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Trade Show City Spotlight: Chicago, IL —

Attending Chicago Trade Shows: A Guide

ferry ride in chicago

The purpose of exhibiting at trade shows is to get your brand in front of more people and generate high quality leads. This is why location matters. It’s not a coincidence that some of the nation’s biggest cities – Los Angeles, New York, Chicago – are also some of the most popular locations for trade shows. Millions of people live in these cities, and millions more visit each year. Imagine the reach your brand can achieve just by attending a trade show in the right location! 

As an award-winning exhibit design company that specializes in the design and fabrication of trade show exhibits around the world, IGE isn’t biased to any one particular city. However, we do encourage our clients to opt for some locations over others based on their opportunities. One of the most popular cities for trade show activity is Chicago, a place some like to call “the heart of the Midwest.” 

Why Chicago is a Top City for Trade Shows 

Each year, Exhibitor Magazine announces the top U.S. trade show and event cities. Chicago is always on this list. In fact, on Exhibitor Magazine’s 2018 list, Chicago was ranked #3, following Las Vegas and Orlando. What makes Chicago one of the best cities for trade shows and corporate events? In short, both business and entertainment needs are easily met. Let’s explore some of the reasons why our own clients tend to favor Chicago-based trade shows. 

McCormick Place 

McCormick Place does not disappoint. With over 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space, it’s the largest and most flexible convention center in North America. The building accommodates 3 million visitors each year thanks to large events like the Chicago Auto Show and International Home and Housewares show. 

Not only does McCormick Place have millions of square feet to work with, but also the layout is thoughtfully designed. There are 170 meeting rooms, 600,000 square feet of meeting room space, 6 ballrooms and assembly seating for 18,000 people. Ample parking is also available thanks to the garage that holds 5,800 parking spaces. In a city where parking can be difficult to find and expensive, this parking garage is a huge asset. 

IGE is proud to say that we have designed and fabricated many exhibits for trade shows held at McCormick Place, including the AACC Clinical Lab Expo, the American Beauty Show, the National Restaurant Association Show and the International Manufacturing Technology Show, among others. 

Public Transportation 

When visiting Chicago, there is no shortage of public transportation. Chicago is a big city with millions of business professionals traveling each day, so there can’t be a lack of transportation. By exhibiting at a trade show in Chicago, you can be certain that you and your team will have efficient transportation, and so will clients who come to visit you. 

Taxis are widely available, and most hotels will hail one for you as you leave. Uber and Lyft drivers are also plentiful and are often more convenient and less expensive than traveling by taxi. We recommend downloading a ride sharing app before coming to Chicago. You’ll need it! 

You can also use Chicago’s CTA train system, which is called the “L” by locals. The L is cheap to ride, but it can be intimidating to non-natives due to all the colors and terms like, “Towards the Loop.” Even so, it is a great option if you feel comfortable using it. Buses are also available for an inexpensive fee. 

Bottom line: You can get around Chicago easily, thanks to all of the transportation. 

Exploration and Entertainment 

Exhibiting at a trade show all day is tiring, so it’s no wonder why people enjoy going out to relax. Fortunately, the Windy City doesn’t disappoint in the entertainment sector. Here are some ideas of things you can do after the show: 

  • Chicago Bears football games 
  • White Sox or Cubs baseball games 
  • Blackhawks hockey games 
  • Broadway theater and plays 
  • Restaurants, bars and nightclubs 
  • Museums (e.g, Field Museum, Museum of Science & Industry)
  • Shedd Aquarium
  • Navy Pier 
  • Beaches off Lake Michigan 
  • Lincoln Park Zoo 

This is just the tip of iceberg! There is so much to enjoy in Chicago, you’ll have endless opportunities for networking and team building. 

Centrally Located 

Another perk to choosing a Chicago trade show is that it’s centrally located in the middle of the country. No matter where your business is located, Chicago is an accessible location that attracts people from all over the country and the world.

If you have to fly into Chicago, there are two airports to choose from: Chicago O’Hare and Chicago Midway. O’Hare is located 18 miles from the center of downtown, and Midway is about 11 miles southwest of downtown. Both have plenty of transportation options from the airport to hotels, but be prepared for lots of traffic! Midway is the smaller airport, and it’s located closer to the city, though O’Hare is the nation’s busiest airport in terms of total flights. 

Not only is location important for your staff, but for attendees as well. Millions of people live in Chicago, and millions more visit each year. Its central location makes it attractive for trade show attendees, which means you can position your brand in front of hundreds of thousands of leads. People come to Chicago for the entertainment, food and sightseeing – attending noteworthy trade shows is just another perk. 

Exhibiting at a Chicago Trade Show 

If you are considering bringing your brand to Chicago, you won’t be disappointed in the experience. This is a wonderful opportunity to expand your brand’s reach and bring in more qualified leads. Some of the biggest trade shows are held in Chicago each year, including the International Home and Housewares Show, America’s Beauty Show, The Makeup Show, Expo Chicago, the Chicago Baby Show, the National Bridal Market and so much more!

IGE specializes in the design and fabrication of trade show exhibits around the country, including Chicago. We are happy to work with you to build a memorable exhibit environment that captivates your audience’s attention and encourages them to stay and learn about your products and services. Whether you have a trade show picked out, or you need recommendations, IGE is happy to help! We can suggest some of our favorite shows and which ones will help your brand achieve its marketing goals. Together, we can build an outstanding exhibit that embraces the latest trends and technologies. Contact us to discuss what we can do for you!