Chicago Epic - Annual Meeting

The State of Illinois is now in its third month without a budget and Choose Chicago's statutorily mandated state funding remains frozen. This is our largest single source of revenue representing 40% of our annual operating budget.

As long as this budget impasse continues, the economic health of the city and state will be negatively impacted as a result of the reduced tourism efforts. As it stands today, this impact will be felt sooner rather than later. As a result of Choose Chicago's strategies and initiatives, Chicago's visitor industry has grown at an exponential pace and with record-breaking results.

  • More than $11 billion in new and recommitted business as a result of the McCormick Place reforms.
  • Total visitation to Chicago has increased 15% since 2011 to 50.17 million domestic and overseas visitors. Chicago joins New York City and Orlando as the only three U.S. cities to exceed 50 million annual visitors.  
  • Chicago's hotel room demand has reached historic levels with 17 months of record demand and continues to outpace national growth in all key performance indicators.
  • Tourism-related employment since 2011 has increased 6% to 136,000 good-paying and career-oriented jobs. More than 2,500 jobs were added in 2014, the fourth largest increase in the past ten years.
  • Tourism spending has increased by $2.1 billion to $14.1 billion since 2011. 

Now, we need YOUR help. Let's show Springfield the power and commitment of Chicago's visitor industry. Please sign & share the petition supporting the restoration of Choose Chicago's statutorily mandated state funding. For more information, please email



Chicago Restaurant Week

Get ready for Chicago's most anticipated culinary event of the year! Registration is now open for Chicago Restaurant Week, returning Friday, Jan. 22, 2016 - Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 for its ninth year, fresh off this year's record-breaking 333 participating restaurant partners.

The annual culinary celebration features special prix fixe menus starting at $22 for lunch and $33 and/or $44 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax and gratuity).

Key Dates:

October 30, 2015: Deadline to purchase participation and complete registration. (Any restaurant not registered by Oct. 30, 2015 will be unable to participate in Chicago Restaurant Week 2016.)

December 1, 2015: Deadline to submit menu(s) & required dining certificate/gift card to participate in Chicago Restaurant Week 2016.


We look forward to working with our dining partners and sponsors to make Chicago Restaurant Week 2016 the best yet!

Be sure to also join us for the annual First Bites Bash, the official kick-off event for Chicago Restaurant Week taking place on Thursday, January 21, 2016. This display of sweet and savory samplings welcomed more than 1,300 guests to Union Station in 2015, so don't forget to save the date! Click here for more information on how your restaurant can participate in First Bites Bash.

If you have questions regarding the Restaurant Week program, please email us at

Those interested in sponsorship opportunities for Chicago Restaurant Week 2016 and/or the First Bites Bash should contact Nina Winston, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, at or 312.567.8561. 

To further connect with us regarding Chicago Restaurant Week, we encourage our partners to join our Choose Chicago Partners Facebook Group.



Bank of America Chicago Marathon

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is a global athletic event that brings millions to the city each year. In its 38th year, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, a member of the World Marathon Majors, attracts 45,000 participants and an estimated 1.7 million spectators. This year's race is scheduled for Sunday, October 11.  

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is offering four unique opportunities for partner organizations to increase exposure and drive traffic from over 55,000 runners and volunteers. Opportunities include inclusion in the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo, participant bag, virtual bag, and sampling package.

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon virtual bag, in particular, will be available to 45,000 registered runners and over 12,000 volunteers from approximately one week before and up two weeks following the race and will be promoted via direct email. The virtual bag gives your business the opportunity to be seen by more than 55,000 people, including participants, volunteers and their families.

The deadline for inclusion in the virtual bag is Friday, September 23, 2015. For more information and partner pricing on any of the opportunities above, contact Paul Brackey at or 312-904-9812. Also visit for more details.



Amy Cowen Navy Pier 

Amy Ritter Cowen is Chief Marketing and Experience Officer at Navy Pier. Cowen spoke about joining Choose Chicago as a partner and how the industry network has benefited her business.  

How would you describe your position with Navy Pier? What do you do?

I am the Chief Marketing and Experience Officer, a newly created position at Navy Pier. My responsibilities include leading a team of professionals focused on marketing communications, public relations, brand management, sponsorship and also experience elements including entertainment, special events and guest services.

What are your current projects?

Navy Pier is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016, and as a newly formed not-for-profit organization, Navy Pier, Inc., we are focused in two main areas. One is the physical redevelopment of the Pier, an ongoing multi-year project, which includes a reimagination of our entry park, Polk Bros Park, redesign and greening of the South Dock, creating a new Chicago-centric food experience and next year beginning redevelopment of the Family Pavilion.  Much is already underway and it is incredibly exciting!

In conjunction with the physical redevelopment of the Pier, is an inspiring programmatic planning process. We're currently in the early stages of creation of an Arts and Discovery strategic plan, working with Dickerson Global Advisors with the leadership of Amina Dickerson.   The essence of our planning process is to bring together the arts and culture community in Chicago and to think about how we partner and bring new experiences to the Pier.  This planning will take place over the next 18 months with a pilot program launch in 2016.  

What are some of the goals of your organization?

Our goal is to honor the Pier's rich history and place in the cultural landscape of Chicago. We want people to have an authentic experience when they come to the Pier and to experience a Chicago landmark first hand. Navy Pier is a wonderfully eclectic mix of so many Chicago gems including everything from the Chicago Children's Museum, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and WBEZ Radio to restaurants, events, boating, entertainment and retail. We want to make sure people know what's happening at the Pier, know about the redevelopment plans and to certainly celebrate all that the Pier has to offer in this upcoming Centennial season. The Pier attracts more than 8 million guests annually; with half coming from outside the City and surrounding areas.   This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase this amazing City-especially with our free access and spectacular views of the lakefront and skyline.

What projects are you most proud of?

Of course, the physical and programmatic redevelopment plan!  In addition, we launched a new ad campaign this summer - focused on supporting our community fireworks program and our Pier partners.  The campaign has a fresh, clean look highlighting Pier favorites and beginning to move us in the direction of new branding.

Just recently, we hosted the 2nd annual Venetian Night at Navy Pier on Saturday, Sept. 12th and had a great crowd despite a few curve balls from Mother Nature. EXPO Chicago is set to open its doors this week and just announced yesterday, Navy Pier and Chicago will host for the first time ever in fresh water and on the Great Lakes the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series in June 2016. We're also coming into Winter Wonderfest season, so we're focused on the quality of all these events and making sure we have a phenomenal guest experience for people to come back to time and again.

To me, it's about bringing all of this amazing energy together: the transformation of the physical Pier, programmatic redevelopment and how we share our story from a brand and mission perspective.  It's about guest experience and making people feel welcome and connected.  It's about sharing the history of this unique venue in the world - and setting the stage for what the next 100 years will be.  This is an amazing moment in Navy Pier's history and I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the leadership team here and to be a part of it!

How has your relationship with Choose Chicago benefited Navy Pier directly?

In a lot of ways-both directly and indirectly.  Having spent nearly 20 years at Shedd Aquarium before coming to the Pier five months ago, Choose was a thought partner and connector both then and now.  Choose Chicago has done an excellent job bringing the community to the table to discuss ideas, to talk strategies and share marketing campaigns-providing strategic leadership focused on how we brand and celebrate Chicago collectively. The partnership values that Choose Chicago has as an organization are incredibly valuable in the work I do.  Chicago is an amazing city and we now have a tremendous opportunity to share our story with the world.

What would you say to a business or organization that is considering partnering with Choose Chicago?

Jump in, get involved, network, contribute actively and tap the leadership resources available at Choose as thought partners. I think there is an opportunity for any size business to benefit from the relationships that Choose has in the tourism industry, the insight and valuable research on visitors to Chicago, and creative design and strategic thought leadership. There is an incredible array of opportunities working closely with Choose and I think it can benefit so many organizations large and small.

How has your partnership with Choose lived up to your expectations?

I'm very proud that the not-for-profit museums and cultural organizations that I've worked with professionally have been a member of Choose Chicago. There's an incredible sense of community and partnership. Choose Chicago is doing a fantastic job of helping partner organizations understand their role in collectively branding this amazing city, getting people to come here, experience this city, and ultimately to fall in love with it.  

Of all that Choose Chicago offers, whether it's networking, advertising opportunities, etc., what has been the greatest benefit to Navy Pier?

I think the thought partnership and leadership. There are lots of organizations that offer networking and advertising strategic support, but there's no one organization that can bring the experience and tourism community together to tell Chicago's story to the world and share all that the city has to offer. The partnership values embraced by Choose are incredibly important and make a difference every day in the work that we do.



McCormick Place West

In August, the City of Chicago and McCormick Place welcomed a host of conventions and other major shows, along with thousands of attendees. Please join us in congratulating them on their successful shows, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Chicago soon.

Younique Products "To the Top!" Annual Convention (Aug. 6-9)

Younique, whose mission is to empower and build self-esteem in women through "high-quality products that encourage both inner and outer beauty and spiritual enlightenment," held its third annual convention in Chicago last month. Billed "To the Top!", this convention welcomed Elizabeth Smart and Katt Stearns as keynote speakers, as well as a host of panelists who spoke about finding success in business, making the most of networking relationships, and building strong leaders.

Radius Events - Independent Garden Center Show (Aug. 18-20)

One of the most widely recognized events for garden center owners, the ninth annual IGC Show held at Navy Pier hosted 5,644 attendees, hundreds of exhibitors, thousands of new products and a variety of educational opportunities for new and experienced garden center proprietors.  

Ace Hardware Corporation 2015 Fall Convention (Aug. 20-22)

This event, designed for Ace Hardware store owners to see new products and place orders, welcomed 16,000 attendees, up 1,500 people from last year's fall show in Orlando. Fourteen truckloads of exhibitor donations at the end of the show went to Habitat for Humanity.





Graphic Arts Show Company - GRAPH EXPO 15 & CPP Expo
Sept. 13-16
 21,000 McCormick Place
The world's Graphic Communications industry gathers in the largest print market in the world to energize and find trending business solutions and exciting new profit opportunities across more than 50 co-located events.
True Value Company Fall Market
Sept. 18-20 11,000
McCormick Place The True Value Company Fall Market is the premier event in the hand, machine & garden tools industry. True Value will collect items from the exhibit floor and donate to ReStore (affiliated with Habitat for Humanity). When True Value was last in Chicago in 2013, they collected about 17 semis filled with donated items from their show floor, which was valued at $140,000.
WEFTEC 2015 - The Water Quality Event
Sept. 26-30
 22,000 McCormick Place
WEFTEC®, the Water Environment Federation's Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference, is the largest meeting of its kind in North America. Thousands of water quality professionals from around the world gather for the very best in water quality education and training, as well as the exhibition of many cutting-edge water treatment technologies.



Capture the Value: Make the Most of Your Choose Chicago Partnership

Engage with key department representatives to learn how you and your organization can maximize your partnership with Choose Chicago. Fulton Market District is an exciting and vibrant neighborhood with no shortage of great venues. Plan your schedule now to stay in the area following this event to experience one of Chicago's hottest neighborhoods.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015
4:00pm-4:30pm: Registration
4:30pm-6:00pm: Network with Choose Chicago team

Morgan's on Fulton
950 West Fulton Market - Rooftop Terrace
Chicago, IL 60611 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 
4:00pm-4:30pm: Registration
4:30pm-6:00pm: Network with Choose Chicago team

This event is complimentary!

Transportation Information:

Valet parking will be available for $8.
The pink and green lines of the "L" also stop a block away at Lake and Morgan.

Register Now



CRW Educational Seminar & Networking Event

Learn how to maximize your exposure and increase sales during your participation in Chicago Restaurant Week 2016. For the second year a panel of distinguished industry professionals will share best practices relating to operations, marketing, public relations and food & beverage. Ben Smock, Owner & President of Toque & Bottle Advisory will moderate the discussion.

Meet our Chicago Restaurant Week sponsors American Airlines, American Express, Goose Island Beer Co., OpenTable and Terlato Wines International and learn about unique marketing programs specifically designed to help you increase exposure and drive sales during Chicago Restaurant Week.

Thursday, October 8, 2015
8:30am - 9:15am: Registration/Breakfast
9:15am - 10:30am: Program/Q&A
10:30am - 11:00am: Networking

City Winery
1200 W. Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60607

Featured Panelists:
Brian Jupiter: Chef, Frontier Restaurant
Kevin Boehm: Partner/Owner, Boka Restaurant Group
Greg O'Neill: Co-Owner/Founder, Bar Pastoral and Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine
Dana Pontarelli: Public Relations and Marketing Specialist, Gibsons Restaurant Group
Ashok Selvam: Associate Editor, Eater Chicago
Moderator - Ben Smock: Owner & President, Toque & Bottle Advisory

An invitation and more information are forthcoming.



Drop by and see us during our monthly office hours! Choose Chicago will offer one-on-one walk-in hours for our partner organizations at our downtown office located at 72 E. Randolph. Office hours provide an opportunity to meet with the Choose Chicago Partnership team to discuss:

  • Questions regarding your partnership
  • Benefits and resources available to help grow your organization
  • How to enhance your online profile including a tutorial on the Partner Extranet
  • Choose Chicago's educational and marketing opportunities
  • Ways to build stronger relationships with the Choose Chicago team and the industry

Date: First Thursday of every month:

  • October 1, 2015
  • November 5, 2015
  • December 3, 2015

Time: 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

Place: Choose Chicago Loop Office Conference Room
72 E. Randolph Street - 3rd Floor
Please sign in at the security desk

For more information about Choose Chicago office hours:
Please contact


Join us in welcoming the newest partners this year to Choose Chicago:



Chicago Gourmet 2015

Please join us in congratulating Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet's sold out main event! This culinary event signals autumn in Chicago with 150 of Chicago's finest restaurants and many famed chefs, as well as hundreds of renowned vintners, spirit makers and premium breweries from around the world.

Though most of the weekend's main events have already sold out, including the Main Event and Grand Cru, a limited number of tickets is still available for Friday night's Late Night Gourmet; Punch Kings, Pigs n' Tiki; and the Rise & Shine Gourmet at Maggie Daley Park. For more information and to purchase tickets for these events, visit the Chicago Gourmet website



World Music Festival-5

Enjoy music from diverse cultures by acclaimed musicians from around the world. This city-wide music festival, free and open to the public, brings together musicians and groups performing traditional and contemporary music at a variety of venues, such as Millennium Park, the Chicago Cultural Center, The Promontory and the Museum of Contemporary Art. 




At the International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art, more than 140 of the leading galleries from across the globe showcase cutting-edge installations, video, film and new media works. Navy Pier sets the stage for these breathtaking works, which you simply can't miss. For tickets and more information, visit



Chicago Architecture Biennial

This inaugural event is the largest international exhibition of contemporary architecture in North America. Learn about the "State of the Art of Architecture" through a constellation of full-scale installations and a program of events designed to engage the public with architecture and explore how it affects our everyday lives. The Chicago Cultural Center, City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower and the Stony Island Arts Bank are a few of the venues where the Biennial, free to the public, will take place.