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Chicago Event Planning

Key Highlights

Hotels 177
Total Sleeping Rooms 50,482
Committable Sleeping Rooms* 2,019
Committable Meeting Rooms* 295
Convention Center Space 3,200,000 Sq. Ft.
Largest Exhibit Space 2,600,000 Sq. Ft.
Largest Ballroom 103,760 Sq. Ft.
Average Hotel Room Rate USD $215
Average Daily Meal Cost USD $74
Average Weekly Car Rental USD $246
*Maximum for a single hotel

Chicago Meeting Planning Overview

Cvent’s Chicago meeting planning guide is an extensive city guide for Chicago meeting planners. Though Chicago goes by "The Windy City," "Second City," and even "Chi-Town," it has also been referred to as "The City that Works"—with good reason. The city is home to over 300,000 businesses, and more people travel to Chicago for overnight business than any other U.S. destination. Its accessibility certainly plays a role in its popularity, as about 46 million people are within one day's drive of Chicago. These staggering numbers have a strong impact on the Chicago event-planning world.

Guests from farther destinations—virtually anywhere around the globe—can easily reach the city thanks to its two airports, O'Hare International and Midway International. Voted Best Airport in North America for nine years by Business Traveler magazine, O'Hare welcomes direct nonstop flights from 59 international and 150 domestic business hubs on over 50 different airlines.

When planning meetings in Chicago, accessibility is the name of the game within the city as well. Though spanning over 200 square miles, the city has plenty of affordable and efficient options for traversing from one Chicago meeting hotel or attraction to the next. Guests can enjoy reduced shared taxi fares among McCormick Place, both airports, and downtown on one of the largest taxi fleets in the nation. Visitors can also hop on the Chicago Transit Authority's rapid transit "L" system or buses to reach virtually any point of interest in the urban area. Plus, convention goers can enjoy faster travel—at lower costs to planners—thanks to the dedicated 2.5-mile busway that runs directly from downtown hotels to McCormick Place. Of course when you're talking about large event planning in any city, specifically Chicago event planning, convention centers come to mind.

Once at the convention center, guests continue to be impressed. North America's premier convention facility, McCormick Place offers 2.6 million square feet of exhibit halls, 173 meeting rooms, four ballrooms, and a 4,249-seat theater and three 300-seat theaters. With an on-site business center, award-winning catering, massage stations, and Internet and networking services, the center is more than equipped to make any event a success. Plus, the West building, the center's most recent addition, is LEED certified, meaning that events at McCormick Place can be a winner for attendees and the environment as well.

In fact, the entire city is one of the most environmentally friendly in the nation, thanks to a Chief Environmental Officer in the mayor's cabinet and a comprehensive Environmental Action Agenda. Among Chicago's environmental initiatives are the creation of 2.5 million square feet of rooftop gardens; a goal to make 20 percent of the electricity used be from renewable sources in five years; and hosting the world's only carbon emissions trading floor, the Chicago Climate Exchange. Chicago's efforts was recently named the most sustainable large community in America by Siemens and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Not only is it easy to go green in Chicago, it's easy to add a little green to your events. Thanks to the city's acres of municipal parkland, planners can choose from a wealth of picturesque outdoor venues. The 23 garden displays at the Chicago Botanic Garden are a stunning backdrop for receptions, while the iconic Buckingham Fountain at Grant Park is sure to impress guests with its grand Beaux Arts design. Take a walk on the wild side by hosting an event the Kovler Lion House, Helen Branch Primate House, or one of several other spaces at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Indoor Chicago event venues are just as plentiful. Inspire event attendees with an affair held amongst pieces by Picasso, Matisse, and more at the Art Institute of Chicago. The captivating Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum can host anywhere from 50 to 1,000 guests, and the Museum of Science and Industry is equally suited to upscale affairs and presentations.

A major locus for business, Chicago has an economy that centers heavily on finance. It is the headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and is home to three major futures exchanges. Insurance, manufacturing, printing, and publishing also play a key role in the metropolitan area's economy. The University of Chicago, DePaul University, University of Illinois Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, and Northwestern University are among the many higher education institutes in the city.

View the other pages in the Chicago Destination Guide to learn more information about event and meeting planning in Chicago.

About Chicago / Additional Info

Though Chicago became the area's first trading post in the 1770s, it was not until the late 19th century that the city took its first steps to becoming a Midwest powerhouse. In 1848, the city's first railway, Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, opened, as did the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Chicago's reputation as a transportation hub took off (the city would later become the railroad industry's capital), as did its economy and population. In just 40 years, the population skyrocketed from about 30,000 people to over one million people. At the end of the 19th century it was the fifth-largest city in the world.

Today, the Chicago metropolitan area's over 9.7 million residents represent over half the population of Illinois. A diverse cultural mosaic, the city's ethnicities include African American, Irish, Italian, Mexican, German, Greek—the list goes on and on. The city has the largest ethnically Polish population outside of Warsaw, Poland, and the third-largest South Asian American population in the United States. Take advantage of Chicago's rich blend of people by sampling authentic Italian specialties at The Rosebud or Tuscany Taylor restaurants in Little Italy. View colorful street murals and stop by the National Museum of Mexican Art at Pilsen and Little Village, one of the nation's largest Mexican communities.

Despite its varied demography, the city embraces the past and present that has made all its residents unite as Chicagoans. At the Chicago History Museum, visitors can explore millions of historical artifacts from the city's rich heritage. The Willis Tower Skydeck, the tallest building in North America, not only looks into city history with on-site exhibits but also gives guests a glimpse from 1,353 feet above ground of the entire Chicago landscape as it is today. Navy Pier, the number 1 tourist destination in the Midwest, is a Chicago icon as well. Here, guests can ride the Ferris wheel at Pier Park, catch a show at the IMAX Theatre, or simply spend a day strolling among the shops and vendor stalls.

Certainly another trademark of the city is its delicious cuisine; the city is in fact known for a number of specialties. Indulge in a cheesy slice of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza from Lou Malnati's or Gino's East, or savor the thinly sliced, slow-roasted beef and sweet peppers of a Chicago Italian beef sandwich. Whether enjoyed at Wrigley Field during a Cubs game or on the streets of the bustling city, a Chicago-style hot dog, complete with pickle relish and mustard—never ketchup—is sure to be a home run.

As day turns into night, it's easy to transition from snack food into a filling meal at one of Chicago's fine-dining and nightlife establishments. With a number of eateries owned by celebrity chefs and a wealth of historic, long-running operations, the city's restaurants are among the world's best. Enjoy cooked-to-perfection USDA prime steaks at Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse or decadent French cuisine at Everest, renowned Chef Jean Joho's award-winning eatery.

After dinner, guests can enjoy Chicago's entertainment scene, which ranges from orchestra performances to gut-busting comedy shows. Guests can easily catch a Chicago Symphony Orchestra performance at Symphony Center, or get lost in the sounds of the blues at Kingston Mines, Chicago's oldest blues club. Guests can hit the dance floor at Sound-Bar.

Known as the birthplace of improv, Chicago's famed The Second City is a must-stop for visitors looking for late-night entertainment. Here, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, and a host of other comedians found their footing. Catch the next big thing at its various nightly shows. Though guests may leave the performances in tears, the only real sadness they'll feel is when they have to say a final goodbye to this great city.

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