20+ Best Local Chicago Gifts Ideas [Ultimate 2020 Guide]
With delicious food, stunning architecture, and a cultural scene like nowhere else, Chicago is world-renowned for the sheer variety this city has to choose from. But having that many choices available can get overwhelming when it comes to selecting one perfect gift for a friend or family member for a special occasion.
Here’s the thing: Decision fatigue is real. With this in mind, here’s our easy roster of twenty fantastic, uniquely Chicago gift ideas curated to delight anyone (and everyone) you’re shopping for in 2020.
For Foodies and Culinary Lovers
#1 To: Tour Takers
Source: Chicago Food Planet
From deep-dish pizzas and Italian beef sandwiches, to cold and crisp craft beers, Chicago has a cornucopia of cuisines on offer that are not only unique to the city, but also nothing short of spectacular. The best way to give someone a wide selection of the best foods in Chicago is through a food tour. It’s a chance to satisfy your favorite foodie’s culinary cravings and give them an unforgettable tour of the city on the same day!
Can’t decide? Let your recipient choose for themselves by purchasing them a gift card in any amount. That way, they’ll be sure to get to the exact destinations and foods they’ll enjoy most.
#2 To: Confection Perfectionists
Choose from the many tasty treats and sweets available at Katherine Anne Confections, a staple of Logan Square for over a decade. Their chocolates and caramels are made with the finest local ingredients, from wildflower honey to cream from Illinois cows. Boxed truffle gift box options include flavors like lemon poppyseed and toasted coconut rum.
#3 To: Traditional Treat Tasters
Frango Mint Chocolates has been a Chicago tradition since 1927 when it was the signature creation of Marshall Field & Company. It’s like taking a sugary bite out of Chicago’s history with an addictive combination of milk chocolate and refreshing mint. The boxes of chocolate are commonly purchased online through Macy’s or in-person from their State Street store, once the Field & Company’s flagship location.
#4 To: Truffle and Chocolate Connoisseurs
Vosges Haut-Chocolat shops have been another Chicago gift staple for generations. With two locations, one on The Magnificent Mile in Lincoln Park and another at the O’Hare International Airport, you’re sure to find something to please even the most discerning of palates. Some of the more exotic ingredients in their truffles include Australian macadamia nuts, Hungarian paprika, and Tanzanian dark chocolate (!!).
This luxury chocolate brand uses only organic and sustainable ingredients from all around the world when creating its divine delicacies. Consider one of their purple gift boxes which have a sample of nearly everything they have to offer.
#5 To: Gourmet Popcorn Groupies
Source: Chicago Food Planet
The streets of Chicago have been filled with the irresistibly buttery scents coming from Garrett Popcorn Shops since 1949. One of the popular gift choices includes a bag of Garrett Mix®, which blends Garrett’s famous CaramelCrisp and CheeseCorn varieties. The namesake mixture was developed as an answer to their fans’ requests for sweet and savory all in one bite.
#6 To: Craft Beer Buffs
For Chicago gift-givers with lovers of suds on their list, the city is home to many creative craft breweries and distilleries. Check out this list of the Final-Final, Indisputable Ranking of Chicago’s Ten Best Craft Beers for suggestions and gift ideas. This top ten roster showcases the highest-ranked beers that have helped make Chicago a craft beer lover’s paradise.
For a Classic Chicago-Based Gift Idea for the Kiddos
#7 To: Budding Builders and Architects
Source: The Brick Architect
For children who dream of living in Chicago or already do, here’s a great gift that’s not only educational, but also fun. From the LEGO® Architecture line of pre-designed packages, the Chicago 21033 option allows youngsters to recreate the blend of historical and modern buildings found in the city’s skyline.
The sets are scaled to offer an accurate representation of the size of each of these structures along with true-to-life colors. The package features the Willis Tower, John Hancock Center, Cloud Gate, DuSable Bridge, Wrigley Building, and the Big Red that includes a decorative “Chicago” nameplate. This kit will delight kids for years whether they build it once and put it on display or construct it over-and-over again.
For Sports Enthusiasts
#8 To: Chicago Sports Devotees
Source: Chicago Sports Museum
From “Da Bears” to the Cubs, the Bulls, and the Blackhawks, the choice of a Chicago-themed sports-related gift never fails to get fans stoked for next season. While tickets are always an option, think outside the stub and try performing a search on sites like eBay for a huge selection of sports memorabilia and souvenirs.
From jerseys to caps, watches, and pens, there are a plethora of cool Chicago-related gift ideas to choose from for sports enthusiasts. Delve a little deeper into these options and consider choices that are personalized to score a touchdown for fans of any team.
#9 To: Classic Baseball Fans
Source: WGN Radio 720
Again, while tickets to watch the Cubs play on their home field are a great, classic option, another excellent Chicago-based gift experience is to tour the historic Wrigley Field. Well-known for its ivy-covered walls, booking a tour of this classic coliseum will score a real home run with baseball fans. Whether it’s booked on a game day or when the stadium is closed to the public, tour takers will get an amazing behind-the-scenes look at this stunning stadium.
For Music Lovers
#10 To: Jazz and Blues Listeners
The musical 2002 “Chicago” helped bring the spotlight on amazing musical performances back to the Windy City. An excellent way to experience the musical gifts Chicago has to offer jazz and blues fans is through one of these notable venues:
- Consider booking a corporate or private event at Buddy Guy’s Legends as a possible Chicago holiday party for coworkers, family, or friends
- Purchase tickets to attend an upcoming live music event at Kingston Mines, the Chicago Blues Center.
- There are T-Shirts available from the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, a local favorite venue for live music (formerly run by mobsters) that still showcases Al Capone’s favorite booth.
#11 To: Classical Music Fans
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is one of the most well-respected groups of musicians performing on a global scale. Tickets to see some of the world-class conductors at work are both an affordable and imaginative gift for the music lover in your life. There are also Chicago music themed gifts available from the Symphony Store, including CDs, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and more.
Making a donation to a non-profit music organization in your recipient’s name can also be a great alternative to giving them an actual gift. Ways to support the symphony include making a personal contribution, corporate sponsorship, or becoming involved in their charity work.
For Lovers of the Theater
#12 To: Classic Audiences
Source: Chicago Architecture Center
Often used as a backdrop to movies filmed in the city, the downtown Chicago Theatre is nothing short of a spectacular showcase of stellar performances. In addition to purchasing tickets to see comedians, world-class dance companies, renowned musical performers, and well-respected cultural figures, creative gift choices also include booking a historic tour of this amazing facility.
Renting the venue as a unique location for an upcoming grand event (think weddings or galas) is also a possibility. With a capacity of 200 people on stage, up to 800 with an extension, and outside catering available, wouldn’t this make an unbelievable spot for an unforgettable event?
#13 To: Shakespearean Enthusiasts
Source: Navy Pier
Purists to stage performances are glued to their seats when the curtain opens at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (or CST). Located on Navy Pier, the CST is the largest performing arts center in Chicago and puts on many of William’s classic plays, from “Romeo and Juliet”, to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, to “Hamlet”, and more.
Family-friendly options include presentations of “Peter Pan” or “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”. Speaking of options, another Chicago gift idea includes donating to this non-profit organization in the name of the recipient as a way to show their support of the arts in Illinois.
#14 To: Folks Who Enjoy Dinner and a Show
Source: Chicago Food Planet
When purchasing tickets for a performance at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre as a Chicago experience gift, why not add a Navy Pier Signature Food Tour to the package for an all-day and night adventure? Recipients will enjoy delicious dining options in the afternoon, and spend some time exploring the many attractions on the boardwalk before heading off to attend a show at the classic Shakespearean theater.
For Fans of History, Art, and Museums
#15 To: Art Institute Admirers
This premium venue is an excellent choice for a Chicago-based art-related gift. Plus! There are plenty of souvenirs to take home from their gift shop. At the Art Institute of Chicago, exhibits are rotated year-round and new additions are made regularly. Considering all the new exhibitions that come through too, no one will be offended if you get them tickets to the same place more than once. Every visit to this magnificent Chicago spot is a chance to have a fresh artistic experience.
#16 To: Champions of Contemporary Art
Lovers of modern and current art will find exactly what they’re looking for when attending a viewing at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Giving the gift of tickets to this modern art meca is sure to engage experienced art lovers, and may even open some new eyes to the beauty of these fascinating creations.
#17 To: Medical Science Fans
Source: The International Museum of Surgical Science
While this one might seem like a stretch, you’d be surprised by how fascinating the history and future of medicine really is. Located in the Gold Coast, the beautiful International Museum of Surgical Science showcases life-size statues of some of the most prominent surgeons and physicians from the past, as well as a curious (and sometimes bizarre) mix of medical equipment and displays to explore.
#18 To: Mexican Art Appreciators
Chicago gift recipients of tickets to this venue will experience an amazing collection of Hispanic inspired pieces at the National Museum of Mexican Art. Visitors are given breathtaking examples of artistic creations sprinkled throughout the museum. Beyond giving a lucky someone a breathtaking tour of art from both sides of the border, gift givers are also able to donate to the museum or make their gift recipient a member of this unique institution.
#19 To: Natural History Enthusiasts
Source: Field Museum
Another quintessential educational Chicago location is the Field Museum. Home to one of the largest natural history collections in the world, the focal point of the museum is undoubtedly Sue, the most complete, frightening, and Twitter active T-Rex skeleton ever discovered. Another big attraction is Máximo the Titanosaur—literally the biggest dinosaur on earth. If you’re hoping to gift a larger-than-life learning experience this year, the Field Museum will not disappoint.
#20 To: Armchair Detectives and Hardcore Crime Buffs
Source: Chicago Crime Tours
The high-profile gangster Al Capone was a huge part of Chicago’s famous past when mobsters ran the streets of this city day and night. For true crime fans and history buffs, consider this unique experience available from Chicago Crime Tours. Their bus tours include stops at locations where the likes of Capone, John Dillinger, Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, and many others ruled the roost during the prohibition era.
Their tour buses also swing by the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, one of the most notorious mass-murders in American history. While booking a tour is always a possibility, there are also gift certificates available for this venue that would make a truly unique Chicago gift idea.