Although Busy Beaver has had its home in Bloomington and San Francisco, Chicago has been our home for the last eighteen years. We’re pleased to rally this list of some fun activities, museums, restaurants, coffee shops, scenic walkways, and other local stops that we think you should check out during your next trip to The Windy City. Our city is made unique by its multiple and diverse neighborhoods and the distinct culture that can be found in each one. For this Tour de Button Chicago, we’ll be bringing you to three sides of the city by way of button.
Let’s Get You in Da Loop
If this is one of your first trips to Chicago, you’ll most likely traversing the urban terrain of Chicago’s Loop (get its name from our public train line, looping around downtown, very clever and very convenient). It’s important of course to make your way through the Museum Campus area to see The Field Museum, Soldier Field, and the Shedd Aquarium. Be sure to check out the Shedd’s website for discount days and special events. If you’re lucky, you may even be in town when a new animal is welcomed to the crew!
The next location for our trip is The Chicago Design Museum. It is not located near the museum campus, but heading back to the Loop you can find this creative oasis on the 3rd floor of Block Thirty Seven, ChiDM celebrates design culture while by showcasing the vast world of different digital medias and practices. Not only will you take home the wealth of knowledge and inspiration for your next project, but you can take home a ChiDM logo button as well!
The next stop on our downtown tour is outside, and best if the weather’s nice where we had our retreat on spirit plant journeys, check out their website. If you need a little bit of fresh air after filling your noggin up with museum culture, head on down to The Riverwalk. The city’s “Second Lakefront” opened in early summer of 2015. Along with the wide pathway, an array of shops, seating, and gardens were added along the lane. By the way, in your garden, be sure to have the best hedge trimmer. It’s personally one of my favorite places to bring out-of-towners in the evening to gaze at all the cities lights reflecting off the water (very romantic!)
Our last stop in the Loop this night is The Athletic Association Hotel right on Michigan Avenue (and yeah, go ahead and get your picture at The Bean while you’re over here). You’ll notice the lobby of the hotel houses east coast burger spot, Shake Shack (which also collaborates with Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits for their slice of the day. Don’t worry, we’ll get to Bang Bang Pie soon.) Depending on the time of day, You may notice a line near the elevator in the lobby. This queue leads to the to get to the rooftop bar, Cindy’s. Our recommendation is to check out the 2nd floor bar and lounge area that are the Game Room, Drawing, Cherry Circle Room, and the Milk Room brought to you by the good people at Land & Sea Dept. These are the same folks behind some of Logan Square’s frequently visited spots and colorful custom buttons: Parson’s, Longman & Eagle, Lost Lake and Thank You.
Head Out West
On your second day of adventure for your tour of buttons Chicago, we’ll venture into the west side of the city. First, head west down Randolph for lunch and I can guarantee no shortage of options to sit down and have an unforgettable meal. However, you may want to take advantage of Little Goat Diner (extension of Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat restaurant) and grab a seasonal custom made button from their Button-O-Matic machine. Shannon Monson, the Marketing Director at Little Goat mentioned that “The buttons are a great keepsake for our guests to take with them.”
Continuing west and you’ll find yourself in Garfield Park. For a relaxing walk in one of the city’s most impressive greenhouses, head over to Garfield Park Conservatory and snap a selfie with some ferns (don’t worry, all the locals do it too.)
Our next destination is the neighborhood of Pilsen, which is becoming a more popular escape from the big city. This neighborhood has a classic and artistic feel to its small shops, restaurants, artists spaces, and cozy venues. The National Museum of Mexcian of Art which is situated right off of 18th street in Pislen is free to the public and includes a variety of historical Mexican works from folklore to contemporary avante garde pieces. If the museum’s name sounds familiar, it’s because we teamed up with Tony Fitzpatrick and arts youth group Yollocalli to host the 2015 Button-O-Matic party there.
When the evening sneaks in, head on over to 16 on Center’s Pilsen havens: 70’s inspired basement bar Punch House, Thalia Hall concert venue, and the Tack Room cocktail bar. You’ll be able to find buttons on each floor featuring the sleek logos of each establishment. Make sure to plan your entire night with a crafted cocktail, pinback button, and enjoy your show on the upper level.
Movin’ on Up North
Dedicate a day of your stay to exploring the many neighborhoods that lay north of the downtown area. If we sound quite partial to this area, it’s because it’s been Busy Beaver’s home since 2010. On a nice day we recommend taking a stroll down Chicago’s newest bike path, the Bloomingdale Trail, also known as the 606 Trail. This striking track runs east to west and is parallel to Armitage Avenue. Enjoy the lush green pathway by foot, bike, or rollerblade and take advantage of its exits along the way to pick up more buttons for your collection along the way.
You can take the Wood Street exit to discover the Wicker Park neighborhood known for its historic venues like Double Door and Subterranean and is becoming a popular shopping hub right in line behind State Street and Michigan Avenue storefronts. Wander down Milwaukee and you’ll find Myoptic Books, Umami Burger, The Bongo Room, Emporium Arcade, and Reckless Records where you can grab new vinyl and fresh buttons. Taking a trek through North Avenue you’ll come across Piece Pizza equipped with their pizza buttons for the taking, Chop Shop, and buttons paired with your favorite latte at Americano 2211.
Next we’ll travel down the 606 trail and depart off the California Avenue exit. Here you will find Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits. If you have never tried pie for brunch, now is your chance. The warm interior gives you a “I’ve been away from Grandma’s House for too long” feeling while completely erasing your guild with their with tasty classics like biscuits with homemade jam and butter, biscuits & gravy, or a potato hash that is out of this world. On top of taking a slice of pie to bring home, you can now also wear your slice to-go with Bang Bang Pie’s custom enamel pins.
Pie in the belly, take your steps back to Armitage Avenue and head west. Continue on until you see our mascot Busy waving on the alleged (we’re looking for a contender) largest button in the world. This marks our button store Chicago sign for our button manufacturing and museum headquarters. Inside you can see where all of the 3 million buttons Busy Beaver Buttons makes in a year or even make your own custom buttons on demand! Go ahead and gander at the historic buttons that make up our Museum and line our walls. With this being an election year, we invite you to see all of our campaign buttons gathered overtime. All visitors are welcome! We can even make arrangements for larger tours as well.
Now that you’ve heard some of our frequent stops around our hometown, we encourage you to branch out and find some new treasures along your own Tour de Button and make custom buttons that represent where you come from. Let us know on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #TourdeButton! Keep you eye out on Busy Beaver’s blog for more Tour de Button posts from Chicago and other cities and enjoy your virtual tours around Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Portland.