City Guides

23 Best Local Chicago Gift Ideas for an Authentic Experience in 2024

Last Updated on Jan 10th 2024
Chicago gifts
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Looking for some great Chicago gifts? Chicago is a city with a number of charms, from its amazing food scene to its beautiful lakefront and rich cultural history.

Whether you are looking for the perfect welcome-to-Chicago gift for a newcomer or a parting gift for someone leaving, Chicago has much to offer in everything from great quintessential Chicago experiences to souvenirs that allow you to take a little bit of the city with you wherever you go.   

Check out these great Chicago gift ideas for every occasion, including experiences and objects that tap into the city’s vein of excitement and energy on all fronts. Each allows you to experience Chicago in all its various strengths, including food, nightlife, culture and more. 

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Foodie Chicago Gift Ideas 

1. Cooking Classes in Chicago 

One of the best ways to get to know a city is through its food and Chicago definitely delivers. You can learn to make amazing Chicago classic dishes like deep-dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef, as well as everything from sushi to handmade pasta at a number of excellent cooking classes in Chicago.

You can also take some great online cooking classes devoted to Chicago’s best wherever you happen to be.

cooking classes in Chicago gift
via Classpop!

2. Visit an Urban Winery

Chicago is host to a dynamic wine scene despite its urban location. A great Chicago gift experience is a visit or tour of what Chicago has to offer including City Winery in the West Loop and Bronzeville Winery on the south side, both of which offer tastings, tours and entertainment.

Visit the winery and take home a few bottles of Chicago wine as great souvenirs. A visit to a winery makes a great gift for wine lovers

3. Visit the Foodseum

An entire museum dedicated to Chicago’s prominent position as a tastemaker in the U.S., Foodseum offers a rich history of food and drink in Chicago, making this a perfect Chicago gift for foodies.

The museum is a multi-sensory experience that reflects the sights, smells and tastes of Chicago food history. 

4. Deep Dish Pizza Pan

The best way to create classic Chicago-style deep-dish pizza in your own home is to have the right tools. Amazon has a wide selection of deep dish pans that make a perfect Chicago gift, including this Chef Pomodoro Chicago deep-dish pan that will have you making your own to rival any Chicago variety. 

5. Chicago Food Subscription Boxes 

A perfect going away gift for those leaving Chicago, Tastes of Chicago delivers classic Chicago food faves directly to their door wherever they are.

Options include items from Chicago food purveyors like Eli’s Cheesecake, Lou Malnati’s Portillos and Garret’s Popcorn. 

deep dish Chicago pizza
via Tastes of Chicago

Creative Chicago Gift Ideas

6. Art Classes

Art classes are a perfect gift to give budding artists or anyone with an interest in developing skills and creating.

Numerous craft stores, community centers, academic institutions and other providers offer classes in everything from watercolor to handmade pottery. Check out great art classes in Chicago or pottery classes in Chicago.  

7. Paint and Sip

A less formal take on art classes, paint and sips allow you to sit back with a brush and canvas while socializing and knocking back a few cocktails.

Many paint and sips in Chicago focus on painting landscapes, cityscapes, or other local subject matter that make them perfect as a gift for visitors and new residents to Chicago.

Attend a paint and sip together or give the recipient an experience gift card. One of the best gift cards in Chicago, the Classpop! gift card is redeemable for paint and sip, cooking classes and other creative local events in the city. 

8.  Improv Classes

Famous for improv and comedy, Chicago is home to The Second City and iO!, both of which offer a number of improv classes for beginning and advanced levels, which develop skills in communication and teamwork.

For the less adventurous, a lively evening in the audience at either theater makes an excellent gift as well.

9. Art Museums and Galleries

Chicago is home to some of the pre-eminent art institutions in the country, including The Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art, both of which offer yearly memberships and day passes that make a great Chicago gift.

You can also take a day to visit some of the amazing Chicago art galleries, many of which offer not only original art but budget-friendly prints, postcards and other objects that make excellent Chicago gifts. 

couple viewing art in gallery
via Canva

10. Writing Classes

Writing classes are a more solitary way to express creativity and develop writing skills. Story Studio Chicago offers a number of classes in a number of genres and focus areas.

Class enrollment is a great Chicago gift for anyone looking to pursue a career as a writer or just develop their writing skills for other endeavors.

Unique Chicago Gift Ideas

11. Dance Classes

Dance classes are a fun, active and engaging activity to do together or as a Chicago gift. You can find excellent dance classes in Chicago covering everything from salsa to ballet, swing dancing to hip hop, dance classes also make a great date idea in Chicago

12.  Chicago Architecture Tour

Chicago is host to the Chicago Architecture Center, dedicated to a city whose history spans three centuries of beautiful buildings that sprung from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

While CAF offers a number of walking neighborhood tours, one of the best is their year-round boat tours, which travel the course of the Chicago River.

Tickets for the tour make a great Chicago gift or outing, as well as an excellent family gift idea for participants of all ages. 

13. Sports Tickets

In a city with a rich sporting history that includes major teams in all leagues, tickets to a game are always a popular Chicago gift be it for football, baseball, basketball or hockey games.

While tickets are harder to come by even in losing seasons, tickets to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play is always a fun day out, or consider checking out a game of their Southside counterparts, the White Sox. 

tickets to Wrigley field baseball game Chicago gift
via Canva

14. Haunted Chicago Tour

For the more adventurous, passes to one of the many Chicago paranormal-focused tours are a perfect gift idea.

Tours are available on foot or via bus and cover some of Chicago’s most famous hauntings and paranormal spots, including the site of the Eastland ship disaster site, Resurrection Cemetary and the rumored-to-be-haunted Congress Hotel.

Popular Chicago-Themed Souvenir Ideas

15. Chicago Cookbook

A perfect gift to take away from any city is a compendium of its best dishes. Check out Made in Chicago: Stories Behind 30 Great Hometown Bites or Hot Doug’s: The Book, a history of the popular hot dog and sausage spot founded in 2001, both of which make an excellent Chicago gift.

16.  Jeppson’s Malort

While this wormwood-based liqueur may be an acquired taste, its roots are pure Chicago and it’s a substance often brought out to welcome newcomers to the city’s bars.

Jeppson’s, a company founded by Swedish immigrant Carl Jeppson, began in the age of Prohibition, with this distinctive-tasting beverage surviving as a popular topic of conversation in Chicago’s watering holes to this day.

17. Neon Skyline

A great Chicago gift for new homeowners or city residents ish a gorgeous neon sign rendering of the city’s famous skyline.

You can find them custom-made on Etsy in a variety of styles and color options that will fit any decor scheme and provide a stylish focal point to any room. 

blue neon sign of Chicago skyline
via Etsy

18. Vintage Chicago Posters

While modern photos and renderings of the city are beautiful, some of the most striking are pulled from transportation and advertising history, including art deco-inspired train advertisements, Chicago World’s Fair images and other stylized images pulled from design history.

What better Chicago gift and way to take some of this gorgeous city home than a poster image that details its past?

19. Chicago Candies

Chicago has been home to numerous famous confectionary companies over the years, including the Blommer Chocolate factory, which still sends the scent of its doings downtown when the wind is just right.

Numerous candy companies had their beginnings in the Windy City, including Fanny Mae, Wrigley and Brach’s.

You can even still find the downtown Macy’s selling Marshall Field and Company’s famous Frango Mints, which are often featured in Chicago holiday gift guides. Pick up a box for a great Chicago gift. 

20. Chicago Handshake Card Game

If you love trivia games and drinking games, check out this game designed by Chicago’s own Transit Trees graphic company. Chicago Handshake combines both history and booze for some excellent fun.

Filled with Chicago trivia about its history and geography, this will be a hit at your next gathering wherever you happen to call home. The game makes a perfect gift for Chicagoans transplanted elsewhere.  

21. Chicago Scented Candle

While Chicago can smell like any number of things depending on the season, there are definitely some highlights, including lake breezes, blooming springtime trees, and downtown, the rich caramel scent of popcorn from Garret’s Popcorn.

Numerous online retailers have captured the city in all sorts of ways, with Chicago candles available that capture the city through scent, as well as specific neighborhoods and their distinctive vibes. 

scented candle Chicago gift
via Homesick

22. Cultural Center Honey

The rooftop of the famous Chicago Cultural Center on Michigan Avenue boasts a little-known secret stash of working honeybee hives.

It's home to a group of hives managed by the Chicago Honey Co-op, which keeps bees on various rooftops and other spots across the city. You can pick up a jar of their yields in the Cultural Center Chicago gift shop, local markets and from their online shop. 

23.  Chicago Snow Globe

While you can obviously pick up a snow globe in any major city in the world, the whirl of a Chicago snow globe is often a far too accurate depiction, particularly if you visit during the winter months.

Globes are available in various souvenir outlets, Chicago gift shops, and other retailers in the Loop at all manner of price points and make a classic and nostalgic souvenir Chicago gift after a city visit.

You can also get a snow-globe version of Millennium Park’s most famous sculpture, Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”) by Anish Kapoor, which makes a great Chicago Bean souvenir. 

We hope this list of gifts for Chicago lovers has helped you find the perfect experience or souvenir your recipient will appreciate and enjoy. 

For even more fun gift ideas, check out other experiences happening on Classpop!