Let’s Explore! My Top Picks (with Tips) On Where to Go During Open House Chicago

One of my favorite weekends in Chicago is in October during the Open House Chicago. It will take place on October 19th and 20th.

What is Open House Chicago?

Open House Chicago a free public festival that offers behind-the-scene access to more than 350 buildings across Chicago. It is organized by the the Chicago Architecture Center. If you love architecture as much as I do, I highly recommend you partake in this free event. This is the only time that many of the buildings are open for public access to see what’s inside. And it’s one of the few times that the loop in Chicago is crowded on the weekends. Finally, it’s also great weekend to play tourist in your own city or if you’re a tourist, to explore Chicago!

I’m currently planning our Open House Chicago weekend but wanted to share my top picks and tips on how to navigate this fun festival. I’ve also included places that a great for kids. Happy exploring!

Popular spot for Open House Chicago

Tips on Navigating Open House Chicago

There is no way anyone can see all 300 sites in one weekend. So here are some tips to get the most of your Open House Chicago experience:

  • Get there early – especially for sites that are popular to avoid standing in long lines.
  • Map out where you want to go so you can visit places that are close to each other instead of spending your days driving or walking all over Chicago.
  • Make sure the sites are open. Some sites are not open both days so keep that in mind when you are mapping out the places to see.
  • Get a Chicago Architecture Center membership to get into sites that have long lines (to bypass and go to member lines) or sites that require a membership to get in.

The Rookery

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The Rookery is my obvious top pick because it’s where Charlie and I had our wedding reception. The building was by Burnham and Root and completed in 1888. The lobby was renovated by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905.  You will get access to the oriel staircase, which is just beautiful.

There’s always a long line at the Rookery so get there early!

Address: 209 S. LaSalle St. / Open on Sunday only / Long lines

Big Monster Toys

Big Monster Toys opened their doors to Open House Chicago a few years ago with very long lines. The reasons? This is where toys get invented and we were all dying to know what was behind the big yellow door with the monster peaking out! We went last year and loved seeing all the fun toys that were out on display. I would love to work (I mean, play) here!

Address: 21 S. Racine / Open on Saturday only / Great for kids

Soho House Chicago

The Soho House Lobby

I’ve been to the Allis at the Soho House Chicago for brunch and coffee. It’s one of my favorite places to meet up with friends in the city. But I’m not a member of the Soho House so I don’t get access to the members-only areas. That’s why this place is high on my list! And of course the only way you get to see this is if you’re a Chicago Architecture Center (“CAC”) member or if you have a priority pass.

Address: 113 – 125 N. Green St / Open on Saturday only/ Access for CAC members or with priority pass holders.

Lyric Opera of Chicago

I’ve been the Lyric Opera of Chicago a few times to watch a few opera shows and loved it. But I’ve always wanted to go behind the scenes or see the opera when there is no show or less people. The interior’s Art Deco and Art Nouveau styling and ornamentation are really what I want to see. Unfortunately we can’t go backstage or on stage.

Address: 10 N. Wacker / Open Saturday only / Long lines

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Money Museum

We took Luke to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Money Museum a few years ago and he loved it. He got to see the behind the scenes on how money is made and there were some fun things to do for kids there as well. I highly recommend covering this after you check out the Rookery since it’s nearby.

Address: 230 S. LaSalle St. / Open Saturday & Sunday / Great for kids

The Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation

The Poetry Foundation is located in River North. It is open to the public regardless of Open House Chicago. I recommend this place because I love books and the architecture of this building.

Address: 61 W. Superior St. / Open Saturday & Sunday / Great for kids and bibliophiles

Edgewater Beach Apartment

If you like pink and have driven down Lakeshore Drive, you’ve definitely seen the massive pink building. The Edgewater Beach Apartments is on my list because I just want the opportunity to see the Beaux Arts pool.

Address: 5555 N. Sheridan Road / Open Saturday only

Jay Pritzker Pavilion At Millennium Park

You can’t miss the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park because the massive stainless steel stage. This place has my pick this year because kids ages 6-12 can make and take a project to create their own little structure.

201 E. Randolph / Open Saturday & Sunday / Great for kids

The Lytle House

We went to the Lytle House last year and absolutely loved seeing what was behind the Dolly Parton fence. The Lytle House was once an auto repair shop but now is an event space with one of the prettiest murals in the city and a fun outdoor space.

5517 N. Broaday / Open Sunday only / Great for kids

Stony Island Arts Bank

The Stony Island Arts Bank used to be a bank but has been restored and converted into a library and gallery for the residents in in the neighborhood. I love when places are restored and re-purposed. In this case, to showcase the African American heritage.

6760 S. Stony Island Avenue / Open on Sunday only

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