With summer travel upon us, we at Safe Travel Guide are starting a new article series called Safe Summer Travel.
First, it’s important to state that all travel during the COVID-19 pandemic involves risk.
With that in mind, our itineraries provide creative ideas that aim to minimize that risk via things like self-check-in, contactless accommodation, private rentals with ample outdoor space, and interesting dining and attractions that offer touchless options.
All of our US itineraries will encourage intra-state travel and for our international readers, domestic or intra-province travel.
Given the increased COVID-19 outbreak in the Southern and Western United States, and required quarantines when arriving into cities like Chicago from coronavirus hotspots, our itineraries encourage travel within your own state for the time being.
And why not? You may just discover something within a few hours drive that you wouldn’t have considered were it not for the current travel restrictions.
If you have a suggestion for a Safe Summer Travel destination we should add, drop us a note!
Today’s itinerary? Our hometown of Chicago.
Here are some suggestions for Illinoisans living outside of the big city who want to check out Chicago summertime under quieter social-distanced conditions.
Chicago is a much more laid-back version of its usual summer self this year. After a very quiet March-June, the city has started to cautiously reopen restaurants and attractions.
You won’t find Blues Fest or Lollapalooza: both are understandably cancelled due to COVID-19.
But you will find quieter, more open downtown streets from which to photograph and take in the city’s breathtaking architecture.
Chicago is usually convention central in the summer, but some hotels remain closed with so many conferences being cancelled.
So we turn to comfortable vacation rentals in fascinating Chicago neighborhoods that have self-check-in and recent positive reviews regarding cleanliness during COVID-19.
Here are two:
Old Irving Park
Here’s a single-family home on Airbnb with private access in Old Irving Park, accommodating up to 10 people. Irving Park is a neighborhood with some of Chicago’s oldest iconic architecture, including Victorian mansions and turn-of-the-century bungalows
The host mentions the home is professionally cleaned and follows a sanitizing checklist with towels and linens laundered by a hotel linen company.
While there you can cook in the kitchen (contactless grocery delivery is available from Whole Foods or Jewel Osco), or order curbside pickup from locally-loved brewpub Old Irving Brewing.
How about a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom duplex that’s 11 minutes drive from the center of Chicago in Pilsen?
Pilsen is a culture hub of Chicago with small cafes and bodegas. It’s famous for authentic Mexican cuisine. Many Pilsen restaurants are open for takeout or contactless delivery.
The rental’s host is an Airbnb Superhost committed to Airbnb’s Enhanced Clean protocols developed after the start of COVID-19. The duplex also offers self check-in via a numeric keypad.
For more listings, we search Airbnb for Entire Home rentals (no sharing); that have self check-in (tip: verify with the host in advance that it will be contactless).
And we prefer non-apartments (e.g., a standalone house, cottage, or bungalow) to limit contact in elevators or other shared spaces.
Here’s a link to Airbnb for those listings in Chicago.
Chicago is one of the best food towns in America.
If you live in Illinois and haven’t experienced it, now’s a great time to try take out or outdoor dining from Chicago’s landmark restaurants.
While many Chicago restaurants are open for indoor dining at 25% capacity as part of Phase 4, we encourage readers to dine outside in socially-distanced conditions. Chicago is magical in the summertime and there are some fantastic options to dine al fresco.
Nearly all open restaurants offer takeout as well.
Chicago’s Riverwalk is a beautiful outdoor space along the Chicago River with cocktail bars, wineries, and gastropubs. With views of Chicago’s skyline along Wacker Drive, the Riverwalk now has special COVID-19 dining policies, with face masks and social distancing required.
Check out Tiny Tapp & Cafe or City Winery for drinks and snacks. Or make a reservation at Smith & Wollensky for famous steaks served on the patio overlooking the river.
Outdoor Dining on Streets Closed to Traffic – West Randolph Street
To encourage increased outdoor dining at some of Chicago’s best restaurants, the city has closed several streets to vehicle traffic so more people can dine outside. These streets are now filled with socially-distant tables outside some exciting restaurant
We recommend exploring any of the closed restaurant streets, though if you have to choose, West Randolph street (known as Chicago’s Restaurant Row) is always a solid choice.
If you head to Randolph Street, try Au Cheval (many say it’s the best burger in town), The Publican (famed butcher shop and cafe), or avec (mind-blowing Mediterranean small plates).
For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, see if you can grab a reservation at Alinea in Residence.
Three-Michelin star Alinea normally serves diners from its home in Lincoln Park, but Chef Grant Achatz has transported the operation to a spacious rooftop in the West Loop until August 15 for a 20-course meal unlike any other.
As a warning: it’s pricey. And it’s difficult to secure reservations. But if fine-dining under the city lights is your jam, it’s sure to be an unforgettable evening.
As an alternative, Alinea is also serving take-out options — a new offering during COVID-19 — which are more affordable and can be enjoyed in the comfort of your accommodation.
Chicago’s architecture boat cruises down the Chicago River are a must-do for first-time visitors and Chicago natives alike. The tours were closed for months but have reopened with COVID-19 safety procedures in place. Try Wendella.
If you don’t want to board a boat, consider walking around the Loop, exploring the skyscrapers at your own pace. Chicago’s Central Business District remains quiet with most office workers staying at home. GPSMyCity has a downloadable walking tour taking you to 15 famous Chicago buildings.
Or how about a movie outside? You’re likely driving to the city, so try a new drive-in. They’re all the rage this summer. ChiTown Movies in Pilsen is a new spot adjacent to the ChiTown Futbol facility on South Throop Street.
Or see some animals a stone’s throw from Lake Michigan. The Lincoln Park Zoo is a Chicago institution. One of the oldest zoos in America, it offers free admission with exhibits including big cats, polar bears, penguins, and gorillas. Having just reopened during COVID-19 the Lincoln Park Zoo now requires reservations (which are free). Visitors must wear face coverings. More details are available on the Lincoln Park Zoo web site.