Romantic eateries, dreamy lake views, live performances ... Chicago really does put the heart in heartland.
Each one of the city's 77 neighborhoods offers something different for the romantically-minded. Check out just five vibrant Chicago hoods for your Valentine's Day inspiration.
My Swanky Valentine: The Gold Coast
Lying close to the Magnificent Mile, the super chic Gold Coast is bursting with romanticism, from carriage rides past Newberry Library to quaint streets lined with noble late-18th-century row homes. Kick off your day with something a little more modern, however, exploring the Museum of Contemporary Art's galleries and special exhibitions. Through April 8, you can also see Felix (2001), the MCA’s beloved sculpture by Maurizio Catalan. The skeleton depicts a gigantic, fictional cat rather than an actual fossilized species. Measuring more than 26 feet tall, it's on view for the first time since 2006 as part of the museum’s 50th anniversary celebration. After soaking up some culture, head out for an opulent dinner at renowned French-Vietnamese restaurant Le Colonial. A Chicago dining classic, Le Colonial's leafy setting and delicate cuisine is perfect for a Valentine's Day date. End the evening sipping martinis and listening to live piano music at the Zebra Lounge.
Cool Factor Canoodling: West Loop
For the foodie lover in your life, the West Loop is a no-brainer. Start with a visit to the sumptuous Cowshed Spa at Soho House, which caters to the grooming and relaxation needs of both men and women. Then head to A-lister favorite Girl & the Goat, headed by celebrity chef Stephanie Izard, a winner of Bravo's Top Chef. Girl & the Goat was nominated best new restaurant by the James Beard Foundation in 2011, and Izard won the Beard award for Best Chef Great Lakes in 2013. She was also named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” in 2010. End your evening at RM Champagne Salon, which is as romantic as it gets. Meander down a cobbled alleyway into a discreet courtyard lit with soft strings of light. Once inside, indulge in fine champagne and cocktails (as well as beer and wine). A fan favorite? Cashmere Moonlight, with Hangar One Vodka, hibiscus syrup, egg white, fresh lemon, Cava Rose, and Yellow Chartreuse.
Hipster Love Haven: Wicker Park
The eclectic, hipster hangout of Wicker Park has a cornucopia of unexpected Valentine's Day prospects. Start out with dinner at Clever Rabbit, described as, "A veggie-centric restaurant within the heart of Wicker Park featuring thoughtfully sourced ingredients alongside an eclectic wine list and inventive cocktails." Then head out to neighborhood fringe theater, Chopin Theatre, where you can indulge in gunslinging history and romance with Hatfield & McCoy, "with a heaping helping of bluegrass and bloody revenge." The show is part of Chicago Theatre Week (Feb. 8-18), which offers discounted theater tickets for many of Chicago's premiere shows. After taking in the performance, head over to Violet Hour, Wicker Park's sultry speakeasy. You may have to wait in line (Violet Hour does not take reservations), but it will be worth it. Sumptuous decor, an exciting craft cocktail and absinthe menu, and small plates in case you get the late-night munchies, make this one of Wicker Park's most romantic spots.
LGBTQ Heartland: Boystown
Boystown is a hub of Chicago LGBTQ culture. It's a vibrant, gregarious neighborhood that boasts a prime position close to the lakefront. While the temperatures may be chilly this Valentine's Day, the Boystown Legacy Walk is something to engage and inspire. When it began in 2012, the Legacy Walk became the world's first LGBTQ outdoor museum. Placards were installed on Halsted Street's rainbow-banded pylons, between Belmont Avenue and Grace Street, honoring LGBTQ heroes, from Oscar Wilde and Frida Kahlo to Harvey Milk and Alvin Ailey. Schedule a private tour along the Legacy Walk before heading over to Ceres Table, bursting with Italian flavor and romance. The menu changes seasonally, and sources locally. Finish off the evening with a cocktail and dancing at Progress Bar, which boasts an impressive lightbulb sculpture that lends the space a surreal quality. As Progress explains, "The goal was to create something that was more than a bar. A definitive message wrapped in hand-crafted visuals designed to remind us how far we've come as a community."
A World of Romantic Wonder: Hyde Park
Bookended by two of the city's most significant cultural institutions, The University of Chicago to the west and The Museum of Science and Industry to the east, Hyde Park is an incredibly popular South Side neighborhood, and a magical place to spend Valentine's Day. Begin by strolling through Osaka Garden, an authentic Japanese garden with pavilion, moon bridge, Shinto gate and traditional Japanese horticulture, gifted to Chicago by Japan for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. After, venture to the Museum of Science and Industry, the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere, boasting more than 2,000 exhibits. Lose yourselves in the mesmerizing Mirror Maze, then watch Amazon Adventure at the Giant Dome Theater for a truly immersive movie experience. Complete your date with a trip to The Promontory for dinner, drinks and a show. On February 14, you'll have front-row seats to Chicago Night LIVE hosted by Real T@lk, with Malik Yusef, a six-time Grammy award-winning, avant-garde spoken word poet; Just Flo, a super talented painter and rhyme-sayer, Yahdna (Da'Beast Destroyah); comedian Johnny Lane; and singer/songwriter, Justin Ruff.