Mini Walking Tour of Downtown Chicago

By Mandy Lee

Photo taken by author.

During Orientation Week last month, the Dean hosted a welcome reception on Thursday evening, at which point I had met most of the new 1Ls and LLM students (foreign-educated lawyers) via library tours and a legal research presentation over the course of the past three days. As I turned to leave the dessert table, balancing both a brownie and a blueberry bar on a small paper plate, the blueberry bar slid to the floor. While totally embarrassing evidence of the klutzy dessert glutton that I am, the awkward moment proved to be a humorous conversation starter with an LLM student whom I recognized from the day’s library presentation and tours. 

The student, who had arrived in the Second City a few weeks before, from his home country, was enthused about Chicago and all of the places that he wanted to see. Interested in sports, architecture, you-name-it, he had already enjoyed the view from the Trump Tower. 

Photo taken by author.

“Have you been to Willis Tower?” I asked. 

He had not. Not only had he not been, he had never heard of it. 

Formerly the tallest building in the world (until 1998, when Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers overshadowed it; now it’s the 12th tallest, and the 2nd tallest in the Western Hemisphere), the 110-story Willis Tower houses SkyDeck Chicago, an observatory on the 103rd floor that boasts The Ledge, glass-floored balconies and views reaching four states on a clear day. How could I, a law librarian in good conscience, let someone go to school practically in the shadow of Willis Tower, and not know about it?! 

“There’s so much great architecture in Chicago!” I exclaimed. “I should draw you a map!”

LLM students, this one’s for you. 

  1. Start at Chicago-Kent College of Law
  2. Walk East to Union Station’s Great Hall
  3. Revival Food Hall
    1. Eat lunch to fortify yourself for the walk
      1. Suggested restaurant: Smoque BBQ
    2. Walk East through the interior exit of the food hall, into the 
  4. Marquette Building, more info, here.
    1. Lobby
    2. facade
  5. Federal Plaza
    1. U.S. federal government buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe, including the Dirksen Courthouse and operating post office, among others
    2. Alexander Calder sculpture. Can you guess what it depicts?
  6. Monadnock Building
    1. Gaze through the windows at old-time stores, such as a milliner, as well as a letterbox connected to the upper floors
    2. Buy a cup of coffee at Intelligentsia Coffee (a local Chicago coffee company) on your way out of the building, to sip during the rest of the tour
  7. Chicago Board of Trade
    1. Walk into the lobby, past the elevator bank, to the atrium-like area to admire the Art Deco details
  8. Wintrust Bank
    1. Take the escalator to the second floor, to admire the Grand Banking Hall
    2. Stay within the cordoned area at the top of the escalators
  9. The Rookery
    1. Walk through the foyer, past the elevator bank, to the atrium. 
    2. Gaze up at the wrought-iron staircase.
  10. Willis Tower
  11. The Old Post Office

Google map showing locations and directions

Approximate duration: 10 minutes to 1 hour + (includes lunch and coffee break); does not include optional add-ons (add-ons increase the minimum time to 25 minutes)

Approximate distance: 0.5 miles; with all add-ons, 1.2 miles

Note: this tour must take place during weekday office hours, when the office buildings are open (not on weekends or public holidays).

Admission to buildings: free (aside from lunch, coffee, admission to the SkyDeck, etc.)

My fellow law librarians, next time you find yourself in Chicago, such as (hopefully) during the AALL Annual Meeting & Conference, July 20-23, 2024, try this mini tour and let me know what you think!


Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not that of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.