09/23/2015 12:43 EDT | Updated 09/23/2016 05:12 EDT

8 New Reasons to Visit Chicago

Photograph by Asim Bharwani via Getty Images

Iconic architecture, deep dish pizza and rich history aside, the currents of America's Windy City are changing constantly. We recently scoped out the newest openings, creative concepts and inventive menu items Chicago has to offer:

Stay: Housed in an 1820s bank, the first-ever Virgin Hotel features chambers that separates spaces for sleeping and getting dressed (it's like having a walk-in closet in your hotel room). Among the many thoughtful perks at this Richard Branson pied-à-terre: apps that control room temp while you're away, yoga mats, sliding shoe racks and guest car services featuring a luxury Tesla. Be sure to spend some time in the Shag Room cocktail lounge, where the carpet matches the name. Virgin Hotel Chicago, 203 N Wabash Ave., Chicago, 312-940-4400,

Dine: At Girl and the Goat on Chi-Town's restaurant row, Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard wows with unique sharing plates, like light and creamy goat liver mousse (if you have any trouble deciding among the menu items, the servers will happily help design a meal based on your personal palate). On the other side of the river, check out Intro's buzzworthy rotating-chef restaurant concept (we hear Aaron Martinez is taking the helm till mid-October). Intro Chicago, 2300 N Lincoln Park W, Chicago, 773-868-0002,

Sip: Presidio may be the new bar in trendy Bucktown, but it's already winning awards for its craft cocktails created with West Coast (San Francisco, to be exact) flair. The Flash in the Pan, in particular, is an original that proves a drink can be everything at once: sweet, tart, spicy and minty. Trust us, try it. Presidio, 1749 N Damen Ave., Chicago, 773-697-3315,

Snack: You won't find synthetic flavours or emulsifiers at Jeni's Scoop Shop -- just good old-fashioned artisan ice cream in irreverent beverage-inspired flavours like Root Beer and Mango Lassi. Or, find small-batch doughnut heaven at Firecakes in River North, where a Chocolate Hazelnut Long John, Coconut Cream and others have been known to cause lineups. Firecakes Donuts, 68 W Hubbard St., Chicago, 312-329-6500,

Shop: Retail-wise, Wicker Park is where it's at, with offerings from Intermix, Benefit, Scotch & Soda and more. Among our faves: Mojo Spa, with its eponymous all-natural line of beauty and skin-care products (the Illuminata is a miracle lotion foundation that works for all tones), and, on Damen Street, independent boutique p.45, carrying designs by the likes of jolie-laide indie brand Creatures of Comfort.

Second City? Not a chance. In our books, Chicago will always be No. 1. --Miranda Sam

Miranda Sam is a freelance writer and marketer and the editor of Style by Fire. Follow her fashion and retail adventures on Instagram and Twitter.


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