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Shopping and Fun in Chicago Northwest

By Heike Bachmann

While Chicago certainly will satisfy your big-city cultural desires, I learned on my last trip that some of the best shopping to be had is in Chicago Northwest, a vibrant suburban area with great attractions and convenient Metra access from downtown Chicago.

Excellent Shopping at the Woodfield Mall

Illinois’ largest shopping center is the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, a Chicago Northwest city that is served by Metra’s Milwaukee West Line. While 300 stores spread over more than 2 square miles might sound overwhelming, I was surprised at how airy and elegant Woodfield Mall felt, with its natural overhead light, landscaped greenery and diagonal pathways connecting the different levels. Big name stores such as J. Crew, H & M, Microsoft, Apple, Coach and many more can be found here. You can even make it a late night at the mall – there is an Improv comedy club at Woodfield, with hilarious comedy shows running all the time.

Should you be in the mood for more, the Streets of Woodfield shopping and dining district is directly across from the mall, with more stores and restaurants as well as a popular entertainment complex. A great attraction for adults and kids alike is the nearby LEGOLAND Discovery Center with rides, 4D cinema and endless LEGO fun.

The Country’s Largest IKEA

Chicago Northwest houses the largest IKEA store in the country, located right next to the Woodfield Mall. Even though I have an IKEA store in my hometown, I surprised myself by getting inspired there in a different way. Was it the grand layout or the super-friendly staff? I don’t know. I even ended up jotting down a few items to order online so they would arrive right after my return home.

If it’s your first time visiting an IKEA, allow yourself several hours to browse and shop this store. It’s absolutely huge and can be overwhelming if you shop at peak hours. Be sure to stop at the store’s café and order the Swedish meatballs. It’s the most popular dish on the menu and a nod to the chain’s Swedish roots.

Charming Arlington Heights

For a different type of shopping and entertainment experience, I recommend heading to Chicago Northwest’s upscale community of Arlington Heights. One stop before Arlington International, on the Union Pacific Northwest line, Arlington Heights offers a vibrant center with small boutiques, restaurants and theaters. I loved strolling around the pedestrian-friendly downtown area with a café latte, taking in the attractive architecture, fun vibe and charming shops.

One major attraction of Arlington Heights is the Arlington International Racecourse. This prestigious racecourse, home to the Arlington Million, is simply gorgeous with its pure white, six-story grandstand. Watching handsome thoroughbreds run while I mingled among stylishly dressed spectators, I felt like a millionaire myself.

If you want to combine some great shopping with fun attractions, Chicago Northwest is a wonderful destination that offers it all. Why not hop on the Metra during your next Chicago trip and enjoy it yourself?

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