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On the Road: Windy City




By Selena Fragassi

 

Second city? More like second to none. With incredible architecture (including some of the country’s largest skyscrapers), top-rated cuisine, and memorable tourist destinations from the Magnificent Mile to Wrigley Field and Museum Campus, Chicago is one of the best cities in America. These six venues also make it one of the best cities to meet in, too.

Museum of Science and Industry
This Chicago institution has events down to a science, with ample space for up to 12,000 guests, 364 days a year, and the capability to host multiple groups at one time. As one of the only remaining buildings constructed for the 1893 World’s Fair, this opulent venue in the city’s Hyde Park neighborhood starts with the 400,000-square-foot historic rotunda in the middle of the museum’s main floor that has state-of-the-art lighting systems customized for every event. There’s also a 650-seat auditorium, a dome theatre for presentations, and daytime conference spaces. A truly unique component of hosting events at the Museum of Science and Industry is the ability to host dinners and receptions within one of the interactive exhibits, including setups next to a real U505 Submarine, in a mirror maze, or steps away from a 40-foot simulated tornado. “We work well with guest experiences to provide tours,” says Stan Hansen, senior marketing specialist at Sodexo, which provides event management services including innovative and sustainable catering. The museum is located just 10 minutes from downtown Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan with outdoor porticos for corporate picnics and retreats. Hansen says MSI also makes a great holiday venue in the winter. “We have the annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light displays, with built-in décor that provides a great atmosphere.”



UniqueVenues.com/MSIChicago
(773) 753.2583

ADA Conference Center
As the headquarters for the American Dental Association, this property added on purpose-built conference space several decades ago to provide space for members to host regular meetings. That still takes place on the 25th floor, but the public is welcome to book options on the 2nd floor, in a boardroom, an auditorium, or four conference rooms—the latter of which can be combined for larger groups or divided up into more intimate spaces. The auditorium is the largest option with 3,900 square feet of space, a built-in stage and A/V, and attached pre-function space for registration. Each of the conference rooms and the boardroom also have built-in screens and projectors. “We have our lobby space for events too, after 5:30 p.m. when the day-to-day business is complete,” says Courtney Toms Morgan, manager, events & conference center, noting that the spaces are often popular with legal and realtor groups. The ADA Conference Center is steps away from Chicago’s storied Michigan Avenue, full of boutiques, restaurants, and a number of hotels that provide overnight accommodations when needed. Aramark is the exclusive caterer and also services a café that’s open to guests.



UniqueVenues.com/AmericanDentalAssoc
(312) 440.2665

Conference Chicago at University Center
Originally co-owned by five higher education institutes in Chicago—DePaul University, Columbia College, Roosevelt University, Robert Morris College, and the American Academy of the Arts—Conference Chicago in the South Loop neighborhood was designed to be a highly efficient and accessible property for urban students. It’s located within a one-block radius of all Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) train lines and several major bus routes, including one that goes door-to-door with McCormick Place, the largest convention center in the country. The building houses a year-round conference center with 15,000 square feet of space across a swath of 13 meeting rooms, the largest of which can host 175 people. One of the most popular is the Great Room & Terrace with a large outdoor space, fireplace, and hardwood floors. “A great feature is that we have all our A/V built-in and included in daily rates, along with a dedicated staff member available at all times, which makes it simple for budgeting,” says Jake Holtz, director of housing and conference services, adding that planners can choose from full or half-day rates with nights and weekends available. Catering is also provided through the exclusive company Chartwells with no food and beverage minimums. In the summer, Conference Chicago at University Center also has accommodations to rent that include linens, toiletries, and housekeeping services and are a “great alternative to costly downtown hotels,” adds Holtz. All the rooms recently underwent major renovations with new furniture, paint, floors, and free Wi-Fi in the building.



UniqueVenues.com/ConferenceChicago
(312) 924.8089

Loyola University Chicago
Whether you’re looking for the full cityscape experience in Chicago or want to be immersed in the charm of Midwest nature, Loyola University has both options. The Lake Shore Campus is just seven miles north of the downtown district but makes you forget an urban jungle is outside its doors. The campus features historic buildings designed with Art Deco touches including cathedral ceilings and stained glass; the Mundelein Center is even on the National Registry of Historic Places. With the campus just steps away from Lake Michigan, many of the spaces have great views of the water. The Water Tower Campus, on the other hand, is in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue with rooms on the top floors providing a look at the streetscape below. Both campuses are accessible by CTA trains and buses. Loyola prides itself on being a leader in sustainability with LEED Certified buildings and more green roofs than any other campus in the Midwest. “The majority of our spaces are state-of-the-art with built-in technology,” adds Daphne Stojiljkovic, marketing and sales manager, “and very economical.” Classroom spaces can be rented for as little as $225 for the entire day and housing is available year-round at the Water Tower Campus and in the summer at the Lake Shore Campus. Stojiljkovic’s team works with the Ramblers Outdoors department to arrange team-building activities and recently started managing the Gentile Athletic Arena where the headline-making Ramblers men’s basketball team plays—it can host up to 4,300 for large conferences. The Lake Shore Campus also will open the doors to a new athletic facility in 2019.



UniqueVenues.com/loyolachicago
(773) 508.8090

Navy Pier
As one of the top destinations in the city of Chicago, Navy Pier is also an incredibly special choice for meetings and events. “There really is no other location like it in the city, we are in the middle of the lake and all the views guests have from our various buildings are either water or skyline,” says Payal Patel, public relations representative. Navy Pier was built in 1916 by famed architect Daniel Burnham as part of his Master Plan for Chicago; he originally envisioned five piers but only this one came to life. To celebrate the centennial anniversary in 2016, additions were added, including a revamped Ferris Wheel, to enhance the 50 acres of multipurpose space. It includes retail, dining, entertainment, and leisure options in addition to dedicated conference space. For large-scale events and tradeshows, the Aon Grand Ballroom and the Festival Hall expo space are prime options. They have hosted the annual Fifth Third Bank Winter Wonderfest along with the Chicago Flower and Garden Show, Chicago Toy and Game Fair, and even concerts. The Crystal Gardens, with a tropical botanical feel year-round, is another option for more social events. As well, Navy Pier has a selection of convertible meeting spaces, all with A/V and on-site catering. “Guests make a full day out of their time at the Pier,” says Patel. “They might take a spin on the Centennial Wheel, grab a bite at one of our restaurants, bring the family to the Chicago Children’s Museum, or catch a show at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater or IMAX theater.” Navy Pier is accessible by the CTA and has dedicated ride share meeting spots as well as parking garages.



UniqueVenues.com/NavyPier
(312) 595.5300

OFFSITE Chicago
The West Loop neighborhood of Chicago is quickly becoming known as its tech district with Google offices and several startups in the area. OFFSITE Chicago fits right into this environment with a vision for a high-end meeting space that offers smart space, the latest technology, quality, and service. “We want the client to show up to the venue and all they have to worry about is their presentation. We take care of the rest,” says co-founder Patrick Everett who opened the Chicago location in 2014, which has the option for a full buyout or partial buyouts of the Main Floor and Mezzanine. The beauty of an event at OFFSITE is the one-stop shop nature—everything you could possibly need for a meeting is included in one flat fee. Included with the rental, groups have access to the space, dedicated staff including an on-site host and support staff, several LED TVs, a Mac laptop for presentations, wireless microphones, dedicated fiber Wi-Fi network, zoned audio system with seamless integration, beverages and snacks, and office supplies including pads, pens, and a whiteboard. “The only thing that would be additional would be any food,” says Everett, noting groups can bring in their own or order off the OFFSITE menu. “There are no other hidden fees or service charges.” Or, if groups want a real Chicago experience, they can step outside the doors to Restaurant Row, where so many of the city’s top chefs have dining venues, including Girl and the Goat, bellyQ, and Monteverde, among others.



UniqueVenues.com/OffsiteChicago
(312) 655.8000
 
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