Fur traders first settled in the Chicago area in the 18th century and since then it has been known as the place to meet.
With abundant meeting venues, first-class hotels and one of the busiest airports in the world, it is no wonder that Chicago is one the premier spots in North America for meetings and conventions.
It has also garnered its fair share of awards over the years including “City of the Year” from GQ Magazine (2008) and “One of the Top 10 Cities in the World” as selected by Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2009.
The world spotlight has clearly been focused on the city as well as it is the home of newly inaugurated president Barack Obama.
Statistics show that Chicago ranked as the most visited U.S. destination for business travelers for the past several years, with more than 12 million business travelers visiting the area in 2007. More people travel to Chicago for overnight business trips than any other destination in the United States.
And a good portion of those attended conference or meetings in the area. In fact, in recent years, many events that relocate to Chicago have enjoyed record-breaking attendance increases.
Chicago is the nation’s crossroads by air, highway and rail. The city’s central location and unprecedented transportation infrastructure make it easy and affordable to reach it from any place in the world.
Boasting two airports, including O’Hare International, the city is easy to get to from virtually anywhere. O’Hare — which has been voted the “Best Airport in North America” nine years running by readers of Business Traveler International — is only a two-hour flight from New York and a four-hour flight from Los Angeles.
O’Hare International saw more than 96,000 international flights in 2007, representing nearly 12 million international passengers making it the second-busiest airport in the world for both passengers and number of flights.
A modernization program at O’Hare, set to be completed by the end of 2011, will add four new runways, boasting the capacity of the airport even further.
Located just 10 miles from downtown Chicago, Midway Airport’s convenient location and low-cost airfares have made it one of the fastest growing airports in North America. Ten airlines including Southwest, American and Delta Airlines serve Midway with both domestic and international flights. Midway International Airport had more than 10 million international flights in 2007.
A US$793-million terminal redevelopment project was completed in 2004. As part of the program, a new airport terminal building opened, featuring passenger conveniences including expanded ticket counters and baggage claim areas, a state-of-the-art baggage system, and road-front access. A new Federal Inspection Services facility and international service is also included.
Once in Chicago, transportation is readily available, including taxicabs, limousines, public transportation or rental cars. The city’s rapid transit system also provides quick, safe rail service to downtown from both airports.
Chicago boasts the second largest fleet of taxis in the nation, with approximately 6,900 cabs, while a dedicated busway ships delegates quickly and easily between the downtown hotels and McCormick Place, the city’s top meeting facility.
All the convention facilities, hotels, cultural institutions, shopping, dining and entertainment are concentrated in a relatively small area. Everything can be easily reached by public transportation, while many of the most popular attractions are within walking distance of each other.
TOP MEETING VENUES
Chicago offers a vast range of venues for events from corporate board meetings to some of the largest trade shows and conventions in the world. From world famous museums and Millennium Park to hotels and convention centers, Chicago has the perfect venue for any event.
Located just minutes from downtown Chicago, on the shore of Lake Michigan, McCormick Place is one of the premier convention facilities in North America.
McCormick Place features four state-of-the-art buildings: McCormick Place North, McCormick Place South, Lakeside Center, and the new West Building. The four buildings provide configurations for small corporate meetings, mid-sized conventions and mega trade shows.
The facility offers 2.6 million square feet of exhibit halls, with 1.2 million square feet on one level alone. Other features include 173 meeting rooms providing 600,000 square feet of space, assembly seating for 18,000 people, the 4,249-seat Arie Crown Theater, as well as three theaters seating 300 or more each. The complex is easily accessible and has some 6,000 parking spaces. High-speed wireless network connection allows up to 1,500 delegates access concurrently.
An expansive series of pedestrian promenades and sky bridges link the entire campus. The Grand Concourse connecting South and North and the Central Concourse in West are also locations for retail shops, cafes, restaurants and other visitor amenities.
Located in the Lakeside Center at McCormick Place, the Arie Crown is a convenient place to host or attend a show. Chicago’s largest first class theatre attracts top-name performers and productions. Over the years it has featured performers including Stevie Wonder, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Tony Bennett and hosted speakers including six U.S. presidents, Martin Luther King and Maya Angelou.
The Hyatt Regency McCormick Place is the only hotel connected to McCormick Place. The hotel offers 800 guest rooms as well as banquet space and a conference center offering a total of 43,500 square feet of meeting space.
Navy Pier, one of the city’s landmarks, has been hosting events for almost 100 years. After years of disrepair, the site saw a major transformation in the mid-1990s, re-establishing it as one of the area’s top meeting spots.
The US$200-million renovation transformed Navy Pier into a world class convention, cultural and recreational center, becoming Chicago’s most popular visitor attraction and a premier meeting facility.
The venue offers more than 170,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, over 48,000 sq. ft. of meeting space — divisible into 36 meeting rooms – an 18,000-sq. ft. Grand Ballroom offering panoramic lake views and more than 50,000 sq. ft. of multi-use reception areas.
Other features include a loading dock with 10 bays and drive-in access, easy accessibility by taxi and charter bus drop-off locations and enclosed parking for 1,800 vehicles.
Choose Chicago, the official visitors site for Chicago, also offers a Special Meeting/Event Facility search engine which lets meeting planners search for a particular venue by location and capacity.
With Chicago’s Central Business District offering more than 30,000 hotel rooms within a five-mile range of McCormick Place, Chicago is a very accommodating city indeed. And this impressive number is set to swell by another 10 percent this year as more than 2,800 rooms will be added by the end of 2009.
Within five miles of McCormick there are 84 properties offering some 30,547 available rooms and another 1.5 million square feet of meeting space. From the venerable Congress Plaza Hotel, which has been operating since 1893, to the newly opened Trump International Hotel & Tower, there is no end of choices.
The Trump International Hotel & Tower, located on North Wabash Avenue, offers more than 300 rooms and the opportunity for attendees to boast that they stayed in the hotel with one of the most enviable addresses in the city, not to mention one of the most recognizable names in the world.
Hilton Chicago & Towers, on South Michigan Avenue, is a landmark downtown Chicago hotel. The venerable building, which opened in 1927, is located on the “Cultural Michigan Avenue Mile” overlooking Grant Park, Lake Michigan, and Museum Campus. It is the closest luxury hotel to McCormick Place, while being only a short distance from Chicago’s Loop business center, shopping and theatre. The hotel offers 1,544 rooms and some 234,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Palmer House, also a Hilton Hotel is an iconic, world-class downtown Chicago hotel and gateway to Chicago’s rejuvenated Loop scene which features more than 1,600 guest rooms and 140,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Fairmont Chicago, which completed a US$50-million renovation in 2008, is one of Chicago’s leading destinations for business, meeting and event travelers.
This four-diamond luxury hotel boasts state-of-the-art business and leisure facilities, with 62,000 square feet of meeting and function space, offers 687 renovated and expanded guestrooms.
The Sheraton Hotel & Towers Chicago puts visitors in the heart of the city and offers views of the river and lake. Directly on the riverfront, it is within walking distance of Navy Pier, Millennium Park and Michigan Avenue. Each of the 1,209 guest rooms and 40 suites feature a view of the Chicago River, Lake Michigan or the city skyline. Another 120,000 square feet of meeting space is available.
Situated on Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile among world-class shopping, restaurants, and entertainment, Marriott Downtown Chicago Magnificent Mile Hotel is within walking distance to the Windy City’s top attractions, including Navy Pier, Shedd Aquarium, Millennium Park, Theater and Museum Districts.
Chicago is a world-class destination with world-class cultural attractions, unique neighborhoods and spectacular architecture. Chicago is known for critically acclaimed restaurants, world-famous museums, first-class shopping, vibrant nightlife, action-packed sporting events and a thriving theater scene.
The city features thousands of restaurants offering something for every taste and budget. Be it Italian, Chinese, French, Japanese, Mexican, Asian, or Spanish, Chicago offers a virtual United Nations of eating choices.
Ethnic neighborhoods such as Chinatown, Greektown, West Rogers Park, and Pilsen are among those offering tempting tastes from around the world. It is also home to deep-dish pizza, one of Chicago’s most important contributions to 20th Century culture.
Chicago is world-renowned for its diverse collection of museums, which explore a variety of subjects including Chicago history, art, African-American culture, astronomy, natural history and much more.
No visit to the area is complete without spending time at its Museum Campus. The scenic park conveniently joins the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, the Shedd Aquarium/Oceanarium, and the Field Museum of Natural History with easy access to all three locations.
The Shedd Aquarium offers one of the world’s largest arrays of more than 8,000 aquatic mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and fish. After exploring the oceans, attendees can gaze up at the heavens in the nearby Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum. The Field Museum offers exciting displays of mummies, Egyptian tombs, Native American artifacts, and dinosaur skeletons are on display. It is also the permanent home of Sue, the world’s largest, most complete and most famous Tyrannosaurus rex.
Other Chicago museums include the Chicago History Museum (the city’s oldest cultural institution), McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, the DuSable Museum of African-American History, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography.
The Chicago Cultural Center is described as a “neo-classical masterpiece” that features two art-glass domes and glittering mosaic walls. The many galleries in the Cultural Center exhibit contemporary art from around town and works from around the world.
Navy Pier is the city’s lakefront playground and the state’s most popular attraction, offering visitors a unique blend of family-oriented attractions. It boasts a 150-foot high Ferris wheel, a musical carousel, the Chicago Children’s Museum, Wave Swinger ride in Pier Park, a 3-D Time Escape ride, a variety of restaurants and the famed Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
Historic Millennium Park offers 24.5 acres of green space. It contains an outdoor performing arts pavilion, indoor year-round theatre, restaurant, ice-skating rink, contemporary garden, public art, fountains, promenade area for special events, landscaped walkways and green spaces.
Other Chicago attractions not to miss include Buckingham Fountain at Grant Park, the Hancock Observatory, and the Sears Tower Sky deck.
And how can you visit Chicago without going on a shopping spree? From the famous Magnificent Mile to State Street on which the original Marshall Field’s Department store opened in 1852, and all the local neighborhood shops, there is no lack of choice.
A shopping spree must include a visit to the famed “Magnificent Mile,” which runs along Michigan Avenue from Oak Street to the Chicago River. Amidst department store giants such as Marshall Field’s, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, are hundreds of specialty shops and boutiques offering goods from around the world. Oak Street, just west of Michigan Avenue, is a boutique shopper’s dream.