Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood is a luxurious, beautiful, and fun area in Chicago; integral to the city and part of what makes Chicago so grand. The name itself, Gold Coast, signifies luxury with high end shopping down Michigan Avenue, historic old churches, mansions, and tons of incredible bars and restaurants. In the 1980s it was even the second most-affluent neighborhood in the United States behind the Upper East Side in Manhattan. The neighborhood was founded in 1856 and is centrally located in Chicago with Wrigleyville to the North, Chinatown to the South, and Lake Michigan to the East. There are also tons of hotels (mainly five-star) dotting the streets, making it the perfect place to stay for the weekend.
I lived in Chicago for 10-months and had an apartment in the Gold Coast. I explored the ins and outs of the neighborhood and have come up with a comprehensive list of the best things to see and do in the neighborhood. Below you’ll find my best recommendations!
Chicago’s Gold Coast Neighborhood – Everything You Need to Know
The growth of the Gold Coast neighborhood really began after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 when Chicago began to rebuild. The neighborhood is roughly bounded by North Avenue, Lake Shore Drive, Oak Street, and Clark Street. Currently, around 15,000 people live in the 115 acre area of the Gold Coast.
Transportation in the Gold Coast
Chicago’s Gold Coast is a relatively walkable area. But if you don’t want to walk, there are other options! Of course, Uber, Lyft, and Curb are ridesharing services that all service Chicago. But there are also great public transportation options.
The “L”, is the train system in Chicago. If you’re looking to come into the Gold Coast (from the airport or a different part of the city) or you’re looking to leave the Gold Coast, the red line is the line that services the area. There are two red line stops in/near the Gold Coast, “Chicago” and “Clark/Division”. The cost of a one-way ticket is $3. If you’re going to be in Chicago for a long time, you might want to consider purchasing a Venture card (you can do this at most drug stores) to easily load money and scan your card at the station.
- If you’re coming to the Gold Coast from the Midway airport, your route will look like this: Take the Orange Line towards the “Loop”. Get off on Roosevelt and transfer to the Red Line. Get on the Red Line going towards “Howard” and get off on Chicago or Clark/Division depending on where you’re going. This will take about 45-minutes.
- If you’re coming to the Gold Coast from the O’Hare airport, your route will look like this: Take the Blue Line towards “Forest Park”. Get off on Washington and transfer to the Red Line. Get on the Red Line going towards “Howard” and get off on Chicago or Clark/Division depending on where you’re going. This will take about an hour.
Lastly, there’s also a public bus option in the Gold Coast. For more information on bus stops, make sure to check out this website.
Things to See and Do in the Gold Coast
CHICAGO WATER TOWER
Located on Michigan Avenue, the Chicago Water Tower is registered as a “historic place” in the city having been around since 1869 making it the second oldest water tower in the US behind the Louisville Water Tower in Louisville, Kentucky.
Lake Michigan is one of the highlights of Chicago’s Gold Coast! If you follow Oak Street to the east, you’ll end up at Oak Street Beach on Lake Michigan. It’s so fun and unique to enjoy the beach and the water, while also being able to turn around and see skyscrapers towering over you.
Starting (or ending, depending on which way you’re going) in the Gold Coast is Michigan Avenue, also part of Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile”. Michigan Avenue is a road that is well-known for its shopping. You can find designer stores, the largest Starbucks in the world, and more. You could definitely spend a day exploring everything on Michigan Avenue!
The Gold Coast has great shopping aside from Michigan Avenue. Some of my favorite stores in the neighborhood are Aritzia on Rush Street, the designer stores on Oak Street, and P.O.S.H. antique store on State Street.
Chicago’s “Viagra Triangle” got its name for the “older” men that hang out in the area and are known to take dates. The area that is referred to as the Viagra Triangle is the small, triangle shaped area between Bellevue, Rush, and State. While I don’t recommend the restaurants surrounding the triangle, it is a good place to head for a drink if the weather is nice and you want to sit outside.
The Best Bars/Restaurants in the Gold Coast
Because the Gold Coast is quite touristy, there are tons of tourist traps when it comes to restaurants in the area. For example, there are a lot of “famous” deep dish pizza places like Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s, that aren’t all that great. And the “Viagra Triangle” also has restaurants that seem appealing due to location, but are completely overrated (i.e. Carmine’s). If you are drawn to the Viagra Triangle, I suggest sitting outdoors for a drink but getting a meal elsewhere.
For more bars and restaurants in Chicago don’t miss:
Adalina is an upscale Italian restaurant new(ish) to Chicagos’ Gold Coast. The head chef, Soo Ahn, is a previous Michelin-star winner and has creatively (and deliciously) fused Northern Italian food with Southern Italian food for the ultimate Italian experience.
BLUE DOOR KITCHEN and GARDEN
Blue Door Kitchen and Garden is a really fun, beautifully decorated, and elegant restaurant with an awesome patio. They’ve proclaimed to be a “farm-to-table oasis in the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast” and I can’t argue with that. The menu is thoughtfully crafted and the ingredients are locally sourced. If you can, I highly recommend visiting during the warmer months when the patio is open and people are spilling out. Otherwise, the inside is just as nice.
Fun fact, the head chef was Oprah’s chef for 10 years. If he’s good enough for Oprah, he’s good enough for me!
Foxtrot (with locations all around Chicago) is an interesting concept as they’ve combined grocery shopping, with a coffee/wine shop, and restaurant. And I think the idea is brilliant! It’s the perfect place to go for breakfast (the bacon avocado toast is the best I’ve ever had), or a happy hour glass of wine. Plus, if you have work to do it’s a great space to hang out for the day.
Foxtrot is very casual, I wouldn’t recommend it for a traditional “dining out” restaurant experience. Instead somewhere if you want healthier food, on the go.
Le Colonial is a French-Vietnamese fusion restaurant. The decor is absolutely beautiful, and the restaurant sits above one of the most affluent streets in the Gold Coast – Oak Street. In my personal experience, I didn’t think that the food was anything special here, however the bar has a great atmosphere making it worth it to visit for a cocktail before or after dinner.
MAPLE & ASH
Maple & Ash is one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago. It’s lively, draws a good crowd, has incredible food, and the interior design is impeccable. This fancy restaurant does have a dress code but trust me, it’s far from “stuffy” inside. And while you can expect to pay a pretty penny dining here, they do have $30 seafood towers and $10 martinis every night of the week from 5pm – 6pm at the bar – first come, first serve.
Rose Lounge is a speakeasy style bar located at the bottom of Adalina’s. The cocktail menu is completely unique to the lounge, so you can’t order the same drinks at the restaurant. I recommend heading here for a nightcap.
Sparrow is one of my all time favorite cocktail bars in the city. Not only is it the perfect date spot, but it’s also the perfect spot to cozy up in when the weather gets cold and you need a warm escape. The building has been around since 1927 so it has an old, rustic, speakeasy like feel to it. Sparrow specializes in rum drinks and craft beers.
THE GODDESS and GROCER
The Goddess and Grocer has a similar concept to that of Foxtrot, and also has many locations around Chicago. It’s a good place to grab food to go, and has a “grocery” like experience where you can buy limited food items.
WHISPERS COFFEE and TEA
Whispers is a cute, outdoor spot, and a good place to head in the summer when the weather. You can get baked goods, drinks, and weather permitting, there’s also an ice cream bar. Whispers is closed during the winter, and in an optimal location.
Chicago’s Gold Coast is beautiful and well worth the visit if you’re in the city.
For more neighborhoods in Chicago, don’t miss: A Neighborhood Guide to the Ukrainian Village in Chicago