While the city of Chicago is a fantastic one-of-a-kind town, sometimes you just need to get outside of the downtown area for a while. And if you don’t live near the heart of the city, then you know how nice the suburbs of Chicago can be. Personally, I am from the Western Suburbs and know that there is a lot to do out there. Here is a list of just a few of the best attractions around those parts.
Brookfield Zoo - The free Lincoln Park Zoo in the city is pretty nice, but the Brookfield Zoo definitely edges it out. With a strong focus on innovative animal care and natural conservation, the zoo is not only a fun place to visit, but can also be quite educational.
Cantigny Park - As Wheaton’s finest landmark, Cantigny Park has lots to offer. From beautiful gardens to fascinating museums to a quality golf course, there’s always plenty to do. As a child, I remember climbing around on the old tanks and cannons in their iconic American infantry exhibit. Dangerous? Maybe. Fun? Definitely.
Drury Lane - No, this is not home to Illinois’ muffin man. Drury Lane is a theater and conference center that plays host to a variety of special events, including weddings and business meetings. The theater also puts on many live shows throughout the year and is a big proponent of the performing arts. In addition, you could very easily eat yourself sick at their delicious brunch buffet. Fair warning.
Morton Arboretum - Now who doesn’t love a good arboretum? The Morton Arboretum in Lisle is an outdoor nature museum intended to promote environmental health through sustainability and educational efforts. The museum offers acres of beautiful foliage and many fun activities to inspire and teach the value of nature.
Naper Settlement - Along with many great shops and restaurants, the delightful area of downtown Naperville is also home to Naper Settlement. This outdoor history museum does more than just inform visitors about the old pioneer way of life; it lets them experience it firsthand. With many interactive exhibits and programs, Naper Settlement is a great place to connect to the past and enjoy the present simultaneously.
The Tivoli Theatre - Built in 1928 as one of the first theatres in the country, the Tivoli Theatre is the crown jewel of Downers Grove. With its ornate designs and pre-show live organ music, the Tiv really gives the customers a feel of what an old time night out at the cinema was like. And if this great theatre isn’t enough, you can head downstairs to the bowling alley or right outside to Aurelio’s pizza (and see my 2nd grade baseball team photo) to complete the night.
No one can blame you for spending all your time experiencing all of the great attractions that the city has to offer. But just know that if you decide to venture out to the quieter parts of Chicagoland, there are plenty of gems around here waiting to be enjoyed.
If you’re not familiar with Hyde Park, you probably only know its two big landmarks – The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) -(always a big treat for me when I was a kid), and the University of Chicago (kind of our version of an Ivy League school out here in the Midwest).
And who wouldn’t want to see the home of the first controlled self sustaining nuclear reaction? Yup, right here on the southside of Chicago, the fate of the Second World War was sealed. And seeds were sewn for a lot more of history to come. But nuclear war aside, it’s a beautiful campus, and filled with a lot of people way way smarter than me.
Take a stroll down the Midway Plaisance for a breathtaking University view. Joining two of our gems, Washington and Jackson Parks, and developed by Taft and Olmsted, it’s gorgeous. “Monsters of the Midway?” Yup, that’s where the bears get their nickname, although U of C maroons stopped as a big ten presence the year “The Wizard of Oz” was released….
A perfect Hyde Park afternoon for me is heading down to the MSI with the kids, parking (for free!) on a side street north of the museum ($20 parking is for suburbanites), hitting the museum for a bit (with a family pass, it’s permissible to just visit for a bit, so there’s not the crush to see it all in one day – maybe visit a coal mine, German U-Boat or one of the other kabillion cool things they have there), and then walk under LSD (Chicago term) with a picnic lunch or supper with the kids and a little swimming at 57th Street Beach. (But wait 45 minutes after you eat). Clean beach, diverse and friendly crowd, and parking. I’ll put it up against North Ave. or Oak Street any time!
And OH – The park there has the beautiful Promontory Point - And I mean beautiful! Field house (with restrooms!), planned “prairie,” and built high enough and far enough into the lake to provide unparalleled city panorama!
Then stop by the DuSable Museum of African American History. The museum’s mission is to “collect, preserve and display artifacts….to promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievements, contributions and experiences of African Americans.” It’s named in honor of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, the first permanent non-native resident of Chicago. Of African descent, he had a little place where the river meets the Lake. Bet that piece of property is worth a lot now. It’s basically Michigan Ave meets the river!
Now don’t forget Robie House, one of the loveliest and best preserved Frank Lloyd Wright homes anywhere. The FLW Association offers tours, and they’re well worth it. It’s a great organization run by people with a passion. I got to host a relo event back in the day there when my buddy Jim was the chair of the FLW society – Talk about impressing your pals!
The neighborhood’s famous locales and steady competition for upscale housing has helped keep it a more stable neighborhood, in terms of real estate, than some of its neighbors. You see a lot of sturdy brick, brown and greystones in HP, with the obligatory fence of highrises along the lakefront – can’t beat that view looking north to the city!
And while you’re there, walk over and see if Mr. Obama is home! He lives in the 5000 block of South Greenwood. 2 things – Some people call that neighborhood Kenwood. And #2 – Actually…don’t go visit, he’s not home and the block is more secure than his other place on Pennsylvania Ave. Looks like a lovely house online anyway….Better yet, just stop in at Jimmy’s Woodlawn tap - I hear the bar food is great there….Tell ‘em Dylan Thomas sent you.
A few Sundays ago, as spring was finally breaking and it was warm enough to venture outside, my lovely daughter and I decided (OK, dad decided), to soak up some history and culture in a few of the better (but mostly lesser known) treasures of the south side. Some were empty lots , non-descript buildings or little commemorative signs on a busy street. But hey we’re all very very cool. So, this is what we saw, in a general northerly to southerly route, in about three hours.
While by no means exhaustive, it is a great pot-pourri of gems that many Chicagoans do not know exist.
Chess records. One of the, if not the coolest, places in the south loop is the former Chess records at 2120 S. Michigan. Muddy, Buddy, Willie, Etta James, even The Stones all recorded there. For a ten dollar bill you can get a tour of the place. And then wander around the actual studio and mixing room where the magic all happened. Right here in our fair city.
Site of the Fort Dearborn Massacre. Back in 1812, during the 2nd American War of Independence (so-called by some back in the day), the American Garrison at Fort Dearborn (modern day Wacker and Michigan) packed up their troops and civilians and headed for the safety of Ft. Wayne, in the Indiana territory. Alas, they only got to about 18th and near lake Shore Drive (or Maybe Roosevelt Rd., depending on who you ask) before being surprised and slaughtered by Native American Forces loyal to the British. Most were killed, a few were taken into bondage, but no one escaped. Common lore puts the site somewhere near the small commemorative park at the corner of 28th and Calumet, just southwest of Soldier Field. I wonder how many people who don’t live just there actually realize it….
Site of Mrs. O’Leary’s Barn. On the far south loop you will find the site of Mrs. O’Leary’s barn. As any Chicagoan knows, this was the site where her cow allegedly kicked over a lantern on a hot steamy evening in 1871 and forever changed the course of Chicago history. Some say burning it to the ground was a blessing that let us become a Phoenix, rebuilding ourselves as a truly modern city. What is there today? Would you believe it is the Chicago Fire Department training center? And a very cool, and small, CFD museum. Definitely worth a top.
Site of Camp Douglas. Near 31st and Cottage Grove - All the is there now is a small commerative plaque, ironically located at a funeral home, noting the former presence of Camp Douglas. During the Civil War, Chicago hosted one of the nation’s largest POW camps. From 1862-1865 thousands of confederate soldiers lived and died as prisoners there, under often harsh conditions. While there is not much to see, but some seriously important real estate to visit and contemplate. Curious sidenote – For a number of month it housed UNION prisoners. During a rather large POW exchange, the paroled federal POWs had to stay at Camp Douglas while months passed during processing of paperwork. Needless to say, riots and escape attempts ensued….
Two very cool homes. Next we hit the homes of two of my favorite musicians. Did you know that Satchmo used to live right here on the south side? His tidy little grey stone is right on at 421 E. 44th (look for the small commemorative placemark). Pretty cool to think of the legends that came and went I to that home during the ‘20s and ‘30s. Moving from Jazz to Blues, Muddy Water’s former home at 4339 S. Lake Park, in the North Kenwood community was sadly in foreclosure for years. Various efforts the past few years have attempted to turn it into a museum – As recent as February 2014 it was under contract as a short sale. Alas, that deal fell through and its future is still uncertain. Read about it here.
So there are six things you can do this Sunday afternoon. I don’t want to give you all the cool, semi-unknown spots – I’ll leave some digging up to you!
Some comments from Baird & Warner’s Elizabeth McGrath and Molly O’Neill
Now that the flowered headdresses and fanny packs from a successful Lollapoloza been put away, Chicago’s other highlights are on the top of our minds. We’ve compiled the top activities and events happening in the city over the next few weekends. There’s a lot of summer left and, as always, a lot to enjoy in Chicago.
Broadway in Chicago- (August 5th) Tonight you can sample the best of Broadway wile relaxing under Pritzker Pavilion. Headlining the evening is the cast of Once, Evita, and Million Dollar Quartet and many more.
Chicago Air and Water Show – (August 17-18) Catch the high-flying acrobatics from basically anywhere in the city. Haul that lawn chair on to the roof of your building, grab the family and sit by Buckinham Fountain, or just stroll down the lake shore and watch spectacular feats on land, air, and sky.
Clark After Dark – (August 15th)The River North festival offers great live music, local homemade food and more. What makes this festival special is that funds support Illinois troops and their families.
A Clown Car Named Desire- (Check their website for dates and times) This Second City show has been described as a spectacular night of illusion with multitasking mothers, hyper hipsters and long term monogamous couples. Hilarity is ensured to ensue.
Free workouts in the Park – (Saturdays, 7-11 am)Saturday morning kick your weekend off right with a workout among iconic architecture in Millennium Park. Classes are offered every hour from 7 am through 11 am.
Thursday Night Family Nights – (August 8 - 15) The Morton Arboretum hosts a family friendly concerts and a chance to explore the Arboretum after hours. A happy, easy way to spend your evening.
Just a few things we would suggest checking out. Of course there are dozens of other events happening every day in any of the neighborhoods, towns, streets or parks. If you have any suggestions feel free to let us know! We’re always looking for what’s going on in the city.
What’s your next move? If you’re considering a career change, family change or you just need a change of pace and a fresh start, Chicago is a great city with a lot to offer. Ranked in Businessweek last year among the Top 50 cities in the U.S., Chicago is known for having world-renowned universities and fabulous entertainment. It’s home to over 800 bars, more than 6,000 restaurants, 76 museums and eight professional sports teams. If nothing else, you will never be lacking for things to do. But, getting down to the nitty-gritty, what is it about Chicago that makes it a great option to begin or enhance your career and your life?
1. As mentioned, Chicago is home to numerous educational institutions including The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Northern Illinois University, Valparaiso University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago and many graduate, professional and specialty schools.
2. In Chicago, housing is much less expensive than it is in other large U.S. Cities. According to Business Insider, the statistical median gross rent in New York is $1,086, whereas it’s $886 in Chicago. However, in Chicago, your money will go much farther. That rent in New York might get you an uncomfortably tiny studio, but Chicago rentals include options from houses to condos to apartment buildings with amenities like pools and tennis courts
3. Aside from the cost of owning or renting, alone, Chicago cost of living is just… lower. Groceries, utilities and health care, among other things, are between 20 percent and 50 percent less expensive than in comparable cities.
4. Space. Yes, space. Because of the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, the city was redesigned and rebuilt with the benefit of having seen how other cities had already developed in that era. As a result, the city was built with the intent to have a park within walking distance of each inhabitant. Chicago houses multiple parks in the heart of the city and wide roads that provide more sunlight than average city streets. City buildings are less crowded than most, and the city was built around a cultural center in the middle of Lincoln Park.
5. The beach! There are 25 miles of public parkland beach in the city. No leaving the hot city to spend hours in a car in traffic to hit the water in the summer. Grab your sunscreen and go! Chicago beaches have open-water swimming, boat launches, dog-friendly areas, restaurants and other amenities.
6. The Chicago entertainment scene is phenomenal. Of course, if you’re there, you don’t want to miss checking out the famed Second City – an improvisational theater that launched the careers of comedians including John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Mike Myers, Steve Carell and Tina Fey. If comedy’s not your thing, though, there are plenty of other options for vibrant and exciting performing arts. The Steppenwolf Theater Company has won numerous awards and its alumni include founder Gary Sinise and actors John Mahoney and Martha Plimpton. Chicago is also home to opera, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and other venues.
7. You won’t be bored – that’s a promise. One of the best things about Chicago is that from spring to fall (and everything in between), it hosts street festivals practically every weekend. These open-air attractions include cultural, food, wine, beach, arts and musical events. There’s everything from the Chicago Craft Beer Festival to the Ukrainian Days Fest to the Windy City Smokeout.
8. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the spectacular Chicago dining. Chicago is home to people of every ethnicity in the world, and plenty of them own restaurants. From hipster gastropubs to barbecue joints to fine dining, you can find it. All of it.
9. Jobs, jobs, jobs. The Chicago Tribune reported in January that employers are optimistic. The most recent job forecast showed that temporary and contract hiring is rising, and that sales and information technology are the fastest-growing positions in the Chicago area. As well, customer service, engineering and production jobs are coming online. Of course, networking helps if you’re trying to find a job, but because of the number of universities in the city, there’s an ever-changing flow of talent that helps the job market to continue to thrive.
10. People. It goes without saying that you’ll find people of all kinds in any large city. But, Chicago’s vibe is that it is a city of neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are home to people whose families have lived in an ethnic and cultural hub for generations, and also to students, professionals and transplants who’ve embraced a particular neighborhood’s identity. There are over 200 Chicago neighborhoods and 77 community areas. The key is to find the one that works best for you.
Regardless, Chicago’s got something for everyone. Whether your interests are food, sports, school, arts or something entirely different, you can find it here. Good luck – the best is yet to come!
Eventup.com is a new website that promises a “marketplace that connects people who are looking to find and book their perfect venue for their event with venue owners who are looking to rent their space.
Locations in Chicago range from traditional iconic spots such as the Art Museum, Trump tower, staple bars and restaurants, to more unique spaces such as condos with skyline views, Wrigleyville rooftops with views of the field and the lake, and giant suburban homes with sprawling backyards.
Event up requires a 15% service fee, but they allow you to choose how long you’re willing to rent your space. From a few hours to a few days or weeks you could be making money off your extra space and help other Chicagoians host an unforgettable event.
On either end of the venue gig this site provides a unique opportunity for Chicagoians. You have the potential to make your event memorable and unlike any other night your guests have ever attended. That babyshower sounds a lot more fun on a rooftop doesn’t it?
At the very least, take a look at eventup.com – it gives “…consumers access to unique spaces that previously would take tons of time or were impossible to find.”
By now the charm of drifting snows, colorful knit scarves and warm hot chocolate by the fire have worn away. I know. It’s freezing, there’s slush raining down from the sky and the last thing you want to do is trek outside in snow shoes. But the fastest way to get through these final winter weeks is by enjoying the many events Chicago has to offer. Rain, snow, sleet, or shine there are unique and fun things you should be doing. (Mad Men will still be on your Netflix Queue awaiting your return. I promise.)
Ice Skating at Millenium Park or Wrigley Field - (Through March 10th) The winter Olympics are less than a year away and what better place to practice your double axel than in front of some of Chicago’s most iconic landmarks?
Concerts – (all weekdays and ends) Muse, Yo-Yo-Ma, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Passion Pit are all coming to Chicago within the next few weeks along with pretty much any other band, troupe, group, set, or ensemble you can imagine.
I Love Lucy Live on Stage – (Through March 17th) Be a member of the “live studio audience” at the I Love Lucy Show. Slip back to the 1950s watching commercial breaks, the live band and of course the crazy antics of Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel .
Chicago Irish Film Festival – (March 1-6) Chicago hosts one of the few Irish film festivals in America where you can view both short and feature films as well as enjoy opening and closing ceremonies at Lizzie McNeills.
Chicago Garden Show- (March 9-17) Dip into spring with Navy Pier’s displays of fresh flowers, trees and waterfalls. Or enjoy original culinary presentations including the cake decorating regional finals contest.
Animal Inside Out – (opens March 14) This updated version of Body Worlds offers a look behind (and inside) the animal world. Analyze the blood vessels of a shark, peer into a rabbit’s brain, and examine the muscles of a towering giraffe – creepy.
Big 10 Tournament United Center – (March 14-17) With weekly upsets, physical big men and flashy guards the arguably best division in college basketball returns to Chicago for their conference tournament. It could be anyone’s game come Selection Sunday. (Biased note: it’s Indiana’s game. Let’s see some Oladipo Zeller magic!)
Get out there. Enjoy our fabulous city. Even if this weather isn’t your cup of tea there’s so much to do between now and when the river is dyed green it would be a shame to miss it. Plus, spring really is right around the corner…
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