What to do in Chicago

LGBTQ History and Community


Gerber Hart Library & Archives

Founded in 1981, the archives serve as a depository for records on LGBTQ persons and organizations. It is the Midwest's largest LGBTQ library, with exhibits on LGBTQ culture.

The Martin

Queer, woman-owned, artist-first community space that hosts exhibitions, markets, open mic nights, and more!

Northalsted Legacy Walk

Located in Lakeview, the Northalsted neighborhood is home to the majority of the city's LGBTQ bars and boutiques. Along Halsted street between Grace Street and Belmont Avenue are bronze memorial markers commemorating notable LGBTQ figures throughout history, as well as crosswalks painted to represent the rainbow and transgender flags.

The Leather Archives & Museum

Founded in 1991, the museum is the country's only institution dedicated to fetish and alternative sex culture and the Queer community.

Women & Children First

Independent feminist bookstore and gathering space for the LGBTQ+ community in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood.

Unabridged Bookstore

Independent LGBTQ-owned bookstore in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood.

Early to Bed

Independent, Queer woman-owned inclusive sex shop in the Andersonville neighborhood.

Second Story

Small, old-school, cash-only local gay bar tucked away in low-lit digs.

Out of the Closet Thrift Store


Out of the Closet is the nation's largest not-for-profit retail fundraiser for HIV/AIDS medical care. 96¢ of every dollar directly funds AIDS Healthcare Foundation's HIV/AIDS programs and services in the U.S. and abroad.

Brown Elephant Resale Shops

With three locations across Chicago, Brown Elephant Resale Shops are your source for fashionable finds, home décor, and everyday vintage style. Whether it's a new outfit or a whole new wardrobe, redecorating one room or redesigning your whole home, you can find it at Brown Elephant. All proceeds benefit LGBTQ health and fund care for the uninsured and under-insured at our community partner, Howard Brown Health.

Center on Halsted

A community sponsor of the conference, Center on Halsted is the Midwest's most comprehensive community center dedicated to advancing community and securing the health and well-being of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) people of Chicagoland. More than 1,000 community members visit the Center every day, located in the heart of Chicago's Lakeview Neighborhood.



General Chicago Sightseeing


Millennium Park

Large outdoor park that is home to famous Cloudgate (better known as "the bean") sculpture.

Navy Pier

Classic Chicago destination that includes restaurants, rides, games, and shopping. The Centennial Wheel provides a particularly good view of the city. Lunch, brunch, and dinner cruises on Lake Michigan also leave from the Navy Pier!

John Hancock Building

The Willis Tower is Chicago's tallest skyscraper, but the nearby John Hancock offers arguably better views of the skyline. The 360° Observation Deck has beautiful views and a Tilt+ thrill ride for the daring, but a less crowded option to stop by the Signature Lounge for a cocktail overlooking the city. The window in the women's restroom is particularly well-known for having a great view of the skyline.

Architectural Boat Tours – River & Lake Options

 

Float along the river as a tour guide takes you through the city's most notable buildings, sharing over 130 years of Chicago history along the way. River and Lake tours available. Chicago Architecture Foundation, Wendella, and Shoreline are all great options!


Conference attendees get 30% off the Chicago River Architecture Tour and Lake & River Architecture Tour with Wendella Boats. Book at the Wendella website using the promo code LGTBQCONFERENCE. 

Kayak Tours – River & Lake Options

See the city from a kayak or paddleboard! Night, architectural, and sunset tours are held in either groups or privately and are offered in both English and Spanish. Urban Kayaks, Wateriders, and Kayak Chicago are popular services offering different options.

Garfield Park Conservatory

Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory is one of the largest and most stunning botanical conservatories in the nation. Often referred to as "landscape art under glass," the Conservatory showcases thousands of plant species from around the world throughout eight indoor display gardens. Year-round, visitors can enjoy the lush flora and tropical temperatures indoors, or more than 10 acres of outdoor gardens, nature play spaces for children, water lily pond, and much more.

Chicago Museums

Adler Planetarium

American Writers Museum

Art Institute

Chicago History Museum

DuSable Museum of African American History

Field Museum (home of Sue, the T-rex with gender-neutral pronouns)

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

Jane Addams Hull-House MuseumMuseum of Contemporary Art

Museum of Contemporary Photography

Museum of Illusions Chicago

Museum of Science and Industry

Museum of Surgical Science

National Museum of Mexican Art

Peggy Notebart Nature Museum

Shedd Aquarium

Smart Museum of Art

Ukrainian National Museum

WNDR Museum

Wrightwood 659

Lakefront Trail

18 miles of pedestrian and bike paths along Chicago's Lake Michigan, the perfect place to get some outdoor exercise.

Kathy Osterman Beach

Known by locals as "Hollywood Beach," this stretch of sand on the north side is Chicago's unofficial "gay beach" where the city's LGBTQ residents tend to sunbathe or watch the sun rise/set.


Events


Andersonville Sidewalk Sale (July 29-31)

 

Andersonville Dog Days of Summer (Sat 7/30)

Dog-friendly outdoor market with vendors and food trucks. Free, with a recommended donation of $5.

Chinatown Summer Fair (7/30-7/31)

Festival with lion dance performances, kung fu demonstrations, samplings from Chinatown's restaurants & unique gift shops, arts & crafts exhibits, street vendors with an array of merchandise, and a children's area. Entertainment will include a breakdance competition, K-pop, and a dumpling eating contest.  

Grant Park Music Festival "Gospel Jubilee" (7/27)

Free outdoor concert in Grant Park (located in Millenium Park). A roof-raising evening in classic Chicago style-the Grant Park Music Festival celebrates this quintessential Chicago art form with Charles Floyd and the Soul Children of Chicago performing with the Grant Park Orchestra. The concert features songs by Gospel pioneers Albertina Walker, Thomas Dorsey and more.

Grant Park Music Festival Mahler Symphony No. 9 (7/29-7/30)

Free outdoor concert in Grant Park (located in Millenium Park). Wallow in the velvety richness of Gustav Mahler's last completed symphony in the cozy confines of the Harris Theater. Echoing life's journey through joy, yearning, pathos, and mortality, the "Mahler Nine" is both devastating and amazingly gratifying. Carlos Kalmar conducts the Grant Park Orchestra.


Shopping & Other Things To Do


The Second City

World-renowned improv comedy venue featuring regular shows. Some of the giants of comedy have performed here, and cast members are regularly hired onto SNL!

 

After the show, be sure to check out the Old Town Ale House, a cash only dive bar that has been featured on Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown.

Sports!

Chicago is a fantastic city if you're a sports fan, or if you simply want to tour some historic sports venues.

 

The Chicago Cubs and White Sox hold regular games.

Humboldt House Chicago

Humboldt House is a feminist home goods, jewelry & gift shop in Humboldt Park, Chicago. You'll find hand selected items for a modern home + garden, paper goods, body care, jewelry, and more!

Asrai Garden

Asrai Garden was founded by Elizabeth Cronin in the heart of Chicago's Wicker Park in 1999. It is a Chicago retail outpost known for stunning floral arrangements, luxurious fine jewelry, and magical curiosities.


Food & Drink


Nobody's Darling

Black Queer owned, LGBTQIA+ friendly, cocktail bar with upbeat vibes.

Split-Rail Restaurant

Woman owned and operated, Split-Rail is a friendly neighborhood restaurant specializing in classic American comfort food. They are completely nut-free and welcome people with all sorts of dietary restrictions. Try their gluten-free fried chicken!

Jennivee's Bakery

Cozy patisserie showcasing traditional American and Filipino cakes and pastries. Located in the beautifully diverse neighborhood of East Lakeview, Jennivee's Bakery, an LGBTQ+ owned and operated small business, is a safe and welcoming space for everyone to come and indulge.

Three Dots and a Dash

Speakeasy-style tiki bar with fresh cocktails and small bites. Recognized as one of Esquire's "Best Bars in America." An ode to rum and rhum agricoles, the menu is composed of refined and focused rum drinks presented across multiple cocktail styles.

Firecakes Donuts

Using locally-sourced products, this family shop is a great place to get unique sweet treats any time of day. Try their donut ice cream sandwich!

Eataly

A multidimensional ode to Italy and food, Eataly offers a marketplace including fresh pasta, imported olive oil and wine, housemade cheeses, and on-site cured meats. Eataly also offers several restaurants, caffe Lavazza, a pastry shop, a gelato counter, home goods, and cooking/tasting classes!

The Green Mill

Old school, cash only jazz club and bar. Legend has it that this was an Al Capone hangout!

Headquarters Beercade River North

Nostalgic arcade bar featuring playful drinks, pub fare, and throwback video games. All games are free to play!

Time Out Market Chicago

Large industrial food hall including communal seating and lots of options under a single roof.

Al's #1 Italian Beef

Historic, classic Italian beef restaurant formed in 1938. Al's has been awarded Best Sandwich & Sandwich Shop in America, Most Iconic Dish in America, and Top Food to Eat in Chicago Before You Die. Al's has also received over 150 culinary and critic awards, including from the Food Network, TODAY Show, Travel Channel, and Esquire.

Tweet

Grab brunch at Tweet in Uptown. It's a queer owned bar and restaurant. They are cash only, but have an ATM in the dining area.

Eli Tea Bar

 

A queer owned specialty tea cafe in Andersonville. Its mission is to provide a sober-friendly space for people to enjoy in Andersonville. They've got an incredible menu of hot and cold teas!

Pizza!

Classic Deep Dish

Giordano's

Pizzeria Uno

Lou Malnati's

Hidden Gems (not deep dish)

Pequod's

Piece Brewery & Pizzeria




Thank you Camille Bundy, Kathryn Macapagal, Julie Napolitano, Andrew Principe, and Madison Shea Smith for compiling this list!

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