Once a small hidden gem, the South Loop slowly gained notoriety for its great access to Chicago’s cultural attractions. Before that though, it had a reputation of a different nature – parts of the area were considered a skid row and undesirable. While early residents lamented about the lack of grocery stores and education options, this bustling, cosmopolitan community now offers an incredible variety of retail, nightlife, and dining opportunities. In addition, parents of school-aged children no longer need to leave the area for first-rate public and private education. As a long-time resident and a Chicago South Loop realtor, I’ve seen the changes first hand. I moved to the area in 1985. My first home was at 801 South Plymouth Ct. I’ve loved this neighborhood from its humble beginnings in Printer’s Row and Dearborn Park to its exciting transformation and expansion to include Museum Campus and the Prairie District. I’ve experienced all facets of life here:  a young married professional, a mom, a South Loop condo and townhome owner, and finally an empty nester with a single family home. I’m amazed every day at how the skyline has changed with the addition of so many high rises offering South Loop condos and apartments.

Why Love the South Loop?

The South Loop is a unique community and encompasses a variety of real estate offerings and attractions for all ages. What was once deserted rail yards and abandoned buildings, has become some of the most sought-after South Loop condos, lofts, luxury apartments, townhomes, and single family homes.  There is also housing available for senior citizens.  For a great history of the development of these neighborhoods, check out the book, At Home in the Loop: How Clout and Community Built Chicago’s Dearborn Park by Lois Wille. Yours truly is quoted in the book with a photo too.

Even though much has changed since the late 70’s, the South Loop’s incredible amenities continue to improve! Here are my top six reasons, you should check out and maybe fall in love with the South Loop – whether it’s just for a visit or if you’re searching for a new home, add these to your list of things to do.

1. Cultural Attractions 

Museum Campus is home to the world class Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium, not to mention our stunning Lakefront. The South Loop is also the gateway to many more attractions. You’re a quick walk or train ride to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Symphony Center, Millennium Park, and the Theater District.  In the summer months, you can take a water taxi from Museum Campus over to Navy Pier or hop on at Chinatown for a ride along the Chicago River!

2. Nightlife, Music & Special Events

The South Loop has it all! Grant Park is home to a number of festivals all summer long – beginning with the Blues Fest and the Taste of Chicago and culminating with Lollapalooza and the Jazz Fest.  Home to the Bears, Soldier Field is also a great concert and special event venue during the off-season.  In addition, during summer months, you can venture over to Northerly Island to the Huntington Bank Pavilion to hear live music.  Don’t forget Buddy Guy’s Legends to hear some of the best blues music and Reggies Rock Club featuring artists of Rock, Punk, Metal, Indie, Hip-Hop, Jam, Electronic and more.  There’s also the Wintrust Arena where you can catch DePaul basketball, concerts, and other special events!

3. Dining

You don’t need to leave the neighborhood anymore to find a great restaurant. You can find everything from hamburgers and hot dogs, to fine dining with white linen tablecloths, including Michelin rated Acadia. Culinary options are as diverse as the neighborhood itself.  Italian, Mediterranean, Indian, Mexican, Thai, Chinese, American fare, deli, seafood, tapas, pizza, breakfast and brunch, etc. – the list goes on and on and you can walk to all of them!

4. Retail 

What was once a retail wasteland, now has just about everything you can imagine for groceries, clothing, housewares, and more. There are at least four major grocery chains, including Mariano’s, Jewel, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s, as well as Target. There are also a number of smaller convenience grocers located throughout the South Loop. Retail options include a number of national chains at the Roosevelt Collection.  Just west of the River, you’ll find Southgate Market with Marshalls, DSW, Petsmart, and Michaels.  Across the street you’ll find Nordstrom Rack, Pier One, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Burlington.

The South Loop is also home to a number of independently owned shops including Printer’s Row Wine Shop, Sandmeyer’s Bookstore and Yarnify.  Totto’s Market just opened up on the corner of Polk and Dearborn.

5. Parks and Recreation 

Staying fit in the South Loop is simple.  Easy access to the lakefront and Northerly Island provides excellent walking, jogging, and cycling opportunities. 12th Street Beach is a perfect spot to enjoy a Chicago summer day.  Ping Tom Memorial Park includes a fieldhouse, gymnasium, indoor pool, fitness center, and access to the Chicago River for kayaking.  Chicago’s Women’s Park & Gardens features three fitness studios, an indoor children’s playground, a kids’ club room, the Kids Science Labs, a café, and meeting room facilities. 

One of the best aspects of this area though is its abundance of small community parks – filled with hidden green space, lots of trees, creative playgrounds and dog friendly parks. You can literally find a quiet spot to sit every few blocks.  In addition, a portion of the Riverwalk near Harrison and Wells is now open!

6. Education Options for All Ages

Once upon a time, parents made the move to the suburbs when their children were old enough to start school. There weren’t a lot of options and many had long waiting lists or were overcrowded.  Now the South Loop boasts a number of excellent public and private school options. The South Loop Elementary School is set to open a brand new building in the fall. The new location will accommodate 4th– 8th grade.  Daystar Academy is adding a high school.  Over the past few years, we’ve also seen the addition of the British International School of Chicago, South Loop, the continued growth of Old St. Mary’s School, and the expansion of Jones College Prep, listed in US News and World Report and Newsweek as one of “America’s Best High Schools,“ as well as being one of the top ranked schools in the State of Illinois. And, just a short train or bus ride away are co-ed high schools, De La Salle Institute and St. Ignatius College Prep.  From early childhood and elementary schools to high schools and beyond, parents have so many more choices now.

Visit my South Loop Neighborhood page for more details about our community’s geography, real estate, school information, market reports, and listings.

So, take advantage of the summer and fall months.  Get out and explore this sensational community.  Make a day of it.  Attend an open house for a South Loop condo, townhome, or single-family home and then get out and explore this dynamic and growing neighborhood.  You may find you never want to leave!  

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