Curio Collection Local Guide, Chicago
We sent Neal Kumar, Chicago local and photographer extraordinaire, to LondonHouse Chicago, Curio Collection by Hilton to experience the beautiful hotel, shoot some photos and create a Curio Local Guide. It’s full of tips and local secrets, just for you.
Name? Neal Kumar
Preoccupation? Photography, photo editing and web design
How long have you lived in Chicago? 2.5 years
What is the best thing about Chicago? Chicago is such a big city that it easily caters to people with different tastes and interests. There is no shortage of various world-class restaurants and during the summers there are actually several festivals and events every single week.
Can you sum up Chicago? Chicago is full of beautiful architecture, natural photogenic streets, vibrant neighborhoods and easygoing yet hardworking people.
What is a perfect day in Chicago? Any temperate summer day gives you the option of going to one of many beaches to lie out in the sun or play volleyball. Several parks and paths run along the lakeshore, which are perfect for picnics or bike riding. There, you can also often enjoy live music, food trucks or festivals. With many rooftop bars to choose from such as LH, the tri-level rooftop bar at LondonHouse, you can finish the day off with an incredible view of the city and a refreshing cocktail.
What are the people like in Chicago? I grew up in North Carolina where “Southern hospitality” is everywhere you go. Once I moved to Chicago, I felt like I was still in the South as everyone is extremely friendly. While people in the city definitely work hard and pursue their career goals, they still know how to have fun and enjoy themselves.
If Chicago was a person who would it be? Frank Sinatra. He was such a multi-talented singer, actor and producer that became so influential when he grew in popularity. Now he is considered a timeless icon.
What was your impression of LondonHouse Chicago, Curio Collection by Hilton? LondonHouse Chicago strikes a perfect balance, as it embraces the original architecture and history along with modern amenities, including an onsite spa and tri-level rooftop bar.
Inspired by the London Guarantee & Accident Building, the nearly 100-year old structure uses its award-winning design to memorialize the era when the 23-floor tower was originally built. Additionally, an accompanying new 22-story modernist glass tower was designed to synchronize seamlessly with the 360 North Michigan Avenues building’s timeless Art Deco architecture. I also loved how the hotel subtly incorporates jazz themes throughout the public areas as a nod to its proud past.
What was your experience like staying at LondonHouse Chicago, Curio Collection by Hilton? The hotel occupies one of the most central locations, equidistant to just about any major attraction in the city. So many areas of the hotel offer sweeping, unobstructed views of the skyline and the Chicago River – particularly from LH, the city’s only tri-level rooftop bar which is on levels 21, 22 and 23 of the hotel. Chicago’s river and its many bridges are iconic, and LondonHouse Chicago accentuates the river view with floor-to-ceiling windows and abundant natural light. The lobby and some parts of the hotel retain the original architecture, which makes you feel a part of Chicago’s history.
If a friend was visiting Chicago for 24 hours what would you have him or her do? Unique to Chicago are certainly the hot dogs and deep-dish pizza. My favorite place for hot dogs is Portillo’s, but many people don’t realize that they also have some of the most amazing chocolate cake in the city. For deep-dish pizza, my go-to is Lou Malnati’s. Since deep-dish pizza can take 45 minutes to cook, many places let you order while you wait for your table so when you sit down the pizza comes out almost right away! There’s also a big dessert scene in the city. I would definitely recommend Do-Rite for donuts, Molly’s for cupcakes and Jeni’s for ice cream.
If you are up early enough in the morning, be sure to check out the Cloud Gate sculpture – better known as The Bean — at sunrise. This time of day, it is completely empty and the sunlight shines directly underneath The Bean. From there, you can rent a bike from one of many Divvy bike stations and head to Michigan Avenue for shopping and classic skyline views from the Michigan Avenue Bridge. After taking in the views, you can choose from multiple boats that offer architecture tours along the river. Each tour is slightly different; as the guides all share different facts about the history of the city and its architecture. Many locals, including myself, recommend a Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises.
If you keep making your way north, you can head to Oak Street Beach to lay out or enjoy a drink from the beach bar. This beach also has incredible views of the city’s skyline. Adjacent to the beach is Lake Shore Drive, which has its own pedestrian and bike paths that run along the lake all the way north and south of the city.
Further along Lake Shore Drive is North Avenue Beach, which has some of my favorite views of the skyline. From here, I like to head west into the city where you will find Lincoln Park and its free Zoo. It’s easy to spend a few hours walking around here.
By this time, you are probably close to evening, a good thing since Lincoln Park offers amazing restaurants. For a more laid back, hipster and unique neighborhood, be sure to head over to Wicker Park for the rest of the evening to find pool halls, live music, and plenty of bars and lounges.Wicker Park for the rest of the evening to find pool halls, live music, and plenty of bars and lounges.