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Shop Local 2022: Gift A Chicago Experience

Whether you're looking to try some of the best food in Chicago, tour the West Side or get a glimpse of the city's underbelly, we've got you covered for experiences as gifts.

Part of the Chicago skyline in the Loop, as seen from the 360 CHICAGO Observation Deck in the Streeterville neighborhood on Feb. 5, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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Credit: Danielle Deschaine

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CHICAGO — More than ever, people are collecting experiences instead of physical objects. And Chicago is the perfect city to do just that.

You can give your friends and family the gift of a city-based adventure this year, whether it’s dinner at a great restaurant, a class or just a quintessential Chicago experience.

Block Club Chicago rounded up a few of the options:

Next Restaurant, 953 W. Fulton Market. Website.

Fans of Alinea and famed chef Grant Achatz can enjoy one of his meals with a more affordable price tag at Next Restaurant. Each meal is ticketed, like you’d buy for a concert.

Next specializes in unique presentations of food, all based around a central theme. The menu theme changes every few months; past ones have included The Alps, Silk & Spice and Ancient Rome. The latest menu is based around seafood, according to Next’s website.

Tickets start at $235 per person and are bookable on Next’s website. Hours are 5-11 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Instagram.

Piva Beer Spa, 1052 N. Milwaukee Ave. Website.

Do you know someone who likes beer so much they could bathe in it? Well … they can.

Send them to Piva Beer Spa, where they can spend up to 45 minutes soaking in a tub full of beer. Packages include visits to the sauna, salt room and relaxation room, plus a beer mask and a massage. A CBD soak is available, as well.

Packages start at $175, with individual services beginning at $35.

The spa is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. 773-570-9280.

Chicago Bulls at the United Center, 1901 W. Madison St. Website.

Get your favorite Chicago sports fan tickets to an iconic Chicago team’s game: the Bulls.

Home games are played at the United Center. If your giftee lives somewhere else, look on their local team’s schedule to find a game in their area.

Make it an extra special event for them and pair the tickets with a jersey and a big foam finger to waggle around in the crowd.

Ticket prices range based on the game and seats. Book online or by calling 312-455-4000.

Credit: Courtesy of Aidan Kranz (@aidan.kranz)
Saint Emeric operates out of a historic church in Logan Square.

Saint Emeric, secret location in Logan Square. Website.

It may not be so secret anymore now that the restaurant is bookable on Tock, but Saint Emeric is still an exclusive experience — so buy a dinner for your trendy friend who loves being in the know.

The restaurant is in a church from the 1880s in an undisclosed location in Logan Square. Chef Eric Brown prepares a seven-course tasting menu for the meal.

Hours and phone number are secret. The website is password protected, and all Saint Emeric’s social media is private. You’ll have to find someone in the know to get in. Read more for tips.

Edgewater Candles, 1050 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Website.

Edgewater Candles is one of the newest shops in Edgewater’s Historic Bryn Mawr District, though the company has been making and selling candles for years. You’ve likely seen its Candle Camper around at farmers markets.

With the new storefront, Edgewater Candles has a dedicated space for candle-making classes ($50) — perfect for the DIYer in your life.

Classes are bookable on Edgewater Candles’ website. Shop hours are noon-7 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.

BevArt Brewer & Wine Maker Supply, 9030 S. Hermitage Ave. Website.

At BevArt, you can buy gift certificates for classes to brew moonshine, whiskey, beer, and wine. For beer and wine, your giftee will go through a hands-on experience making their drink of choice, then let it ferment in the shop’s temperature-controlled cellar.

Beer classes start at $125, but you’ll need to buy an add-on for a specific type of beer’s ingredients.

Book classes on BevArt’s website. Shop hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. 773-233-7579.

Skydeck Chicago, 233 S. Wacker Drive. Website.

The Skydeck atop the Willis Tower isn’t just for tourists. An all-new museum experience paired with a chance to have Chicago-style pizza on The Ledge makes it a great gift for anyone who loves the city. But it’s also perfect for your friend or family member coming in for a holiday visit — especially if you want them to experience a must-see Chicago spot.

Tickets begin at $30 for adults.

Hours are 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. 312-875-9447.

Credit: Provided
Virtue Restaurant, 1462 E. 53rd St.

Virtue Restaurant, 1462 E. 53rd St. Website.

Chef Erick Williams, the owner and head chef at Hyde Park Southern cuisine restaurant Virtue, took home the James Beard award for the best Great Lakes chef this year. A dinner at Virtue is one of the quintessential Chicago experiences for a foodie.

Gift cards are available on the restaurant’s website.

Hours are 4-9 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and Sundays and 4-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. 773-947-8831.

Studio W.I.P., 800 N. Kedzie Ave. No. 208. Website.

Gifting to someone who loves paint-and-sip parties? Show them there’s more than just acrylics with Studio W.I.P.’s urban art spray paint workshops.

Each workshop begins with a lesson on spray paint techniques, and then everyone gets a blank canvas to experiment on and take home at the end of the night. It’s BYOB, so the drinks can come, too.

The 90-minute experience costs $40 for adults and $30 for children, and all supplies are provided: canvas, paint, and stencils. Gift cards are available, as well.

Book tickets on the website. Workshops run Wednesday-Sunday. 312-525-9645.

Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave. Website.

Since 1908, when the Garfield Park Conservatory opened, it’s been a wonderland of floral art under a beautiful glass roof.

The botanist or gardener in your life will be able to wander 2 acres of indoor greenhouse through rooms overflowing with cacti and succulents, waterfalls, turtles, floral art and more.

It only takes about an hour and a half to see the conservatory, so get them a gift certificate to nearby Inspiration Kitchens for after your visit. The restaurant proceeds go toward a job training program for the food service industry.

Book conservatory reservations on the website. Hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesdays and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. 773-638-1766.

Museum membership, various city locations.

Culture and history lovers in your life will benefit from a museum membership to one of Chicago’s greatest institutions. Memberships are often on sale for the holidays and typically come with free admission for the giftee and a plus-one, with discounts on gift shop purchases and food items.

Check out the classics: the Field, Art Institute, Shedd and Museum of Science and Industry. But also take a look at some of the smaller museums that don’t always get as much love, as they have unique finds, won’t be as crowded and need local support.

Here’s a few possible membership options:

Field Museum: Starting at $85.

Art Institute of Chicago: Starting at $115.

Museum of Science and Industry: Starting at $95.

Shedd Aquarium: Starting at $75.

Museum of Contemporary Art: Starting at $70.

Chicago History Museum: Starting at $70.

American Writers Museum: Starting at $50

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: Starting at $42

The DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center: Starting at $30

Credit: FireUp

Candlelight Concert, various locations. Website.

The extra-Instagrammable Candlelight Concert series of shows are a treat for any music lover in your life — and for architecture lovers, too, since they’re usually held in significant or unique buildings.

Concerts are all performed by live musicians, typically classical performers, and range the gamut from beloved violin concertos (Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”) to uber-poppy renditions of modern performers (“A Tribute to Taylor Swift”).

The current series runs through the end of February and can be booked on the Fever website or app. Prices are $20-$60 on average, depending on where seating and timing.

Credit: DNAinfo Chicago

Pizza Walk by Steve Dolinsky, various locations. Website.

Chicago’s a city known for its pizza, whether you like deep dish or cracker-like crusts. Tour guide Steve Dolinsky plays into that history with his pizza walks, which are available in three areas — Downtown, the West Loop and Wicker Park/Bucktown — or by bus.

Attendees will get to learn about Chicago’s pizza history while stopping at pizzerias to grab a variety of slices.

Prices and lengths vary based on tours.

312-342-0084. Instagram.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Shermann “Dilla” Thomas poses for a photo on Michigan Avenue near 113th Street as a CTA bus rushes past in the Roseland community on Feb. 9, 2022.

Chicago Mahogany Tours, various locations. Website.

Chicago’s beloved Shermann “Dilla” Thomas, known for his TikTok history lessons, is bringing his videos to life with tours-by-bus of North Lawndale ($50), Bronzeville ($45), Pullman and Roseland ($45) and Bridgeport ($45).

Thomas provides historical information about the neighborhood as attendees stop at landmarks.

“It’s the stories that I tell that people are donating to,” Thomas previously said. “I’m just a vessel. It’s the stories that matter.” 

Thomas does his Englewood tours with well-known photographer and artist Tonika Johnson.

Tour dates vary. Book tours online. Instagram.

Credit: Gino Generelli/Provided
Mike McMains (center) stands In front of 350 North Orleans, which is part of the Ugly Buildings tour.

Rat and Ugly Buildings tours, Downtown. Website.

Got a, um, more unique person on your holiday shopping list? Mike McMains’ Underground Chicago (Plus Rats!) Tour will take your giftee on a walk around the Downtown area so they can see often hidden parts of Chicago — and take in all of its lovely rats. The 90-minute tours cover 1.2 miles ($30 per person).

McMains also offers a tour of ugly buildings in the Downtown area, providing color and historical context to a part of the city that’s often lauded for its architecture. The Ugly Buildings Tour lasts 120 minutes and covers 1.5 miles ($30 per person).

Tour dates vary. Book tours online. Instagram.

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