While Chi-town may be known for its deep-dish pizza and extreme weather, one of the largest cities in the U.S. is brimming with fantastic public spaces and vibrant indoor hideaways (perfect locations for eating deep-dish pizzas). So, pack your camera and gear, then head over to one of these cool places to take cool photos in Chicago.
1. Hang ten in this tropical-themed space in Wicker Park
Surf’s up in this little slice of West-Coast cool. Chicago may be the Windy City, but inside this tropical-themed home, it’s all island breezes. Large windows add plenty of natural light to the serene environment. Exotic accessories and pastel pink walls give the space a laid-back, casual feel, while fun wall-hangings make for unique backgrounds that spark joy. Unwind in one of the airy, bucket chairs, stand beneath the glow of a neon palm tree, or say, “Aloha!” to the big inflatable pink flamingo chilling in the art-deco-style bathtub. Whatever you do, you’ll have 2,000 square feet of easy-breezy space to do it in –– all in the heart of Chicago’s fabulous Wicker Park.
2. Hunker down in this one-of-a-kind downtown venue and terrace
If you’re looking for cool places to take cool photos in Chicago, might we suggest taking a step back in time in this groovy, retro venue? Complete with an outdoor terrace, graffiti art, vintage games and furnishings, and glassy checkered floor –– this sky-high room is definitely one of Chicago’s hidden gems. Take a load off on the tufted velvet, chocolate-and-fuchsia-colored sofa or head out to the terrace and take in the incredible panoramic view. Polar vortex got you down? No worries. The space’s floor-to-ceiling windows are the perfect way to enjoy views of the great city of Chicago without losing a toe to frostbite.
3. Chase enlightenment in the Garden of the Phoenix
This spot, formerly known as Osaka Garden, is perfect for those wonderful summer days that Chicagoans collectively pray for nine months out of the year. Originally created in 1893 as part of a pavilion for Japan’s exposition in the World’s Columbian Exposition, the Garden of the Phoenix is a symbol of the rich and complex history between the U.S. and Japan, as well as a reminder of Chicago’s resilience after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The expertly manicured Japanese garden features a koi pond with zigzag stones meant to throw off evil spirits and induce a sense of peace and harmony. Bonsai trees and other Japanese foliage put this serene spot on our list of cool places to take cool photos in Chicago. Pretty cool, right?
4. Let loose in this historic speakeasy with outdoor space
This historic hotel and speakeasy is ripe with creative and mischievous possibilities (and excuses to order several craft cocktails). From its indoor lounge, dotted with sumptuous brown leather chairs and hanging Chinese lanterns, to its brick-lined, covered terrace –– this 25th-floor speakeasy is spacious and stylish enough to accommodate your wildest ideas (and crew members). Vibrant street murals add a pop of color, making them an excellent background.
5. Space out at the Adler Planetarium
The Adler Planetarium is, put simply, out of this world. The incredible design earned architect Ernest A. Grunsfeld the prestigious gold medal of the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Space-age lighting and sweeping curves make this a photographer’s dream.
6. Expand your horizons in this historic Parisian-style apartment
Forget the deep-dish pizza and sink your teeth into this historic 1877 Parisian-style apartment. Better yet, make your own in the centerpiece of the home: a professional chef’s kitchen –– outfitted with copper silverware, porcelain dishes, and French glassware. If cooking’s not your game, you can set up shop next to the gorgeous 20-foot bay windows in the salon/lounge area –– a favorite for portrait photographers and amateur selfie-takers. And, if stunning, natural sunlight isn’t your game (boy, you’re hard to please!) head over to the private, professionally decorated rooftop garden lounge. Be sure to bring up the antique bar cart.
7. Get fired up on an old-fashioned fire escape
While fire escapes are now considered to pose more risk than they provide safety, they still evoke a sense of urban romanticism and remain a staple in film noir, musicals, and literature. A long-standing respite from hot summer days and kitchen arguments over deep-dish pizza, the fire escape has provided a wealth of inspiration for artists of all types. Even Tennessee Williams wrote about the term “fire escape,” saying it was, “a touch of accidental poetic truth, for all these huge buildings are always burning with the slow and implacable fires of human desperation.”
8. Hole up in one of these hip and unique bedrooms
A far cry from your great aunt’s dusty AirBnB listing, this set of nine uniquely designed bedrooms is a cool and versatile location for lifestyle and fashion photoshoots. Exposed brick and delicate wallpapers are expertly merged with crisp furnishings and color-saturated headboards. Cascades of natural light get complemented by modern light fixtures and reflective accessories. And while you may be tempted to hole up alone in one of these oh-so-relaxing rooms, the spacious layouts can accommodate multiple crew members and equipment.
9. Drop the mic at this intimate black box theater
This unique space is ideal for performers or anyone interested in natural framing options. We love a good photo next to some street art or in a beautifully curated loft, but this crimson-lined black box theater is absolutely irresistible. The striking colors are set at the perfect height to serve as a pop-art style background without taking away from the impact of the subject matter. Try including some of the stage light’s “sun” flare, or bring in your own spotlight to create dramatic shadows.
10. Cruise down the Chicago River
Take a cruise down the Chicago River, which cuts through the heart of the Windy City. Whether you’re taking photos at night or during the day, Chicago’s high-rises and skyscrapers look stunning next the 156-mile river system. Rent a kayak or boat, or simply stroll alongside the water –– whatever you choose, you’ll find a wealth of opportunities to take in the view and get some cool pictures while you’re at it.
11. Elevate your photos in this elegant Victorian condo
Bring out your inner Gatsby in this extravagant Victorian condo. Towering 20-foot ceilings give a glimpse of Lake Michigan along with the Museum of Science and Industry. Sumptuous fabrics and remarkable wooden details will have you feeling like a titan of industry yourself. Rich, dark hardwood floors flow throughout and complement the more delicate features the space has to offer, such as a crystal glass cabinet, grand piano, and fine china in the equally fabulous kitchen.
12. Park it at the Wood Pavilion at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo
The grand archway at Lincoln Park Zoo zeroes in on the city’s striking skyline with perfect symmetry –– making it an ideal location for natural framing. The up-lighting adds depth and drama to any composition.
13. Snap to it in this sunny, curated loft space
This sunny, window-lined loft is home to a variety of lush plants and refreshingly minimalist seating. Exposed brick is softened by floor-length white curtains and dark floors that pair well with the included decor — or anything you choose to bring into the space. The inviting, chill vibe makes this spot a favorite among commercial clients, such as MTV, Target, and Apartment Therapy.