My Bday in Chicago - what? where?


Jun 30th, 2012, 12:33 PM
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My Bday in Chicago - what? where?

I just found out I'm being treated to Chicago for my Bday arriving on Wednesday Aug 1st and flying out on the 5th. I've never been before. I need to get an itinerary together and I'm wondering about restaurants. I just read that they were packed in April. What will they be like in the middle of the summer? I'm a bit of a foodie so this is important but can't expect expensive every night. Any suggestions for my Birthday dinner? Also what should we not miss in the evenings. Second City? We are debating whether to book symphony tickets or go to a free jazz concert at the Park on Thursday. What else to do in the evenings? Which Blues club not only for tourists?What is 'very Chicago' that I should see/experience. A segway tour?
I work in design so am very excited by the architecture but can't see everything so what should I not miss with limited time? Which boat architecture tour is the best?

Ahhhh so many questions !
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Jul 4th, 2012, 08:23 PM
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So far we have tickets for the symphony on Thursday evening and Second City on my Bday. That leaves Wednesday and Friday evenings. Any suggestions? Any recommended itineraries for day time? Are there any Saturday farm markets in the downtown area?
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Jul 4th, 2012, 08:27 PM
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The architecture river cruise run by the CAF is great - the only way to see "that side" of most of the buildings on the tour. Highly recommended.
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Jul 5th, 2012, 08:13 AM
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Hi, MsLizzy.

RE:Farmers Markets
On Saturday, I'd recommend a trip to a wonderful Farmer's Market in Lincoln Park, and then a nice walk around South Pond, Lincoln Park Zoo (free admission), The Conservatory, and North Pond. A beautiful area of the city. Cafe Brauer is architecturally interesting, I think, as is the North Pond Cafe building (orig. a skater's warming house) - both in the Arts and Crafts style. Lots of photo ops. The view from the north tip of North Pond looking south to the skyline is pretty. Pop on the 22, 36 or 151 Bus northbound to around 1600 north. (This area is just about two blocks east of Old Town, where you'll be for Second City.)

RE: Restaurants
BOKA is a wonderful restaurant (right next door to world-famous Alinea), and across the street from Steppenwolf Theatre. You may consider catching Tracy Letts' adaptation of "Three Sisters" with dinner beforehand at BOKA. Steppenwolf offers day-of show tickets for $20 (the "Twenty for $20 promo).

Piccolo Sogno (west of River North area; a quick cab ride or straight shot on the 65 Grand Bus) is also wonderful, especially if you sit in their outside patio.

RE: Wednesday Night
Late night show 'TJ and Dave' at Improv Olympic is an experience, in the best sense of the word. Two of the best improv artists in the country. Always sells out in advance as tickets are priced low. This is a 1/4 block from Wrigley Field (fun to see and get pics), and dinner in the area would be nice at Chen's (Chinese/Japanese).

RE: ARchitecture
Definitely CAF's tours. They also sponsor specialized walks through the city, aside from the boat tour. Their website ought to have that info.

RE: Second City & Restaurant before/after
Adobo Grill is a nice, lively MExican restaurant. Quite good and reasonable, nice atmosphere. Nothing gourmet, but enjoyable.

Have a great time in Chicago!
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Jul 5th, 2012, 05:36 PM
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Wow ChgoGal. Thanks for your suggestions. as we will be coming in on Wednesday, would we b able to get tickets? Do you have any suggestions for good Blues venues?
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Jul 6th, 2012, 07:25 AM
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Hi, MsLizzy.

The one thing to consider is that 'TJ and Dave' is a late night performance at 11 pm (!) and you may be exhausted if you're traveling that day. Might not be as much fun. Tickets tend to sell out by the day of, so you should buy by at least a couple days in advance. ($5 over the phone, and they didn't use to charge any sort of service fee... but that might've changed.)

I might discourage you from going in this case, as it would be a long day for you. (And you will be going to Second City.)

However, if you're keen to see the neighborhood (Wrigley Field) and get a taste of real, down 'n dirty improv, and all the risk that entails, Wednesdays, there's a free improv show at 8 pm, which begins with 1-2 less experienced teams, ending with the veteran team called "Carl and the Passions," with TJ Jagodowski (of TJ and Dave). It could be really funny or not (as I've experienced), but it is always interesting to watch these young actors work their chops. If that appeals, go a bit early and have a few beers. Beer helps.

But don't kick yourself if you miss this. So many other wonderful things to do.

As for Blues clubs, I don't go myself, so I can't recommend any. One that may be overlooked (?) is Chicago B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted. Maybe someone else can help?

A nice restaurant near BLUES is ERWIN - which my friends and I love, and have been several times.

But I do encourage you to do the farmer's market and the walk... if the weather's nice, that's one of the nicest things to do in the city.
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Jul 6th, 2012, 08:11 AM
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Just a sad correction, I believe Erwin is now closed.

Not much to add to Chicago Gal extensive suggestions, but I would not recommend Adobo Grill before Second City as I think its really overpriced and loud.
If the weather is not so steamy, I would recommend eating outside at Dinotto (Beautiful patio) or at Topo Gigo - the tables behind the outside bar (great antipasta platter and some wine?)

Both are within a block of Second City.
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Jul 6th, 2012, 10:06 AM
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It's been years since I've been (moved away from Chicago some time ago), but BLUES (maybe now called Blues R & B?), 2519 N. Halsted, is where we used to go. Small, can get very crowded, but real Chicago blues.

Kingston Mines, just up the street at 2548 N. Halsted, is another possibility.

CAF, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, is very, very good. I've liked all of the walking tours, in addition to the architectural boat tour, that I've taken from them.

Enjoy your birthday in Chicago!
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Jul 6th, 2012, 02:16 PM
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Good reccos, Queenie. Yes, MsLizzy... Adobo Grill is a lively and potentially loud place depending on the night and room you sit in. Count on it being crowded and loud, then I guess.

(And I'm so sad ERwin may be closed! How did that happen?)
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Jul 7th, 2012, 11:51 AM
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The economy combined with illness in his immediate family.

ChgoGal, take note, though, that he's planning on opening a different concept in the future.
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Jul 7th, 2012, 04:27 PM
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Thanks again for all the suggestions everyone. I will follow the links, they are so helpful.

So far this is what I have:

Wednesday evening: ?

Thursday: CAF boat tour, evening the Rachmaninoff concert at Ravinia with I think a picnic dinner before.

Friday: architectural walking tour, evening B.L.U.E.S.

Saturday, the market walk in the morning and Second City at night. As Saturday is the actual 'bday' and I am a bit fussy on the quality of food and atmosphere I will consider all your advice. Not a big Mexy food fan or loud food venues so no Adobo Grill. So I still have to decide dinner venue.

Part of one day has to be reserved for the Art Institute?

I still have a couple of weeks to figure the rest out and my SO says to make sure to have some spontaneous time.

How am I doing so far?
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Jul 8th, 2012, 09:29 AM
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Main and Starbucks on every corner of course. And Sports Bars.
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Jul 8th, 2012, 10:06 AM
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Hi, MsLizzy.

For Saturday, a nicer restaurant near Second City, right across from the farmer's market, is Perennial Virant. A little pricey, a bit swanky, but my friends and I enjoyed the food. May even be an option for brunch on Saturday. Queenie's reccos are very good, too.

Also, if you have an interest in brunch on Saturday, the North Pond Cafe would be a beautiful, special place to wander to for brunch. This is my neighborhood and I never tire of walking around North Pond each weekend (and peeking in the restaurant, which always looks lovely).

If you have a minute or two, there's a pretty flower shop called A New Leaf (there's 2 locations on Wells; the one at 1818 N. Wells) which, I think, is really pretty to pop into.

Your itinerary looks nice and unhurried, leaving time to explore the city.

Your Saturday, though, is nice and full: Saturday morning, that may take a few (3-4) hours (worth it) if you do the market, the walk north through the zoo, to the conservatory, to North Pond... and buses are a bit slow on weekends, so just be mindful of that. That's my only warning. You'll likely want to go back to your hotel to freshen up and relax before going back to Old Town for Second City, so if you do the bus from North Clark Street bus (#22) back downtown, or from Stockton Drive (#151 Bus), plan on an 60-70-80 minutes, and you won't be stressed. Likewise, taking the bus (#22 or #36) from hotel back to Old Town (Second City; bus stop: North Ave on Clark St.)-give yourself over an hour. There's a lively Starbucks a couple doors down from Second City if you need a place to sit/use washroom before the show.

Taxis will be plentiful, but weekend traffic will still potentially make the ride slow. I'd estimate from 600 North x Michigan Ave. area (River North/Mag Mile), on a Saturday early eve. (5ish), the drive to North x Wells will be about $12, and may take 30-40 minutes. Just an fyi and estimate.

RE: Wednesday
I don't know how early you're in, but this may be a good day to stay downtown and do the Art Institute (may close at 4:30/5 that day), wander through Millennium Park, look at the public structures (Gehry's bandshell - the Jay Pritzker Pavillion), the nature walk, Cloud Gate (aka the "bean"). Lunch/dinner at The Gage would be very nice.
Lunch at the Art Institute's modern wing restaurant (Terzo Piano), also. Even if you don't eat there, the balcony is pretty and gives a nice view.

Great start!
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Jul 8th, 2012, 02:02 PM
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How about the Navy Pier on Wednesday evening?
Also on the lakefront are the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium.
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Jul 8th, 2012, 02:09 PM
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It wasn't until I saw American Gothic up close and personal that I truly understood. All the marketed crap does it a dishonor.
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Jul 25th, 2012, 03:57 PM
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I have most of my itinerary figured out now but it turns out my SO has booked a lunch reservation at Signature at the John Hancock building on Saturday at 1:30. Since I was planning to do the farmers market in Lincoln Park in the morning is this doable? I expect we will be traveling by taxi.
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Jul 25th, 2012, 04:15 PM
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This is my itinerary to date:
Fly in
Wednesday 1:30
3:00 -Chicago Art Institute
7:00 -Dinner at Travernita
- walk around Navy Pier
Thursday: 10am - Architectural boat tour
1pm - Skyscrapers walking tour
5pm - picnic
8pm - concert at Ravinia
Friday: 9:30-2:30 Tour to Farnsworth and Robie house
5:30 - dinner @ Bellacotte
8:00 - B.L.U.E.S.
Saturday 10:00 - Farmers Market and walk
1:30 - Signatures @ John Hancock Building
8:00 - Second City
Sunday: 11:30 - Fly home

Anything I'm missing as a must see?
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Jul 25th, 2012, 08:32 PM
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Chicago is one of my favorite cities (preceded only by the beautiful San Diego) and I have a few attractions around the city that I absolutely love. One of them is the Shakespeare Theater on Navy pier. Perhaps you could catch a show after your dinner. I also love waking around Millenium Park and seeing the Cloud Gate structure. Lastly, my favorite thing is the Million Dollar Quartet. I love looking at this site for deals around the city:
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Jul 26th, 2012, 08:27 AM
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Hi, MsLizzy. Saturday should be fine, but you might not want to walk as far north (see below). Will you be taking a bus from your hotel to the farmer's market, or a taxi?

From Michigan Avenue, you catch the 151 Bus north to Stockton Drive X Lasalle, or you can go one more stop north to Stockton X Armitage if you happen to miss the stop. The Market is on the left/west side of Stockton Drive; Lincoln Park/Lincoln Park's South Pond/Lincoln Park's Farm in the Zoo/ Cafe Brauer is on the right/east side of Stockton Drive.

From Dearborn Street, you can catch either the 36 Bus or the 22 Bus north to Clark X Lincoln (around 1650-1700 north). You'll see the Farmer's Market on the right.

Before/after the market, you can walk east/cross STockton Drive and wander on the walk around South Pond, walk northbound (you'll see Cafe Brauer on left - big, red brick, Arts & Crafts style building), and then can enter the zoo.

Since you have a lunch reservation, you may not want to go all the way to the north end of the Zoo to see the Conservatory or cross Fullerton to see North Pond.

From the Zoo, you can exit toward the east and get back on to STockton Drive and catch the 151 Bus SOUTHBOUND back to the John Hancock Building.

For your Sat. a.m., an idea is to have a b'fast crepe at the market. There's also vendors that sell Smoothies and there's an Italian food vendor there as well, if you wanted to get to the market earlier in the a.m. (and just grab a coffee near your hotel). The market is bustling by 10 am, so know there'll be elbow to elbow people, kids in strollers and doggies. The park/market area is large though, so you can break away with your crepes and sit on the grass or the logs by the bocci ball court.

I'd try to be on the southbound 151 Bus by 12:40 back to John Hancock. Estimating on a Saturday, you might get to Michigan X Delaware Street by 1:10 or so.

Oh geesh... after I typed up the bus info, I see you plan to take a taxi. Well... may be simpler.

TAXI from Market/Lincoln Park Zoo: Will be harder to catch a taxi on STockton Drive, so walk east to Clark Street and catch a southbound taxi there. They're not as frequent as a weekday, but I think within 5 or 8 minutes, you should get one. Still, traffic moves slow, so try to be in your taxi by 12:55/1 pm to get to John Hancock.

An alternative that keeps you closer to John Hancock on Saturday:

A walk along the lake can be surprisingly nice. Maybe grab b'fast at L'Appetito deli in the lower level of the John Hancock Building, (eating outside on the steps is nice), then walk north on Michigan Avenue to Oak Street, take the pedestrian underpass to Oak STreet Beach and walk north a ways to the Division Street underpass. Take the underpass to the sidewalks of Inner LAke Shore Drive and walk back south to John Hancock. Would be a more sedate, leisurely option and gets you a taste of the lakeside that is different from the lake experience at Navy Pier.

Note: There is a Gold Coast/Division Street Farmer's Market (on Division, between North STate Parkway and Clark), but I think it's not all that pleasant.

Hope you have a great time! Weather looks to be cooperating! Knock wood.
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