Upcoming Summer Events

June 20th was the official date that we could say it was “summer” in Chicago. Of course with the change of season come temperatures over 100 degrees and humidity so thick you could cut it with a knife.  If you want to beat the heat, there are many places you can visit that will be blasting their air conditioning. However, for those who are willing to defeat the heat check out some of the “cool” outdoor events going on in this sweltering City.

Taste of Chicago offers a variety of Chicago cuisine to be sampled

Taste of Chicago. This epic food festival brings in over 1.2 million people to the Chicago to experience all the amazing food and entertainment this city has to offer. This year, Huffington Post said that “attendees consumed 17,600 slices of deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s, 15,000 funnel cakes from the Churro Factory, and 30,000 rainbow cones.” Along with the food, there were many performances at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park that hosted bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Jennifer Hudson, Dierks Bentley, and Chaka Khan. If you ended up missing the Taste of Chicago this year, don’t worry it will be back in full force next year.

Lollapalooza, 2010
Lollapalooza, 2010. Image courtesy of PBS

Lollapalooza. This 3 day music festival turns Chicago into a mini Woodstock. This event started back in 1991 and established its territory in Chicago’s Grant Park in 2005. Lollapalooza means “an extraordinary or unusual thing, person, or event.” Over 16,000 people of all ages come to Chicago to take park of this wondrous music event to check out their favorite bands and to discover new ones.  You have the option to purchase a 1 day pass for $95 or a 3 day pass for $230. With 8 stages and over 100 bands to choose from, each day you will be exposed to a different type of music from Rock, Indie, Punk, and Techno.  This year you will see performances from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Sabbath, Avicii, The Black Keys, Florence and the Machine, Jack White, and Kaskade. For more information on Lollapalooza and the lineup, check out their website at http://www.lollapalooza.com. If you need hotel accommodations, please contact the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown direct at 312-832-0330.

Chicago Air and Water Show

Chicago Air and Water Show, Image courtesy of the CCTB

Air and Water Show. Pack your lawn chair, a cooler, some sunscreen, and ear plugs if you plan on heading to Chicago’s Lakefront to watch the Air and Water show.  This show attracts millions of prospectors each year to check out the amazing tricks performed by aerobatic teams and the U.S military. A cool factoid about the show is that most of the planes fly to and from Gary Jet Center in Gary, Indiana. They have to time their flight down to the second so they can fly over the show at an exact moment. The show is from 10am-3pm on Saturday August 18th and Sunday August 19th at North Avenue Beach. Since it is free to the public, if you have trouble finding seating at the show center then head to Ohio Street beach or Oak Street Beach and bring your binoculars. You can also check out more information about the Chicago Air and Water Show on Explore Chicago’s website at http://www.chicagoairshow.com.

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A city in love with its lake & river

Every spring once it starts warming up, we start seeing a ton of boats migrating from the cold storage docks out to the lake. Every once in a while you will get the opportunity to see all of the bridges rise while the sailboats make their way through the locks.

Of course one of the most popular tourist attractions in Chicago is the Chicago River Boat Tour. Whenever I have family and friends come in to town this is always one of my top three that I suggest, besides the Skydeck & one of the Museums. The tours will take you up the north and south branches of the river and give you full history of the buildings and the history of the river. The tour guides are very knowledgeable and encourage interaction. Most of the tour guides I have spoken with in the past are former architects, architecture students or big time history buffs. Every one of them have an amazing passion for what they are talking about.

The Chicago Line Architecture Cruises run about every hour  and the 2012 costs are:

  • $40 for adults
  • $32 for seniors 65 and older
  • $22 for youths ages 7 to 18
  • Children 6 and younger sail free

Two tips that I encourage you to do:

  • See my front desk team at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown before you head out, they can call ahead and make reservations for you with a deposit. That will save you time waiting in line.

Wake up a few minutes early and take the 8a cruise, it’s $10 off each person.

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Mystic Blue in Chicago

Gone are the heavy jackets, gloves, snow boots, and frozen faces of Chicago winter. Summer is upon us and citizens are wearing shorts, sporting flip flops and even, dare I say, getting sunburned! Recently I had the opportunity of experiencing one of the best kept secrets in Chicago tourism. An attraction that is perfect for summer, especially with this lovely weather we Chicagoans have been having as of late. The Mystic Blue Boat Cruise allows an exciting, fresh perspective for exploring the city.

The Mystic Blue Boat cruise departs from Navy Pier. I boarded the Mystic Blue on a Saturday evening for a friend’s birthday party. I didn’t really know what to expect, as I had never been on a cruise of Lake Michigan. I was immediately greeted by the Captain and Crew and knew it was going to be a fun night! The Mystic Blue has 3 enclosed, climate controlled decks, with dinner and dancing on the main level. Dinner was served buffet style and consisted of a specialty fish entree, pasta, potatoes, vegetables and more. On this particular cruise there was a cash bar for any Guests looking to “wet their whistle.” Guests are free to roam about the ship and are advised to eat at their leisure. Shortly after the majority of patrons dined, a dessert buffet was set with everything from cheesecake to fondue with marshmallow’s and rice krispies on skewers. All the while, a DJ played music and encouraged guests to dance, the Crew even performed a special choreographed number, which was very entertaining. Later in the evening, fireworks from Navy Pier were seen by all. The observation desk upstairs provided a great view of the city skyline at night. It truly was a unique experience that I would recommend to any guest or visitor to the Chicago area.

Chicago Skyline

To get to Navy Pier and The Mystic Blue Boat Cruise from the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown, you may either take a cab, walk, or utilize the Free Shuttle service (inquire at the Front Desk for details). A cab will take about 5 to 10 minutes to reach your destination, or if it’s nice outside a leisurely walk is only about 1 mile from the hotel. If walking, head east on W. Illinois St. toward N. State St. Continue N. onto Streeter Dr. Keep right at the fork. By this point you will see Navy Pier. Turn right onto E. Grand Ave. Your destination will be halfway down the pier on the right.

Schedule and pricing can be obtained here.

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Free fun with Movies in the Park

All too often the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown has families looking for activities to do in the evening. One of my personal favorites is FREE… Movies in the park. From classic movies like “The Wizard of Oz” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day off” to new movies like “Puss in Boots” or “Iron Man 2” play in park venues all over the city from June 11th to October 24th. Bring a picnic basket and a blanket and have a nice enjoyable relaxing evening watching a movie in one of Chicago’s 125 parks.

 Click here to find a list of dates and times that fit your trip into Chicago.

“New” releases this summer that will be available:

  • The Dark Knight (shot in Chicago) – June 23 at Churchill Field, 1825 N Damen
  • Grown Ups – July 1 at LaFollette, 1333 N. Laramie Ave
  • Inception – July 1 at Margate Park, 4921 N. Marine Dr.
  • Iron Man 2 – June 20 at Jackson Park, 6401 S. Stony Island Ave.
  • Salt – July 19 at Montgomery Ward Park, 630 N. Kingsbury St.
  • The Social Network – July 5 at Montgomery Ward Park, 630 N. Kingsbury St.
  • True Grit – July 28 at Amundsen Park, 6200 W. Bloomingdale Ave.
  • Twilight: Eclipse – July 22 at Meyering Park, 7140 S. Martin Luther King Dr.

Animation for the Kids:

  • Despicable Me – June 17 at Winnemac 5100 N. Leavitt St
  • How to Train Your Dragon – Aug 9 at Touhy Park,  7348 N. Paulina St.
  • Megamind – June 23 at Graver Park, 1518 W. 102nd Pl.
  • Shrek Forever After – June 17 at Shedd Park, 3660 W. 23rd St.
  • Tangled – Sep. 9 at Athletic Field Park, 3546 W. Addison St.
  • The Princess and the Frog – Aug. 9 at Fulton River Park, 601 W. Kinzie St.
  • Toy Story 3 – Sep 16 at Independence Park, 3945 N. Springfield Ave.
  • Up – Aug. 2 at Montgomery Ward Park, 630 N. Kingsbury St.
  • Wall-E – Aug.31 at Willye White Park, 1610 W Howard St.

Classic Movies:

  • Airplane! – June 14 at Montgomery Ward Park, 630 N. Kingsbury St.
  • Back to the Future with Michael J Fox – Aug. 6 at Harold Washington Park, 5200 S. Hyde Park Blvd.
  • E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial – July 12 at Fulton River Park, 601 W. Kinzie St.
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – July 13 at The Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St.
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – July 16 at Jonquil Park, 1023 W. Wrightwood Ave.
  • JAWS – July 12 at 63rd Street Beach, 6300 S lake Shore Drive
  • The Karate Kid – Aug 30 at DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Pl.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark – Aug. 25 at Lake Shore Park, 808 N. Lake Shore Dr.
  • Sixteen Candles – Aug. 17 at The Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St.
  • Top Gun – Aug. 18 at Mary Bartelme Park, 115 S. Sangamon St.

 

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Memorial Day Weekend things to do in Chicago

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And no, I am not referencing winter, since us city dwellers find nothing wonderful about the cold, snow, and everything in between. I’m talking about summer in Chicago! Now that the weather gods have finally stopped torturing us with the rollercoaster weather changes, we can now enjoy everything that this beautiful City has to offer.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the 80 degree and sunny weather, like a 3 day weekend for Memorial Day. Since the NATO Summit has left the building, the City is now a favorable place to visit. So for those who are not skipping town or coming in from out of town, check out all the great things going on that will keep you busy this weekend.

If you are looking for a little R&R and to soak up some sun, head over to one of Chicago’s 23 beaches along the lakefront. Beaches open this Friday and lifeguards are on duty from 11am-7pm daily. The best part, they’re free!  One of the main hot spots if you are spending the day at the beach is Castaways Bar and Grill. This giant shipwrecked boat, looking North Avenue beach, serves lunch and dinner every day from 11a.m. to 11p.m. Drinks from noon to 11p.m. All weekend Castaways offers live music from noon to 6p.m.

For all you music lovers and foodies out there, go check out the Belmont-Sheffield Music Festival in Wrigleyville and/or the Randolph Street Market Festival in the Loop this Saturday and Sunday. Spend your day jamming out to tribute bands, eating some delicious food from local vendors, shopping for vintage treasures, while enjoying a refreshing beverage on a hot summer day!

Now, let’s not forget the true essence of why we celebrate Memorial Day. To show remembrance for loved ones we have or for those who have served our country, head over to Daley Plaza to watch the Chicago Memorial Day Wreath Laying Ceremony and Parade. This will be on May 26th starting at 11am. After the parade, head over to Navy Pier to watch the free firework show starting at 10:15pm.

However you decide to celebrate, everyone at the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago wishes you a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day!

 

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Go CUBS Go!

Holy Cow! Baseball season is finally upon us and for we die hard cubbies fans that means another chance to be the World Series Champions. Last night, in preparation for the home opener on April 5th 2012 vendors were out setting up their stands, Clark Street was flooded with people, and Wrigley Field’s Stadium lights were shining brightly. Early this morning on my way to work, there was an eerie silence that swept over Wrigleyville, almost like it was the calming before a big storm.

That storm hit around 9:00am this morning when every news station was buzzing about opening day. Wrigley was already swamped with fans waiting outside the stadium ready to watch their beloved cubbies play the Washington Nationals at 1:20pm. With the first crack of the bat, first hot dog of the season, and an ice cold beer in hand; we hope our Cubs can bring home a win and wave that “W” flag.

Tickets for today and this weekend’s game are still available. If you want to get in on the action, feel free to visit the Cubs website here.

Also, if you would like to support your cubbies and a good cause, sign up for the Race to Wrigley 5K Run on April 14th 2012 at 8am. This race is the kick off to the Baseball Season and proceeds go to Children’s Memorial Hospital. The course route will take you thought Lakeview neighborhoods and back to Wrigley Field, where you get to run through the stadium. Online registration is available until 4/12/2012 for $35 dollars. You can purchase your race packet and t-shirt at http://www.race-cubs.com.

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Nothing’s Sacred

Kristen and I got back from the Big Apple in early March – after beating those mean streets.  The purpose of our visit was to make travel agents in NY aware of the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago/Downtown, for business and leisure travel.  Twenty – one appointments and touching 500+ agents in a week, we returned back to our home and our home away from home, Chicago and the Hampton Inn and Suites Chicago/Downtown.

Now you know what kept us busy during the day – but the evenings were ours for the asking.  What comes to mind when some people think NYC – if you resemble me – the theatre would be number one. And pray tell (no pun intended) what did I see “The Book of Mormons”.

The title of my “Blog” describes the tone of the play in a nutshell.  If you cannot take a joke – for no matter who you are you are going to get slammed.  No one is left unscathed.  It is written by the creators of South Park – come on – would you expect anything less – and no TV censors.

Performances in Chicago start in December of this year and I urge you to get your tickets now- because the run will sell out quickly.  Just remember “Nothing’s Sacred”, and do bring something to wipe away those tears of laughter.   This review does come with a warning – not for the easily offended.

Andrew Rannells plays the central character Elder Price in the Broadway...

Broadway in Chicago.

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Metro Chicago, a Chicago tradition in Music

As the resident independent music lover in the office, I attend a concert at least once a month. I love seeing live shows, hearing new bands and usually end up traversing around the city of Chicago in search of good tunes.

One of the earliest venues I visited (even before I became a Chicago resident) was Metro Chicago. Metro Chicago is housed in an 85 year old building that used to be a Swedish Community Center. The exterior architecture is unassuming, unpretentious; even in a neighborhood populated by CUBS fans and young urban professionals. Since 1982, Metro Chicago has been cranking out good music and introducing some heavy hitters in the musical forefront. Namely, Chicagoans The Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill, Local H, Liz Phair and Veruca Salt. All of whom began their careers on the Metro stage.

Today, great artists and upcoming new talent showcase their skill set at Metro Chicago. Some of the shows I’ve personally seen there include: Catfish Haven, Dan Deacon, The Psychedelic Furs, Die Antwoord, Hot Chip, Girl Talk and more than I can remember. I enjoy climbing to the 2nd floor and having an aerial view of the stage, the band at work.

Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er performing at Metro Chicago February 15, 2012

Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er performing at Metro Chicago February 15, 2012

During the Die Antwoord concert I was witness to crowd-surfing twice and glad for the safety and security of the 2nd level! During less enthusiastic shows, I prefer to be front and center on the lower level where close proximity to the artists is relatively easily.

Metro Chicago boasts 2 bars, one on the lower level and one on the 2nd level. Metro allows a more intimate experience than the larger dome entertainment centers, such as Allstate Arena or the United Center. A bird’s eye view or front row accessibility are pros to this smaller venue.

Metro Chicago is located on Clark Street, a short train ride from the Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown. Simply hop on the EL at the Red Line Grand Stop and head North towards Howard. Exit at the Addison Red Line Stop and walk 2 blocks north of Wrigley Field. If you get the chance to visit this iconic Chicago music venue, please do! Odds are you’ll see some great upcoming artists or maybe an old favorite.

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Streets of Chicago

 

 

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

 

― Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

 

 

Marina City

 

It wasn’t until moving to Chicago did this ring so true. Until you experience the majesty of street life in a big city, it is hard to truly understand it. You definitely can feel it visiting, you may even notice that there is something different, but can’t quite put your finger on why. I noticed that my vacations from my home town of Memphis were always large cities: Chicago, LA, New York, London… I knew that I wanted to be in the cauldron of street life. Its being part of city life that you are actually shaping the city.

 

The built environment has a lot to with the vibrancy of street life as well. Think of a typical suburban strip mall. There is a lot of activity, but walking down the sidewalk you don’t get a sense of lively cohesion.  One of the most important parts of this built environment in modern North American cities is the Grid.  Chicago is one of the largest cities with a continuous grid throughout the city.

 

River North grid On Google Maps (Hampton Inn & Suites is marked)

Chicago’s grid is 1.3 degrees off true north.  If you travel northbound on a north/south street, you will travel just slightly west.  Not bad for the engineers that laid out the Chicago grid system using 19th century tools. You can actually see this on Google Maps! Take a look at the photo above, Find Chicago Ave in the upper left, notice how it jogs north the further east you go.

 

  • Some things to remember about the Chicago grid:
  • Every 8 Blocks equals 1 Mile & you will find an arterial Street
  • Every 4 Blocks is a major Secondary Street.
  • A Block is about 480 Feet. In downtown with the older blocks, it is closer to 400 feet
  • Even Numbered Addresses are on the West and North sides of each street
  • Odd Numbered Addresses are on the East and South sides of each street
  • Odd Numbered Addresses are on the East and South sides of each street
  • The intersection of State (0) and Madison (0) is the 0 / 0 block. If the original numbering system were done today, I am sure that the 0/0 block would be much further west. There are no east numbers north of North Ave because of Lake Michigan. I don’t think the 19th century planners could even to begin to imagine how much futher the city would grow. The city could only grow west because of the lake!

Look for the Chicago grid when you fly into the city.

 

 

 

 

 

The grid is part of street life in Chicago, but the grid would be nothing without the people that live in work in it. Think of the entrepreneurs with their business ideas, the actors & techs with their art in the theatres, the workers in the shops, the tourist with their cameras, the bar patron enjoys one last beer before getting on the train… The lively street life is why people come to big cities like Chicago. Just walk around River North for a few hours you see it all: world-class architecture (Trump Tower, Wrigley Building, Boyce Building, Marina City), fine dining (Sunda, Sushi Samba), the hippest of hip clubs that as so cool, they don’t even need a sign (Underground) & a lively street scene. This is why Chicago is always sure to surprise. 

 

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The Vic Theatre: A Musical Mecca in Chicago

As Chicagoans, we’re spoiled. There’s so much to do in this vibrant city, so much to explore, so much to see and share. I don’t think any one person could experience all the city has to offer in one lifetime. I got my first taste of the Windy City culture when I was in College at the University of Kentucky. I remember road-tripping it 6 hours with friends to catch the Hot Chip concert at Metro in Wrigleyville. The next day as my friends and I drove back to campus I realized it was too late; I was hooked. Chicago was to be my new musical mecca. I would make any pilgrimage to see whatever show, wherever, just so long as it was in Chicago.

Fast forward 4 years. I live in the city now and one thing that hasn’t changed has been my love of music. I’ve seen countless shows (Dan Deacon, Feist, Jimmy Eat World, The Sounds, Lykke Li, Hot Chip, 30 Seconds from Mars, Lollapalooza 2010, etc.) at countless venues (The Riv, Aragon, Metro, Shubas, Martyrs’, Kingston Mines, etc.) and yet one of my favorite spots to listen to tunes remains the Vic Theatre at the Belmont and Sheffield intersection.

The Sounds performing at the Vic Theatre

Lead singer of The Sounds, Maja Ivarsson, performing at the Vic Theatre

There’s just something about the Vic that makes you feel alive. Contrary to the mass super-dome centers of Allstate Arena and the likes, the Vic is a more intimate, small venue rich with character and history. According to Wikipedia, the Vic Theater was built in 1912 by Architect John E.O. Pridmore. The five-story venue, originally named Victoria Theatre, took 3 years to build. The beauty of this establishment is that this vaudeville house still operates today for the enjoyment of countless people just as it did nearly 100 years ago.

Opening the double doors that lead into the standing room, lights stream, pulsating bass beats resound in the air and guitar rifs can be felt from the floor to your core. It’s an amazing experience. Mostly due to the close proximity of the stage to the crowd. Musical entertainment is so near, you feel like you’re front and center even if you’re in the back of the room.

Lykke Li performing at the Vic Theatre

Lykke Li performing at the Vic Theatre

Heightened standing areas allow for multiple vantage points, even for the vertically challenged. And let’s not forget the 2 liquid subsidence stations (aka bars) located immediately to your left and right as soon as you enter the standing room. Priorities, people. And speaking of priorities, seeing a live show at the Vic Theatre should definitely be one of yours. Not interested in music? Easy. The Vic Theatre does a Brew and View movie showing weekly. So now you have no excuse not to go. So get going, already!

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