Chicago - New Ideas for Tourists?

Old Apr 29th, 2012, 08:29 PM
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Chicago - New Ideas for Tourists?

My daughter has been in college in Chicago for 4 years and we have visited (from San Francisco) multiple times. We are heading there for graduation soon (yeah!) and looking for some new things to do, unusual neighborhoods to visit, etc. So, I'm looking for ideas from some of you Chi Town experts. After you have done the top 10, standard tourist activities, what would you do? We love to walk, eat everything and love big cities!
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Old May 1st, 2012, 10:35 AM
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Rent a bike and tour the lakefront. The Chicao City Museum is pretty interesting. The Wicker Park neighborhood has a lot of intersesting stores, bars and restaurants. The Chicago Greeter Program does free tours and there are a lot of options.'sBestTours.html
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Old May 12th, 2012, 03:43 PM
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When is graduation - and from which school is your daughter graduating? How long are you going to be in Chicago? Some of my suggestions would be more appropriate for longer stays.

What neighborhoods (and, if in the case of a large one, such as Lincoln Park, narrowing it down a little helps a bit) have you already explored? Are you looking to spend more time in those or are you looking for something a little different?

I think that Chicagofan means the Chicago History Museum.

Keeping in mind that all of the major museums have higher profile special exhibits running during the summer months, which definitely warrant further attention...I'm going to just mention some things off the top of my head

Visits to any of these neighborhoods and/or areas:

Lincoln Square (and especially a performance at the Old Town School of Folk Music)


N. Southport Corridor - if it's a second Saturday of the month, take in a silent movie at the Music Box Theatre

Boystown/East Lakeview - go to a production at TimeLine

Lincoln Park neighborhood:

DePaul University area - very interesting area for architecture (rowhouses, former beer houses, etc.) Steppenwolf Theatre is on N. Halsted, just north of North Avenue, and you are also right around the corner from the Clybourn Corridor shopping district

Lincoln Park (near the park) Of course, the Lincoln Park Zoo and Lincoln Park Conservatory - but maybe also a stop at the Elks Memorial, Diversey Harbor (for skyline views), the "hidden" Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, on Saturdays, go to the Green City Market - watch some of the best Chicago chefs give cooking demonstrations.

At that end of Lincoln Park, you are so very close to the Gold Coast and Old Town neighborhods - as mentioned above, the Chicago History Museum is practically at the juncture of all of these and they give tours (check their website - some of those such as the pub crawls sell out far in advance)

If you have more than ***3 days***, a visit to Hot Doug's. In fact, if you don't have ***3 days*** and your daughter has never been to Hot Doug's in her 4 year stay in Chicago, please do urge her to go before she departs the city (if that is her plan), as it is a rite of passage. The reason for the comment on the # of days is because Hot Doug's is not close to the "tourist zone" and takes a considerable time to get there. In addition, it is *CRAZILY* popular with extremely long wait times (at the busiest of times) - so you want to get there just before it opens or be prepared to wait. A cab will eliminate a large majority of the commuting there and back.

If you have more than ***3 days***, a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden, which isn't in Chicago at all but in Glencoe. You take Metra to the Braeside station and it's about a mile walk. This is a whole day event. But you could combine it with a performance at Ravinia (stop on the same Metra line)

If you have only a little bit of time, you can always take the Wendella water taxi to Ping Tom Park and then walk to Chinatown.

Pilsen - the National Museum of Mexican Art. There is also an InstaGreeter (Chicago Greeter Service location which has regular, non-reserved tours) in the neighborhood.

If your daughter is not going to the U of C, I would greatly suggest using the Chicago Greeter Service for a tour of the Hyde Park neighborhood. Lots of history there (the Museum of Science and Industry is one of the only structural reminders of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893), the campus is lovely (maybe a visit to the U of C's Oriental Institute or Smart Museum of Art), and Frank Lloyd Wright territory, but don't forget the natural areas of the Wooded Island in Jackson Park (including the Osaka Japanese Garden). I do urge the Greeter Service because many areas surrounding Hyde Park are not the greatest.

About 4 blocks north of Wrigley Field, at the northeast corner of Clark and Irving Park Road, is Graceland Cemetery. This is a beautiful Victorian-era park-like cemetery and is the final resting place of many of the city's most famous. The Chicago Architecture Foundation and Chicago History Museum both give tours there, but you can get a map (or purchase one of the books) at the cemetery's office (not open on Sundays), which is right inside the gate.

Because Clark Street runs at a northwesterly angle in this area by the cemetery, if you wanted to visit the N. Southport Corridor, you'd only need walk about 2 blocks west on Irving Park and then south a few on N. Southport (whereas, if you were taking Addison to the N. Southport Corridor, it's 5 blocks west of Wrigley Field).

Speaking of the last, have you ever taken a tour of Wrigley Field?

If you are renting bicycles and your daughter is located on the north side, think about getting one from North Avenue Beach or from the one on Recreation Drive just at Addison and then go biking NORTH - not south. You go past some pretty nice locales in that direction, including bird sanctuaries, our Totem Pole, the Waveland Clocktower, the Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course (a 9-hole course right on Lake Michigan) up to Montrose Harbor. There are some pretty spectacular views from the point looking south at the city skyline, especially when all the sailboats are coming north from Belmont Harbor.

If at all possible, perhaps you can see the Redmoon Theatre at one of their performances. Historically, they have performed at many venues (over 100) in the city with their unique big-spectacle style of puppetry, mechanics and masked live performers.

Chicago is a world-class dining destination with arguably one of the best restaurants in the world located here. If you would like to see where some of these chefs started out, then you might be interested in going to the Dining Room at Kendall College.

At least one tour by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. They have many down in the Loop area, but perhaps you might be interested on one on Astor Street in the Gold Coast. And, if you have never gone on it, the Chicago River Architecture Tour by boat. IMHO, take theirs, although there are other companies that offer these for less money.

The Grant Park Music Festival will be starting again in mid-June. Even if you have already attended one of their free evening performances. And please keep in mind the dates of their rehersals, if you cannot make it on the scheduled performance dates. You could pick up a picnic lunch (I suggest Pastoral on Lake St.) and brown bag it.

And...please consider staying outside of the tourist zone if at all possible this trip. After all these visits, wouldn't you prefer to feel a little more like one of the friendly folks here than a tourist?

My last suggestion...Chicago just celebrated its 175th birthday - AND it's still celebrating its 175th birthday until August 26.
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Old May 12th, 2012, 04:11 PM
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You could take a walking food tour-we took one the last time we were in Chicago and loved it. The tour lasted about three hours and we walked and ate the whole time.
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Old May 12th, 2012, 04:22 PM
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Wow .... lots of great ideas, exiled princess
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Old May 12th, 2012, 07:08 PM
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Here's hoping the the Empire Builder gets into Union Station before 4PM next Thursday. I'd like to catch at least a little bit of the Rootabaga Jammers in the Great Hall.
It would also be great to win some Amtrak tickets too.
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Old May 13th, 2012, 12:09 AM
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Don't miss Frank 'n Dawgs for hot dogs like you've never had in your life. Just up the road is the Goose Island microbrewery - combine the two for a perfect afternoon!
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Old May 13th, 2012, 03:12 AM
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MP07950, thanks - and that's just off the top of my head. Chicago has soooo much to offer that that is only scratching the surface.

Once I hear from the OP, I can make more specific suggestions for them, if they wish.

The things with food tours are 1) you have to research the training of the guides (if you are looking for information about a particular neighborhood) and 2) you have to research where they are taking you on that tour, meaning the quality of the restaurants, stores and etc. It isn't hard to take a few minutes to see the reviews of these places. After all, you are paying out a pretty amount of $ for going on one of these. You might as well get for what you are paying.

And that doesn't only go for food tours...It goes for ANY type of tour. Not to discount that famous (or INfamous) Chicago entrepreneurial spirit, but when I take a tour I'd like to know that my guide isn't giving me a bunch of inaccurate information. That's why I feel you should consider the Chicago Architecture Foundation, the Chicago History Museum or similar institutions (non-profits and/or museums) OR the FREE Chicago Greeter Service (which are led by local volunteers).

tomfuller, Yikes! Please don't tell me you're coming into - and staying in Chicago - at the same time as the NATO conference (next weekend)! Good luck - and I sincerely mean GOOD LUCK - to you there, if you are. But if you're just passing through, especially since it's on Thursday, it shouldn't be so bad.

Please make sure that you allow *PLENTY* of time for security checks, street closures and whatnot. Make sure that you read *EVERYTHING* about whatever transportation you are using (including any changes in Amtrak's baggage and increased security and that around Union Station). Check on what identification you will be needing to be carrying at all times to get into your hotel and in general, if you are staying here. Please also keep in mind any disruptions due to it (museum closures, rerouting of CTA, street closures, etc.) during that period of time.

Frank n' Dawgs is kinda, sorta like Hot Doug's - but it's not, if you understand. You don't have as long a trek there and back and you don't have the waits - but you don't get the same product either (look at the menu items for each). Don't get me wrong - they're good but it's just not of the same level, IMHO. Another similar place (meaning similar concept, different products) is Chicago's Dog House in Lincoln Park. I also used to go to BIG & Little's (not for hot dogs, though) over by the Moody Bible Institute, but haven't been there in some time, so not commenting on it.

BTW - you need to check on some places if they'll only accept cash, no CC - for example, Hot Doug's and BIG & Little's. Don't assume anything, as you don't want to be standing in line for quite some time only to find out at a most inappropriate moment you cannot buy your order.

BTW, Goose Island was purchased by Anheuser-Busch over a year ago. If the OP wants to try an area brew, which is available only in a select handful of places around town, I recommend Three Floyds. Three Floyds is brewed in NW Indiana. Or Revolution Brewing Co. in Chicago.
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Old May 13th, 2012, 04:16 AM
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I just realized that I called it the NATO conference instead of the Nato Summit. Lack of sleep, I guess, but I'm sure you knew what I meant.

tomfuller, there have been quite a few articles about the precautions being taken for that weekend (including bomb-sniffing dogs at Union Station, as I seem to recall) but if I were you, I'd give AMTRAK a call to see how this might affect you personally.
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Old May 13th, 2012, 05:13 AM
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Coming into Chicago about 4PM on the Empire Builder and leaving at 9:30PM on the Lake Shore Limited. Renting a car in Cleveland Friday morning.
GTG anyone?
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