A Chicagoans Guide to ‘Summering’ it Up in the Windy City.
I know a few people who live in other parts of Illinois or other states and they always ask me the same question: “What is there to do in Chicago for the summer?”. I know they realize, as anybody does, that there is a crap ton to do in the ‘City of Big Shoulders’. However, to someone who isn’t used to being in such a big city, it can be intimidating to try to find some things to do. So! I figured I’d do a fun post on some places to go, places to eat, and random whatevers for one to do in my home city 🙂
Chicago is a great, bustling city. You can find just about anything here and people generally do when they come visit. The summer is the best time to go of course. Students are out of school, people have more free time from work (hopefully), and people are ready to go on vacation. Coming here is definitely worth while if you take the time and money to do it. Here are some reasons why.
Chicago has a wide variety of avenues for entertainment seekers, like myself.
Music: Chicago holds many music festivals every summer, but some are more well known.
Chicago Blues Festival!
The Chicago Blues festival has been a tradition here since it started in 1984 and has always drawn a crowd. It takes place every year from June 8-10. It’s hours are: 11 am-9:30 pm (Friday and Saturday) and 11 am-9 pm (Sunday only). If you’re a fan of blues, or just looking for something to do for a few hours over the weekend, this is a good option. I am no expert in blues, but I do know this festival generally always have the best blues artists there to perform. The best part is….it’s free! Yep, that’s right. There is no price for admissions to any of the locations for the entire weekend. I believe you can bring your own food and drinks (non alcoholic only), but there are vendors there you can get food from for a price. Of course you would pay for parking if you drive into the City and park somewhere. However, if you arrived in Chicago by any other means, you will probably be relying on public transportation (which is far cheaper than paying for parking…parking prices are horrendous here). If you are interested, here is the link to the site with full information on the festival: Chicago Blues Festival Webpage There is also a Jazz festival held in Chicago too, for those into jazz.
By far, Lollapalooza (August 3-5) is probably the most well known music festival Chicago holds every year. It has been pleasing the music enthusiasts ears (or not, depending on the line up) for a good 20 years. I have been to a few myself and I have never been disappointed. The lineups I didn’t care for, I just didn’t attend. If you enjoy music, I would HIGHLY recommend going. Some of my absolute favorite bands/artists have performed at Lolla: Coheed and Cambria, The Black Keys, Deadmau5, Artic Monkeys, Arcade fire and more. Even if you’re not into bands like these, Lollapalooza always tries to mix it up by having artists like Kanye West, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Usher to grace the stage.
If the lineup for a particular summer (not this summer, I believe tickets are totally sold out.) appeases you, I would buy the tickets as SOON as possible. This is one of the biggest festivals Chicago holds and tickets sell out extremely fast. Do not wait until the summer to try to get tickets, they probably won’t be there lol This years lineup is so so, so I am not going to attend. Mainly because they are not cheap. I go about buying tickets with this in mind…once the lineup is revealed, I check all three days to see if the artists I seriously wanna see are scattered over the weekend. If so, I just go ahead and get the 3 day pass. If not, I will see what day (or two days) has the most artists I like and will buy a ticket for just one day (or sometimes two, but in such a case I just get the 3 day and mess around on that one off day).
Prices: 3 Day Pass: $230 for Regular. Early Bird Special (which I believe usually occurs in September):$200 and Souvenir price is $75. 1 Day Pass: $95/day. They also offer travel Packages that give you: deals on hotel stay in the downtown area near Grant Park, tshirts, vip tickets to Lollapalooza (and more, depending on the price of the package). Something to think about if you know you’ll be both wanting to go to the festival and stay nearby in a hotel. It could prove to be a worthwhile experience!
There are also just regular VIP tickets available (without the hotel whatnots involved). These are expensive, but sound like their worth their weight for the cost. A VIP ticket aka ‘Lounge Pass’ gets you daily VIP wrist bands for the entire weekend along with: unlimited access to Lolla Lounge North and South, Access to VIP golf cart shuttles for transport between Lolla Lounge North and South, viewing platforms with premium sightlines, beer/wine/cocktails all day (you are allowed to drink at the festival if you are of age), catered food services all day for the weekend, mini-spa treatements (not sure why I’d want a facial when I’m supposed to be jammin out but…), air conditioned and shaded rooms (a MUST since it’s hot as BALLS in Chicago by August). If you want this kind of luxury services it’ll cost you…about 800 dollars. A pretty penny to pay, Yeah. But I just usually go with general admission. I hope to (if the lineup is good) try the VIP experience next summer!
Museums/Zoos: Chicago has a good number of museums and Zoos for the animal lover, nerd and geek alike!
Museum of Science and Industry (my personal favorite)
Looking for a Mythbusters interactive exhibit? Or ride along with researchers of VORTEX 2 to hunt for some of nature’s most destructive storms in the Tornado Alley exhibit? Or perhaps you prefer animals and would find excitement in the Born to Be Wild exhibit. Whatever you fancy, the Museum of Science and Industry is the place for you. If you are a curious person, you will spend hours here. There is simply too much to see and too many interactive exhibits to explore. This museum has exhibits of all kinds and has something for everyone.
It covers all varieties of topics: agriculture, physics, biology, geology, chemistry, technology, space, zoology and more. It is great for all ages ranging from children to adults. They are always having new exhibits going on, so you won’t ever get bored. They also have some exhibits they only hold a certain time of year. My ABSOLUTE favorite exhibit of all time is their Christmas Around the World Tree and Lights Festival. It is absolutely breathtaking and amazing. The exhibit has a 45-foot Grand Tree decorated with more than 30,000 lights and 1,000 ornaments, surrounded by more than 50 smaller trees decorated by volunteers from Chicago’s ethnic communities to represent their various cultures and holiday traditions. There’s something here for everyone, seriously.
It is open daily (except for Thanksgiving and Christmas) from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Prices: Children (up to 11 years of age): $10 or $ 9 (if you are a chicago resident). Adult: $15 or $13 (Chicago resident), Senior Citizen (65 or older): $14 or $12 (Chicago Resident) There ARE certain days of the year that you can go for free. See this link for those particular dates: Museum of Science and Industry Free Days
Field Museum: (if you’re into Dinosaurs…) Not much for me to say. It is not a museum I go to very often, but if you’re into paleontology and the like…then of COURSE you will want to make a bee line here. It is open every day of the year (except Christmas) from 9 am to 5 pm.
See it all! Explore the entire Museum, see all of our special exhibitions PLUS a 3-D film! The best value! (Total value: $52)
- Adult: $29
- Child (ages 3-11): $20
- Senior (65 years +): $24
- Student (w/ valid ID): $24
Explore the entire Museum, PLUS one special exhibition or 3-D film!
- Adult: $22
- Child (ages 3-11): $15
- Senior (65 years +): $18
- Student (w/ valid ID): $18
Enjoy exploring the Museum (does not include special exhibitions or 3-D film).
- Adult: $15
- Child (ages 3-11): $10
- Senior (65 years +): $12
- Student (w/ valid ID): $12
Brookfield/Lincoln Park Zoo: I LOVE Zoos. Mainly because I adore animals (and really, who doesn’t love at least SOME animal on this planet?). Both museums are great. Brookfield’s hours are Monday – Saturday: 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sundays: 9:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices: Children (till 11) $10.50, Adult: $15 and Senior Citizens: (65 and over): $10.50. Free days are Tuesdays and Thursdays (for a few months). I’m not sure if this is still the same days they have the free days, so if you’re interested I’d suggest calling to check. Lincoln park Zoo is absolutely free! (which is why I usually go there instead).
Memorial Day–Labor Day (May 26–September 3)
Weekdays 10 a.m.–5 p.m. (gates open until 6 p.m.)
Weekends 10 a.m.–6:30 p.m. (gates open until 7 p.m.)
10 a.m.–5 p.m. (gates open until 6 p.m.)
10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. (gates open until 5 p.m.)
10 a.m.–5 p.m. (gates open until 6 p.m.)
Food Food Food! Ok. So you’ve been thoroughly entertained…and I bet you’re hungry. Chicago has the best food (Biased, I know). I’m not going to bother to list the MANY restaurants you could eat at. I will just list the best of the best…what Chicago is known for for the most part.
Starting with…Pizza! I don’t have to explain that Chicago is known for their deep dish pizza. You can go to a lot of places that will make them but the best is Giordanos, hands down. They are on the pricy side, but if you go with a few people and split (both the pizza and bill), it works out rather well 🙂
The famous Chicago Dog! Whether you go to Maxwells, or any of the many places that make them…they’re delicious. I will reiterate…do NOT put ketchup on it 😛 It’s sacrilege lol Some places won’t even sell ketchup to you, so don’t bother. 😉
Mmmm Mmmm Garrets Popcorn. I will tell any person coming to Chicago to get some Garrets Popcorn. It’s delicious, simply delicious. I usually get just the cheese and caramel popcorn mix. You can get them in bags or cool looking tins. You can ALSO order them online, if you really need to get your fix 😉 It’s expensive, but hey, that’s the city for you right? Garretts Popcorn Webpage
Final Note on Food: I didn’t get into these places fully but I can also suggest: Bar Louie, any of the many Starbucks (they’re cozy), The Cheesecake Factory, Pappadeuxs Creole and Seafood Restaurant, any eatery in Chinatown or Greektown and Jamba Juice (there’s one on North Michigan Avenue!).
Last note: I TOTALLY forgot a few things…well places, rather, you can go to in Chicago. I should be punched in the face by Chicago itself for this 😛
Kumas Corner has to be mentioned. It is my favorite place to eat in Chicago. This genial metalhead tavern provides both a badass place to chill at but also mouthwatering burgers and beers. You will find burgers like the ‘Megadeth’ (burger topped with Chorizo and Red Potato Hash, Pico de Gallo, Cayenne Avocado Cream, Tortilla Strips), the Black Oak Arkansas (Red wine BBQ sauce, Bacon, Aged White Cheddar, and Alpha King Battered Fried Shallot Rings), the Metallica (Buffalo Sauce, Bacon, Bleu Cheese Dressing) and their famous Kuma Burger (Bacon, Cheddar, Fried Egg ). The list of the burgers they have is much longer, but those are just a few. I adore that they name these unusually topped burgers after metal bands. The atmosphere is also great. They have a full stocked bar but they’re better known for their beer. Note: they do NOT sell Miller or Budweiser or any other mass produced beer. They only sell beer that is locally brewed. Trust me, it’s still delicious.
I would recommend the Left Hand (from Longmont, CO) JuJu Ginger bottled beer. It’s fantastic. Only downside to such an awesome, metal based, tattooed staffed establishment is that it is rather small. They do have a patio during the summer months, which helps. Regardless, you will probably have to wait a bit to be seated. So, patience is required…but it is WELL worth it. Side note: Though it is a bar/tavern type place, they will NOT turn on to sports…so don’t ask. Go to Buffalo Wild Wings or something, for that. They also will not take music requests (they keep their music strictly to hard rock, metal, and the like…but again, no requests). Menu page: Kumas Burgers
Navy Pier! I haven’t gone in years because I feel it’s mostly for tourists (I used to go as a kid, but now it’s kind of meh…). It has a lot of little shops, restaurants, activities (including an awesome Ferris wheel). You can take a free trolly straight there too! A very good way to pass time if you have some free time to spare.
Chicago Theatre! I’ve only gone once to see Wicked, but I know they always have good plays and musicals going on throughout the year.
US Cellular Field: *shameless plug* Go White Sox!
So…I think I have (quite) exhausted myself and talked your ear off (sorry). I hope this will be a great guide for anyone who has been interested in visiting and I hope even MORE it’s a guide for those who eventually DO visit this amazing City. Feel free to comment if you have visited Chicago, been to any of these places, or feel that I should have added or places/things to the list.
~The Mighty Oreo~