The Chicago branch of Gray Line's global sightseeing operation organizes a wide variety of tours and excursions throughout the Windy City, from architectural tours that send passengers coasting on the river and lake for sun-drenched educational cruises to shopping odysseys at Chicago Premium Outlets, where travelers can zip through more than 100 stores and restaurants after being shuttled to the retail utopia. Blues outings treat music lovers to raw licks, soul food, and real tears at celebrated concert venues such as Buddy Guy's Legends and Rosa's Lounge.
Gray Line's cherry-red trolleys transport visitors and residents alike to famous Chicago sites. Just north of the river, the vehicles idle before the Wrigley Building's sparkling white terra cotta façade, which in the 1920s stood as the first major skyscraper outside of The Loop. From there, the trolley may motor north to the John Hancock Center, where elevators to its observatory sweep guests 96 floors in 39 seconds. The trolley could also steer south to the Willis Tower, which lost its maiden name of Sears after being charmed by a passing cumulus cloud.
Akira swaddles customers from clavicle to toe with a collection of trendy apparel from more than 200 designer brands crafted by foreign, domestic, and Chicago fabricsmiths. Women, men, and mannequins can browse a selection of clothing and accessories that includes the signature looks of Jeffrey Campbell and Boy London. Akira has cooperated with such endeavors as Generation Y, which fosters artistic expression in Chicago public schools.
Husband-and-wife duo Mike and Heather drift among the electric-pink tables of It's a Bling Thing, dispensing knowledge about the necklaces, bracelets, rings, and accessories that shimmer in long rows. Beyond a rose-hued awning, walls lined with colorful clutches, rings, and wrist cuffs encircle the gleefully crowded shop and engross eyes like a staring contest with a ping-pong ball. Spotlights and a serpentine chandelier pour cascades of blue, pink, and white incandescence and lure shimmering highlights across gems and rainbow beads. The owners, a retired police officer and a schoolteacher, host after-hours shindigs that benefit charitable causes. Partygoers prance across the hardwood floors noshing on refreshments, uninterrupted by crowds of customers or arias announcing the number of hours until closing.
The staff at Jean Therapy outfits women in denim from renowned brands such as Hudson, Miss Me, and Seven for All Mankind. The denim, which envelops bottom halves or fashion-forward arms size 0–12, is often stylized with touches such as patterns or embellished pockets. Denim gurus work to help patrons find the right type of fit for the right type of person. Shoppers can build complete ensembles with the boutique's selection of patterned tops and colorful jewelry.
The three generations of diamond doyens at Martin & Martin, Inc. have paired patrons with jewelry, timepieces, and other finery since 1950, dealing directly with foreign suppliers and diamond cutters in locales such as Israel, Hong Kong, Australia, and Belgium. Exchange vows with a selection of bridal jewelry, including the 16-diamond, 18-karat white-gold wedding ring ($500), or apologize to fingers for hours wasted wrestling pickle jars with a white gold ruby ring ($500). A rectangular white dial graces the face of Movado's ladies' Esperanza watch ($657), and an 18-inch strand of multicolor Chinese freshwater peals ($500) complements bare necks or upscale car antennas.