Cheap Activities in Chicago
Enjoy bargains? Chicago, like other large metropolises, use free & inexpensive activities to lure locals & tourists.
Low-& no-cost options:
A wonderful no-cost place would be the CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER because of the elegant architecture, beautiful mosaics, free information, & knowledgeable personnel.
See the CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY, if for no other reason than for the architecture & art displayed inside
Lincoln Park Conservatory & Lincoln Park Zoo are both FREE. Closely located , they are compact, easy to maneuver, & visitor friendly.
The MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY is quite a bargain; it is FREE.
During summer months, be sure to catch the Loop Tour Train which offers a 40-minute tour with Chicago Architecture Foundation docents who give interesting tidbits about the history of downtown Chicago. Get tour tickets in advance from the Chicago Visitor Information Center at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Or, be paired up with a Chicago Greeter [a Chicago resident] who will take you on a walking tour that usually has a theme such as ARCHITECTURE, A CERTAIN NEIGHBORHOOD, OR SHOPPING. Greeters also will teach you how to use public transportation.
For other FREE treats, note the day & time for the following:
Monday: Chicago Historical Society.
Tuesday: Adler Planetarium, Museum of Contemporary Art [5-8 pm], National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, & the Art Institute of Chicago.
Sunday: DuSable Museum of African-American History.
You can always save a good deal if you remember to purchase a CITY PASS. With this pass, you will get activities at half the price of combined individual admissions.
Not free, but a real bargain:
Eli's Plant at ELI'S CHEESECAKE WORLD gives a tour for a mere $3.00, & you get to taste-test from a selection of cheesecake flavors.
If you think Chicago is expensive, think again. With a little planning & the information on this page, you can see lots for just a little money.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Arts and Culture
Jack BrickHouse Memorial
While walking down Michigan Avenue, we observed a rather new memorial of Jack Brickhouse, broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs for 40 years and the Chicago White Sox for 24 years as well as the Chicago Bears for 24 years.
This memorial is located in Pioneer Court at the Equitable Plaza just south of Tribune Tower. It is on the northeast corner of Michigan Avenue and the Chicago River. We noticed that the statue is gadjacent to JackBrickhouse Way sign. [see photo #3]
Jack's wife took his Baseball Hall of Fame ring to sculptor, Jerry McKenna, so that he could sculpt the ring on the Brickhouse statue's finger. It's a very authentic sculpture.
Jack was born in Peoria, Illinois in 1917, and at the age of 18 became the youngest sports announcer in the USA. He was the first voice on WGN-TV, and in 1979, he reached a personal milestone of 5,000 broadcast for WGN Radio and TV. Jack was also the 1st TV voice for the Chicago Bulls. He retired from the broadcasting book in 1981.
Jack Brickhouse was inducted into Media Wing of Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983 and in 13 other Halls of Fame throughout the country.
All this information about Jack Brickhouse is found engraved on the base of his sculpture. That is where I learned that he broadcast interviews with 6 Presidents. He had 4 Honorary Doctorates, and he wrote two Autobiographical best sellers called:"Thanks for Listening" and "A Man for All Seasons".
I was very fond of the man and remember his famous "Hey, Hey" when he broadcast Chicago Cub Baseball Games.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Very Popular Activities in Chicago in Summer
Chicago really comes alive in the summertime, and a multitude of people visit each year.
During August of 2007, Allan and I observed how "flocks of people" are attracted to key locations along the Magnificent Mile.
1. Riverwalk Cafe & Bar at 401 North Michigan Aveneue on the concourse level [312-229-8801] has recently received a liquor license and has expanded hours, and many tourist are really enjoying the river view, the new bar menu, and the spectacular location. You are also able to dine indoors, but in the summer it's the riverside patio that is "packed".
2. Just outside the Hancock Observatory Building [already a tourist attraction itself], hordes of people stand in line or sit in the patio area to enjoy the ambience and the famouse cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory at 875 North Michigan Avenu [312 337-1101]. I must say that the architecture of this restaurant is quite odd with all its curving surfaces and colorful light fixtures. Plus, I don't think that I have ever seen a larger, more diversified menu anywhere else.
Wow...the last page of the menu [and it's a large page] is devoted to their cheesecake list. Be warned, it will take time to make decisions about which of the many cheesecakes you wish to try. YOU SHOULD MAKE RESERVATIONS.
3. On Saturday mornings, there is a huge Farmer's Market on Division Street north and west of the Magnificent Mile. The street is closed to traffic, and a large number of "booths" are set up that sell fresh produce. We purchased delicious corn-on-the-cob and tantalizing red peppers. If we had not had such a long walk back to our hotel, we would have purchased much more. They have pastries, breads, cheeses, meats, candles, perfumes, flowers, and assorted other items.
- Food and Dining
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Women's Travel
Mayor Daley Brings Trees, Flowers, & Parks
Since Richard M. Daley has been Mayor of Chicago, the city has certainly become more beautiful. He has insisted on more parks, more art, more trees, and lots more flowers.
It is truly amazing to see the huge hanging baskets of flowers along the Miracle Mile, near the Water Tower, and in the nearby areas. In addition, several streets have a "flower strip" down the middle! The last time that I was in the city, I noticed the beautiful plantings along the sidewalks on Michigan Avenue. The photograph is in front of the Terra Museum of Art, a Shoe Store, and Garrett Popcorn.
Some buildings have beautiful flowers hanging out of boxes on windows. I keep asking myself, "Who takes such great care of these plantings?" The flowers always look good, well watered, and without wilted leaves of dead flowers. As a gardener, I know how much time that takes. Amazing.
However, it certainly adds a "touch of class" to an already beautiful city.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Say Goodbye to Marshall Field Retail
One of the saddest days for many people in the Chicago area was the day we learned that New York's Macy's was to replace our beloved Marshall Field's.
Fields really began as "Field, Palmer, Leiter & Co but when Levi Lieter and Potter Palmer left the company, it became known simply as Marshall Field & Co..
As time passed, great additions such as the wonderful display windows, the famous tea room, and the huge Christmas Tree became legends. Fields remained an independent Chicago company until 1982. Since that time, it has been transfered to many companies, the last one being the May Company Thus, all the Marshall Field's have now been renamed Macy's.
Thank goodness, Macy's decided to keep the famous clock (which you see in my pictures) and keep the tradition of the Christmas windows.
I went into Macy's for the first time on Februay 9. It seemed brighter than it did the last time I visited Fields; however, I still felt sad. Even though Fields had slipped in the "service" department of late, it was still the place to go in Chicago. It will take a great deal of time for me to feel comfortable in Macy's, but at least the beautiful building was saved, and, for me, that's very important.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Weddings and Street Bands
Shortly after I started out on my walking tour of downtown Chicago on a Sunday morning, I came across this scene of the bride and groom, as well as their wedding party, trying for a few good pictures on the north side of the Michigan Avenue bridge over the Chicago River. They seemed to be having a good time and the relatively light traffic was cooperating as best it could!
A bit earlier on the walk, two street muscians (2nd photo) were really banging out some nice tunes in the Ontario Street area, not far from my hotel. I remember thinking that although their music was enjoyable, it seemed to be quite loud. In doing some research for this tip I find that the city placed some restrictions on these artists as outlined below:
[Street performers here such as bucket drummers, saxophonists, bagpipers and singers are being ordered to pipe down, making Chicago the latest city to try to reduce urban noise. The City Council adopted the restrictions Wednesday to ban all performances on a busy four-block stretch of Michigan Avenue known as the Magnificent Mile. The regulations also lower acceptable decibel levels everywhere else in the city and require entertainers exceeding 55 decibels — the level of loud talking — to pack up by 8 p.m. on weeknights. Permit fees will increase from $50 to $75. The crackdown was prompted by complaints from businesses and residents such as Susan Mardell, who lives on the 29th floor of a Michigan Avenue building. She says outdoor music, especially from groups whacking on plastic buckets, "echoes up through your apartment through closed windows and closed doors. ... It's a repetitious, jarring kind of noise."] Actually, I don't think I saw another band after that one but late-April may be a bit too early in the season for them.Related to:
- Business Travel
Help, I didn't bring my laptop!
One thing I noticed about Chicago is that it is a very technologically-advanced city - you should have seen me trying to find a public phone in downtown Chicago! I finally ended up walking into a restaurant, and they felt so bad about not being able to point me in the direction of a public phone that one of the waiters let me use his cell phone (thank goodness for friendly Chicagoans!).
Another problem I ran into was that even though my hotel provided me with everything I could have wanted and more, Internet access was only available to those who travelled with their laptop. As this wasn't my case, the frontdesk staff pointed me in the direction of Biznet Cafe, which seemed to be the only Internet cafe in the entire Magnificient Mile area. The price was $5 for the first 30 minutes, and $1 for each additionnal 10 minutes. Although the building doesn't look like much from the outside, there was actually a nice atmosphere inside, with good music, plenty of fast computers and comfortable chairs. The manager and staff were also very nice.
Biznet Cafe is located at 205 East Ohio Street, just 2 blocks down from North Michigan Avenue.
Live and Love through... Laughter???
Out of all of the off the wall/bizarre tips that I have included on my Chicago page, I can assure you that this one is the strangest.
In 1995 an organization began a movement that wants to tackle some of the hardest issues the world is facing, by doing so they claim that world peace can be accomplished. The tool that this group wants to use to solve weighty issues is one that can be found inside of yourself... laughter.
This is the Chicago branch and it is comprised of about 50 people that get together once a month and do what it is that they set out to.
When you first go to the meeting it is as if you have walked into a meeting full of people that escaped from the psych ward. Odd isn?t the proper word to describe what goes on at these things. What took me by surprise is that no punch lines or witty come back are needed in order to get... well, a laugh. The people just start laughing and do not stop until they are slumped over from doing so.
If you are interested in having them come to your office in order to improve office moral, they have certified laugh leaders in order to help you achieve the state of inner peace that everyone desires.
Groups like these and the people found in them are truly what make the world go round
Chicago has it's own flag with three white strips, two blue stripes and four red stars. The top blue stripe represents Lake Michigan and the North Branch of the Chicago River and the bottom stripe the South Branch of the Chicago River and the Great Canal. The white stripes represent, the north, west and south sides. The four stars represent four of the major events in Chicago's history-Fort Dearborn, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 and the Century of Progress of 1933/1934.
Further, each of the 6 points on the stars are said to represent
On the 1st star-Transportation, Labor, Commerce, Finance, Populousness, Salubrity
On the 2nd star Religion, Education, Esthetics, Justice, Beneficence, Civic Pride
On the 3rd Star ties to the history of the area France 1693, Great Britain 1763, Virginia 1778, Northwest Territory 1798, Indian Territory 1802, Illinois Statehood 1818
On the 4th Star World’s Third Largest City, City’s Latin Motto, “I will” Motto, Great Central Market, Wonder City, Convention City
That's too much for even a local to remember!
It's all about the Cubs and the Sox!!
I happened to be in Chicago as the baseball playoffs were getting started and since both the Cubs and the White Sox had made it to the post-season, it seemed like the entire city was going a little crazy! Unfortunately, both teams got eliminated during their first best-of-4 series, but people didn't know that yet ;o) Baseball is so popular in Chicago, you'd almost forget that the city has several other professional teams, including the Chicago Bulls (basketball), Chicago Blackhawks (hockey) and Chicago Bears (football). The few times that I stopped by souvenir shops, they were flooded with baseball paraphernalia and practically nothing else. I also happened to go to an almost sold-out musical on the first night the Cubs were playing, which resulted in several empty seats in the house. The funny thing is that the actors found a way to give the final score during the show, and they dedicated the encore song "to all the suckers who had stayed at home to watch the Cubs lose"!!!
Daley Plaza Farmer's Market
I was pleasantly surprised to discover a Farmer's Market at the heart of downtown Chicago! Every Thursday from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm, from mid-May to mid-October, you can find fresh produce, cheese, bread, pastries and more at the Daley Plaza Farmer's Market. It's a little weird to have the countryside brought into the middle of the Loop, surrounded by traffic and skyscrapers, but all the products looked very tempting. In fact, there were quite a few locals around getting they weekly fix of fresh vegetables. As for me, I ended up buying some homemade chocolate chip cookies and they were definitely worth what I paid for!
Where the locals get the info!
So how do you find THAT bar, THAT restaurant or THAT activity that makes your trip extra special. Well all the locals get there info from the listings. Paper versions like 'The Reader' you can pick up downtown at Virgin or other music / trendy stores. Else you can check it out online at www.chireader.com or www.metromix.com. i tend to prefer the latter as the pictures are nicer!
Chiditarod - Food Drive, Race, Costumes
On Saturday, March 2, 2013 I attended my first Chiditarod. I found out about this unique Chicago event through another social group I belong to the Chicago Street Photographers. This was the 8th annual event and after taking about 50 pictures and seeing all the different activities going on one that I probably will attend again. The event started just north of the United Center on Hubbard and Wood right across the street from the first fire station built in Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 (now converted to condos). From the official website here is a descrition of the event.
"Chiditarod (think Iditarod) is Chicago's Epic Urban Iditarod. A charity food drive, beauty pageant, costumed shopping cart race, talent show, fundraiser and chaos generator all in one. And probably the world's largest mobile food drive, benefitting the Greater Chicago Food Depository."
The actual Alaskan Iditarod is around the same time as the Chiditarod, but they have a few more miles to cover and use dogs and sleds vs people in costumes and shopping carts for their race.
Here are a couple of pictures from the event that will give you some idea of the craziness.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Chicago, in its formative years, was a very Catholic city. In some ways, it still is. One legacy of this is that, if you ask the location of a place, or where someone is from, especially if the person is older, they are likely to name the parish rather than the neighborhood.
Billy Goat and Cheezborger!
Have you heard of the Curse of the Billy Goat? Yes, there is a legitimate reason the Chicago Cubs does not win the world series. It's the curse. Billy the owner of Billy Goat Tavern took his beloved goat, Murphy, to the game but they were kicked out of Wrigley Field. Angered Billy put a curse on the Cubs, and since then the Cubs has been going down hill. They tried to de-curse later on, but oh well, you know the history.
The famous Billy Goat Tavern is on Madison St. by the United center. You have to get their Cheezborger (~ you know as in Saturday Night Live).
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