Add “Gust-o” to Your Windy City Meetings With These Ideas

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Numbers-in-Nature-Mirror-Maze-and-the-Museum-of-Science-and-Industry-ChicagoAn increase in MICE programs is adding new dimensions to Chicago’s cultural side while also giving a gust of revenue to the Windy City, which has experienced record-high business in the first half of this year.

Chicago’s vast cultural attributes can be explored in a myriad of fun and creative ways. How does this sound: Jazz tours that culminate in a harmonica lesson with a live blues musician, guided kayaking and paddleboarding on Lake Michigan among the lights of downtown skyscrapers, prohibition pub crawls or a behind the scenes tour of Wrigley Field’s locker rooms and dugouts (and possibly a step out onto the field and into the footsteps of legends like Ernie Banks and Sammy Sosa). I grew up near Chicago, and yet new facets of the city surprise me every time I have the opportunity to go back. Here are a few more ideas for adding “gust-o” to your Windy City meetings.

The Meetings Maze

The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, housed in the only remaining structure from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, is a big draw for creative events. Here, groups can dine beside a World War II German submarine, stand inside a 40-foot tornado or get lost in the “Numbers in Nature: Mirror Maze,” an interactive exhibit exploring the geometric patterns of nature.

THE Culinary Invention

Culinary tours that dive into the city’s multicultural heritage—deep dish pizza to a chaat and henna experience on Devon Avenue—are always a hit with visiting groups. Legend holds that the brownie was purportedly invented at the Palmer House Hotel—no one will want to miss out on that.

The All-In-One

Chicago’s revenue lift will only continue its upward momentum when The Collection at McCormick Square—containing the 2.6 million-sf McCormick Place convention center and newly renovated Hyatt Regency McCormick Place—connects to the new Marriott Marquis Chicago and a new 10,000-seat, 22-suite sports and entertainment venue, the Wintrust Arena, this fall via pedestrian promenades and sky bridges. Once completed, more than 2,460 hotel rooms will be available to groups; the 1,205-room Marriott Marquis will add an additional 93,000 sf of meeting space to the mix, not to mention sweeping views of the lakefront from 40 stories high.

New Hotel Development

Hilton Worldwide, in partnership with the First Hospitality Group, is also setting up camp near McCormick Place with its first tri-branded hotel development that will include a Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton when it opens next year. Highlights include rooftop dining and 7,000 sf of combined meeting space.

All of these projects hold the extra perks of proximity to iconic attractions such as Millennium Park, Navy Pier, Soldier Field and shopping on Magnificent Mile. Now that you know where to go, only one thing left to do: Hold onto your hats!

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