Tough Mudder's Weekend Warrior Guide: Chicago

By Cal Setar | March 24, 2017


Welcome to Tough Mudder Chicago 2017, aka Tough Mudder Windy City, aka Tough Mudder Second City That’s Actually The Third City But Definitely The First City, aka Tough Mudder That Italian Beef Better Have Giardiniera, aka Tough Mudder The Cubbies Finally Won The Series Which Means Literally Anything Is Possible.

Chicago Rockford International Airport isn’t just, well, an airport - it’s the Illinois-arm of Tough and Mud. And just because it’s flat doesn’t mean this monster of a course isn’t ready to rock you like a three-hour set from blues guitar legend and Chicagoland-native Muddy Waters (there will, of course, be plenty of mud, water, and muddy water on the course). Our second ever 5(!) event weekend (Mini Mudder, Tough Mudder Half, Tough Mudder, Tougher Mudder, and Toughest Mudder) is sure to leave you with plenty of muddy memories.

To help you prep for your jaunt to Chi-Town, we’ve put together a helpful guide on some of the best places to eat, stay, and adventure, good for whether you’re looking for something to keep you loose before race day, or basking in the afterglow of another event well run.

Chicago being the food-centric town that it is, this section practically writes itself. While we’d usually offer a host of healthier options for the Mudder-minded (and we’ll toss out one or two) it’s Chicago, where the Italian Beefs are dripping and the Chicago dogs are drool-worthy, so we’ll just lean into the gastronomical goodness.

If you’re thinking a classic Chicago dog with all the fixins - all-beef frankfurter, poppy seed bun, yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish, tomatoes, a kosher dill pickle, and a heaping helping of white onion - look no further than one of Gold Coast’s four locations, or Downtown Dogs. And if you’re looking for something a little different - not in terms of the dog necessarily, but the service; we know how you Mudders like to make the most of everything - look no further than the world-famous Weiner’s Circle. It’s, um, different.

As for Italian Beefs, they’re more delicious than they sound - thinly sliced beef on an Italian-style roll, dripping with jus and an Italian relish called giardiniera. Al’s is the classic, with locations all around the city. Johnnie’s is the stand around and try not to ruin your clothes variety. And Tony’s is the family-run version taking care of the Southside.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Chicago food discussion without some deep, deep, deep dish pizza. Lou Malnati’s is everywhere, with 47 locations in Chicagoland and a catering biz that will ship all over the U.S.. Connie’s is as old-school as they come. And Pequod’s has locations in downtown Chicago, as well as Morton Grove.

As for those aforementioned healthier options, if you’re tuckered out from all the dogs, beefs, and crusts, just take a trip to Life Spring Health Foods for a crack at their delicious juice bar, or Kramer’s, a vegetarian deli with vegan options, plus some fresh made juices and smoothies.

A Mudder’s at their best when they’re fueled-up and well-rested. The course can’t be tackled if you’re not catching some quality Z’s, so make sure you pick a place to stay that’s close to course, but also close to all the good stuff you want to do before and after event day.

If you’re looking to be as close to course as possible, there are these options all in nearby Rockford. If you’re looking for something more city-adjacent, Hotel Indigo Naperville Walk offers plenty of rustic charm and access to the local art scene, while Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills will have you a stone’s throw from Chicago, and The Drake Hotel will keep you right in the thick of things downtown.

You’ll be looking for some fun and adventure to fill the rest of your time in and around the Windy City, so here’s a handy smattering of activities for Mudders looking to stretch those legs a little.

Blackhawk Springs Forest Preserve is 630 acres of Illinois-beautiful grass, trees, and trails. Head to Kilbuck Bluffs, Deer Run, or any of the other areas located within Blackhawk Spring’s sprawling acreage and find plenty of hiking, biking, fishing, and more.

A little north of Blackhawk and just across the Rock River you’ll find Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Garden. It’s open daily from 9 am to 4 pm and welcomes flora fanatics of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Klehm has 155 acres of landscaped grounds and wooded trails. You can even bring the Pupper Mudder if you’re so inclined.

If you’re looking for something closer to downtown and all that delicious food, check out the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, or sit back, relax, and enjoy the river views of Chicago as you float along in one of many Urban Kayaks.

And of course we can’t forget the main landmarks - Buckingham Fountain, Cloud Gate, and Navy Pier.

For gear that covers every need check out Merrell’s new 2017 line.