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Girlfriend Getaways

Whether you decide to experience the natural beauty of the North Shore, the fine dining in Stillwater, or the arts scene in Chicago, we'll tell you where to go and what to do.

Girlfriend Getaways
Photo by Thomas Strand

(page 5 of 5)

Chicago is Gallery City

i’m entranced by the chicago skyline. Not the real one—the one wrapping around the James Hotel lobby (jameshotels.com), sketched with pencil and black paint onto large metallic-gold puzzle pieces. The amount of detail and precision is breathtaking. It’s simple yet complex, with just the right amount of imagination and whimsy—an ideal beginning to my weekend of full immersion into Chicago’s arts scene.

The Art Institute of Chicago and the outdoor sculptures at Millennium Park may be the Windy City’s best-known art attractions, but I’m here with my friend Amanda, an interior designer, to explore the lesser-known galleries that lie just below most tourists’ radars. While our styles are polar opposites—she of the girly-girly, pink-and-purple vein; me of the neutral everything, black-is-a-color breed—we are both fans of modern art and sculpture, and want to find out what the up-and-coming underground-artist scene has to offer.


The James has branded itself as an art-focused hotel—they even have their own “art partner,” Monique Meloche, a well-known contemporary-art dealer who helps curate the works at the James as well as at her own gallery (moniquemeloche.com). Each of the hotel’s guest rooms and common spaces are decorated with local artwork selected by Meloche. All of it is for sale, although I’m not sure how one would bring home, say, a sculpture made of 50 vintage suitcases stuffed full with the contents of a motel room. After enjoying the art inside the hotel, we decided to take advantage of the “See Art Chicago” package, which includes a walking-tour map of Meloche’s favorite nearby art experiences.

Most of the picks are within a mile of the hotel, but the package also includes two public-transit day passes for art destinations beyond. The tour includes both the traditional, expected art-viewing spots (the Museum of Contemporary Art) and many we’d never have known to visit without Meloche’s recommendation (the City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower, for example, currently featuring giant, zoomed-in photos of wildly decorated acrylic nails).

Not surprisingly, the super-colorful nail-art photos were Amanda’s favorite of the day. My top pick, however, didn’t materialize until we were strolling back to the hotel. As we neared Navy Pier, I spotted a sculpture crafted from canoes—a spiral of bows, sterns, beams, and seats reaching toward the bright-blue summer sky. It was at once whimsical and structured—and totally captivating. Just like the city itself.

Day 1

Check in at the James and hit the Primehouse Bar. Split the cheese and whiskey pairings—the organic spirit is sourced from the nearby Koval distillery.
Order a dry-aged steak in Primehouse’s main dining room. The beef is aged on site in a Himalayan salt-tiled aging room, which is a fancy way of saying it’s primo meat.
Retire to your room and relax among the crisp, modern furnishings. Get some beauty sleep for a full day of walking and browsing.

Day 2

9 a.m.
Room-service breakfast delivered to your door. Browse the tour map to make a plan for the sites you want to visit.
5 p.m.
End your tour in Millennium Park to take selfies in the Bean and watch the giant digital faces spit water at unaware tourists.
7 p.m.
Head back to the James for dinner. Swap out beef for the seasonal salmon preparation of the moment.

Day 3

10:30 a.m.
Sleep in and have the hotel chauffeur bring you to The Publican (thepublicanrestaurant.com). The hashbrowns are amazing.
1 p.m.
Stroll back toward downtown and enjoy the sights—Navy Pier, the Riverwalk, the skyline. Hit up any art destinations you weren’t able to fit in yesterday.
7 p.m.
Feast on a giant turkey leg at the Purple Pig (thepurplepigchicago.com).

Metro Mod

The new Radisson Blu Mall of America (radissonblu.com/hotel-mall-of-america) is as much modern-art museum as it is boutique hotel. A dramatic, bright-white, geometric wall draws guests through the entryway, outfitted with hanging woven beehive chairs and dangling light bulbs, and up the escalators to a gallery-like lobby filled with fire-engine-red chairs of various shapes and sizes. Conveniently, light-rail access to downtown Minneapolis means such artistic mainstays as the Walker Art Center and Guthrie Theater are a short ride away.

Art on the River

The bluffs of Winona are chock full of art, from the Minnesota Marine Art Museum's fine-art collection (including works by Van Gogh and Picasso) to the city's abundance of stained-glass windows. The Village House Inn (villagehouseinn.com) was built in 1870 and offers insight into the past as well as access to the city's best treasures. Book the Girlfriends Getaway package to have the house to yourself (four rooms, each with a private bath), plus a trolley tour, restaurant gift cards, and tickets to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum.

 Share your fave getaway destinations and get ideas for future trips at mnmo.com/girlfriendgetaway.


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