24 Hours in Chicago, IL

by Sabrina Smelko


When dentist and fashion blogger Shaheen Khan first moved to Chicago, IL five years ago, she thought she knew what to expect. Having grown up in Louisville, KY, Shaheen made the drive north to visit Chicago for as long as she can remember, but upon moving there, she was pleasantly surprised by what’s beneath the surface: dozens of unassuming neighborhoods she had never known about, a never-ending choice of festivals, events and galleries to attend, and tons of local digs where she now spends most of her time.

Shaheen has truly found a new home in this city, and has happily settled into a unique space in the heart of Bucktown that used to be a calculator factory with her husband, Trevor (which we recently got a sneak peek into). Her 24-hour guide to this great city offers a variety of options for the morning, afternoon and evening, complete with the best activities, restaurants, shops and spaces to bounce between throughout the day. –Sabrina

Photography by Shaheen Khan

Morning Visits


CC Ferns: A hidden local coffee shop in Humboldt Park that’s quaint, comfortable, and serves amazing coffee. My husband and I will grab a coffee and read the paper on the couch or sit outside when the weather allows and catch up from our busy week.

Doughnut Vault: With doughnuts being one of my favorite food categories, this is a must! The storefront is adorable but you need to make sure to get in line early since they sell out fairly early every day. If you get lucky and catch the food truck that roams around the city, I suggest trying a few flavors!

The 606: A brand new addition to our neighborhood is this elevated bike and walk path that goes from Bucktown to Logan Square and is perfect for a morning run or walk with coffee. You can hop on and off at most intersections, making it perfect to explore the neighborhood.

Afternoon Visits

Garfield Park Conservatory: An urban oasis in the city that is perfect for an afternoon stroll, whether the weather is harsh or not. From the flower gardens to the tile waterfalls, this free spot will take you through every season.

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Logan Square Farmers’ Market: My favorite farmers’ market in the city is open every Sunday from 10-3! Whether you want to grab lunch, coffee, or just some flowers, it goes on for miles and has something for everyone. Stroll the booths and enjoy the live music for hours with friends and make sure to grab some homemade baguettes.

MCA Chicago: My favorite museum in Chicago! The art is stunning and the museum’s architecture is just as beautiful. You could get lost in here for hours and never realize it. It’s the perfect stop after strolling downtown and taking a peek at the lake.
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Alapash: If you are in the market for locally sourced and handmade goods, pottery, or succulents, this is your place. Much of our home decor is from this store and they have everything from candles to Moroccan wall hangings and rugs — not to mention the owner is the nicest.

Evening Visits

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Parson’s Chicken & Fish: One of our favorite places to eat on the patio underneath the string lights and striped umbrellas. They have everything from spicy fried chicken to amazing fish with unbelievable sides like hush puppies and fresh salads. If you are up for a cocktail, make sure you try their Negroni slushi or signature michelada.


The Violet Hour: A hidden gem in Bucktown, this spot has no outside signage and you will have to keep your eyes open to notice the entrance. There is usually a bit of a wait to get in and no cell phones are allowed inside. It’s refreshing to unplug and enjoy some delicious craft cocktails with friends. If you want to grab after-dinner drinks I highly suggest it!

Acadia: A unique spot in the South Loop down Michigan Avenue, this may be the best meal we have ever had in Chicago — and we eat a lot. Each dish is better than the next and although it tends to be a bit pricey, the vibe is laid-back. If you are looking for a lesser-priced option, opt to sit at the bar, whose menu is just as tasty.

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      • As a Chicagoan that lives in these neighborhoods, I noticed that there are two errors. One is that Violet Hour is definitely, no doubt about it, in Wicker Park. It’s across the street from the darned park. It could not be more in Wicker Park if it tried. The next thing is that the 606 goes from Bucktown to Humboldt Park. It just crosses through Logan Square.

        Also, you could update the guide with a note about Parson’s ice rink in the winter. Also, across the street from the Violet Hour, you could skate and then end with a drink at the Violet Hour since as of Dec. 5th this year (assuming it’s cold enough) Wicker Park will also have an ice rink. Parson’s does not rent skates. Wicker Park is going to rent skates but may not right away – last I heard they were considering vendors.

        Hope this helps!

        • You can hop on and off the 606 in Logan Square too. If you get off just west enough you could pop into Best Intentions, formerly Marble. Great patio, tasty food, and awesome cocktails.

  • Oh man, Doughnut Vault! I was hoping their truck would be in front of my office today because I love their buttermilk doughnuts more than anything in the world. Alas, it was not there. :(

  • I usually like your city guides, but as a Chicagoan, I don’t love this list. It’s got inaccurate or overhyped recommendations without the insight that I usually find helpful from these articles.

    • Joanna

      Can you tell me which parts are inaccurate? We don’t want to publish anything that will lead readers astray.

      These guides (of which we publish several for each city) are meant to be personalized takes on a city, not a definitive guide. We have already published full guides to most major American cities, so these smaller “24 hours” guides are meant to be like following a particular local through their ideal day. They won’t always include everyone’s favorite spots (that’s impossible), but they will be a fun way to discover (or re-discover) a city through someone else’s eyes.

      We publish multiple versions of these smaller city guides precisely so you can get different takes. If you think you’ve got a different point of view to share that doesn’t overlap this guide or the full city guide, we’re happy to talk and perhaps hire you to share your version of the city, too.


  • I’ve lived in Chicago for 15 years and I do adore many of the places mentioned but it would be really challenging to do in one day, especially if you were a tourist without a car! I think too, that we all have a different view of our fair city.

  • I love this list! I live in Chicago and love exploring new-to-me spots in different neighborhoods. These are definitely some great spots for someone who wants to explore something off the beaten path! Thanks for sharing!

  • this guide seems really contrived considering design sponge has already mentioned the garfield park conservatory, MCA, doughnut vault and violet hour in a previous post


    it would also be impossible to visit all of these places in one day considering that the MCA is downtown, the conservatory is in garfield park, the farmer’s market is in logan square and the 606 doesn’t even cut through half of these spots.

    I liked that sprout home’s guide was more like your old “day in the life posts” (what happened to those?) I also thought the 24 hour guides were like “must sees” and while everyone has a different opinion on what people must see in chicago, it’s kind of hollow to recommend a doughnut bakery that notoriously sells out and a farmer’s market that happens once a week.

    • Danielle

      In any city guide there will be overlaps between our main guides and these smaller personalized guides. I can’t imagine any guide to NYC not mentioning a famous museum or park, so Chicago is no different. That said, the majority of this guide does not overlap our other main guide.

      I’ll make sure I check in with all guide writers to ensure that what’s listed could be done in a day, relatively. A lot of writers are proud of their cities and want to provide more than a few options so people can pick and choose which places they go during their 24 hours.

      The “day in the life” column comes up now and then, just like all of our favorite columns from years past. We’re bringing back the Toolbox column next week and “day in the life” will come back again soon, too. Those posts overlapped so much with studio tours sometimes that we chose to lean toward a column type that provided a little more advice and story over a longer visual gallery.

      I don’t see what’s “hollow” about mentioning a popular doughnut spot? Just because it’s popular and sells out quickly doesn’t mean it’s somehow less meaningful. And why can’t your 24 hour trip happen on the day that the farmer’s market is open? Those critiques don’t make as much sense to me. Though I will definitely check in with all writers to ensure we’re not giving these guides too much length that would be impossible to do in a 24 hour period.


  • Parson’s Chicken + Fish is a great recommendation! Such a hidden gem, and an especially great pick for Chicago. I always consider these lists before I travel, because there’s often a few different gems that I can pick and choose from. Obviously, you are not going to do every single thing on the list, but you can definitely do the 606 and Farmer’s market from lunch, walk over to Parson’s, then check out Violet Hour, and Alapash. When my sister visited over Labor Day, we did that on that Sunday!

  • It’s nice to see some smaller/lesser-known places mixed in with the known (says this native Chicagoan). However, the Logan Square farmer’s market is only open May – October. It’s very good; on the same level as the Green City Market in Lincoln Park, which does operate year-round (Wednesdays and Saturdays). The Violet Hour is extremely well-known; I wouldn’t say hidden for that reason. Garfield Park is not as well-visited as some places, and it is a really wonderful space (Jens Jensen had a hand in some of the planning). But it’s also quite out of the way from these other suggestions.

    I would agree, it’s not possible to get to all of these places in a day. You can certainly pick your neighborhood to get to some of them (ex: farmers market – if Sunday – 606 and violet hour) but it does seem a little misleading to the casual visitor to not have a neighborhood/general area noted on some of these.

    • Logan Square Farmer’s Market has an indoor winter market, so technically it’s open year-round. Not as big, but still fun to walk through.

  • Love the options! Recently visited CC Ferns for the first time. Easy to miss if you’re not looking. I loved the coffee, bourbon and cigar choices in a unique, quaint atmosphere. Thanks!

  • A little secret – if someone gets to CC Ferns for morning coffee, the place has a limited number of Doughnut Vault doughnuts as it’s owned by the same entity.

  • I would argue the Art Institute of Chicago is the best museum in the city. They have a world class collection of modern art that rivals the MoMA’s collection and a gorgeous Renzo Piano addition to go along with it. It also has some of the best views of the city from the rooftop terrace of the new building and some of the most famous works of art in the world including George Seurat “Suday on the Isle of La Grande Jatte” as seen in Ferris Bueller’s day off. http://www.artic.edu

  • Great list! Thanks! Can’t wait to check these places out. It’s fun to hear about new places in my own city. Inspires me to explore.

  • Not to pile on but as a native Chicagoan this list does leave me wanting. Glad to see the 606 get a shout out though!

  • cool list! love how there are options in different areas to choose from and these are some new spots i’ve never heard of and will def try. thanks!

  • Thanks so much for including us in this lovely posting. We are so honored to be part of this unique list of destinations.
    It is so great to see a list that includes more than the usual places.
    As a frequent visitor of the. Gardfield Park, I can testify that it is a magical place worth visiting but often overlook. I have spent lovely days just meandering and taking pictures in this paradise.


  • You all are harsh with your comments. I have lived in Chicago for 10 years and find this list to be great! No, you might not be able to cross them all off in 24 hours but they’re great options if you find yourself downtown or northwest of the downtown area.

  • I love that Garfield Park Conservatory was included on the list. It is in Chicago and is only a 15m drive from Logan Square. It is in a neighborhood that might not normally be on people’s radar — maybe that is why people think it is out of the way? Sometimes they host a fire jam which is family friendly and fun. :)