The Windy City’s economy hosts every kind of business you can imagine, and will likewise host you for a fantastic work trip.

Home of the world’s first skyscraper, Chicago is also the home base of major corporations such as McDonald’s, Sears, Allstate, and Motorola. Of course, it’s also been the headquarters of Boeing for the past 14 years, after the world’s largest aerospace company left our area in 2001.

It isn’t just big businesses that have a place here, though. Chicago ranks second in the nation in the number of fast-growing small businesses for the second year in a row, according to the 2015 Inc. 5000 list. The city is known for its large, diversified economy. No matter what industry you’re in, you may find yourself with reason to visit.

Planning a trip? Here’s what you need to know to have a first-rate business experience in the Windy City.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Chicago has two major airports: O’Hare (ORD) and Midway (MDW). You can fly nonstop from Seattle and arrive in about four hours on airlines including American, Alaska, Southwest, United, and US Airways. If you have extra time and a hankering to see the Midwest on a train, Amtrak’s Empire Builder goes from Seattle’s King Street Station to Chicago’s Union Station in a journey that takes nearly two full days.

Once in Chicago, there are plenty of public transportation options. The “L” trains are particularly convenient, with more than 140 stations. “Chicago is a very easy place to get around; there are cabs aplenty and taking the metro is fairly safe,” said Kirkland-based Amber Osborne, chief marketing officer at Meshfire, a social media management platform. “If you are trying to get somewhere downtown in the Loop area … when traffic gets heavy, it’s faster to walk to most locations.”

The Power Lunch

For choices galore, Randolph Street in the West Loop is known as “Restaurant Row.” Along this stretch, try Sepia, upscale American in a 19th-century print shop; Au Cheval, whose burger was named best in America by Bon Appétit and Food Network’s Top Five Restaurants; or Girl & the Goat, serving inventive small plates. One of Osborne’s lunchtime standbys is Primebar, a downtown pub. “The ambience is low-lit, rich, and leather-couch luxurious,” she said. “The service is always astounding, and you always get a great, comforting meal.” If it’s Chicago’s famed deep-dish pizza you’re craving, a casual lunch at Pequod’s Pizza, known for its caramelized crust, will hit the spot.

Get Some Sleep

New this year, Virgin Hotels Chicago is the first Virgin property to open in the U.S. Guests at the 250-room ultra-modern hotel that was designed with female travelers in mind enjoy environmentally responsible amenities and an app that allows you to check in, interact with staff, and control in-room functions. On the other end of the age spectrum, Palmer House Hilton opened in the 1870s (it was rebuilt in the 1920s) and has hosted everyone from Grover Cleveland to Charles Dickens. A business center, meeting rooms, and photocopying are available. On the Magnificent Mile, InterContinental Chicago boasts 45,000 square feet of event space and a location within walking distance of the Chicago River. For those on a budget, Osborne recommends Club Quarters, with two locations downtown. “(The rooms are) super tiny — almost cruise cabin-like — but warm and comfy. They also provide free snacks and breakfast,” she said.

Off the Clock

See the city from a different angle aboard a river cruise. Shoreline Sightseeing and Chicago’s First Lady Cruises both offer architecture-themed tours that provide insight on all those skyscrapers. In the evening hours, catch a spirited performance at Jazz Showcase or visit Three Dots and a Dash for a tropical getaway in the middle of the city. The tiki room is tucked in an alleyway with a secret entrance. “The food and drinks will transport you to a Hawaiian beach,” according to Osborne, but beware their potency. “I would not be surprised if you woke up covered in sunscreen and wearing a hula skirt,” she said.




Thumbnail photo courtesy © City of Chicago