Chicago and its suburbs offer a retail paradise. Whether you’re looking for top brands, unique markets, or great deals, you can find them somewhere around here. Check out some of the Windy City Guide‘s favorite spots for traditional shopping:
1. The Mag Mile
There’s no topping the shops on Michigan Avenue for internationally-known brand names. Apple, Burberry, Nieman Marcus, Giorgio Armani, Tiffany & Co., Kenneth Cole, the Disney Store, the American Girl Store – it’s all here. From the Chicago River at Wacker Drive up to about Oak Street (and don’t miss turning down Oak Street), you can find countless mall stores, boutiques, department stores, and anything you want.
2. Fashion Outlets of Chicago
Over in Rosemont near O’Hare International Airport, this giant full-service indoor mall features great food, art, and amazing deals. It’s the kind of place people drive from neighborhing states just to visit, because the deals are so great and they’re on top-tier brand names like Tory Burch and Gucci and Barney’s.
3. Woodfield Mall
Still one of the largest indoor malls in the U.S., Woodfield is out in Shaumburg, about 40 minutes northwest of downtown. Like any good old American shopping center it’s close to a movie theater and hundreds of restaurants. There’s also an Ikea nearby. Inside the mall you’ll find all the retail staples, from Hot Topic and Gamestop to Macy’s and Lord & Taylor, but you also get cool places such as Level 257, the first Pac-Man-themed restaurant/entertainment venue from Namco, Rainforest Cafe, a Garrett’s popcorn outpost, and much more.
4. State Street and Jeweler’s Row
In the Loop area, you can find the Macy’s that used to be Marshall Field’s, a historic center of retail in Chicago. A number of discount stores line State Street here, and if you turn onto Wabash Ave. about a block east of the south end, you’ll be in Jeweler’s Row.
5. Zurko’s Midwest Promotions
Let’s go off the beaten path a bit – yes, we have flea markets in the Chicago area. Out in Grayslake, one of the far northern suburbs, Zurko Promotions hosts a monthly one that’s full of antiques and treasures. If sifting through stuff in search of unique items is your cup of tea, this is the destination for you.
You’ve got your sports stores in Wrigleyville, of course, with Cubs merch being very popular right now in the wake of a World Series win, and also the Bears because it’s football season. But Lakeview also features some really great small retailers with edgier items than you might see in the malls. A visit to Reckless Records is a must, as is Chicago Comics if you like geekery and The Alley for clothes and accessories. Heck, just walk up and down Clark Street and see what you can find. It’ll be awesome.
7. 5Star Swap Mart
We’re going off the beaten path again. This space, in Villa Park, is unique. Designed to give budding entrepreneurs a space to start a retail business before they can afford actual real estate of their own, the 5Star Swap Mart is surprisingly diverse and fun. It’s an indoor flea market for bargain hunters, but you can also find community activities, low-key restaurants, and a really interesting array of items being sold, from new art and Mexican candy to women’s accessories and computer services. You need to see it to believe it, so go check it out sometime.