Open the doors to hidden architectural gems this fall. For one weekend only each year, October 17-18, 2015, the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) hosts the city's biggest architecture and design festival, Open House Chicago. This FREE public event gets you behind-the-scenes access to the greatest spaces and places in Chicago, illuminating areas that are normally not open to the public.
150 cool places. 48 hours. Go.
Whether you are an architecture buff, history enthusiast or looking for a unique weekend festival, Open House Chicago (OHC) is a must-do Chicago event and is fun for every kind of adventurer.
Showcasing the diversity of Chicago's architecture both downtown and in the neighborhoods, sites include uncommonly seen and "restricted access" areas. Check out iconic public buildings, as well as factories, retailers, restaurants, sacred spaces, hotels, professional offices and cultural institutions, among many others.
Plan Your Trip
It's an architectural scavenger hunt! And best of all, it's completely free. Just drop in during event hours, which are typically 9:00am to 5:00pm both Saturday and Sunday (check individual site listings for exact times). Sites will accept visitors on a first-come, first-served basis — for the most part, tickets or reservations are not needed. Note that there are a select number of sites limited to CAF members only or require an rsvp in advance. Some key tips...
- Build out your itinerary in advance by picking up the printed event guide or visiting the Open House Chicago map to choose sites and neighborhoods
- Pick up the official printed Event Guide in the the Chicago Tribune on October 15 (or at OHC sites and CAF headquarters) as a handy reference
- Use public transportation to get to, from and between OHC sites: Divvy, Chicago's bike-sharing system, and CTA buses and trains are cheap, reliable and convenient ways to get around
- Sign up to receive the OHC newsletter and follow CAF for last-minute #OHC2015 announcements on Twitter and Facebook
- Consider becoming a CAF member or OHC volunteer to receive a Priority Access Pass and skip the general public lines
- Check out the OHC KIDS programs for a list of the top family-friendly site options to entertain the younger audiences
For the fourth annual event, 150 Open House Chicago sites in 18 communities make up the collection of architectural treasures on display:
Whether you have an ambitious checklist of places you want to cover over the weekend, or only have time to visit a few, don't let the selection overwhelm you. Use the interactive OHC site list to narrow down based on area or interest (for example, residential or sacred spaces), or consider these highlighted sites for a taste of what's open during Open House Chicago 2015:
- Blackstone Renaissance Hotel, Downtown Loop – Visit this turn-of-the-century luxury hotel. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, its modern upgrades from its $112-million restoration and guests like top presidents and notorious gangsters hold many stories to tell. Tour the historic Suite of Presidents where 12 sitting Presidents have stayed!
- Chicago Athletic Association, Downtown Loop –This Venetian Gothic building housed a private athletic club from more than 110 years. Now, it is one of the newest editions to Chicago's hotel scene with restored architectural work, athletically-themed guest rooms, and breathtaking ballrooms.
- Columbia Yacht Club, Downtown Loop – Step aboard what was once the most powerful icebreaking shop in the world, the MV Abegeit, and tour this private club's dining room, outdoor deck, steering room, and lower level where railcars and motorvehicles were stored during the ship's passage of the Northumberland Straight from 1947 to 1982.
- Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, Garfield Park – In what is arguably the grandest church in the city, see a life-size reproduction of Michelangelo's famous Pieta, usually open only during times of service.
- The New Regal Theater, South Shore – Step inside a Chicago Landmark that despite its beautiful and intricate Moorish-revival design, has been closed for most of the last decade.
- Music Box Theater, Lakeview – This cozy, atmospheric movie theater was intended to be a smaller neighborhood version of the ornate movie palaces downtown. Get a rare opportunity to admire the beautiful auditorium with the lights on. Learn more about analog and digital projection of rare and independent films.
- The Plant, Bridgeport/Back of the Yards – Explore this groundbreaking facility (once a 93,500 sq. ft. meatpacking facility) that fosters sustainable agriculture with its net-zero energy vertical farm and tour the aquaponic gardens, a glimpse at the future of urban food production.
In addition to free access, celebrate the design-themed weekend with additional Open House Chicago programs that include lectures, music performances, art walks and special events.
Visit openhousechicago.org for details and get up-to-the-minute updates and fun facts about OHC by following Chicago Architecture Foundation on Facebook at facebook.com/chiarchitecture, on Twitter at @chiarchitecture, and on Instagram at instagram.com/chiarchitecture.