This past Sunday, I got to tour a couple of (private) spaces for the Chicago Architectural Foundation’s Open House event. It’s an annual festival for the public to “explore the hidden gems and architectural treasures of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods—all for free.” –

Here are the few wonderful places I had discovered:

Tour 1: McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River MuseumIMG_3570.JPG
IMG_3572.JPGThere are 18 bridges throughout the main downtown branch of the Chicago river, all with their own set of bridgehouses at each end. I was excited to actually go into one of these houses, where you can view the enormous gears that raise one half of a 6,000-ton bridge, to the top tower with 360 views of the busy Michigan & Wacker intersection. This museum is now on my must-see list for CHI tourists ($5.00 admission)

Tour 2: Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) Vault & Boardroom
IMG_3573.JPGThe CBOT building is an incredible Art Deco structure, known for the faceless Ceres on the lookout. Such details weren’t spared with their massive vault (the door was thicker than me!) and original boardroom (the boardroom was too crowded for me to get a photo – sorry!)

Tour 3: 190 S. LaSalle ‘The Library’
A gorgeous tenant-exclusive business club with two stories of book-lined shelves, elegant chandeliers and serious downtown views. Was my favorite spot of the day!

Tour 4: The Cliff Dwellers Club
A historic private club across from the Art Institute with some fabulous art pieces and equally stunning views of Millennium & Grant Parks, Lake Michigan and the 340 Randolph building where E & I did our marriage ceremony.

Tour 5: Sky-Line Club
IMG_3583.JPGAnother rooftop private club with bridge, river & Trump Tower views. Who knew there would be so many stodgy ‘prestigious’ establishments at the top of these skyscrapers in the heart of CHI-town?!?

Tour 6: Tip Top Tap Lounge
Everyone who walks along our Magnificent Mile notices the red ‘Tip Top Tap’ atop the Allerton Hotel. Former swanky-bar-now-mere-banquet-space hasn’t been open to the public since 1961 and while the gaudy carpet replaces the nostalgia of its wild past, the lounge was the best location to take a close-up pic of that infamous sign.

Just a couple of other sites along way: Calder’s Flamingo & crossing the Chicago River.
Just a note that my mother-in-law is a CAF member and volunteer, which meant that we had VIP access passes to bypass all the lines. Some folks patiently waited for 30-45 minutes to see the much-anticipated sites, like the CBOT Vault and Tip Top Tap Lounge. I’m not sure if I would have that kind tenacity (especially since I dragged my hubby along – hah!)

Can’t wait for #OHC2015 next year!