Welcome to The Loop, Chicago's largest business and government district. This area of the city was completely destroyed during the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, but was immediately rebuilt in time for the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. Its name originated to pay homage to the old-time cable cars that turned around on a pulley in the center of the district. When the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) rapid transit system emerged during the turn of the 20th century, it also "looped" around the downtown area, so the name remained.
Reconstruction of the area continued and paved the way for the emergence of Chicago's breathtaking skyline, which boasts some of the oldest and most architecturally-significant skyscrapers in the world. The Loop is also home to the Art Institute of Chicago, Civic Opera House, Grant Park, Millennium Park, the financial district and Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower), as well as Chicago's historic theater district, which is also called Broadway in Chicago.
Chicago Loop skyline during the day (Photo courtesy of Allan Henderson)
The Loop's boundaries are the Chicago River on the west, Michigan Avenue on the east, Wacker Drive on the north and Congress Parkway on the south. It's 6.8 miles, or approximately 16 minutes away from Lakeview, the home of Wrigleyville and the Chicago Cubs.
While the Loop is best known for its skyscrapers and bustling downtown energy, it is also a livable area with highrise apartment buildings and condominiums. Surrounding neighborhoods: Greek Town, River North, South Loop, Streeterville and West Loop.
Cloud Gate (The Bean) in Millennium Park (Photo courtesy of Allan Henderson)
State Street, located close to the center of the Loop, isn't especially stroller friendly as it's always busy with commuters and shoppers, so it's not recommended for families. It is, however, is only a couple of blocks away from the Chicago Riverwalk, Grant Park and Millennium Park, very family-friendly areas. Dogs, however, are not allowed in Millennium Park. Other nearby family-friendly neighborhoods include River North and the South Loop.
The Loop is a combination of single and married residents, with 93.1% of the population childless. Almost half of the population is single (43%), with 41.8% married, divorced and/or widowed.
The Loop is close to the Kennedy Expressway (via Congress Parkway), which connects to I-90 and I-290, and Lakeshore Drive (via Balbo Drive). The neighborhood is within walking distance to both Metra and CTA rapid transit stations. A public transportation commute to O'Hare Airport from the Loop takes just over 45 minutes. Lincoln Park is about 10 minutes away and easily accessible via the Red line train. Hyde Park, easily accessible via the Metra line, is 14 minutes away.
(Photo courtesy of Benjamin Gonzalez)
The Loop's heart is State Street, also known as "That Great Street" because when Marshall Field's department store was still around, it was the top shopping district in the city. Marshall Field's was bought out by Macy's, and the Carson Pirie Scott flagship store, which was two blocks away, was bought out by Target. In addition to these major retailers, there are many boutiques and shops located on State Street, as well as a number of bars and restaurants.
Chicago's theater district, which showcases Broadway and Broadway-bound productions, is also a major attraction to the Loop, as is Willis Tower and Millennium Park. The Loop is typically low key after 5 p.m and on weekends in the evenings, when Loop residents head to trendy drinking and dining destinations in nearby neighborhoods such as River North, West Loop and the Gold Coast.
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 changed everything for the city, but the Loop was particularly devastated ? all residences and businesses were completely wiped out. By 1893, when Chicago hosted the World's Fair, the neighborhood was mostly restored and bigger and better than ever. With the construction of more and more skyscrapers, the city was positioned as a metropolis.
Commercial growth continued in the 1900s with major retail stores, such as Marshall Field's, moving in. Hotels, Jewelers' Row and the theater district sprung up and thrived.
Though its busiest time is during the week, the Loop is considered the pulse of Chicago. Beyond its tourist appeal, annual events such as the Taste of Chicago, the lighting of the Daley Plaza Christmas tree and music festivals attract local and suburban residents.
5 S. Wabash Ave. - Chicago Jewelers' Row is a concentration of local jewelry businesses.
20 N. Upper Wacker Dr. - The Civic Opera House was built in 1929 and is the second-largest opera house in the country.
78 E. Washington St. - Chicago Cultural Center opened in 1897 and is considered the city's official reception hall for dignitaries.
50 W. Washington St. - Richard J. Daley Center is named after the longtime mayor and hosts many civic events, including protests and farmers' markets.
100 W. Randolph St. - James R. Thompson Centerhouses offices of the State of Illinois and is named after a former governor.