Fall in Chicago

Summer over, and let’s faces it – Chicago’s best season is fall. The humidity of summer suddenly turns crisp, ushering bursts of gorgeous, coppery color in the trees.

Here are a few things you should try to do this September in Chicago;

1. Try a new restaurant.

New hotspots opening this season: Chop Shop and the 1st Ward (a Bucktown restaurant, bar, music venue and butcher shop combined into one) debuts in mid-September, A10 (a European venture from Matthias Merges of Yusho and Billy Sunday) arrives in October and Eataly (Mario Batali’s megaspace of eight restaurants, a microbrewery and a culinary school) opens its doors in mid-November.

Eataly

Eataly

2. Drive out to the drive-in.

Before the weather gets too cold, bundle up with some blankets, popcorn and good company at the old-timey Cascade Drive-In in West Chicago.

Cascade Drive-In

Cascade Drive-In

3. Design Harvest Festival Sept. 28-29

Chicago’s annual street festival celebrating home design will feature a myriad of local vendors and antique collectors, as well as family hay rides, pumpkin painting to raise money for a local elementary school, square dancing, cold beer, delicious food and live music programming from The Hideout.

Design Harvest Festival

Design Harvest Festival

4. Search for the best cider.

‘Tis that time of year. For the hard cider fans: Sprout, SmallBar, The Grafton Pub and Kuma’s Corner all have excellent selections. Have it hot or cold, a perfect drink for fall time weather.

 

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Feeling HOT – HOT – HOT

This week in Chicago the temperatures are scorching and the humidity is full force. Not to sound dramatic, but a snow storm sounds nice right about now. I guess it is safe to say, it is summer time in Chicago.

Even though the heat is on, it doesn’t stop people from coming to this beautiful city to catch some rays at the beach, check out some festivals, and lounge around on a rooftop or patio.

Here is a list of neighborhood music and food festivals going this weekend. So ladies, throw your hair in a sock bun and boys rock your board shorts, because there is a lot of fun things happening in Downtown Chicago.
TASTE OF RIVER NORTH: This is one of your best bets for a neighborhood street fest this weekend. Enjoy two stages of music, food from a variety of area eateries, a Kids’ Zone for the little ones and tons of art and merchandise from vendors. July 19-21, Ward Park (Kingsbury & Erie), $5-$8

PITCHFORK MUSIC FESTIVAL: One of Chicago’s biggest music festivals takes over Union Park with its usual crop of indie darlings along with some familiar names. July 19-21, Union Park, $50-$120

Pitchfork Music Festival

Pitchfork Music Festival

11TH ANNUAL SOUND SYSTEM BLOCK PARTY: Every year, Wicker Park’s The Silver Room takes the party outdoors for a diverse homegrown block party with three stages and more than 50 music and visual art performances. You’ll only want to go here if you’re prepared to dance!
July 20, 1442 N Milwaukee, 12-10 pm, FREE

SHEFFIELD GARDEN WALK & MUSIC FESTIVAL: Visit more than 100 neighborhood gardens on a self-guided tour or join in with select guided group tours. July 20-21, Sheffield Ave. and Webster St., Noon till dusk, $7-$10

SHEFFIELD GARDEN WALK & MUSIC FESTIVAL

SHEFFIELD GARDEN WALK & MUSIC FESTIVAL

Whatever you decide to do make sure you apply your sun screen, keep hydrated, and stay cool because it is HOT- HOT- HOT!

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Movies at the Park

One of my favorite things to do in Chicago during the summer is go to the movies in the park. The Chicago Park District kicked off the 13th annual movies in the park this past June 13th, 2013. This year there will be 195 screenings of current and classic movies in 150 citywide parks through September 14, 2013. The best thing about this outdoor activity is that admission is free!

Movies at the Park

Movies at the Park

My recommendation is to get there early. The movies generally begin at dusk (weather permitting), and they get really crowded. So get there early, bring a blanket and lawn chairs. If there are a lot of people ahead of you, and they have chairs it becomes a little hard to see the lower part of the screen, so if you also bring a chair then you will not have any problems while trying to watch the movie.

Picnic
Don’t forget to bring some snacks! Cheese and crackers are always great, hummus, veggies… Of course for those of us 21 and over a good bottle of wine. Gentlemen, this is really cheap and great first date. So make sure that you scope out a movie that you want to see (Skyfall will be playing this summer) and take that special girl out for an evening picnic. You can’t go wrong!

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Just for Laughs Chicago

The Just For Laughs comedy festival (brought to you by TBS) in Chicago is a huge, huge deal in the comedy world. The event takes place from June 11th to the 16th. TBS’s annual Just For Laughs Chicago, which claims to be the largest comedy festival in America, will take over the city. This year’s impressive lineup contains more than its fair share of comedy A-Listers, in addition to a number of local favorites. The comics will scattered across the city from the Chicago Theater all the way to the Park West.

JFL

JFL

Some big names would be Russell Brand from Forgetting Sarah Marshall & Get him to the Greek, David Cross from Arrested Development and Saturday Night Live’s head writer Seth Myers. Bob Newhart is performing also; I didn’t know Bob Newhart was still doing live shows none the less was alive (insert bad joke here). These are just a few; over 100 comedians will be performing live through the city, for a full schedule of all the performers and shows click here.

Russell Brand

Russell Brand

One of the acts I am looking forward to are the Stars of TruTV’s Impractical Jokers. Is If there’s one thing best friends know how to do, it’s pranking and embarrassing the hell out of each other for the amusement of others. But while most people get that sort of thing out of their systems by the end of high school, these childhood pals have turned it into a life’s calling. Their hidden-camera show Impractical Jokers on truTV was a smash hit and they will bring their hysterical hijacks to the Just for Laughs festival for a night of never-before-seen hidden camera challenges, stories from set that you won’t believe, a live Q&A, and real, outrageous messages from fans!

Impractical Jokers

Impractical Jokers

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Ruth’s Top 5 things to do in Chicago

Whether you are visiting Chicago or from Chicago there are always things to do:

1. Visit Navy Pier
Navy Pier is a bustling 1.5 mile-long boardwalk that will please every member of your family. Attracting well over 8 million visitors per year, Navy Pier is lined with restaurants and studded with small shops selling everything from apparel to toys to Chicago souvenirs. While the shops alone can keep you occupied for hours, there are plenty of other activities at Navy Pier to fill your day.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier

2. Go to the “Taste of Chicago”.

While Chicago is host to dozens of festivals each year, the Taste of Chicago is easily the most widely attended. What was once a small food festival on July 4, 1980, has grown to be the biggest festival in the city. It is hailed as the world’s largest food extravaganza, attracting 3 million people annually.

Taste of Chicago

Taste of Chicago

3. Take a tour of the city.

One of the best ways to see Chicago is by tour; you get a unique perspective of the city, often with an expert guide who will tell you the history and story of each place you encounter. You can tour by boat and carriage or by foot. You can take a tour with a theme; some tours take you through certain historic or ethnic neighborhoods, such as Old Town or Greektown.

4. Visit a Museum

Chicago is a cultural city. You can find museums dedicated to every interest and every passion. In addition to the major, well-know ones, there are a number of smaller but excellent choices available. Chicago’s Museum Campus is a somewhat recent addition to the city’s lakefront. In 1996, the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive were moved so that the three museums in the area, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium, were no longer separated by a median and were brought onto one campus and joined by a lush green field with a view of the lake.

Shedd Aquarium

Shedd Aquarium

5. Shop!!!

Just a few blocks from our hotel, you will find Chicago’s Water Tower Place, a perfect location for shopping. With 7 different levels, you certainly have a wide selection for you and your loved ones. One of my personal favorites is CUSP by Neiman Marcus. They always have a wide variety of styles, from everyday relaxed fit clothing to a dresses for a girls night out. For the in between shopping, Water Tower Place, also offers dining options. This will allow you to relax and enjoy your meal and continue to shop all in one convenient location.

Water Tower Place

Water Tower Place

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Filming in Chicago

Nothing is more exciting than seeing your hometown of Chicago in a film, from Lower Wacker Drive in “The Blues Brothers” and “The Dark Knight” to seeing the entire River North district in “Transformers – Dark of the Moon”. With summer movie season upon us we will be seeing our beautiful city of Chicago in more movies.

lower-wacker-drive-in-tdk1

Lower Wacker Drive

Man of Steel” (Opens June 14, 2013) which stars Henry Cavill as Clark Kent aka Superman, along with Amy Adams, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and others, is expected to feature the Loop’s Chicago Board of Trade and Willis Tower buildings prominently. The Board of Trade will be used as the exterior of Kent’s workplace, the Daily Planet, while the Willis Tower will provide the interior shots of the newsroom setting. Chicago has been prime filming locations for both Metropolis (Superman) and Gotham City (The Dark Knight). The architecture of downtown Chicago has been key for filming such nostalgic pop culture icons. If you think about it, Chicago is a Metropolis and is a perfect for such film such as Man of Steel. With a Justice League movie on the horizon we might see Chicago the prime filming locations such as New York was for The Avengers.

This summer is going be a hot spot for movies being filmed in Chicago. There has been plenty of rumors and speculation about where the next Transformers movie will be shot this summer and at least part of the movie will be filmed in the Windy City. Picking up where the last movie left off. Mark Wahlberg is set to star in and produce the Michael Bay film.

Andy and Lana Wachowski (who were behind the Matrix trilogy) are also preparing for another futuristic science fiction film, Jupiter Ascending, which will star Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, and Sean Bean also star in the film which will begin a 4-5 week shoot in Chicago on June 24. Andy and Lana Wachowski are no strangers for using Chicago for their movies. Being Chicago natives they used and filmed certain scenes for The Matrix trilogy in Chicago. If you watch closely you see Chicago city streets and locations seen throughout the movie. In the Matrix Reloaded they recreated a portion of the I-90/I-94 going into the city for a climatic chase scene.

Matirx

They just finished filming the highly anticipated Ferris Wheel scene on Chicago’s Navy Pier for Divergent and will be filming all over the city. The film stars Shailene Woodley, Ray Stevenson and Kate Winslet. The acclaimed young adult novel in which the film is based on is set within a dystopian version of Chicago. The novel has been compared to similar young adult books such as The Hunger Games because of its theme and target audience.

Move over New York and Los Angeles, looks like our town is prime for filming such blockbusters and as a Chicagoan I say thanks.

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Comedy – A Must Do!

Just moving to Chicago from the east coast, the greater Washington D.C. Metro area, the expectation for city greatness has been set quite high. For those of you who have traveled to the greater DC area know there are very few cities that can rival the tourists “hoopla” of DC. Over the last six months I have challenged myself to explore and experience everything that the city has to offer. I can honestly say that I have not been disappointed and Chicago is not only a city that rivals but may prove to be a better city for tourists, in my humble opinion.

There are so many great things to do in Chicago, but the one thing that I have found that is unique to Chicago is the Comedy Club Scene. While well known for its exquisite Hot Dogs, Deep Dish pizza and the city’s pride and joy ‘Da Bears, their comedy scene is a hidden treasure that all must experience. Within 5 miles of the Hampton Inn and Suites Downtown Chicago, there are some world famous comedy clubs that has produced some of the world’s most talented funny people.

The Second City is one of the most famous clubs we have in Chicago, providing comedic relief for the masses seven days a week. I first experienced this “Gem” over the Christmas Holiday with my parents. Truly a treat for us all, although my parents and I have very different comedic pallets the stellar cast made the experience both memorable and enjoyable. Producing some of the greats such as Stephen Colbert, Bill Murray, and the blues brothers Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi you know you are in for some good quality fun.

The Second City

The Second City

If you find yourself in the mood for a more intimate setting with some comedy that has some “bite”. Then look no further then The Comedy Bar located in River North. Just a few short blocks from the front doors of the Hampton Inn and Suites Chicago Downtown, there truly isn’t a better deal in the River North area for an evening of entertainment. At $10.00 a ticket you can see some of the most promising new comers to the Comedy Scene. After you are done with the laughs if you feel like busting a move look no further than the bar\club they have on the second floor. Cover included with admission.

The Comedy Bar

The Comedy Bar

There are so many great clubs to just stop in on any given day and catch a laugh or two, so come on down and experience one or two for yourself.

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Spring is here and so are the CUBS!!

Chicago has a lot of fun activities over the Spring/Summer months. If you have never been to a CUBS game this is the time to get started. The Cubbie’s home opener at Wrigley Field is on the 8th, where they will play the Milwaukee Brewers. This will certainly be a fun and memorable experience if you are from out of town. When staying with us at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown, you are within walking distance to the red line Grand stop. To get to Wrigley field just head northbound towards Howard and get off at the Addison stop. The commute is approximately 15 minutes. Once you get off on Addison you will instantly feel the excitement! Most of the people that live on the north side of Chicago are Cubs fans (although we all know that they always loose!) But we are optimistic and when the new season starts we say “this will be the year!”

Wrigley Field

One thing that you must check out is one of the Cubs rooftops. Wrigley just opened up their very own “Sky lounge” located on 1048 Waveland Ave. They have a total of 125 seats and you can join as a group or individually, so you can’t go wrong! They have bleachers on the rooftop that will overlook the field. This is a completely different experience and one that you have to try! They will have burgers, hot dogs, pretzels, beverages of all types and you don’t have to deal with the big crowds.

Wrigley Rooftop

 

Check out a game while you are in town – you will have a great time! GO CUBS!

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Is Nothing Sacred?

Well after seeing the play Book of Mormon, in this case, no nothing is. It may not be for everyone and I could see how some might be offended, an average of fifty people walk out of a performance, but really Book of Mormon is from the creators of South Park. You have to know what you are walking into; surely one is not expecting a sequel to the Sound of Music. This play is not one for the kiddies.

Book of Mormon

In any case, be prepared to laugh until it hurts, and at other times to shake your head in in utter amazement, at what you are hearing and seeing. But remember, Book of Mormon is live theatre and weren’t you fortunate to get one of the hottest ticket on Broadway. If you think you are going to be offended – you probably will be. So my suggestion would be to not to go and let someone who will appreciate it – to have chance to nab one of those tickets. For me, it was a night of laughing until it hurts and shaking my head in utter amazement, at what the creators got away with.

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Shakespeare in the Park: A welcome [new] tradition for Park Districts

This summer I had the opportunity of attending one of the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre “Shakespeare in the Park” productions in conjunction with the Chicago Park District and Boeing. The concept is to bring professional productions, such as The Taming of the Shrew, free of charge to Park Districts throughout the city so masses can enjoy. A new sort of summer tradition, if you will. The Summer 2012 schedule ran from North of the City at Welles Park to South of the City at Ridge Park, making classic drama accessible to all. Stellar acting lends a new take on Shakespeare.

Although the productions are done for the summer, keep an eye out for the 2013 season. It’s a great non-traditional tourist attraction while visiting the city. Plus did I mention it’s FREE? So pack a picnic and bring a bottle of wine, it’s perfectly acceptable. The Red Line El train, located 1 block from the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown, makes transportation to and from select Park Districts easy! To receive information on upcoming Shakespeare in the Park locations and productions, sign up for the email blasts, follow the hashtag #ShakesInTheParks on Twitter, or “like” them on Facebook.

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