One thing you can say about Chicagoans—we know how to party. Whether it’s a children’s birthday party, a wedding banquet, or a St. Patrick’s Day rager, when it’s time to cut loose, the Windy City brings the big scissors. And while a house party can be a classic in its own right, there’s something special about booking a great venue and doing your level best to bring the house down. Check out this awesome list of the best party venues in Chicago to get the ball rolling. Whether it’s an intimate gathering or a massive ball, here are our picks for the best party venues in Chicago.
What to Look for in a Party Venue
All of the above venues are great choices for a party venue in Chicago or the surrounding metro and suburban areas. But if you don’t take some time to research your venue options—or consider what kind of party you’re trying to have—you could still end up with the wrong venue for your purposes. Here are some important things to look for in a party venue.
The first faux-pas to avoid is to book a room that is too big or too small. If you book too small a room, the party will be uncomfortable and you might even have to shut people out. Alternatively, too big a room will make the party feel under-attended and lacking in intimacy. Even a small gathering can seem boisterous and fun if it’s in one of the appropriate-sized small party venues in Chicago.
Here are some rough rules to calibrate the room size to the anticipated guest list:
- Stand-Up Cocktail Parties: 5-6 sq ft per guest.
- Tea-Type Reception: 8 sq ft per guest.
- Dinner: 8-12 sq ft per guest.
- Cathedral Seating: 6 sq ft per guest.
- Dance Floor: 2-4 sq ft per guest.
Room size and room capacity are correlated, but they don’t always run entirely hand-in-hand. Venue capacities are usually dictated by fire codes. Make sure you don’t pick a venue with a capacity smaller than your intended number of guests. You might have to shut people out, or, if caught, shut the party down.
Parties are an opportunity to splurge, but it’s important to set limits for your next party venue in Chicago booking. Start by agreeing on a cost-per-person or an all-in cost for the party, and start your search in that price range. That will protect you from falling in love with a party venue you ultimately can’t afford. Pay careful attention, though, to what the price includes. If a venue price is within your budget, but does not include food or drinks or a dance floor, you will need to budget for those extras if you want them.
Note that events like weddings might be pricier, and popular dates might command higher prices. It may be easier to stay within budget if you are flexible with your dates. If the venue allows outside vendors like caterers and DJs, you may be able to get budget vendors for a primo venue.
Consider how far your guests will have to travel to get to your Chicago party venue, as well as your own level of convenience. Do you want that city-center ambiance or the relative peace and quiet of the burbs? How far will your guests be willing to drive, and how will they get back home safely? How expensive will the cab or Uber ride home be for any intoxicated guests?
Again, popular dates may be pricier. Party venues in Chicago with outdoor event spaces may be cheaper and easier to book in the fall or winter, but of course Chicago’s unpredictable weather and punishing winters will render the outdoor event spaces less usable. Also remember that if you are booking an event like a wedding over a popular holiday weekend like July 4 or Memorial Day weekend, it behooves you to go all out—no one wants to cancel their party-weekend engagements for a lightweight celebration.
What is the venue staff responsible for? Setup? Cleanup? Catering? Security? How much will you have to plan to provide yourself?
Mood and Theme
Are you looking for old-world majesty? Garden-party charm? Contemporary affluence? Sesame Street chic? Different party venues in Chicago lend themselves to different ambiance, so make sure to get the right venue for your theme.
Are you allowed to bring the genre of entertainment of your choice? Do you have to keep the volume at certain levels at certain hours? Will the DJ or band have enough electrical outlets to plug into without tripping a circuit breaker? Is there adequate PA and mixing coverage? What about a sound technician to operate them?
What Is Your Cancellation Policy?
Many party venues in Chicago require a non-refundable deposit and may even keep your entire booking fee if you cancel at all or with too little notice. Make sure you understand the cancellation policy and can live with it.
What Is Included in the Price?
Food? Drinks? Entertainment? Security? Setup? Cleanup? A/V equipment? An A/V tech? Entertainment? Don’t assume that anything you envision for your party is included—ask! Most party venues in Chicago unfortunately do not list all the amenities online, so it’s best to first check with them before committing to your next event.
What Happens If Fewer People Attend than RSVP?
Many party venues in Chicago charge by the person. Obviously you don’t want to be charged for people who don’t show up, but venues may provide resources like food and drinks based on your event order. They may stand on the price, even if you have no-shows. Make sure you understand what you will be on the hook for if you have fewer guests than expected.
Can I Use Outside Vendors?
Some party venues in Chicago require that you use their catering, their event planning staff, their DJs and A/V techs, and so on. Using outside vendors may be a key way for you to cut costs while booking a prime venue, so make sure you understand what you are allowed to outsource.
When Can I Access the Room for Setup?
If you need to get hands-on with the decoration and setup of the party venue, it’s important to understand when you will get access. There may need to be venue personnel on site to let you in and to supervise. Don’t get stuck with a big setup plan and not enough access time in the venue to execute it.
Do You Discount Room Rates?
If you are booking a hotel as a venue and intend to book rooms for out-of-town guests or guests of honor, make sure to ask about room discounts or upgrades available as part of the event booking package. You may have access to discounts if you pre-book a block of rooms.