River North shines as Chicago’s cultural hub, where hundreds of restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques meet. North of The Loop and the Chicago River, west of Michigan Avenue, and south of Chicago Avenue, River North offers the best in both daytime and evening activities. From shopping at the numerous specialty furniture stores and antique shops to dining at the neighborhood’s ethnic or famed chain restaurants, denizens of River North never find themselves at a loss for entertainment. Meanwhile, upscale wine bars and clubs keep a River North evening humming into the wee hours.
Taking a stroll a hundred years into River North's past, one discovers that the area used to go by an entirely different name: Smokey Hollow. Adopted in reference to the factories that used to fill the area with smoke so thoroughly that they blocked the sunlight, the name shifted during the 1970s in an effort to repurpose the neighborhood. It was at that time that the area began to see a turn-around, as developers restored vacant commercial properties into living and work spaces for local artists. This transformation reinvigorated the newly named River North into an attractive Chicago destination for businesses and creative communities.
River North appeals to professionals, especially of the creative type. With an unprecedented concentration of galleries, showrooms, and studios clustered in the neighborhood, it doesn't take River North inhabitants long to step outside their door and stumble across some inspiration. While River North once actively marketed itself to Chicago artists in an effort to emerge from its industrial reputation, today's neighborhood also has its share of high-rise housing and more upscale living quarters.
The art deco Merchandise Mart remains a popular River North landmark. This giant trade warehouse was once the largest building in the world, and currently functions as a showroom for furniture and design wholesalers. Other River North favorites include the architecture of Marina City as well as the 330 N. Wabash building designed by Mies van der Rohe. River North's gallery district along Superior and Huron Streets also draws visitors, as do its themed restaurants at Clark and Ontario Streets, which include Hard Rock Cafe, Rainforest Cafe, and Ed Debevic's. Additionally, River North's cathedral district features architecturally significant churches surrounded by residential high rises.