Chicago's South Loop bristles with culture and heritage. Here, we go in search of inspiring book shops, peaceful parks, historic theaters, and cherished cafes — all located on the doorstep of the luxury apartments at NEMA Chicago.

Sandmeyer's Bookstore

A Chicago Loop gem since 1982, Sandmeyer's Bookstore is the kind of mom and pop setup you're happy to get lost in for hours at a time. Explore this literary cave, stacked high with everything from the latest fiction blockbusters to cookbooks from your favorite TV chefs. Local history is another Sandmeyer's specialty; seek out "Chicago's Great Fire" by Carl Smith or "Ghosts in the Schoolyard" by Eve L. Ewing, and bone up on the city's captivating past.

Little Branch Cafe

Time for a spot of brunch. And there’s no better place for it than the Little Branch Cafe. Settle at your table with a green tea latte and a breakfast burrito while dipping into your new book. Little Branch is also a wonderful people watching spot; get a taste for the South Loop's diverse denizens as they shuttle in and out for the cafe's friendly family service and famous breakfast sandwiches.

Museum of Contemporary Photography

The city's best-known cultural institution might be the Art Institute of Chicago, but there are scores of lesser-known venues well worth a visit. A brisk walk from NEMA Chicago, along the southwestern edge of Grant Park, gets you to the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Exhibitions this summer include an eye-opener from Martine Gutierrez, who puts herself in the middle of mocked-up fashion spreads and product advertisements, questioning tropes of racism, sexism, and transphobia.

Chicago Women's Park and Gardens

Take a few moments away from the urban bustle at this tranquil community green space, which pays tribute to the many women of Chicago who have made the city what it is. Enjoy the peaceful bubbling of the bowl-shaped ornamental fountain, and admire "Helping Hands," a sculpture dedicated to social reformer and founder of the first settlement house in Chicago, Jane Addams.

Auditorium Theatre

The Auditorium Theatre has been entertaining Chicagoans since 1889 — long before the South Loop existed! Sign up for a guided tour of its lavish Romanesque interiors (it's still the second-largest concert hall in the country), and hear how, in the early days, the theater's AC system required 15 tons of fresh ice each day.