For those not familiar with the Windy City, Chicago might seem like a frozen tundra 12 months of the year. In reality, my fair city can actually get quite steamy, with July and August heat and humidity rivaling any tropical locale. While Chicagoans wait all year for the temps to rise, the fact is sometimes you just need a place to cool off and chill out a bit before heading back out into the urban jungle. Here are my favorite warm-weather hiding spots, from a tranquil museum respite to a neighborhood favorite ice cream stand.
You may have noticed that big expanse of blue on the city’s easternmost stretch. That’s Lake Michigan, and we love to flock to its shores in droves once the weather cooperates. Which, of course, means popular spots like Oak Street and North Avenue beaches can be overrun on sunny summer days. If you’re willing to venture past downtown, however, you can find placid places to enjoy the sand and water. Of the 23 beaches along Lake Michigan, a less-traveled place like Montrose Beach in Uptown beckons with its laid-back vibe and family- and pet-friendly accommodations. Just don’t tell any of the locals I told you so.
If you’re looking for something a little more active, take to the Chicago River on a kayak tour. The excursions led by Wateriders take paddlers past towering skyscrapers seen from an entirely different perspective. You can even take a tour of supposedly haunted watery sites or see the Navy Pier fireworks from this vantage point. Travelzoo has teamed up with Wateriders to offer half-priced kayak rentals where you can paddle away for two hours for $20, then follow up your journey with some discounted libations at the waterside Motel Bar.
Slipping into a serene spa for a pampering retreat on an extra oppressive day might be my favorite way to beat the heat. And if that oasis boasts Zen, calm-inducing surroundings, all the better. Tiffani Kim Institute in River North offers a convenient place to check out of your day for a little well-deserved bliss. Opt for the Marine Mineral Facial ($155), which features a cool revitalizing mask perfect for soothing sun-kissed skin. Check out Travelzoo’s current Local Deal with the Tiffani Kim Institute, which offers $200 of spa services for just $99.
Pretty much any place with working air conditioning can serve as an escape on a day when the temps hover near triple digits, but why not soak up some culture at the same time? The Art Institute of Chicago is a must-see destination any day of the week, but wiling away a summer afternoon while gazing at world-class art in silence can be extremely satisfying. Lose yourself in the cool blues of Picasso or Monet, and feel your blood pressure lower on contact.
Sure, you could hit up some chichi ice creamery with exotic designer flavors and prices to match. But for a true taste of Chicago, take the trip to Beverly, a genteel neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, and head straight to Rainbow Cone. The unique, time-tested blend of flavors – orange sherbet, pistachio, strawberry, chocolate and “Palmer House” (New York vanilla with cherries and walnuts), all teetering on a crispy cake cone – has been a Chicago staple since 1926.