10 Things We Love About the South Loop
Characterized by towering high rises with dramatic views of Lake Michigan and historic pockets that reflect the area’s storied past, the South Loop is a distinctive Chicago neighborhood.
Between the unique residential options, eclectic mix of dining and nightlife, and convenient access to the lakefront path, parks, and museums, it’s easy to see why there’s so many things to love about this vibrant community. Let’s dive in.
Legacies of Architecture and Industry
The South Loop is comprised of several historic areas that contribute to the neighborhood’s one-of-a-kind architecture and cultural significance. Once a thriving center of printing and publishing businesses, Printer’s Row features a number of buildings that have been converted into residential lofts but maintain landmark status. Plenty of locally owned restaurants, cafes and shops can be found along quiet tree-lined streets including Sandmeyer’s Bookstore.
Similarly, Motor Row District features architecturally significant buildings that were established in the early 1900s. In this case, they were designed to showcase automobiles in showrooms that housed as many as 116 makes and models. These unique facades have since been redeveloped into condominiums, nightclubs, and retail storefronts.
Prairie Avenue District is also nestled in the South Loop. After the Great Chicago Fire, some of the city’s wealthiest and most famous individuals built mansions in the renowned area, which was known as “Millionaire’s Row.” While only a handful remain today, they have been restored by current residents and many are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Easy Escape to the Lake
As its eastern-most border hugs Chicago’s largest natural resource, the South Loop is just a short distance from Lake Michigan. Whether taking a stroll or bike ride, there are several pathways and tunnels leading to the 18-mile Lakefront Trail that provides a combination of parks, beaches, and dining options along the way. Additionally, there are several Divvy Bike rental stations, allowing visitors to easily enjoy the scenic pathways and sights of the surrounding area.
Chicago’s Front Yard
Those same paths and tunnels that lead to Lake Michigan also provide a direct route to Chicago’s Museum Campus. The campus is a 57-acre park that runs along the lakefront and offers access to three of Chicago’s most notable museums: The Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium. If you’re looking to catch a football game or concert, Soldier Field and Northerly Island are also just steps away.
With a variety of eclectic restaurants, dining in the South Loop is second to none. A variety of cuisines provide uniquely delicious options, while dive bars and pubs are the perfect place to go before a Bears game. Located in one of the oldest bar spaces in the city, historic Kasey’s Tavern is a local favorite. And when the weather allows, Wabash Avenue is lined with al fresco dining options contributing to the lively urban atmosphere that is so prevalent in the South Loop. Lowcountry offers seafood with a Cajun flair, or for more traditional options, Scout Waterhouse + Kitchen and Eleven City Diner feature a classic menu. Restaurants are as unique as the architecture in this part of the city and are sure to please any palate.
Historic Houses Offer a Step Back in Time
The South Loop is also home to the Clarke House and Glessner House Museums. Built prior to the Civil War, the Greek Revival style Clarke House is Chicago’s oldest house and has survived fires and two moves. The Glessner House was designed by American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1887. An architectural treasure, it became noteworthy because it was a significant departure from the traditional Victorian designs of the period and served as inspiration for other famous Chicago architects. History buffs can enjoy organized tours of South Loop neighborhoods while also being transported to another era when visiting these two rare Chicago landmarks. Current hours of operation may be limited due to the pandemic.
A Walk in the Park
Recreation can be found around every corner of the South Loop at any one of its more than 15 parks. Among them is the centrally located Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens, which features impeccably landscaped outdoor space, in addition to a field house with fitness classes, children’s camps, and an indoor playground. Other parks throughout the area have plenty of playground space and water features.
A Bark in the Park
Lest we forget our furry friends, the South Loop Dog Park Action Cooperative meticulously maintains four area dog parks and keeps the canine community flourishing. Within these areas, tagged dogs can run off leash in fenced in areas that offer turf areas, water play, and tunnels for dogs large or small.
A Variety of Education and Childcare Solutions
South Loop Elementary School draws area students from preschool through 8th grade. Specializing in a variety of ages and grade levels, area private schools offer an array of options as well as diverse subject matter. Some include British School International and South Loop Montessori School. The South Loop is also home to facilities catering specifically to infants and early childhood development including The Goddard School.
Benefits of the Big City, Comforts of Community
The unmistakable appeal of the city can be felt throughout the South Loop, but the neighborhood manages not to compromise the essence of community. Through associations like South Loop Neighbors and the Greater South Loop Association, residents work together to maintain the area’s desirability. Favorite locally-owned establishments lend themselves to a strong sense of community, in addition to local events including the Printers Row Lit Fest – considered to be the largest free book fair in the Midwest. Meanwhile, the local energy is further enhanced by the presence of Columbia College Chicago and Roosevelt University.
Multitude of Housing Options
For the last two decades the South Loop has benefitted from a revitalization that is still in progress. The development of mid and high-rise buildings provides no shortage of beautifully appointed condominiums with spectacular views of Lake Michigan, while old industrial complexes have been converted into spacious lofts. Townhomes and single-family homes offer a larger option for those in search of more space. A combination of urban landscapes and traditional neighborhoods, along with easy access to multiple forms of public transportation make the South Loop a wonderful place to call home or simply check out during a visit to the Windy City.