Best River North Art Gallery Walk
River North is the granddaddy of Chicago's gallery districts, a more established and refined neighborhood of art-centric businesses than other trendy areas like Pilsen and the West Loop. It's an easy walk to River North from most downtown hotels, and there's a bevy of hip restaurants and clubs interspersed with the galleries here, making it a one-stop destination for a great time out.
Superior Street: The Epicenter of It All
Start at the heart of the action, at the intersection of Superior and Wells streets. A walk in any direction from here can't go wrong if you're looking for galleries to browse, but we suggest heading west on pretty Superior Street to hit a huge cluster of galleries on this block right off the bat. The first among our favorites on this street is Ann Nathan Gallery ( 212 W. Superior St. 312/664–6622), which showcases both established and emerging sculptors and painters in a spacious, bright space with high ceilings and exposed wood beams. Just a few doors down is ECHT Gallery ( 222 W. Superior St. 312/440–0288), the go-to place for contemporary glass sculpture by artists including Dale Chihuly and Martin Blank.
At 300 West Superior Street you'll find several notable galleries, including Catherine Edelman Gallery, well known for its breathtaking collection of contemporary photography and mixed-media photo-based art, most in black and white. Vintage black-and-white photographs can be found directly across the street at Stephen Daiter Gallery ( 230 W. Superior St. 312/787–3350), which specializes in experimental works.
Franklin Street: Contemporary Curb Appeal
Head north to Franklin Street and take time to stop at the many shops and galleries with massive windows showcasing their wares. Don't miss Architech Gallery of Architectural Art ( 730 N. Franklin St. 312/475–1290); their collection includes lithographs from Frank Lloyd Wright's Wasmuth Portfolio and some of Daniel Burnham's original plans and construction documents. Stephen Kelly Gallery ( 750 N. Franklin St. 312/867–1931) showcases the colorful abstracts of the owner as well as a handful of other contemporary artists.
Wells Street: More Art and Tourist Hot Spots
Head back toward Wells Street, where you'll find a curious mix of sophisticated galleries and iconic restaurants (including ’50s diner-style Ed Debevic's and Chicago-pizza classic Gino's East). Duck into Roy Boyd Gallery ( 739 N. Wells St. 312/642–1606), one of the oldest galleries in the neighborhood. Most of what you'll find here is abstract painting, drawing, and sculpture. Across the street is Carl Hammer Gallery ( 740 N. Wells St. 312/266–8512), known for its collection of outsider art by Chris Ware and Hollis Sigler, among others.