As you can probably tell from my blog title, I’m a Chicagoan, and clearly quite proud of that fact. If anything I over identify with this city. I’ve lived in this wonderful, corrupt, occasionally violent, weather challenged, expensive, amazing city for my entire life. I’ve been to dozens of other cities in the other 49 states and frankly? For all its flaws, Chicago beats them all. And we have. For 175 years.
Which is a very Chicagoan thing to say. We’re totally kind of full of ourselves. Deal with it.
Today’s post is inspired by a effort from the official Tourism site for the City of Chicago. They did a video series called “175 Ways to Love Chicago” where they asked Chicagoans, famous and non, about the finer points of our city. Since my phone didn’t ring on this one, I’ve decided to give my own views using their categories…and maybe an extra few of my own. So over the next few days/weeks I will highlight some of my favorite parts of my city. So let’s kick this off with:
Arts & Culture
While Chicago is most known for some of its…more colorful history, Chicago is a fantastic cultural destination. Fantastic museums (from the biggies like the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry down to…odder ones like the Museum of Surgical Science), world class music (Symphony Center) dance (Joffrey, Hubbard Street), and theater (Lookingglass, Steppenwolf, Goodman, and on and on), are all available to visitors and locals.
But my favorite Chicago cultural destination highlights two things I love the most: Chicago in the summer and free stuff.
While Millennium Park is one of the newer additions to the city, its brief history perfectly incaptulates the spirit in the city. It was conceived by Da Mayor (mayor Daley to you), involved the lakefront and parks (civic obsessions since the Burnham days), ran insanely over budget, took too long to complete, was hated by citizens during its construction, has a centerpiece that has been renamed by locals (
Cloud Gate The Bean), and has finally been adopted with love by all. We Chicagoans are a passionate bunch.
Millennium Park in the summer is one of my favorite places on earth. I love taking a few moments to watch kids freak out and play in the water fountain turned water park. I love having a drink in the bar that pops up where the ice rink usually is during the colder months. But my FAVORITE thing about Millennium Park was discovered by accident.
A few years ago I had to endure a dreaded “staycation”. As much as I love my city and see no point leaving it in the summer, a week off from work with no plans didn’t excite me all that much. But one day armed with a newly purchased book and a large cold coffee drink, I wandered over to Millennium Park and discovered the best thing ever: Grant Park Orchestra rehearsals. Almost everyone knows that during the summer there are dozens of free concerts in the Pritzker Pavillion. But, if you time it right (the schedule is published which makes this easy to do) you can sprawl out on the lawn and take in a rehearsal in the daytime hours. Sure, you may hear the same piece three or four times, but really, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon. If the creative process isn’t your thing, there are dedicated lunch time concerts as well. But the beauty of the rehearsal time is feeling like you almost have the entire lawn to yourself. Its incredibly relaxing. Trust me on this, take a blanket, some lunch, a cold beverage, and head out to the lawn on a sunny day. It feels like falling in love with the city again.
Or at least it always does for me.