CHICAGO : The Unconventional Incentive Travel Destination

It may not come quite as naturally to consider Chicago for your organization’s next incentive destination, but trust me and put down your Mai Tai for just one year.  Experiencing Chicago’s rich history and culture can bring a new vibrancy to your meeting.

Prime Time For Travel

The most desirable time to visit Chicago is May through October.  However, the city has adapted quite well to the temperatures causing some impressive indoor venues and activities to sprout up.

When not combatting that nation’s weather-related delays and cancellations, Chicago is one of the easiest destinations to travel direct to from just about anywhere in the country.  O’Hare International Airport (ORD) has nearly 1,000 daily direct flights to 155 U.S. cities & over 100 daily direct flights to nearly 60 international destinations.  Midway International Airport (MDW) operates well over 200 daily direct flights to 60 U.S. cities, and is most widely known to support low-cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines.

Live Like Locals

cubs vs sox
Consider booking a suite, rooftop, or patio for the Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox game. This century-old crosstown rivalry brings both North- and South-siders alike to their respective stadiums each summer to cheer on their teams.

the newly renovated riverwalk
If it has been a while since you’ve been to Chicago, you may be surprised to see some major changes along the river. Between State Street and Lake Street, each segment (with boundaries divided by bridges) offers different a landscape, further defined by new retail and restaurant spaces.  Plan to encounter locals enjoying happy hour after a long workday in the Loop, bikers, runners, and even kayakers.

Fail-Safe Offsites

wine and dine in the west loop
There just isn’t a more logistically sound location than the up and coming West Loop neighborhood in which to operate a dine-around. With over 30 restaurants spanning 5 short blocks running mainly East and West (beginning just over the highway on Randolph Street), details are simplified when dropping several small groups just steps from the doors of these outstanding restaurants. Caution: your attendees may never be fully satisfied again after dining at many of these impressive eateries.

cruise the city
Glide along the water on one of the city’s many river vessels available for buyouts.  Employ an architectural guide to point out key buildings and describe Chicago’s transformation after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The cruise makes for the perfect welcome reception venue as caterers are allowed.

Hidden Gems

a conveniently located cultural activation
The McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum is  one of the city’s most fascinating yet widely unknown museums in Chicago. Although small (this museum resides right inside the bridgehouse on the southwest corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive), this 5-story museum offers exhibits describing the evolution of the Chicago River as well as Chicago’s world-famous movable bridges. Check out the bridge lift schedule posted on the museum site to observe this engineering wonder firsthand.
NOTE: Though the museum itself can hold close to 80 people at one time, groups of 20-40 are best suited for this experience.


Morgan Manufacturing

This 32,000 square feet of meeting and event space once housed Salisbury Electric, an organization founded in 1855 dedicated to creating a safer working environment for linemen. Located in one of Chicago’s fastest growing neighborhoods, this industrial yet chic space is perfect for larger reception-style events for up to 1,600 people.

Plant     (4,500 square feet)
300 reception / 100 seated
Mezzanine     (3,600 square feet)
200 reception / 100 seated
Production     (10,500 square feet)
700 reception / 550 seated
Rooftop     (8,000 square feet)
400 reception / 250 seated

– This space boasts a 1,300 square foot catering kitchen, perfect for executing sizable events seamlessly
– The rooftop is simply breathtaking. With a view spanning the entire downtown area, this experience is difficult to replicate at a Loop or River North venue location

Curious? Click here to read more about Morgan Manufacturing.

Cindy’s Rooftop

Located on the 13th floor of the newly renovated Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, this venue has all the elements of hosting a rooftop event, but…with a rain plan. Covered by a beautiful arched glass ceiling, this space is perfect for use any time of the year overlooking Millennium Park. The building in which it resides has some impressive history, as it was the site of the Chicago Athletic Association established in 1890.

The Library (dinner)
40 reception / 20 seated
Cindy’s Buyout (available Sunday – Wednesday only)
150 guests

– The east-facing glass doors open up to a sizable private terrace, with privatized use of this space included in the buyout
– Their menu (regardless of private- or non-private) is served family-style bringing somewhat of a ‘classic comfort’ to the evening

Curious? Click here to read more about Cindy’s Rooftop.

The Driehaus Museum

This museum can also be considered a bit of a hidden gem. Though located at the junction of Chicago’s popular River North and Gold Coast neighborhoods, many locals don’t even know what they’re missing as they walk past this beautiful restored home. Originally the labelled the Samuel M. Nickerson Mansion (commissioned by the banker in 1879), Richard H. Driehaus founded the museum in 2003 to exhibit the architecture, furnishings, and art of the Gilded Age. This multi-faceted space could not be a more perfect fit for an important board dinner or a reception for VIPs and their guests to explore the home’s rotating exhibitions.

Billiards Room
40 seated
Third Floor Ballroom
30 seated (King’s Table)
Third Floor Ballroom with Adjoining Rooms
100 seated
Suggested Reception for Museum Buyout – 150 guests

– The Driehaus Museum is home to one of the largest private collections of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany
– This venue is perfect for a reception that allows guests to wander throughout the space. Request additional docents to provide commentary on key pieces.
NOTE: Red wine is not allowed in the museum, but there is a full catering kitchen available for use

Curious? Click here to read more about the Driehaus Museum.

1 Comment

  1. […] post originally appeared on The Overnight Commute on March 6, […]


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