Your Guide to Responsible Travel in Chicago

HI Chicago, The J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Hostel

24 E Ida B Wells Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60605
Call 1 (312) 360-0300

Responsible Travel Guide: Chicago

chicago marquee

Known as the Windy City – for its politics, not the weather – Chicago has a rich American history unlike any other US city. Filled with live music, street art, and lakeside beauty, you’ll find endless opportunities for a unique travel adventure that naturally supports the planet and its people.

Get Your Bike On

girl riding bike in Chicago

Rent a bike from the locally-owned small business, Bobby’s Bike Hike, and take in the beauty of Lake Michigan as you cycle along the Lakefront Trail. When it’s time to refuel your belly, stop for lunch at one of President Obama’s favorite hometown spots, Valois Restaurant. Call it a day or

continue south on the trail to the South Shore Cultural Center. Don’t miss the hidden beach behind the building, known by the locals as the “jewel of the neighborhood.”

Pro tip: The Lakefront Trail can be very crowded, stick it out on a day with less than ideal weather and you’ll have the place to yourself!

Green Fact: In three years, DivvyBikes, who has 3,000 rentable bikes in 300 stations across the city, has hosted over 10 million trips saving 800,000 gallons of gasoline.

Shopping Responsibly


barista pouring locally-sourced coffee



Skip the pricey, crowded shops on Michigan Avenue and head to locally-owned boutiques and thrift stores on Milwaukee Ave., where you’ll be surrounded by locals perusing the goods. Just grab the Blue Line right around the corner from the hostel and get off at the Division stop. Get your caffeine fix at Intelligentsia, one of Chicago’s favorite local coffees. And if you bring your own cup, you’ll get a discount for being green! Start your shopping adventure by walking northwest on Milwaukee Ave. and check out all the fun shops. If you’re by Logan Square on a Sunday, you can’t miss the Farmers Market – one of the best in the city. For eats, check out Lula Café, a seasonal, local, farm-to-table cafe that also boasts an amazing brunch.

Pro tip: Don’t pass up the building that looks like an old public works shed at Milwaukee & Logan, it’s actually a community run art space called Comfort Station. Stop in and check out their free exhibits!

Green Fact: Don’t forget your reusable bag! Starting in February 2017, the Chicago Bag Tax charges $0.07 on each disposable paper and plastic bag.

Art & Brew

Mural Drape in Chicago

Explore the South Loop, one of Chicago's hottest, most up-and-coming neighborhoods, for a hyper-local afternoon. Take a short walk south of the hostel and you’ll find the Wabash Arts Corridor, where dramatic murals drape the buildings created by local artists. Keep walking until you hit Vice District Brewing, one of Chicago’s newest local breweries. Located in the old vice district, favorited by gangsters and politicians alike, the brewery celebrates Chicago’s seedy past. Vice District features more than 2 dozen beers, but it doesn’t sell food. So ask the bartenders for their favorite local spots when you’re ready to chow.

Pro tip: In the Wabash Arts Corridor, don’t forget to look up! There are many hidden and hard to find murals.

Green Fact: Riding the Loop contributes to Chicago’s Climate Action Plan which aims to reduce the city’s greenhouse gases by 80% of 1990 levels before 2050.

Outdoors With a Cultural Twist

water boat passing Willis Tower

Discover one of the most secluded and beautiful parks in Chicago, which many locals don’t even know exists! Ping Tom Memorial Park is located just outside Chinatown and right by the river. It’s a perfect spot for relaxation, and in the summer, the park’s boathouse offers kayak rentals. Explore the neighboring Chinatown, being sure to grab a smoothie at Joy Lee. When you’re ready to head back to the hostel, instead of grabbing the Red Line, take a Water Taxi for a fun (and inexpensive) tour of the river.

Pro tip: If you’re not in the mood for Chinese, Chicago’s Mexican neighborhood, Pilsen, is just a 15 minute walk from Ping Tom Park and home to the best tacos in the city!

Green Fact: Even with its industrial roots, Chicago has been deemed the City in a Garden due to its extensive network of and commitment to public parks. They have refurbished hundreds of playgrounds and installed several new “once-in-a-generation” parks in just the last few years.

All That Jazz

Renowned for its world-class Jazz and Blues music, Chicago offers a variety of venues all over town to experience a live show. (If you’re around in the summer, ask the hostel staff about where to enjoy a free outdoor concert.) Just steps from the hostel is Buddy Guy’s Legends, a restaurant and bar showcasing a variety of live music every day of the week. On Friday nights, join a hostel-led group to check out the Green Mill Jazz Club, where you can sit in the notorious gangster ‘Al Capone’s’ favorite booth! Night owls will enjoy Kingston Mines in the trendy Lincoln Park neighborhood, which features live music every day until 4:00AM. You’ll have an immersive Chicago experience, and the proximity of all the venues to public transportation helps minimize your carbon footprint during your say.

Pro tip: Grab lunch or dinner at Buddy Guy’s Legends and enjoy a free acoustic show as you dine.

Green Fact: Think Chicago is too cold for solar…think again! Even when solar panels are completely covered with snow, they can generate electricity.

This is part of the HI USA Responsible Travel Guide series, offering fun, unique ideas for sustainable travel. Click here for more Responsible Travel destinations.

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