I last wrote previewing Open House Chicago and am excited to share some photos from the sites I made it to this year. I made it to 16 different sites in total, though not all made the cut for this post.

Colvin Hall

Salvation Army College for Officer training

The Moody Church

Holy Name Cathedral

Carl Street Studios

Scroll through all of the hand carved doors up above! Just about every wood surface we saw at Carl Street Studios had decorative hand carved details. We hope to see some of the interior spaces in the future!

Columbus Park Refectory

Broadway in Chicago's James M. Nederlander Theatre

St. Clement Roman Catholic Church

School of the Art Institute of Chicago Grand Ballroom @ MacLean Center

Having attended Open House Chicago a half dozen times now I thought I'd share some insights for those interested in attending! This year OHC is being held October 19-20. You can check out my previous posts from 2018 and 2017 for more info on what we saw those years.

First off, Open House Chicago is an annual 2-day architectural event in which more than 300 locations are open to the public. There is great diversity of locations, including sacred spaces, theaters, private clubs, mansions, hotels, skyscrapers, and the list goes on. The Chicago Architecture Center (formerly known as the Chicago Architecture Foundation) organizes and hosts the event, opening many rarely accessible spaces to the public for free. I've linked as many of the sites as I can below as I mention them so you have shortcuts to check them out.

Tips for the first timer:

1) Use the Open House Chicago website to browse the open locations and build your itinerary. This feature was added a few years ago and it is a huge help!

  • Pay attention to the days/times the sites are open. Not all sites are on the same schedule. Some may only be open one of the two days or for a more limited time frame than most other sites.

  • When browsing the sites, also be sure to read the 'Visitor Experience' section as that gives you some info about what you will have access to. Just because a site is on the tour doesn't mean that you have free rein to all areas within it.

2) Once you have your itinerary, look at your map (it creates this for you!) and game plan your order of attendance. Double check those availability times to make sure that all the sites you want to hit in a neighborhood are in fact available when you plan to be there. Be sure you build in travel time between neighborhoods if you are jumping around. One year I was hard-core and got us to about 24 sites in 2 days. This is totally doable while still being enjoyable if you mark a lot of sites in a few neighborhoods. If you want to be a more casual participant you can open up the site page on your phone and click on 'view sites near me' to see what is near by and just wing it.

3) Consider your best transportation options. Some years, our itinerary allowed us to use public transit (mostly the train) with just a couple of Lyfts for some off-the-path spots. Other years we've driven our car because our sites were so spread out. If driving yourself, be aware that not all sites have easy/abundant or accessible parking. You may have to park a number of blocks away and still walk a decent amount.

4) Other useful info provided in the site descriptions relate to what to expect upon arrival. For example, some sites might list that photography is prohibited or that public washrooms are accessible or that you may encounter long lines and wait times to get into the site. Some sites are VERY popular and limit the number of people allowed in at a time. This can result in a lot of standing in line waiting your turn. If this doesn't sound appealing, I've got a tip for that, too (see #5)! A good example of long lines is the House of Blues Foundation Room VIP Club. We've walked by this site a number of times and the line is outrageous. Same for many of the Frank Lloyd Wright locations when they are on the tour and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

5) If you want to bypass long lines or get into the Members-only sites (there are only a few of those this year) all it takes is a basic membership! Members of the Chicago Architecture Center have a number of perks and the Priority Access Pass for the OHC weekend is a big one. We have jumped some really long lines in the past-- think wrapping around the block long-- and only waited a few minutes thanks to our Priority Access Pass. A good example of this was Frank Lloyd Wright's home/studio in Oak Park. The line was huge but we walked right past it and up to the entrance where we jumped in the Members line which only had 3 other people in it and were in the house within 5-10 minutes.

If you are thinking that one weekend event isn't worth a membership, let me tell you about the other benefits you get with membership. First off, you get free access to more than 65 of the walking tours offered by the organization. Depending on your level of membership (individual or dual +) you also get a BOGO (max is buy 2 get 2) on the River Boat cruises which are amazing! Every member gets discounts on special tours/events, discounted parking at the LAZ garage and discounts in the Center's store. With the higher level memberships you get even more access to various things. You can check out membership benefits here.

6) Sites change from year to year. Some are consistently on the site list but others may not be on again for years (or ever). So really think about what your priorities are. Some sites are public buildings that you can get some access to on your own at other times-- like churches. Some sites are never open to the general public except for this event weekend. I'm impatiently waiting for the upper level of the Jewelers Building to make it back onto the list especially after all the restoration work that has occurred on the façade. The restoration is still in progress but in the later stages. Examples of other sites that were on the tour before but not this year include: The Robey, Broadway in Chicago's Oriental Theatre, the LondonHouse Hotel and the Emil Bach House.

I only just started to put together a list of the sites we've been to in order to keep track (I wish I had done this from the start) so I'm certain I am missing/forgetting some but I did manage to identify more than 60 sites that we've been to. The below recommendations are only based on the sites I've been to so be sure to check the exhaustive listings on the website to see if something else catches your eye.

If you are into sacred spaces:

If you are into old mansions:

Other old buildings:

A few spots on my itinerary for this year:

There are modern sites on the tour as well, but they aren't the sites that I gravitate toward as much. I appreciate them and their architectural style but they just aren't the style of architecture that leaves me in awe.

If the event feels overwhelming, just choose a neighborhood or two and check out the sites in that area. The downtown has a huge number of sites available and it is so easy to walk from one to the next so this is a great area to start in if you haven't been in many of the downtown buildings.


I'm extra excited to book my stay for the weekend after reviewing all of these amazing places! If you are a local, this is a great way to see some new places or neighborhoods. If you are an out-of-towner like me, this event will really help familiarize you with Chicago and its history. We found the Publishing House B & B one year when they were on the tour and now we make an effort to stay once a year. Let me know if you have questions or any recommendations on your must-sees if you are an attendee!

We spent two weeks traveling the Southwest and I can't stress enough how the beauty of these places was just far too vast to convey through the photos. We were road-tripping so we had a lot of mobility and saw a great many places. We had a very short time in Santa Fe but it was enough to ensure that we plan a special trip back. The art community was so strong and diverse. We picked out some pottery to add to the house.

Next up was Sedona, Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, and Page, AZ.

We really enjoyed a hike in Sedona. The town was cute but a bit overly touristy for us. We did find some nice art galleries but it wasn't our vibe as much as Santa Fe was. We didn't have much time in Flagstaff as it was mostly just our jumping off point (it snowed while we were there as well, important to note).

The Grand Canyon was so enormous and impressive. I'm very grateful that we (and the many tourists around us) did not fall to our deaths. We were far more cautious of how far we ventured out onto rocks and cliffs, but man....so many tourists were in such precarious positions I spent most of the day with anxiety for the safety of strangers. At one point I enlisted the help of a woman in scolding my husband to be careful as he inched closer and closer to an edge. It really was spectacular and you can totally spend a couple of days just walking the easy rim trail. #myfearofheightsishealthy We had to wait out a snow storm our first day there....in mid May....which I certainly hadn't packed for. It melted quickly and we began our walk and the rest of the day was lovely.

Page, Arizona was a surprise to us. I had been aware of Antelope Canyon for several years and more recently became aware of Horseshoe Bend (thanks Instagram) but I was totally unaware of the draw of Glenn Canyon. Shout out to our guide Eugene with Taadidiin Tours for a spectacular experience viewing Antelope Canyon!! There are 7 different canyons open for tours and different companies (Navajo based) have exclusive rights to a couple each. If you are staying in Page and looking for somewhere to eat, we highly recommend Big John's Texas BBQ. We had great service and delicious food even when they were crazy busy. We didn't get out onto the water at Glenn Canyon but we drove around it a bit to check out the area. This is not the kind of boating I grew up doing! It looked like a great get-away if that is your jam.

Also interesting to note, we ran into so many foreign tourists in all of these locations. SO. MANY. It made us extra aware and proud of the natural beauty of the U.S. that draws people from so far away.

We traveled through Arches National Park in Utah while driving toward Wyoming. While we were hoping to get an afternoon hike in while traveling through, the weather did not cooperate. The first time we got out of the car to check out a view we had to make a mad-dash back as a hail storm started to rage. We made it to safety before the worst of it hit, don't worry. We'll have to make a trip back there as well when we can devote more time. There are several other areas in Utah I'd also like to check out and hike in. Our next en route stop was Glenwood Springs, Colorado. We just had an overnight and partial day there. We made the most of it by spending our morning at Iron Mountain Hot Springs before driving north out of town. If you are kid-free, this is the place to go! So calm and relaxing. I didn't expect to last long but with numerous pools at various temperatures, it kept my attention much longer than I anticipated. We also had some lovely conversations with strangers. And of course, we ran into a couple of #UIowa alums-- Hawkeyes are everywhere!

We ended our trip at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch for a weekend with some friends. It was a lovely weekend relaxing and catching up. We also squeezed in some horseback riding, trap shooting, and archery. I stayed on the horse, hit several of my birds (clay), and didn't hit anyone with rogue arrows!

I'm not well built for vacations that involve just sitting or laying around. Even if it's by the beach or pool. I get antsy. I love our summer road trips, hiking, photo-taking, car-snacking, hotel-hopping escapades!


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