By Samantha McCarthy

Every now and then we all need some retail therapy, even if it’s just to look.  Oddly enough, even sitting in the shoe section at Barney’s makes me feel a little better, even if I’m not buying anything.  Crazy? Maybe but, there really is something to be said about being surrounded by pretty things.  Plus, there are a million perks to window shopping:

  • For one, you’re not going to break the bank.
  • It’s a good way to kill a few hours.
  • You can make mental shopping lists for the future. You know…. for when you can actually afford to buy that great coat or perfect handbag.
  • If you find something you love, write down the style number and take a picture. You could find it cheaper online or at another store.
  • Window displays give you fabulous ideas of how to put together chic outfits with similar pieces you already own. Sometimes all it takes is a little inspiration!

Before you head out on your window-shopping expedition, make sure you remember to wear comfy shoes and a cross over handbag.  Hands free is always best when doing shopping of any sort.  Oh, and leave that credit card at home.  You don’t want to be tempted.

Now that you’re ready, here are a few of Chicago’s best spots to window shop:

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

The Magnificent Mile aka The Avenue

Stretching from Oak Street to the Chicago River, the Mag Mile offers an endless amount of crème de la crème shops for you to browse the windows. Start from the north side and you’ll hit all the big labels: Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Rolex, Cartier, Tiffany’s, Burberry, La Perla and Hugo Boss. It’s also home to some of the higher-end and oh-so-fabulous department stores like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue. It’s particularly fun to window shop here during the holidays with all the lights from the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. It looks and feels like something out of a movie.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Oak Street Shops (Between Rush & Michigan)

If you see it in a window here, it would probably cost you a fortune. But, since you’re not spending money it’s a-okay. I’d recommend window shopping your way straight into Barney’s shoe department to look at the display’s of Loubies, YSL and Prada’s (sigh.) Then head east, stopping by Hermes, Prada, Jimmy Choo, Furla, Kate Spade and Harry Winston. It’s a girl’s dream. While you’re perusing the windows, stop in at the Starbucks on Rush for a little refresher and people watching. You may even run into a celebrity or two. Just last week, I ran into Rosie O’Donnell and Vince Vaughn.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Damen Avenue (Between Milwaukee & Armitage)

If you’d rather look at independent boutiques and smaller labels, head to Bucktown. Here you’ll see the windows of Marc by Marc Jacobs, Joe’s Jeans, Nanette Lepore, Intermix, and Tangerine, amongst others. The best part of window shopping in this neighborhood is stopping in at Mindy Segal’s restaurant, Hot Chocolate for dessert.

What are your favorite spots to window shop in Chicago? Leave your comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

Samantha McCarthy is a freelance writer living in downtown Chicago.