I first encountered Chicago’s Magnificent Mile nearly 20 years ago while on a business trip. I vowed right then and there to do my best to keep its existence a secret from my wife. With more than 60 hotels, 275 restaurants, and 460 retail shops and boutiques, the 13-block stretch of North Michigan Avenue is a shopper’s paradise and a frugal husband’s nightmare.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there aren’t bargains to be had. I’m sure there are. It’s just that Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the world and there is so much more I’d rather do than schlep shopping bags in and out of stores while my wife pursues aforementioned bargains. Not only is lugging stuff around contrary to my “travel light” philosophy, but as a forgetful middle-ager who is prone to losing stuff, it’s downright stressful. However, when it comes to shopping, there are few places that can rival Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. They don’t just call it “Magnificent” for nothing!
Alas came the time when I was finally able to bring Denise to Chicago. My intentions were to take her to ride the ferris wheel on the Navy Pier at night, eat a hotdog at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, take the elevator to the top of the Sears Tower, catch a show at the theatre, and simply walk up and down the streets admiring Chicago’s architecture and innovative urban landscape. Unfortunately, prior to our departure she learned of the Magnificent Mile (I blame Oprah Winfrey).
Viewfinder Tip: Hotels near the Magnificent Mile are within easy walking distance of public transportation and many of Chicago’s tourists attractions.
So rather than argue, I agreed to be her bag boy on a shopping excursion. I figured that being there to monitor and possibly influence her purchasing decisions was the only way to get out of Chicago without having to take out a second mortgage on the house.
I had developed a strategy whereby we would spend the morning checking out all of the stores without buying anything. Then over a lunch of Chicago-style pizza, we’d discuss our budget, prioritize the list, plan a route, and make the “necessary” purchases (with over 450 stores, it’s important to plan your shopping itinerary in advance). She agreed to this plan provided that I not complain when she wanted to go into some of the pricier stores, “just to look.”
So off we went meandering in and out of the who’s who of retailers: Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Tiffany’s, Disney, and Crate and Barrel. I didn’t complain and Denise didn’t buy anything. The plan was working beautifully.
After visiting Victoria’s Secret, there was very little that I found for myself. So while she explored Burberry, I ventured down to the Apple Store, where I was sure to find something of interest to me. And sure enough, I did. I purchased a keyboard protector for my Macbook Pro (a great investment for a coffee-spilling klutz like me).
When I met back up with Denise and she saw that I had made a purchase, she looked at me as though I had cheated on her with a Las Vegas show girl. Needless to say, from that point on, all bets were off and I spent the remainder of the day lugging bags around Michigan Avenue. Though she convinced me that she saved a lot of money on this shopping adventure, I am yet to be convinced that our savings exceeded the additional baggage fees we incurred on our flight home.
Magnificent Mile Shopping Tips
1. Book a hotel within walking distance of the Magnificent Mile. This will save you money on cab fares and provide you with more cash to spend on shopping! If you’ve got too many bags to handle, some Magnificent Mile hotels offer transportation services.
2. Get a map from the hotel concierge. Plan your route before heading out with your concierge’s help. Shop up one side and then back down the other to keep from crossing the street so often.
3. Eat locally. When you break for lunch, rather than eating at a chain restaurant, take the opportunity to experience one of America’s great food towns and eat at one of the local establishments. Magnificent Mile restaurants like Spiaggia may not stick out like the franchises, but they offer great food and dining experiences that you won’t soon forget.
What’s your favorite city for shopping?