InterContinental Hotel Chicago concierge Kathy McClanathan has spent 19 years advising visitors on the best things to do, see and eat in this Midwestern U.S. metropolis. Here she offers guidance to business travelers visiting the Windy City.
What should business travelers pack?
Shoes that are made for walking should go into the suitcase first. Our city is known for wind, so a light sweater or long-sleeved shirt should be packed for strolling or dining outdoors in summer. Of course, you’ll need a heavy coat, scarf and gloves in winter.
What are your top restaurant recommendations for a business lunch or dinner?
Guests in our hotel who need the right atmosphere for discussing business over a meal can request a quiet table in the bar or dining room of our restaurant, Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse (505 N. Michigan Ave.; Ph: 312-321-8823). Outside our hotel, I recommend Labriola Ristorante & Café (535 N. Michigan Ave.; Ph: 312-955-3100), which offers a classic Italian menu with a few surprises. It’s right next to our hotel on the Miracle Mile. French bistro Bistronomic (840 N. Wabash; Ph: 312-944-8400) also is great choice.
What’s one thing that always surprises guests about your hotel and city?
Our history. Our hotel was built in 1929, and we have a historic swimming pool that should not be missed. It was used by swimmer (and Tarzan actor) Johnny Weismueller to practice for the 1932 Olympic Games. We offer a self-guided audio tour that details our hotel’s rich past for visitors. In addition, Chicago’s architectural legacy always delights visitors. Even those who know architecture are surprised by some of the city’s little-known facts. For example, the famous Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is not one building, but nine separate structures joined together.
If business travelers only have a few hours for leisure, what must they see in your city?
In the spring, summer or fall, visitors must take an architectural river cruise. This 90-minute boat ride up and down both branches of the Chicago River immerses you in the city’s history. Another must-see is the Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as “the Bean,” in Millennium Park.
What’s the best option for outdoor exercise in your city?
The Lakefront Trail along the shoreline of Lake Michigan offers 18 miles of paths for walking, running and biking. The trail intersects with parks, beaches and gardens, as well as soccer fields and tennis courts.
Concierge Kathy McClanathan’s top tips for getting business right in Chicago:
Tip 1: Restaurant attire is usually business casual. Be prepared to wear dress shoes; some restaurants do not allow sneakers.
Tip 2: If taking a taxi, allow ample time to arrive at your appointment. Locations only a few blocks away can be tough to reach by car during peak traffic times.
Tip 3: Here’s a fun bit of local etiquette: We’re serious about our Chicago-style hot dogs, “dragged through the garden” with onions, relish, tomatoes and more. If you order a hot dog here, don’t ask for ketchup. It’s a no-no that marks you immediately as an out-of-towner.