for its successful and long history as a welcoming artistic platform and stage for all. Organized citywide cultural celebrations include the Chicago Architecture Biennial, a major international architectural event showcasing an array of exhibitions, full-scale installations and events that invites the public to engage with and think about architecture in unexpected ways.

Short Shakespeare! Twelfth NightCommemorating 400 years since Shakespeare's death in 1616, Shakespeare 400 Chicago brings together 850 events on stages and in museums, restaurants, parks, schools and neighborhoods across Chicago.

LollapaloozaChicago is also the permanent home to once traveling festival Lollapalooza. The three-day music and art extravaganza brings over 140 artists performing rock, indie, hip hop and more to Grant Park for 10 hours of music each day.

Top Sporting Events
Chicago is fast becoming a destination city for some of America's most prestigious athletic events. Our city knows sports and we define diehard fans, so it's no surprise sporting events are forever changed once they host a Chicago event.

Chicago welcomed the tremendously successful NFL Draft (pictured at top) in 2015 and 2016, the inaugural year marking the first time the event was held outside of New York since 1964. A record-breaking 200,000 attendees enjoyed the three-day 2015 festivities that included a fan component (Draft Town in Grant Park) outside the theatre for the first time ever. The initial year was so successful, organizers decided to host in Chicago again in 2016.


Nearly 1.5 million fans attended the 32 Copa America Centenario futbol matches across 10 U.S. cities in 2016. Chicago's Soldier Field was one of 10 U.S. venues hosting the games for their first time on U.S. soil. More than 46,000 fans attended each game, making it the most attended Copa America in the tournament's 100-year history.

International sailing witnessed the first America's Cup freshwater race in the event's 165-year history when Chicago hosted The Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series at Navy Pier in June 2016. The best sailors in the world competed in this qualifying event for the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda. More than 195,000 fans were in attendance at Navy Pier with an additional 11,000 spectators on the water representing 48 states and 23 countries. 

Rugby Weekend 

Chicago welcomes the greatest stars in professional rugby for the third consecutive year in November 2016. The Rugby Weekend takes place at Soldier Field and sees ticket sales from all 50 states and 10 countries. In 2014, the New Zealand All Blacks took on the USA Eagles, gathering 61,500 attendees and crushing previous Houston attendance records by 40,000. In 2015, the USA Eagles v. Australian Wallabies match set an attendance record for second-largest international rugby match in the U.S. with 23,212 fans.

Chicago's United Center plays host to the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship Midwest Regional in 2016, 2017 and 2018, marking the first Men's Basketball Regional to be hosted in the city. The 2017 NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championships (Frozen Four) will take place in Chicago for the first time in 2017.

Major Conventions are Booking Chicago
Big-name conventions are turning to Chicago for tried-and-true hospitality and amenities. In June, Chicago hosted 38,500 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) attendees, with the group booking return years 2021 through 2025.

The Risk Management Society (RIMS) Annual Meeting will head to Chicago in 2021 and, in 2018, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) will convene in Chicago for their Annual Meeting & Exposition. Experience shows that 20 percent of association executives attending ASAE's Annual Meeting & Exposition will book a meeting in the host city in the five years following the convention.

When economic formulas are applied, this means that hosting an annual meeting may generate up to $500 million in revenue for the host city. This is in addition to the estimated $16 million that ASAE attendees, exhibitors and sponsors will spend during the annual meeting itself.

Learn more about how Chicago can elevate your next meeting.

Frontera Grill
445 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 661-1434
1462 E. 53rd Street
Chicago, IL 60615
(773) 288-1010
Yusho Logan Square
2853 N. Kedzie Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 904-8558
445 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 661-1434
445 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 661-1434
Chicago Architecture Biennial
4 W. Burton Pl.
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 854-8200
The Publican
837 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-9555
Duck Duck Goat
857 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 902-3825