Chicago is still writing its story. While the city already has a bustling cultural repertoire, its latest chapter comes in the form of the brand-new American Writers Museum opening in spring 2017. The nationally accredited institute has been in the works for six years, with Chicago ultimately chosen for its rich literary tradition (writers from Nelson Algren to playwright Tracy Letts have called the city home) as well as its status as a major metropolitan destination, according to Museum President Carey Cranston.
The venue sits at 180 North Michigan Avenue (on the second floor), near the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park, and is anticipated to draw 120,000 visitors every year. It’s designed to be a large, open space, with an area set aside for author readings and other events. The focus is to celebrate writing and its significance. Interactive exhibits will bring a very vibrant feel, says Cranston: “This is definitely not a library. The museum provides a very unique experience for people looking for something that challenges visitors to explore the importance of writing.”
Private events are also part of the museum’s narrative; the 11,000-square-foot space will be able to seat up to 100 (or more than 200 for a reception), and Cranston says coordinators are currently working with nearby hotels and caterers to put together event packages.
The Museum of Science and Industry may be one of the oldest buildings in Chicago—it’s the only one remaining from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition—but it’s also exploring the future as the largest science museum in the Western hemisphere. In addition to welcoming scores of students every year, much of the museum’s approximate 400,000 square feet of space is available for private rental and can accommodate a whopping 12,000 people.
One of the marquees is the giant, domed rotunda in the center of the building that can comfortably fit 1,000 people seated, or 5,500 for a reception. Part of the allure is the permanent collection on close display, including views of a real 727 airplane, a winding model railroad track that’s 1,400 feet long and a historic steam locomotive.
Planners can further choose to incorporate other exhibit spaces, such as a 40-foot tornado inside the Science Storms exhibit, a World War II German submarine or authentic replica coal mine.
The museum’s lakefront location also uniquely offers two outdoor porticos (accommodating up to 2,500 people combined) with a view of the lagoon.
Events take place both during the daytime and evening, says Christie Springer, event consultant. In addition to all the incredible exhibit spaces, there’s also an 850-seat auditorium and the Rosenwald Room that can accommodate up to 100 people. Springer recommends scheduling a preliminary site visit and checking availability as early as possible.
Specialty lighting packages and branding opportunities are offered throughout the museum as well, and all evening rentals include complimentary on-site parking, a coat check, event security, facility staff and exhibit guides. Planners can also work with the museum’s in-house events and catering team, Sodexo, for full execution.
The Chicago History Museum’s name says it all, with incredible artifacts from the Great Chicago Fire, the estate of President Abraham Lincoln (an Illinois native) and some of the city’s earliest locomotives, among millions of other pieces. The setting, too, makes it one of the preferred venues for smaller conferences of 50 to grand events of up to 1,500 guests for a full buyout.
“The thing I hear the most about what makes [us] different is the indoor and outdoor spaces,” says Special Events Manager Erika Johnson. “We also have the lovely Lincoln Park as our backyard.”
The museum’s main event space is the second floor Chicago Room, which can accommodate up to 600 guests for a reception or 310 at a seated dinner. The room opens up to the outdoor Uihlein Plaza that overlooks the park.
For smaller events, the Chicago History Museum’s conference rooms can accommodate about 50 people. The Guild Conference Room is newly renovated and offers floor-toceiling windows overlooking the Children’s Fountain while The Mandel Conference Room offers 40 seats and includes a number of pieces from the museum’s collection.
On the museum’s first floor, groups can also use the North & Clark Café, for up to 120 people, which offers an airy space with cathedral ceilings and panoramic windows that lets guests reflect on the great history just outside the doors, too.