Why Michigan Avenue is Known as the Magnificent Mile

Why Michigan Avenue is Known as the Magnificent Mile

You probably know of Michigan Avenue as being an upscale, prime shopping area with spectacular buildings and architecture, running from the Chicago River to Oak Street. But why is it called the Magnificent Mile? Yes, it is pretty magnificent—can’t argue there—but there’s rich history behind the famed strip and how it got its name.

Curious? Here’s how Michigan Avenue became the Magnificent Mile and how it’s lived up to its name since.

The Story

The idea of constructing the Magnificent Mile was part of the 1909 Burnham Plan of Chicago, and it was set to replace Pine Street in 1920 in light of the Michigan Avenue Bridge opening the same year. This bridge created more opportunity for retail along Michigan Avenue, and encouraged real estate developers to capitalize on the new space.

Pine Street mostly consisted of factories and warehouses, but the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue would have upscale retail, dining, and soon-to-be renowned buildings, like the Wrigley Building, The Drake Hotel, Tribune Tower, Water Tower Place, and more.

After the Great Depression and World War II, real estate developers Arthur Rubloff and William Zeckendorf bought the area and concocted a plan to create new buildings and renovate older ones, making it a luxurious retail hotspot that deserved the name “magnificent.”

And It is Still Magnificent Today!

Today, it’s continued to live up to the hype. People come from all over the world to walk the famed strip of blocks along Michigan Avenue, take in the scenery, do some (or lots) of shopping, and grab delicious food and cocktails. It’s also a great destination for accommodations if you are from out of town, as you’re right in the heart of the city, and close to various neighborhoods such as Streeterville, the Loop, Gold Coast, and River North.

You can easily take an architecture tour by foot or boat along the River to learn more about Chicago’s history and culture and snap some spectacular photos, or you can wander around and enjoy the day on your own terms, stopping into stores one after the next. There’s no shortage of fun things to do along the Magnificent Mile, so set aside a block of time to explore at ease. Here are some examples.

Shop & Eat All Day Long

You can spend hours shopping along the Mag Mile. There are great department stores, like Bloomingdale’s or Nordstrom, luxury designer stores, like Chanel and Burberry, and great everyday-wear attire from Banana Republic, Forever21, Zara, and more. If you go to Water Tower Place, you’ll find lots of shops, like ALDO, ALEX AND ANI, Adidas, and more. You can even grab food downstairs at the food court.

You can also find food of all kinds along the Mile. Check out FOODease for a salad bar and other healthy foods, or Do-Rite Donuts for some uniquely amazing donuts. For more upscale dining, head to the Albert, where you can order off the menu or try a Chef’s Tasting Menu of 5 courses, with items like Goat Ricotta and Fjord Trout.

Go to Local Attractions

Head to nearby Navy Pier or the Shedd Aquarium for an afternoon of fun. At Navy Pier, you can ride the renowned Ferris wheel and enjoy various activities and dining opportunities. Kids can enjoy the Chicago Children’s Museum, while adults can grab drinks at the beer garden or experience an IMAX film. At Shedd Aquarium, you’ll be able to see various sea creatures and learn about their histories. There are even educational events there, so be sure to look at the calendar and sign up if you are interested.

Michigan Avenue has an amazing history, and continues to be a fantastic Chicago attraction. No matter what your interests are, the Magnificent Mile has something for everyone!

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