Heading to Chicago sometime soon? Or perhaps you’re already there and wondering what to buy in Chicago? I lived in Chicago for 10+ years — check out my Chicago archives — and frequently had to find souvenirs and gifts from the Second City for friends and family. Inspired by my popular London souvenirs post, here are some of my all-time favorite Chicago souvenirs to help you remember your trip. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
Chicago Jewelry Souvenirs
Chicago Bean Necklace
If you enjoyed your trip to Chicago’s “Cloud Gate” — aka The Bean — in Millennium Park you might like this cute little bean necklace as a cute little Chicago souvenir. (If you want a more expensive version of the Chicago bean necklace, head to Tiffany’s!)
If you really loved your trip to Chicago, or perhaps you have some Chicago connections, consider this Chicago flag necklace. (You’ll see the Chicago flag around town — it has four red stars and two light blue stripes on a white background)
Edible Chicago Souvenirs
If you’re looking for a party pleaser, Garrett Popcorn makes for a great Chicago souvenir. While I love Garrett’s cheese popcorn an awful lot, one really fun thing to do is get the “Chicago Mix,” which is half cheese & half caramel. If you can’t face the queue at one of Garrett’s downtown Chicago locations, you should be able to pick some up in O’Hare. Garrett’s have locations in Terminal 1, 3, and 5.
Since 1998, Vosges Haut-Chocolat has been fusing spices, nuts, roots and herbs from around the world with premium chocolate, encouraging you to travel the world through chocolate. Any bar or box of bars from Vosges makes for a particularly sweet Chicago souvenir. I particularly love the Vosges bacon bar! Vosges has a shop on Armitage in Lincoln Park and there’s another shop in 520 N. Michigan. There are also outlets in O’Hare in Terminals 1 and 3 and you can of course buy Vosges on Amazon if you’d prefer to have some of the best souvenirs from Chicago delivered.
Fannie May Chocolates
Fannie May started in Chicago back in 1920 and the company is still headquartered in Chicago. Fannie May is known for its Pixie chocolates as well as Trinidads and my personal favorite, Mint Meltaways! You can find Fannie May chocolates in a number of locations in downtown Chicago and you can also buy them online at Amazon.
Hopefully while you are in town, you will get a chance to try Chicago’s famous deep dish pizza. Personally, I’m an east coast girl so I’m thin crust all the way but there is always a time and a place for Chicago-style pizza. If you’d like to take some deep dish home with you — one of the best souvenirs from Chicago possible — many local chains will deliver frozen pizza to your door. Or you can order some Lou Malnati’s (my personal favorite) from Amazon! If you are really into pizza, you might also want to consider a Chicago pizza tour while you’re in town. Check out this cool walking tour that covers both crime and pizza.
If you enjoy an Italian beef sandwich while you are in Chicago, you will probably encounter giardiniera, a spicy and vinegary mix of peppers that’s very very addictive. If you fall in love with giardiniera, pick some up as a souvenir from Chicago! You can find giardiniera at most grocery stores in Chicago as well as the Vienna Beef Factory Store. (See next entry.) You can also buy giardiniera on Amazon.
Vienna Beef Hot Dog Box
Who doesn’t appreciate a good Chicago hot dog? (Hold the ketchup.) Vienna Beef has been making hot dogs forever — you can even visit their factory store while you’re in Chicago. What better way to commemorate your visit to the Second City than a big ole box of Vienna Beef hot dogs as your Chicago souvenir? You can buy a Vienna Beef Hot Dog Box on Amazon.
Old Town Oil
Old Town Oil is a great little shop on Wells Street in Lincoln Park. They have hundreds if not thousands of olive oils (and other oils) to choose from. It’s worth a visit while you’re in town — they let you sample lots of the oils while you’re there — and afterwards, you can buy your favorite to take home with you. Or just make a mental note to buy some on Amazon as a small Chicago souvenir when you get home.
The Spice House Spices and Rubs
Old Town Oil and The Spice House are very conveniently located just a few minutes from each other on North Wells Street so they are worth a visit together when you are in Chicago. What I love about The Spice House is all the cool spice mixes and blends they’ve created! They have a series of Chicago-themed blends like Lake Shore Drive (chives & shallots) and Bronzeville Rib Rub. This is one of the best foodie souvenirs from Chicago!
Hot Fudge Sauce from Margie’s Candies
Margie’s Candies is a Chicago institution. It’s a bit north of downtown but worth the trip if you want an authentic Chicago local experience. If you enjoy your ice cream sundae, consider purchasing some of Margie’s famous hot fudge sauce or caramel sauce to go! Unfortunately, you can’t order Margie’s sundae sauces online so you will have to make the trip!
Eli’s cheesecake is another Chicago institution. Eli Schulman was born in 1910 on the West Side of Chicago and got his start with a popular coffee shop and later a deli. In the 1960s, “Eli’s The Place or Steak” opened up with its signature dessert. Although Eli’s has closed down, the cheesecake lives on and has historically been a popular item at Chicago’s annual “Taste of Chicago” summer food fest. You don’t need to wait til summer though…you can get your very own delicious Chicago cheesecake souvenirs delivered to your house via Amazon!
Stephanie Izard’s Latest Cookbook
OK, obviously the book itself isn’t edible but if you follow all the instructions in the book, you’ll have lots of tasty treats to eat! Stephanie Izard is the chef behind Chicago’s famous Girl and The Goat and her latest cookbook, Gather & Graze, is one of the best Chicago souvenirs for foodies! Her recipes are definitely ready for anyone who wants to play around with interesting ingredients and flavors.
Tours & Activities as Chicago Souvenirs
Instead of one or more physical Chicago souvenirs, how about a Chicago experience instead? Give memories instead of gifts with one of these amazing tours of Chicago. To make the most of your time in Chicago, I highly recommend “Skip the Line” experiences. For example, if you are planning on doing an architecture boat cruise, try this Skip the Line Chicago River Architecture Cruise. You’ll skip the ticket purchase line and go directly to boarding. Likewise, instead of queuing up for tickets in the height of summer for the John Hancock Building, you can buy your Hancock Observatory tickets online and go straight to the elevator. Check out these other essential Chicago experiences too:
Chicago Christmas Ornament Souvenirs
These beautiful ornaments make excellent Chicago souvenirs even when it’s nowhere near Christmas time! They are so gorgeous and will help you remember your trip to the Windy City and City of Broad Shoulders. The great thing is that you can have them delivered directly to your house so you don’t have to worry about packing them in your luggage!
Drinkable Chicago Souvenirs
Koval is the first distillery in Chicago since the mid 1800s which is a big deal considering everything the city went through with Prohibition. KOVAL produces organic whiskey, liqueurs and specialty spirits. You can take a tour of the distillery and/or attend one of their classes in person at their Ravenswood location. You should be able to find Koval at many Chicago-area wine and liquor stores as well as at a few bars and restaurants. This is one of the most super-cool local Chicago souvenirs.
Personally, this stuff makes me gag but people love this stuff and swear by it! Check out the video for how people describe it and their reaction to tasting it. You’ll find Malort in a lot of more local hipster bars. Most people drink it straight as a shot but some cocktail bars are also including it in cocktails. Here’s a relatively recent list of Chicago-area Malort-cocktails. You should be able to buy Jepsen’s Malort in most large liquor stores in Chicago.
You’ll find Goose Island all over the world now but for more local Chicago beers, look for Half Acre, Revolution, Metropolitan, and Pipeworks. You should be able to find their beers in most local liquor stores, especially Half Acre and Revolution. If you’d like to experience Chicago craft beer while learning a bit about Chicago through comedy, check out this fun Chicago Comedy and Craft Beer Tour of Old Town.
Sporty Chicago Souvenirs
Chicago Cubs Stuff
No visit to Chicago is complete without a trip to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field on Chicago’s North Side. (A short walk from the Addison Red Line stop.) There are plenty of souvenir shops in the area to help you get your Cubs gear but you can also order your Chicago souvenirs from Amazon as well.
White Sox Stuff
Similarly, you can also pick up White Sox souvenirs while you are in town. You may not want to head all the way down to Guaranteed Rate field but you should be able to find White Sox t-shirts and hats at most Chicago souvenir shops and sporting goods stores.
Chicago Bulls Souvenirs
While the Michael Jordan days are over, you can still pick yourself up a 23 jersey or any sort of Chicago Bulls memorabilia at many Chicago souvenir shops. If you’re in town during basketball season, it’s also worth checking to see if you can get tickets to a Bulls game at the United Center. Always a good time and the experience alone makes it one of the most memorable Chicago souvenirs ever.
Chicago Literary Souvenirs
Devil in the White City
If you want to read a book to prepare for your trip to Chicago, Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen makes a great Chicago souvenir. It tells the true story of Chicago serial killer H.H. Holmes during The World’s Fair in 1893. (It maybe spends a bit more time on The World’s Fair then on Holmes, just fyi.) Weirdly, two of my friends in business school at the University of Chicago lived where Holmes’ victims apparently met their ends. (Different house though. The original building burnt down.)
Musical Chicago Souvenirs
Kurt Elling Live in Chicago
While you are in Chicago, please do not pass up an opportunity to visit The Green Mill in Uptown to hear some of Chicago’s greatest jazz music. Jazz musician Kurt Elling got his start at The Green Mill so as a fun Chicago souvenir, either pick up a copy of Kurt Elling Live in Chicago or download his music from Amazon. Elling is a baritone with a four-octave range and likes to improvise over some jazz standards I’m sure you’ll be familiar with!
Anything by Chance the Rapper
I’ve posted the video from Chance’s NPR Tiny Desk concert in case you are unfamiliar with his music but if you’re looking for the latest musician to make it big out of Chicago, it’s Chance the Rapper. And not only is his music super cool, but he’s also a super nice, high quality person who really gives back to his community. I really wanted to post a video of All Night, my favorite catchy dance number by Chance, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a video online. Check out his music on Amazon.
Chicago Souvenirs for Kids
Chicago Lego Set
This is great for both the kids and adults in your life! Lego has done a series on cities and you can get this Chicago skyscraper set with the Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower), John Hancock Building, and even a mini bean! I don’t know where you can find this downtown but you should be able to find it on Amazon for sure!
Chicago Pullback Police Car
If someone in your life is really into cars and trucks and things that go, this mini Chicago police car makes a great Chicago souvenir! Comes with doors that open and close! You can buy this on Amazon.
Summary of The Best Chicago Souvenirs
I hope you’ve enjoyed my suggestions for the best Chicago souvenirs. Do you have any of your own tips or suggestions? Have I missed any local products that make for great Chicago souvenirs? Let me know in the comments!