Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Things to do on Christmas Day

Traveling in Chicago over Christmas? Don't get stuck with nothing to do on the holiday!

Here's a selection of places that are open on X-mas Day!

• Dragon Court: This is one of the best restaurants in Chinatown (almost all the restaurants in Chinatown will be open on Christmas Day!). The menu is Cantonese and specializes in seafood. Hours: 8am-2am Directions: Take a right out of the hostel and walk west to Clark St. Pick up bus #24 Wentworth Southbound and get off at 24th and Wentworth. The restaurant is at 2414 S Wentworth Avenue.
• Sushi Samba Rio: Try something different for Christmas dinner at Sushisamba Rio, which will offer its full menu on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Selections on its eclectic Japanese/Brazilian/Peruvian menu include items from the raw bar, Japanese style Kobe beef, various ceviches and sashimi tiraditos as well as Brazilian style churrasco. Price: Entrees cost between $20-$40 Hours: Noon-2am Directions: Take a right out of the hostel and a right onto State Street. Pick up the brown line at State/Van Buren and get off at Merchandise Mart. Walk two blocks north to 504 N. Wells Street/
• Ann Sathers: Classic holiday fare at the Lakeview location of Chicago’s favorite Swedish restaurant. Hours: 7am-7pm Price: $18.95 for a 3-course meal Directions: Take the Red Line (towards Howard) to Belmont. Take a right out of the station and walk a block to 909 W. Belmont Avenue.
• Buca di Beppo: Family-style Italian food. Great for groups or leftovers! Get a coupon at the hostel’s info desk! Hours: 10am-11pm Directions: Take the red line (towards Howard) to Grand. Walk one block east to Rush. 521 North Rush Street.

• All movie theaters are open on Christmas. Try the Kerasotes Roosevelt at 150 W Roosevelt Rd, AMC Loews at 600 North Michigan Avenue or the AMC theaters River East at 322 East Illinois Street.

• Millennium Park Ice-Skating
Skating in Millennium Park is free and open to the public. Enjoy this favorite winter activity in the heart of Chicago. Hours: 10am-4pm Price: Skate rental is available for $10. Directions: Walk left out the hostel, then two blocks to Michigan Ave. Walk up Michigan six blocks. The ice rink is located on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Madison Streets.
• Garfield Park Conservatory
One of the largest and most impressive conservatories in the United States. Often referred to as "landscape art under glass," the Garfield Park Conservatory occupies approximately 4.5 acres (18,000 m²) inside and out and contains a number of permanent plant exhibits incorporating specimens from around the world (including some ferns that are over 300 years old). Additionally, thousands of plants are grown there each year for displays in Chicago parks and public spaces. Hours: 9am-5pm Price: Free and open to the public. Directions: Take the Green line towards Harlem. Get off at the Conservatory-Central Park stop.
• Also Open: Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo & Conservatory, Willis Tower, and Hancock Observatory (buy tickets to Willis and Hancock at the front desk).

• Kingston Mines Blues (21+)
Go to Kingston Mines for a full night of blues. Joanna Connor Blues Band plus Eric "Guitar" Davis and The Troublemakers and 8PM Acoustic Set with Joanna Connor. Hours: Acoustic set starts at 7:30pm Price: $12 with hostel coupon (at the info desk or front desk). Directions: Take the Red line towards Howard. Get off at Fullerton and walk east to Halsted. Take a left. The address is 2548 North Halsted Street.
• Smart Bar (21+)
A Smart Bar Christmas! Enjoy dancing to the sounds of RON TRENT, TEVO HOWARD (LIVE), SPECTER, LUIS BARO, and TIM BIARS. Hours: Starts at 10pm Price: FREE with hostel coupon (before midnight). $12 after Directions: Take the Red line towards Howard. Get off at Addison and walk west to Clark. Take a right and walk about 3 blocks. The address is 3730 North Clark Street.
• Crocodile Lounge (21+)
Dance the night away in Wicker Park at Crocodile Lounge at the “A Very Dirty Christmas” celebration. Free gourmet individual-sized pizza with the purchase of any beer! Hours: Starts at 9pm Price: Free with RSVP:;A_Very_Dirty_Christmas# Directions: Take the Blue Line (towards O’Hare). Get off at Damen. Take a left out of the station and a right onto Milwaukee Avenue. Walk less than 5 minutes to 1540 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


By Margaret Sheridan

In describing his many interests, Roger Pomerance uses the verb “dabbles”.

Hardly. Whether racing sailboats, researching a location or baking cookies, Roger’s concentration and attention to detail challenge that choice of word.

The financial consultant staffs the Information Desk on Monday evenings at HI-Chicago. He handles any interruption during this interview with graciousness. One teacher, leading a group of 20 students, asks for inexpensive dining suggestions before the group grabs a bus to the United Center for a Bulls game. He rolls off names such as Epic Burger, pizza, Thai food, Panera and Exchequer Pub.
Another mother and daughter from Kansas City tosses Roger questions about pizza (thin crust at Lou Malnati’s) and shoe shopping. “State Street will take care of that,’’ he assures the teen.

He keeps a stash of freshly made oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies in a plastic container and offers them to staff between bidding hellos and answering questions from new arrivals. He eases their anxiety about the city with street maps, a sharp pencil and a smile. “I’ve been volunteering here for four or five years. I like being an ambassador to Chicago, and introducing guests to the city’s highlights."

The native of Chicago was raised and lived in the suburbs of Elmhurst and Wheaton, but he returned to the city 15 years ago when he bought a condo near Addison and Lakeshore Drive. Now, he can ride a bicycle or take the 151 Bus to HI-Chicago.

These cookies are great. Are you a cook?
I like to bake. I’m a better baker than a cook because baking is so specific. You have recipes, and if you follow them, you’ll have success. With baking, there is less uncertainty. With cooking, there’s so much guesswork. A little of this, a pinch of that. I’m not good like that. But I do make one-pot meals such as chili and goulash. I enjoy chopping ingredients.

What are some of your favorite Chicago eats?
Cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather’s. Polish rye bread, my heritage, from most any bakery on Milwaukee Ave.

You say you dabble in sailing?
Yes. I’m a part-owner in a Tartan Ten (a popular 10-meter sailboat). We sail off of Chicago and keep the boat in Michigan City. I’ve raced the Chicago-to-Mackinac Race (the annual 333-mile sailboat race in July from Chicago along Lake Michigan to Mackinac Island, Michigan) 19 times. I got into sailing years ago through the American Youth Hostels. I took lessons and used their boats in Monroe Harbor. That organization held meetings in the same building where HI-Chicago stands today. So, I feel like home here.

What are some of your recommended spots for entertainment?
I enjoy the group-led outings to the Green Mill and Kingston Mines.

What makes being at the hostel rewarding?
I traveled around Europe when I was younger. I remember meeting strangers on the street or in the trains and they gave me advice about where to go or what to do or where to eat. Those people made my day. So, that’s what I can do here. I can make their day a little nicer. I like answering so many questions. I’ve been in Chicago all my life and when I first manned the information desk, I was stunned by what I do not know. I like the energy of being around travelers.

Any secret aid to help with curveball questions?
I rely on the RTA Trip Planner Website for some tough addresses in the suburbs.

How do you travel?
I enjoy the planning and the research of a trip as much as doing it. I like to stay in little pensions for the privacy. I backpack and use trains.

What do you miss about Chicago when you're away?
Lakeshore Drive, it’s the city’s jewel, and Lake Michigan. If the guests ask for best vantage points, I suggest viewing it from the Adler Planetarium and from Montrose Harbor. I also miss cycling along the lake, and along the Chicago North River Branch Bike path.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Linda Fuller

By Margaret Sheridan

Linda Fuller is in the middle of an interview when a guest in goose down parka approached her table in the dining room.

The guest using gestures similar to a symphony conductor raved about one of Linda’s recommendations. The SOFA Intuit, an art fair at Navy Pier , rated five-star accolades from the beaming hostel guest. Linda graciously nods acceptance, and smiles.

“Such feedback, I love it. And I’ve only been here since July.’’

The hostel is within walking distance of Linda’s neighborhood in the Loop. The native of California has lived and worked downtown since she and her late husband arrived in 1980. They couple have lived many places including Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Connecticut.

Recently retired from the CTA after nearly 12 years of working in planning and operations management, Linda says her knowledge of the city’s transportation system is a bonus in manning the information desk on Friday mornings.

What are some perks of being a volunteer?
The enthusiasm from guests, when I see them discover what Chicago has to offer, and how easy it is to get around the city. You don’t need a car. I try to make the city accessible. Some guests, unfamiliar with the city, are overwhelmed, at first. Other travelers, especially Europeans, seem more familiar with using public transportation. Many come from places that have great transit systems.

Want to share some Chicago secrets?
I urge people, especially if the weather is bad, to visit lobbies. They are architecturally significant, and warm in winter. Favorites include the Marquette Building (140 S. Dearborn St.), The Rookery (209 S. LaSalle St.), and the Art Deco elegance of 135 S. LaSalle St. (formerly known as the Field Building).

Another place to see is the Grand Ballroom on the second floor of the Blackstone Hotel. The detailed ceiling plasterwork is amazing. I encourage visitors to go to the Chicago Cultural Center. They offer free building tours. There’s always something going on…a concert, an exhibit, a movie. There’s also the Museum of Contemporary Photography (600 S. Michigan Ave.) right in the neighborhood.

Got a secret dining spot?
Yes. It’s a little Mexican place on the Pink Line at the Damen stop on the “L”. It’s called Abuelo’s Mexican Grill (2007 S. Damen Ave.).

How do you travel?
I love to travel. In Europe when I was younger, I’d just go to train stations and ask for referrals on pensions and little cheap hotels. About five years ago, for fun, I took the train from Chicago to Los Angeles and proved to friends you don’t need a car in L.A. The train ride took two-and-half days. Then I got around LA very easily. I stayed in Little Tokyo. All you need to understand is the network of bus lines, airport shuttles and the subway system. Yes, LA does have a subway system.

Any future trips coming up?
I’ve got relatives spread out across the States. I’m busy discovering this country for now.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

An Outing to Buddy Guy's Legends

At 8:30 last Wednesday, November 3rd, about 20 travelers set out for Buddy Guy’s Legends to hear Scott Holt and his band play some blues. Although I had signed up to be the local guide, I had never actually been to the venue myself. Although none of us knew what we were in for, everyone was ready to have a good time.

My role as the local guide was literally a little misleading since, upon exiting the hostel, I turned north towards State Street rather than south to Wabash. Lucky for the twenty of us, one of the guests immediately called this to my attention. Upon arrival, our efforts to enter the club were once again thwarted, this time by a crowd of inebriated businessmen and a large, gruff doorman, who notified me that the bar would be closed until 10:00pm for a private party. With an extra hour to spare, I looked at our eclectic bunch of world travelers, and I felt a brief moment of panic. Luckily, a friendly bystander directed us to the South Loop Club just down the street, and most of our good-natured guests obligingly followed.

As the extremely friendly staff pushed the tables together into one very long row, it felt a little like my own private birthday party-- only it wasn’t my birthday. Still, a few of the hostellers affably bid me a happy one just for good measure.

Despite my initial panic, our small detour provided us with a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with each other. At my end of the table, I sat among a group of people from Minnesota, San Francisco, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Scotland, and Ireland where the discussion led to a friendly debate on American social etiquette (the arguable verdict being that Americans are typically more polite than other cultures at the expense of sometimes being less genuine). As a Chicagoan, it is sometimes difficult for me to gauge what guests truly think of the city. Nonetheless, my companions seemed particularly impressed by the local music scene and by Chicago’s role in many classic films. In fact, one guest had recently been to the Art Institute and admitted to appreciating Seurat’s "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" as much for its significance to art history as for its cameo in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

At about 10:00, we all paid our bill, tipped our waitresses, and trekked back to Buddy Guy’s. The private party which had just let out must have had an open bar, because the place was teeming with randy, middle-aged men in neckties and blazers. A few of them offered to buy drinks for the travelers, but as far as I know, most people politely refused. Ultimately, I think we were as amused by them as they were by us.

Although most of us had come to the club expecting traditional Chicago blues, Scott Holt’s style had a bit of a country twang. Still, he was a talented musician, and I was pleasantly surprised. The club was standing-room only, and many of the hostel guests began to disperse among the crowd shortly after we arrived. Nonetheless, it seemed that most stayed well-after midnight. As they made the last call, Scott Holt and his band finally succumbed to their apparently irrepressible urge to close out with “Sweet Home Alabama.” Meanwhile, a few of the remaining hostellers had made new friends and were even making plans to find another bar.

In the end, all of the missteps and unexpected surprises of the evening seemed to work in our favor. Although things did not necessarily go to plan that night, as Ferris Bueller would say, “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Traveler Spotlight: NIGEL

Nigel's back.


One of HI-Chicago's most devoted guests, Nigel Jenkins from Cardiff, Wales, beams on the topic of Chicago. "I feel at home here,'' says the 44-year old intrepid traveler. "The people are friendly. The city is easy to get around on foot, bus and "el". And for a cinema buff like me, there are so many theaters.''

A tourist hitting the movies? Nigel isn't typical. This is his 16th visit to the city in 18 years of travel in Europe and North America. He's enjoyed all the tourist attractions of the city, and prefers to live it as a resident. We caught up with him a day before he headed off to Los Angeles on what he calls his annual Fall visit to the US. This one stretched for 17 days. His work as a therapist for adults with special needs allows him to schedule vacations twice a year.

What's your travel lifestyle?

I've been doing hostels for years by myself. The people you meet are of all ages but have a similar mindset. I love the downtown location of HI-Chicago. I've know Chicago well before Millennium Park. The city has really changed, and it's beautiful. The hostel in Santa Monica, Calif. is a favorite. It is so close to the beaches. And in Los Angeles, you can get cinema passes like they have in Britain and France.

I stay in all sorts of hostels. But the network hostels have high standard of operations. The service and facilities are first-rate. I like such consistency and familiarity. I've had all sorts of experiences. I remember one in St. Louis, Mo., where I was the only one there. At another hostel in Santa Fe., NM. you were expected to do chores. Sleeping in a room with 10 bunks in Chicago is fine. I'm not sure if I snore or not. No one ever complained. A favorite hostel is one in France, in a little town of Saint-Malo (a walled port city in Brittany).

What's your take on Chicago food?

I'm a vegetarian, so in Chicago it is easy. There are so many grocery stores. I love to go to Kramer's Health Food Shop (230 S. Wabash Ave.). I love their veggie bean burrito and beetroot juice. When Cultural Kitchen students here in the hostel were cooking a meal recently, they invited me to dinner. It was Chilean food and really good.

What's special for you about Chicago?

Running the lakefront. When I'm fit, I do marathons. I've done five marathons. Three Londons and two Chicagos (1999, 2000). But I'm out-of-shape at the moment.

What are your travel must-haves?

I never go anywhere without packing a couple of my Spillers Records tee-shirts into my backpack. I have 23 in different colors. Spiller's is the oldest record store in the world, since 1894. It's in Cardiff. I take Welsh cakes (a type of fruitcake biscuit) to have with tea. I don't go anywhere without my cell phone. It's loaded with photos of my nieces and nephews. I have five sisters and one brother, lots of relatives. I always buy extra Air Waves, my favorite chewing gum (anise-flavored). You can't buy it here. I give some to the staff (at the hostels). We know each other, they're like family.

What's on your dream travel agenda?

Easter Island. Australia. China.

What's on your near-future agenda?

Coming back here next March or April. I'd better make reservations now. You get really busy here.

-Margaret Sheridan, Volunteer

Monday, October 25, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Ervin Lopez

What volunteer positions do you hold at the hostel and how long have you been doing them?

I volunteer in the traveler programs as a Chicago guide and as a Chicago Specialist at the Information Desk. I have been a Chicago Guide since early August and a Chicago Specialist since mid-September.

What motivates you to volunteer?

My main motivation is learning about and understanding the culture of other countries. This is by far the best way to understand culture, by meeting travelers and taking them to outing in different neighborhoods in Chicago.

What has been your most fun or interesting outing so far, and why?

I'm not going to lie! The most fun outing so far has been taking travelers to pub crawls, and it was my first outing with HI-Chicago. We took travelers to Wicker Park during the Lollapalooza weekend. Over 70 travelers pub crawled with us to seven pubs.

What is your top travel destination (a place you've already been or your dream place?

My top destination is visiting Brazil and it may be my dream place to live. Also, Brazil is hosting both the Olympic Games and the World Cup therefore it seems to be the place to live before, during, and after those two events. Brazil will be the next economic powerhouse.

What other ways do you keep busy outside of the hostel?

Since I'm currently a new graduate student, I definitely keep busy with reading and writing. I work full time as a job recruiter. I work out at the fitness center, do some running and weightlifting. I also burn calories by doing some dancing--salsa, merengue and bachata. I enjoy watching independent films, hanging out with my friends, eating at different ethnic restaurants, and of course, travelling.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Waking up in Chicago and Sharing the Blues

The other day as I watched a horse-drawn buggy roll down Rush Street, I realized that I felt less like the sightseer on top and more with like the workhorse below, burdened with a bridle and blinders. Chicago is a classy town, but in my daily routine, I often feel that I take it for granted. At 5:30 p.m. most Mondays, I follow the same worn path home as I sit alone among the mass of strangers on the CTA, bow my head into a book, and listen to the clickety clack of the track below. Last Monday, however, I took off my blinders and took a detour to HI-Chicago for their weekly excursion to the Kingston Mines.

As a first-time volunteer, and a lifelong wallflower, I was nervous about attending the outing; but lucky for me, it is hard to be an oddball among a hodgepodge of multinational backpackers. Everyone had their motives for coming, and like the rest of them, I wanted to experience a bit of culture. At the Kingston Mines, I watched as the doorman checked passports from Argentina, Australia, Britain, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, New Zealand, South Korea and Spain, in addition to a few licenses from California and North Carolina.

Chicago may be famous for joints like the Kingston Mines, but the blues belong to everyone. Around 9:00 P.M., J.W. Williams and the Chi-Town Hustlers took the north stage with Japanese blues musician, Shun Kikuta, on guitar. Chicago’s Daily Herald once referred to Kikuta as the “Ambassador of the Blues.” As such, about mid-way through the set he stepped off the stage and into the crowd on a goodwill mission to impress us with his finger-picking expertise. Meanwhile, as I stood at the bar, Fernando, an Argentinean hosteller, allowed me to practice my Spanish skills as he explained to me that he was on a rock n’ roll odyssey across the United States to gather material for his blog, “La Cueva del Rock and Blues.” The previous night he had been to Blue Chicago on Clark Street and he would soon be headed to New York City to see Roger Waters. We were also joined by Diego, Fabricio, and Xabi from Colombia, Brazil, and Spain, respectively. As Carl Weathersby and his band took the main stage, I took the opportunity to introduce my new friends to a taste of Kentucky bourbon, and we all enjoyed the music with a round of Knob Creek.

Shortly after midnight, many of the hostel guests seemed to blend in with the rest of the crowd, and Fernando and company suggested that we head across the street to B.L.U.E.S. to see Linsey “Hoochie Man” Alexander and his band. Like Shun Kikuta, the Hoochie Man lived up to his title. He likes to interact with his audience, and my skills as translator failed me, partly for a lack of vocabulary, and partly out of modesty. All in all, it was an excellent evening of Chicago blues, brought to us by yet another international musician-- the band featured an Italian bass player, incidentally named Fabrizio. Just after 2:00 am, as the lights came up and the bar shut down, I finally bid adieu to Fernando, Xabi, Diego, and the Fabricios. Before that night, we had all been strangers, but we all got the blues and we all had a wonderful time.

HI-Chicago’s motto is "to help all, especially the young, gain a greater understanding of the world and its people through hostelling," As a volunteer, I was there not out of a sense of giving, but one of sharing. At the end of the evening, I had acquired new friends, practiced my Spanish, and benefited from a rich cultural exchange. After only four hours of sleep, I awoke the next morning feeling oddly invigorated. On my commute to work, instead of plugging my ears and putting my blinders back on, I sat up and watched the city go by as if I were some kind of sightseer. I was proud to share my city with the people I met that night, and I am thankful to them for opening my eyes and helping me reawaken to a new Chicago.

-- K. Williamson

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Traveler Spotlight: Eve the Educator

Eve actually approached ME for an interview! After spotting some of the other Traveler Spotlights in the hostel, she decided that her story should be shared too. So here it is..

What are you doing in Chicago?
I have my niece’s wedding on Saturday. I think it should be pretty posh – I got a new dress! I’m also giving a talk at the Harold Washington Library this afternoon.

Oh really? What are you speaking about?
Well, I was contacted by Jerrie Wilborn to give a talk on parenting education. I’m the founder of an organization called Parents Forum, a parenting education program based on eight original questions about family life issues. It’s been around 18 years and counting.

Impressive! Is this your full-time gig?
It’s my full-time volunteer gig. I haven’t quit my day job yet. I work at MIT as an editorial assistant to a Nobel Prize winning Theoretical Physicist named Frank Wilczek. Doesn't get much more brilliant than that. He actually attended the University of Chicago.

Sounds interesting…how did you get into that job?
Well, I was an ESL teacher for awhile, but when my children were little I decided that I didn’t want to teach – I wanted to save that energy for my own kids. I had typing skills and I ended up at MIT.

So what kind of travel experience have you had?
I’ve traveled a boatload around the US for Parents Forum. I’ve also taught English in North Africa and Portugal.

Wow! Tell me more about teaching in North Africa.
Well, it was the Peace Corps era, and I got a call to service to Turkey. But then my father passed away unexpectedly and I went back home instead of joining PC. At that time I just couldn’t commit to the 2 years of service. Luckily, I had a back-up job in Tunisia, where I spent one year. I came back to the States, got a graduate degree in French, then ended up teaching ESL in Cambridge.

So what did you take from that experience?
I learned French very well. It gave me a bigger picture of the world. I also made some lifelong friends, one who I’ve just reconnected with recently.

And how did you end up in Portugal?
My husband had a sabbatical and we ended up there – he was supposed to be learning Portuguese, but guess who ended up being the one to learn? (laughs and points at herself). We also took our two oldest sons. So they are official “Global Nomads.”

What do you mean by Global Nomad?
That’s anyone under the age of 18 who has lived for a year or more out of their passport country. They used to be called "3rd Culture Kids", but it was decided that didn’t convey what this experience gives to, and takes from them. We all have a strong sense of being from a certain place. You get a different sense of your place as a Global Nomad. You’re more ready to make friends, but perhaps less confident in making long, life-term friendships.

Sounds like you’ve got a lot of international experience, both abroad and with foreigners in your home country.
Yes, very much so. I also provide a host family for international students. I’ve taken in host sons who I become a mentor to. The latest is from Burkina Faso. He just got his master’s degree in Economics, we’re so proud of him!

How long do the visiting students stay with you?
The longest was our host son from Ethiopa. He lived with us for 3-4 years of college and then he came back after college.

Is your entire family supportive of taking in host children?
Oh yes. My entire family of 3 sons and my husband are supportive. It’s armchair travel. It has been great for them; it gives them a sense of the world and their place in the world. They’ve gained the ability and willingness to set aside cultural misconceptions.

That’s great. So what do you like about staying at hostels?
I’m in the minority as an older person. I like the chance to conversate with people. I assume I’ll be surrounded by friends or people that will soon be my friends! For example, at breakfast I sat down with a couple of people from China and had a great time getting to know them. Waiting in line to check in, a guy from LA asked if it was my first time staying at a hostel, which led to eating lunch together. It’s just really neat.

Sounds like you have a great attitude!
Oh yeah. I recently got invited to a conference in Iran, and I was unsure if I’d go because of all the difficulties getting a visa and what not. Finally I decided to go after my son said, “Mom, you make friends where ever you go. Just GOOO!”

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Katie Gombas

What volunteer position do you hold at the hostel and how long have you been doing it?
My volunteer position at the hostel is a Chicago Guide, and I've been doing it since April.

What motivated you to to become a hostel volunteer?
My motivation to become a hostel volunteer was ultimately to give back to the hostel community, because I have stayed at quite a few hostels, and at many of these hostels there were very helpful volunteers from whom I benefited. I have been on historical tours and pubcrawls led by volunteers, and being a Chicago guide allows me to give back to fellow travelers. Also, I had a feeling I would like being a guide, as I enjoy the hostel culture of socializing with people from all over the world when I stay in hostels myself.

What has been your most fun or interesting outing so far?

It's hard to choose what has been my most fun or interesting event has been so far, but I would say the concerts in Millenium Park and pubcrawls have been the most fun. Those outings always allow a lot of interaction while enjoying music and dancing.

What is your top travel destination (a place you’ve already been or your dream place?)
Right now I'd say my top travel destination is Brazil-to both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The best friend I made while studying abroad in Liverpool lives there, and I would really like to visit her and have her show me around.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Traveler Spotlight: Emily from Perth

During the ice cream social last week, I started talking to Emily when she asked for a recommendation of where to check out some great street art (I recommended Pilsen). She was nice enough to tell me about her travels and her own experience with street art!

What’s your name?

Where are you from?

Perth, Australia.

What do you think of Chicago?
Oh, I love it. It trumps New York in my opinion. New York is too big, too busy. Chicago is really big but I prefer it. Then again I’m from a small city.

What have you done here so far?
Well, I just got here, so not much yet. But I have been walking around… I walked across the River and then went to Navy Pier, and came back and walked around Millennium Park, which was really cool!

What are you doing in Chicago?
Pretty much just visiting. I mean, actually…I can tell you, I don’t think you’ll care. I’m actually using tiles that I’ve bought in Australia, and putting them up as public art in different cities in the States.

Hmm…so what exactly do you mean?
Well, I’ve bought tiles in Australia, and I’m doing sort of like an art series. I find a good spot in every place – I’ve been to DC, Philly, New York, Oregon, Lake Tahoe, and now Chicago – where I think it’ll fit, and I put adhesive on the tile and put it up somewhere.

So it’s kind of like guerilla street art?
Yeah, have you heard of Banksy? It’s a similar concept to that. I guess it’s classified as graffiti but I think of it as street art.

So do you study art in Australia?
Yes, I’m studying in Perth, although I deferred a year to spend it in the States.

Is this tile street art related to what you do in school?
No, not really. More than anything it’s giving me a purpose in this year-long trip. It’s quite fun to put them up. I’m also documenting them on a private album and basically dedicating some of my installations to certain friends. It’s really for me, though. I’m not trying to get famous or noticed or anything, it’s just special for me.

What about chronicling these? Do you plan to turn it into an art series when you get back to Australia?
I don’t think so. But I’m taking photos of each of them. And then I just write every day. I’d love to do travel journalism, actually.

Have you had any close calls when putting up the tiles?
Not really. I just act really casual when I find my spot, you know, I just put the glue on, kind of lean against the wall and bam, it’s on the wall! When I was putting it up in New York a cop drove by, but you know, it’s New York and there’s so much going on already, so they didn’t notice.

So what are you doing after Chicago?
I’m actually planning on moving out to LA to work. I have some friends there and I have a work visa. I just want to work as a waitress, something like that to help me get by.

Have you hostelled before?
Yeah, in Australia. I’ve noticed that in Australia the hostel culture isn’t as big. In Australia you can find them for cheaper and it’s more of a drinking and partying environment. But here, they’re nice and cleaner. And you’re paying double, but for double the quality.

Well, thanks for sharing your story with me!
No problem, thank you too!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Young Internationals Night ~ Latin America

(open to young professionals, graduate students AND those young at heart)

Charla, Comida y Compras! Great discussion, Latin American food and shopping!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Hostelling International-Chicago
24 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago

Enjoy Latin American sandwiches and savories while learning about empowering Guatemalan women through economic development and fair trade sales.

Naomi Czerwinskyj is the product manager at MayaWorks and has worked for the fair trade organization for almost 4 years. As an anthropology student, she participated in an independent study project while living in an indigenous village in Guatemala for a semester. In the village, she experienced the deep poverty and lack of job opportunities that many Guatemalans, especially women, face. This experience motivated Naomi to work directly with a nonprofit working to empower Guatemalan women through economic development.

Join us to hear her stories and for the opportunity to purchase cool and unique fair trade items from MayaWorks!

Cost: WorldChicago Members, $25; Non-members, $30

Register at

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Neighborhood Spotlight: Magnificent Mile

The Magnificent Mile isn't really a neighborhood; it's more of an attraction. Chicago’s equivalent of New York City’s Fifth Avenue or Paris’ Champs Elysées, the “Mag Mile” spans Michigan Avenue’s 8 blocks from Wacker Drive to the lake. It is home to over 460 stores and boutiques, from Gucci to The Disney Store, and more than 200 restaurants. Michigan Ave is the place to go for Chicago’s famous eateries - Chicago Style pizza, Garrett’s Popcorn, and Ghirardelli Chocolates. The Mag Mile is home to Chicago’s famous yellow brick Water Tower, one of the few buildings that survived the great fire of 1871. The Mag Mile also boasts the Water Tower place mall, which features 8 levels of shopping and restaurants, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the historic Fourth Presbyterian Church, and the sky-high John Hancock building.

> KNOWN FOR: Famous shopping and dining; shiny skyscrapers; the historic Water Tower & Water Place Mall; and the John Hancock Building.

> DON’T MISS: The 95th Floor Signature Lounge at the John Hancock building (875 North Michigan Avenue) for drinks before, after, or instead of going to the Observatory ($11 tix at the HI-Chicago front desk; the lounge is free); the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 East Chicago Avenue), especially on Tuesdays when it’s free and open until 8pm!

> GET THERE: By foot: Walk 25 minutes north on Michigan Avenue; By bus: Take bus #147 (north) from State and Van Buren to Chicago and Michigan; By train: Take the Red Line (towards Howard) to Chicago and walk east.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Itinerary Ideas: Under 21 in Chicago

Under 21? Here are some options for a night out in Chicago:

Hookah Bar:
Samah (18+)
3330 North Clark Street, CTA Brown/Red/Purple Line à Belmont
Enjoy the magical décor and a cozy lounge environment at this Lakeview Hookah Bar. Call for reservations (773-248-4606) if you plan to go with a group.
Hours: Mon-Thu 5pm-1am, Fri-Sat 5pm-3am, Sun 5pm-12am

An All-American Baseball Game:
Chicago has two Major League Baseball teams; the Cubs, representing the North Side, and the White Sox, representing the South Side.
· Cubs àWrigley Field (all ages), 1060 West Addison Street, CTA Red Line (towards Howard) à Addison
· White Sox à U.S. Cellular Field, 333 W 35th Street, CTA Red Line (towards 95th/Dan Ryan) à Sox/35th
Visit the teams’ websites to see game dates/prices. Cheaper tickets can sometimes be found on StubHub or Craigslist. and www.

Live Music:
Uncommon Ground (18+)
3800 N. Clark, CTA Red Line (towards Howard) à Addison
A relaxing coffeehouse with great live acoustic acts almost every night of the week. Most music starts around 8pm. Call for reservations if you would like to enjoy a meal during the performance. Call (773-929-3680‎) or check out their website for performance details.
Hours: Mon-Thurs, Sun 9am-12am, Fri-Sat 9am-2am

Concert Venue:
Metro (all ages, 18+)
3730 N. Clark, CTA Red Line à Addison
All early shows (6pm) are all ages, later shows (9pm) are usually 18+ to enter. Concerts range from Indie bands to punk rock to hip hop and more! Visit their website for concert listings.

Chris’s Billiards (18+)
4637 Milwaukee Avenue, CTA Blue Line (towards O’Hare) à Jefferson Park Transit Center
Play some pool, grab a bite to eat and spend some time at this local hangout. Chris’s have a vintage pool hall feel and over 40 tables. Parts of the movie “The Color of Money” was filmed here too! Call (773-286-4714‎) to ask if there is a waiting list for tables.
Hours: Mon-Sun 9am-2am

Comedy Clubs:
Experiencing this historic comedy club should definitely be on your list of things to do in Chicago. Check out these great venues:
· Second City, 1616 North Wells Street, CTA Brown Line à Sedgwick, (312) 337-3992‎, All ages (minors must be accompanied by an adult).
· Improv Olympic, 3541 North Clark Street, CTA Red Line à Addison, (773) 880-0199. You must be at least 21 years old to attend mainstage shows. Shows in the Del Close Theater and The Loft are all ages.
· ComedySportz, 929 W. Belmont, CTA Red/Purple/Brown Line à Belmont, (773) 549-8080, All ages.

Be sure to bring your ID and passport! Even 18+ venues require official identification for entry.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Trip to Dubrovnik

After a whirlwind tour through London, Lisbon, and Geneva in one week, my friends and I were looking forward to a relaxing week on the Adriatic coast. We arrived in Dubrovnik on an early morning Easyjet flight from Geneva, but our sense of exhaustion was quickly overcome during our ride from the Dubrovnik Airport into town. The road carved out of the hills, common place all along the coast, provided breathtaking views of sea and old town of Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik itself is a very busy small town, filled with tourists coming ashore off of the many cruise ships that dock nearby. However unlike many other European cities that serve as a tourist attraction (such as Venice) only a short walk away from city center yields an undisturbed local neighborhood where daily life goes on as usual.

We booked our accommodations at Hostel Marker (Apartments Lovrijenac) through, and stayed what in essence was an apartment just outside the city gates. At first we were disappointed by the lack of hostels in the town, as we were all looking forward to the community atmosphere that a hostel may offer. However, upon meeting our host, Marko, any sense of a lack of community was quickly overcome. Marko was the best host we have ever had, and quite possibly one of the nicest people I have ever met. Not only did he offer ample advice on what to see and where to go, one night he actually took us out and showed us the town from the local’s perspective. Marko arranged a rental car for us, transport to Montenegro, and even helped us retrieve a lost photo camera after my friend forgot it back in Dubrovnik, all in all cannot say enough good things about him.

During the day we took Marko’s advice and spent time at the Banje beach, walked along city walls, and took a ferry to the island of Lokrum.

Banje beach is located directly south of the old city. Although small, and a bit rocky it offers a cozy place to relax, take a dip, and have a drink along the water.

The city walls, are probably one of the biggest attractions of Dubrovnik. Very well preserved and very imposing, the walls take about two hours to circumnavigate and cost €7 to enter. The views of the old city and its distinctive orange roof tops present and excellent photo opportunity.

Lokrum is a nature preserve popular with hikers and nature lovers, the island is teeming with wild peacocks and offers beautiful vistas from its many cliffs. To get to Lokrum, simply board a 15 minute ferry by the south city gate.

For a small town, Dubrovnik offers a lively nightlife, although it is mostly limited to the weekends. Dubrovnik has two night clubs, East-West and En Fuego which are located on the opposite sides of town, about 1 km apart. The clubs charge a cover fee after 11, so make sure to arrive early if you don’t feel like paying cover. East-West appealed to my friends and I much more as it stands right above Banje Beach about 100 meters from the water. East-West has an open-air and an indoor section, I highly recommend staying in the outdoor section if you do not want to smell like smoke (smoking indoors is accepted here).

Food in Dubrovnik is more expensive than elsewhere in Croatia, but is still relatively cheap by American standards. Many restaurants line the main street of Dubrovnik which spans no more than a few hundred meters. It is worth noting that only a few meters away from the main street, restaurants tend to be 25%-30% less expensive. Expect to pay between €6-€7 for a main course, beer is about €2.00-€2.50 for half liter of domestic brew.

Overall, we greatly enjoyed staying in Dubrovnik and the people we have met along the way. I cannot wait to go back to Croatia, which is an inexpensive, fun, and beautiful destination that I highly recommend to everyone.

-Peter Razumovskiy, hostel volunteer

Monday, August 9, 2010

Traveler Spotlight

Amber and Kylie interview Christopher from Los Angeles at the Lollapalooza Mixer:

Is this your first time going to Lollapalooza?
Yes, this will be my first Lollapalooza and first time in Chicago. I came a few days early to see the city and will attend the festival all weekend. I was not able to go to Coachella in southern California this year so Lollapalooza is sort of redemption for missing that.

I’ve always wanted to go to Coachella!
What bands are you most excited about seeing?

I’m going to Lady Gaga on Friday night and also excited to see Arcade Fire, MGMT, and The XX.

We ‘re hoping Gaga puts on a crazy show, but we’re sure she’ll do something surprising.
So, how did you travel to Chicago?

I took a Greyhound bus from Los Angeles. It took 40 hours. It was a long ride but it was worth it.

Did you at least travel with anybody to keep you company?
A friend rode with me and is also at the mixer. We’re going to make this an annual thing where we go around to a different music festival every summer. We’ve both been to a couple of others around the States so far.

Sounds like good way to spend summer vacation to me! Are you staying around Chicago after the festival?
I have to head back to L.A. on Monday.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It’s that Time of year in Chicago: Lollapalooza Weekend

Chicago has hosted its fair share of concerts and festivals this summer, not unlike summers past. Hailing from a small, but near suburb, I have traveled the slow Metra ride a number of times, seeking the excitement of the city that just can’t be found in smaller towns around mine. This is the first year that I am actually living in the city, blocks away from the concert series at Millennium Park, special events such as the Taste of Chicago, and upcoming Lollapalooza in Grant Park. With all of the hype going around about this year’s bigger and better Lollapalooza music festival, I could not be more excited. Concerts and festivals seem to slow down quite a bit during the month of August, as summer season is more than half way over and many young people like me are returning to school. This just means there is no chance of Lollapalooza being over shadowed, especially when it includes performances by Lady Gaga, Arcade Fire, Phoenix, MGMT, and The Black Keys. I am also just as excited to see smaller names such as Flosstradamus, the DJ duo who’s native to Chicago, and I’ve been following for a couple years, along with other artists that have taken over my iPod this summer like Wavves, B.o.B., Rusko, and Chiddy Bang.

Lollapalooza seems to evolve every year, further from the typical multi day festival that I picture my parents going to in their “cool” days, with limited greasy food choices, and less than cleanly conditions. Past years, I’ve snuck in granola bars and fruit snacks to keep me going to avoid ending up eating the food there or have left and had to waste time by finding a place to eat outside the park. But this year, the new Chow Town offers 15 different restaurants! Lollapalooza has also consistently emphasized their Green initiative and this year I am going fill a trash bag with recyclables in exchange for a free Lollapalooza T-shirt as incentive. After some deep consideration of the menu, I will definitely be opting for the Portobello Wrap from Crescent Foods, the White Bean Hummus with Pita and Veggies from Rockit Bar and Grill, and a frozen pomegranate kefir with granola and fresh blueberries from Starfruit. More importantly than food, the beer and wine selection ranges considerably from Stellas to Pinot Grigio. I highly doubt my parents’ festivals had anything comparable. Fittingly, my custom line-up allows me a perfect gap for lunch from 1 – 3 PM in between seeing Wavves, and The Big Pink on Friday.

If there is a talked about celebrity at the moment, it’s Lady Gaga. She is notorious for her bizarre outfits and behavior on stage and off. Having never witnessed a Gaga concert yet, I cannot wait for what crazy antics she has in store for this Friday. No doubt she will be hanging around the city for the remainder of the weekend too, so maybe if I am lucky enough, I will spot her watching another performance or at an after party. She is not likely to blend into any crowd whether it’s on Earth or on Mars. This weekend is sure to be filled with wicked tunes, energetic performances, good eats (and drinks), and memories to take back to school at the end of August.

- By HIC Intern Amber O’Leary

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Traveler Spotlight

Intern Lauraly chats with Karin at the Ice Cream Social:

Where are you from, Karin?
I'm from Germany.

Are you a student there?
Yes. I'm studying Human Biology at the university in Marburg.

What an interesting subject! What inspired you to study Human Biology?
Biology was actually a big fear of mine because it is such a mysterious and challenging topic, but I think that is part of what inspired me to learn more about it.

And what brings you to Chicago?
I am on my way to visiting a friend in Nebraska who went to my university in Germany, and I decided to stop in Chicago on the way. I know that Nebraska isn't really a tourist destination, but I'm really looking forward to seeing my friend, so I don't care where it is.

Will you be visiting any other states while you're in the US?
I wish that I had time to see more. I think we might go to Minnesota or Missouri, but I want to see more major American cities. It's my first time in the US, so hopefully I'll be able to come back soon and see everything I will miss this time.

How long have you been here in Chicago?
I have been here for two days.

Since Chicago is the first American city that you have experienced, is there anything striking about what you have seen here so far?
The population here is huge! I'm not really used to there being so many people in such a small area of land. It's a little crowded compared to what I'm used to, but it's definitely interesting to people-watch here. The city also seems so symmetric and carefully planned. I noticed that because I have been spending a lot of my time looking at maps. Most of all, I think that I'm shocked by the diversity of the architectural design. Where I am from, most of the buildings all conform to a specific style and height, but here, every building calls attention to itself. There is some amazing architecture here.

That's one of my favorite things about Chicago as well. So, is there one thing that you are looking forward to doing most while you're in the US?
I have always wanted to go to a baseball game, so I think that I'm going to do that on Saturday.
Fun! Cubs or Sox?
I want to see Wrigley Field, but my American friend is a Sox fan, so I think we'll probably go to a Sox game.
You can always visit Wrigley Field another daty. It will be exciting to see a baseball game for the first time no matter which team you choose.

Do you have any suggestions for fellow travelers?
I have been spending so much time looking at maps and planning (points to her large collection of pamphelets spread out all over the table), but the best experience I have had in Chicago is when I decided to put away my map and just walking around the city. I just started walking and went wherever I felt like going. I wound up seeing so much more than if I had been looking at a map the whole time. Besides, there is so much to see in this city that, no matter where you go, you are going to find something interesting to see or do.

I completely agree. So what are the plans for today?
Well I spent most of the day yesterday at the beach because it was so hot, so I think that today I want to see more of the city. I think I'm going to the Sears Tower because I love seeing the city skyline and the view is probably amazing.

You should definitely visit one of the tower observatories before you leave. The Hancock building has a great view too. If you want to see some other really great views of the skyline, you should pick up an Itinerary from the hostel bulletin board. There is a guide that lists the best free views of the Chicago skyline! Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jazzin' at the Shedd!

Being from a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the experience of living in the city has been very exciting for me. While interning at HI-Chicago, I have met people from all over the world as well as created close relationships with my fellow interns. The city life doesn’t leave much room for down time and between the festivals, museums, concerts and famous Chicago landmarks, we have kept ourselves very busy. One of the more unique experiences I have had took place at the Shedd Aquarium, part of Chicago’s Museum Campus. The Jazzin’ at the Shedd event combines animal gazing and live jazz music creating a wonderful social atmosphere!

This Chicago tradition takes place every Wednesday evening in the summer, transforming the typically crowded and noisy aquarium into a calm and classy environment. To match the mood of the jazz music that plays in the background, the lights are dimmed and candles throughout the area give off an extra flicker of light. Small tables draped with bright white tablecloths surround the 360 degree tank located in the center of the aquarium, home to a giant sea turtle, string rays, sharks and many others. While taking part in Jazzin’ at the Shedd, we explored the Oceanarium, the Wild Reef and Caribbean Reef displays as well as the homes of creatures from waters around the world. Next, we ventured out to the terrace for jazz music performed by the some of the areas best bands. This was also a chance to purchase food and drinks to accompany the music. However, the best part of the experience for me wasn’t the animals or the music; it was the breathtaking view of the city from the terrace of the Shedd.

The museum campus, which is also home to the Field Museum and the Alder Planetarium, is, in my opinion, the best place to enjoy the view of the city. As the sun sets, it creates beautiful colors in the sky that illuminate the tall buildings. This location also provides a great view of one of Chicago’s biggest assets, Lake Michigan. As you look past the hundreds of boats that fill the harbor, the endless amounts of calm, deep blue water takes you in. With the incredible view and jazz music in the background, you can’t help but feel at ease.

If the view captures you long enough, you will be graced with the sight of the beautiful fireworks being set off at Navy Pier. With the Chicago skyline to your left and colorful fireworks filling the sky to your right, how could you not be in your happy place? The combination of the animals, music, the view and fireworks makes this event a perfect way to spend a Chicago summer evening. Jazzin’ at the Shedd is an experience that can be shared with your family, friends or even a date! Because the city has so much to offer, visitors (and even residents) must choose what they want to do. Take it from me, Jazzin’ at the Shedd is an event that you don’t want to miss!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Adventures at the Field Museum!

As a summer intern for HI-Chicago, I have had the luxury of exploring the massive city and its wealth of fun-filled experiences at my own pace- attending festivals and concerts, window shopping all types of stores, and eating at various interesting places along the way. However, upon realizing my summer stay was soon to expire, I noticed I had yet to embrace one of Chicago’s greatest assets- its fantastic selection of museums! So this past Monday I embarked on my first museum mission to the Field Museum of Natural History.

The Field Museum is located in Chicago’s stunning lake-side Museum Campus, which also houses the Shedd Aquarium and Alder Planetarium. (The path along the lake in this area provides an absolutely stunning view of the city, especially in the evening). The museum building opened in 1921 and operates under the mission of the “accumulation and dissemination of knowledge, and the preservation and exhibition of objects illustrating art, archaeology, science and history”. To achieve this purpose, the Field Museum plays host to several elaborate and informative exhibits that feature archeological wonders such as the Sue, the most complete T-Rex dinosaur ever unearthed, as well as a diverse collection of artifacts to represent the history of nature, animals, plants and rocks. The museum also features sectors such as the DNA Discovery Center, Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age, and Climate Change. Yet, I myself didn’t even manage to make it to any of those exhibits, for I was too wrapped up in my first stop at the Ancient Americas.

I chose to visit the museum of the second Monday of the month, which conveniently happens to be free general admission day… great news! As I climbed the grand marble steps and waited to receive a hand stamp, I realized that I would be spending the next couple of hours navigating through swarms of young children trying to touch, push, and squeal their way through the halls. Yet, one should not be deterred by such activity, for these children are merely the pawns of good-intentioned parents! So alas, I found myself smiling patiently and enjoying the company, a demeanor (or perhaps a warning) I recommend to anyone choosing to visit a Chicago museum on its designated free day. But alas, my fellow museum-goers quickly lost importance as the magnificent new permanent exhibition called The Ancient Americas swept me along its information-laden corridors. I was taken on a journey through 13,000 years of human development, through hundreds of diverse (both in culture and time period) societies all throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Within this 19,000-square-foot area, I witnessed replica villages and empires and all they included, from archaic bowls and plates to intensive social structures that are remarkably similar to those we today find in great cities like Chicago! Thanks to the museum’s very thorough and interesting presentation and analysis of history, I not only reviewed all my years of history class, but also gained a new appreciation for human ingenuity and survival throughout the ages. I especially enjoyed the Powerful Leaders section where I investigated the rise of the Hopewell people, a civilization flourishing in our very own Mid-Western region between 200 BCE and 500 CE. It was exciting to learn about not only their well-developed trade system, but also that it was happening in the very area of Chicago. Indeed, I experienced a heightened sense of curiosity and enthusiasm as I explored the exhibit, something that I just could not attain as a sixth grader more concerned with soccer practices and Four Square games. So I encourage anyone visiting Chicago to venture over to Museum Campus for a delightful view of the city, and more importantly, a great educational experience unlike anything you learned in history class!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

It’s Pitchfork Weekend in Chicago!

The time has come, once again, for the latest and greatest of the music biz to take over Chicago’s Union Park. Hipsters, rockers and rollers will flock to the festival grounds this Friday-Sunday, and you better already have your ticket because it’s too late now! Pitchfork tickets for all three days are officially sold-out!

Pitchfork will be hosting its usual Record fair and Flatstock poster series, featuring the work of many of the most popular concert poster artists working today, but this year there are a few other opportunities definitely worth a break from the main stages. Toyota Antics is sponsoring a silk screening station where concert-goers can customize tote bags and t-shirts, a Prius Sweepstakes, a photo booth offering free festival “close ups,” and even a classic ‘80s gaming arcade. Perhaps even more entertaining will be another 2010 addition: The Pitchfork Comedy Stage. Comedy at Pitchfork?!? While taking a break from crowd-surfing and rowdy music fans is an obvious appeal to this new Pitchfork tradition, for those of you worried that the jokes will ruin the Pitchfork vibe, funny guy David Cross explains why he thinks music and comedy belong in the same space: "There's quite an overlap between musicians who have an affection towards comedy and comedians who fantasize about being in a band," he said. "The two worlds have more similarities than they do differences." All the jokes are going down on Friday on the Balance Stage, where the comedy acts will be hosted by Les Savy Fay front man Tim Harrington. Featuring atcs by stand-up artist Eugene Mirman, "The State"/Wet Hot American Summer star Michael Showalter, "Daily Show" correspondent Wyatt Cenac, and "Saturday Night Live" writer Hannibal Buress, I think it’s safe to say that the Comedy Stage line-up will not disappoint.

Besides changing up the festival experience, Pitchfork is doing what it can this year to change how the festival itself impacts the environment. In an effort to “go green,” Pitchfork is encouraging everyone to take public transportation or ride their bikes to the festival. A Chicago Reader’s Biker Village Presented by CLIF Bar’s 2 Mile Challenge will be located at the southwest corner of the festival grounds (Ashland & Warren) and will provide 9,500 square feet of secure and guarded bicycle parking for festival attendees. Those who ride their bikes can enjoy snacks provided by CLIF plus free air for tires and lubrication for chains. If the distance is too great to bike, Pitchfork encourages all road tripping attendees to buy carbon offsets, and is setting an example of responsible traveling by buying carbon offsets to cover the travel of all their musicians. On the festival website, Pitchfork calls attention to the fact that the nature of an international music festival creates the need for a lot of travel and that all the plane, train, van, and car miles that bring bands and fans from around the globe to the festival contribute significantly to the pressing problem of climate change. By encouraging fans to purchase "carbon offsets," Pitchfork is hopeful that funding will be given to projects which reduce emissions causing climate change. Every environmentally-conscious act counts!

Enjoy Pitchfork 2010 - cleaner, greener, funnier, and just as rockin' as always!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Traveler Spotlight

Back in May, former intern Erika caught up with Mathieu playing pool in the hostel lobby with another traveler, Naythan. Check back tomorrow for Naythan's interview!

What is your name?

Where are you from?
Geneva. I am French but I live in Geneva.

Okay. So what brings you to Chicago?
I have a conference next week. I go one week before to travel and see the city.

Sounds good, is your conference here in Chicago?
Yes, in the Hilton on Ohio street.

How long is the conference?

For 5 days. I leave Chicago on May 18th, and I arrived the day before yesterday, so Sunday.

What is your conference for?
Linguistics, phonetics.

Yes. It is will about 300-400 people. Each year they change the location. Last year it was in Brazil. It is nice because the university pays for my trip.

Wow! That is great! Do they pay for your week of vacation before too?

No, that is on me.

Bummer. So what have you done here in Chicago so far?

I got lost yesterday. I was looking for Boystown. It took three hours to find it and I didn’t have a map or anything like that.

Oh no!
But today I went walking and went to the library. And I am going to see my sister here for 1 week. We will probably watch the….the baseball?

Oh okay! Yeah.
Then we are going to the cinema tonight. And try to have some drinks. We want to have drinks with young people. There seems to be a lot of businessmen here.

Yeah, downtown there are a lot more business people. But if you go to different neighborhoods there are more young people. Wrigleyville might be a good one. You should check that out, or Fullerton has lots of young people where you could have drinks with them.
Yeah sounds good.

You mentioned your sister is here, what is she doing?
She just got here today, she could not get in here. So she is staying at another hostel. She was studying in Canada for 6 months. She is going to South America and she is going to stay here for one week.

That is great! It’s cool that you get to see her for a little while!
Yes, it is very good. Because I haven’t seen her since Christmas.

Great! So when does your conference start?
On Monday. I organized the first part. It is a satellite workshop. I am very nervous thought because it is all in English. I don’t know how to say it, but your doctorial? After you do your PHD you can do 1-2 years…yeah I want to stay in the U.S. and do that. But not in Chicago, not because of Chicago, I have only been here two days (laughing). But when I was little I cam and stayed on Penn State University campus. I really liked that. I want to come back and stay on campus, I like that feel.

That is great! So how did you two meet then? (referring to Naythan who he was playing pool with)
We are in the same room here. I was getting something out of my locker, and he came in. And we just started to chat. Then we went out for drinks. So…it is really great. It is very easy to meet people here!

Yeah, it is. We try to make it that way! Well thank you for talking with me you guys! Enjoy the rest of your stay here in Chicago!
Yes thank you! Cheers.

Monday, July 12, 2010


One of the cities largest and most popular summer celebrations, Taste of Lincoln will be celebrating its 27th year! It began as a small fundraiser and now has become the second largest street festival in the Chicagoland area.

WHEN: July 24th-25th

WHERE: Taste of Lincoln is spread through six blocks with the entrance on Lincoln Ave. between Fullerton and Wrightwood!

The event features over 350 vendors and a variety of music acts ranging from blues and country to rock and folk. People of all ages are welcome and there is even a block catered to kids. This block consists of a petting zoo, pony rides and much more! Admission is FREE! There is a suggested $7 donation for the day and $10 donation at night.

Gather a group and enjoy one of Chicago’s most popular street festivals. FOR TRANSPORTATION: RED/BROWN/PURPLE LINES to Fullerton or Bus #74 Fullerton will take you right to the event!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Traveler Spotlight

Intern Lauraly chats with Chris at the Ice Cream Social:

Where are you from, Chris?
I'm from Copenhagen, Denmark.

What brings you to Chicago?
I was supposed to be taking a roadtrip from New York to California with my friend, but she decided to stay in New York and I continued on alone. Now I'm traveling across the country by bus, taking in the sights. It has been quite an adventure!

What have you been up to since you arrived?
Well, I have only been in Chicago for two days so far. I have spent most of my time walking around and talking to people that I meet along the way. I am a writer so I have been spending a lot of time writing about what I see and the stories I hear.

What's the best Chicago attraction you've experienced?
I would have to say Millennium Park. The fountain with the faces and the bean are such amazing places to people-watch and spend a relaxing day.

What else has amazed you during your travels?
I was in Manhattan, sitting in Central Park in the evening, and I started seeing all of these little glimmering lights. I couldn't figure out what they were, but eventually I saw one of the little lights up close and realized it was a bug- a lightning bug! I honestly thought that they were some fantastical creature that only existed in Shrek! We don't have lightning bugs in Denmark, so I was definitely amazed by that.

That's hilarious! So, what's the next stop you're making after Chicago?
I'm waiting for my friend to catch up with me in Chicago, and then we're taking a bus to Wyoming to see Yellowstone National Park. I want to hike in the Rocky Mountains and eventually head over to California to work and live on an organic farm for the rest of the summer.

Sounds like a great plan, there are tons of lightning bugs out there in the summer!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cultural Kitchen

Last night the kitchen of the HI-Chicago hostel was buzzing with activity. Twelve middle schoolers from Centro Romero came to cook Spanish cuisine for ten lucky travelers as a part of the Cultural Kitchen program.

Cultural Kitchen is a six-part classroom program in which students study a country, create presentations on a specific aspect of that country, and finally cook a meal and stay in the hostel for one night. The program allows children who normally do not meet people from other cultures to step out of their comfort zone and interact with travelers.

The students made spicy potatoes, paella, gazpacho, and baked bananas, all traditional dishes from Spain. While the food was cooking, the students introduced themselves to some hostellers to fill out “traveler bingo” cards that featured questions such as “Have you ever been scuba diving? Where?” to serve as ice-breakers. After the delicious feast, the students each presented information on Spain, covering topics such as its geography, system of government, sports, and (of course) cuisine. A few of the students were dubious when they first heard they would have to do a project over the summer for Cultural Kitchen, but they all enjoyed the program immensely! One girl said, “…it was fun at the hostel and I want to come back soon. We learned a lot about Spain’s sports, culture, and food. I learned how to not be shy in front of people and talk to them. I hope we come back soon to have fun cooking, playing games, and to talk to people from other cultures and countries.”

The HI-Chicago hostel hosts many educational programs like Cultural Kitchen throughout the year and reaches over 1500 local students, promoting respect and understanding of diverse cultures.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Neighborhood Spotlight: Boystown

Boystown, part of the larger Lakeview neighborhood, is the heart of gay Chicago. The area runs from Belmont (3200 N.) to Addison (3600 N.), within the triangle created by Halsted and Broadway. The area is dense with bars, restaurants, coffee houses, and shops. The Chicago Pride Parade, every June, and the Northalsted Market Days, every August, bring the crowds to this small but dynamic area of the city. The Center on Halsted is Chicago’s biggest LGBTQ resource center and offers programs and services to the LGBTQ community throughout the city.

- KNOWN FOR: Epicenter of gay culture in Chicago; NIGHTLIFE!; The annual Pride Parade in June (just last lweekend)

- DON’T MISS: The Kit Kat Lounge (3700 N Halsted St) for food, drinks, and Drag Queen Karaoke; Sidetrack (3349 N Halsted St), a bar with show-tunes sing along; Berlin (954 W Belmont Ave), a “multicultural dance club”; Saugatuck Coffee (3344 N Halsted Street), an independent coffee shop favorite, Joy’s Noodles (3257 N Broadway St) for a cheap Thai meal, lively atmosphere, and Bring Your Own Beer policy; Land of the Lost (614 W Belmont Ave), a funky vintage store with reasonable price tags.

- GET THERE: Take the Red Line to Belmont or Addison

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Traveler Spotlight

Intern Amber interviews Chris during the Ice Cream Social:

Where are you from Chris?
I'm from Dayton, Ohio.

So what is that animal you're wearing on your head?
It's Dale from the Chipmunks! My Dad is a scout leader, and he and I have matching hats. His is Alvin, though. We bought them just for this trip.

I like your sense of humor! So are you traveling with other people besides your Dad?
Yeah, I'm here with the whole Boy Scout troop.

How long have you been a Boy Scout?
This is my fifth year as a scout. Most of the guys in our group are between 15 and 17 years old.

How long have you guys been in Chicago?
We just arrived here today, but we are leaving for New Mexico tomorrow. We drove here and are staying the night because our train leaves out of Chicago. It worked out conveniently for us because we were able to do some cool stuff in the city today. We went to the top of the Willis Tower and to the free Ice Cream Social here in the hostel. The hostel was perfect for us because we could all stay here without it costing very much.

Well, I'm glad that you got to see come of Chicago before you have to leave. What are you doing in New Mexico?
We're going on a 12-day backpacking hike through the Rockies. We're bringing our tents and camping each night. We all earn a special badge for the trip.

Sounds like it's going to be a great trip. Stay away from bears!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

10 Year Open House - An Electrical Evening

Thank you to everyone that volunteered or simply showed up to last week's 10 Year House Party. Braving the storm (and rare downtown tornado warning!) was well worth the great time we had. The start of the event welcomed guests with a huge spread of donated food (including ceviche from Cafecito - keep an eye out for this delicious addition to their menu) and a traditional Egyptian vocal performance by HI-Chicago's very own Ahmed Mahmoud.

Next up was a Capoeira performance by Gingarte Capoeira, who showed us the Brazilian martial art/dance and even convinced a couple of guests to give it a try - including General Manager Paul Coley!

Immediately after that, the flow of the event was interrupted by the tornado sirens ringing throughout downtown. The sirens, coupled with a look outside at the heavy, near-horizontal rain pouring down, prompted the hostel staff to instruct all 100 of the hostel guests to move to the interior hallway of the 2nd floor. Luckily hostellers are a flexible group of people, and we all viewed it as an adventure rather than aninconvenience! The party-goers sat against the walls of the narrow hallway while volunteers passed out appetizers and desserts. The Congolese drummers Tambours Sans Frontieres were up next in the entertainment program and they didn't miss a beat. They improvised with the space and performed throughout the entire hallway hibernation. They truly kept the event going with their high-energy drumming!

Thirty minutes after we piled into the back hallway, the sirens silenced and we resumed the event. Raffle prizes were drawn and happy winners went home with a variety of great prizes, most notably the travel package which featured a $300 travel voucher from STA and a 2-piece luggage set. The night was capped off with a wonderful performance by Fandanguero, a Pilsen-based band that performed Son Jarocho music from the Caribbean Coast of Mexico. All in all, it was a incredibly memorable event!

Thank you to the following volunteers who contributed their time leading up to and during the event:

Brent Swan, Adrienne Nothnagel, Jeannette Lenear, Marilyn Williams, Megeen Scovell, Simon Landon, Tom Judge, Chuck Cerny, Tom Gunning, Adam Welton, Randy Stover, George Redfearn, Megan Backes, Karen Plomin, Eva Rowe, Chuck Abraham, Jodi Cerny, Evelin Gomez, Marshall Brown, Maureen Ewing, Roger Pomerance, Miriam Scott, Koula Quirk, and Dana Immertreu.

And of course our wonderful summer interns: Elena Maker, Laura Grossman, Kylie Snowaert, Breanne Ward, Amber O'Leary, Nell McGann and Hannah Schiller.

To see photos from the event check out HI-Chicago's Flickr.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Traveler Spotlight

Intern Hannah talks to Mike Shiel, an economics student from Cork, Ireland who has traveled to Chicago with a group of friends.

So why did you decide to come to Chicago?
Well we got work visas to get jobs In the US, but so far no one will hire us.

Really?! Where have you applied?
Mostly bars and Irish pubs.

That seems somewhat ridiculous. So how long have you been here and what have you been doing?
We’ve been here for about three weeks and we’ve been mostly sightseeing and going to the beach.

I suppose if you can’t get jobs you might as well have fun! What was your favorite part of your
trip so far?

That has to be when the Blackhawks won. We were in Addison and there were people in the streets celebrating.

Did you go to the Blackhawks’ parade?
No, it was too hot.

Wait – what happens if you guys can’t get jobs?
We’d have to go home early; our trip would be a bit shorter than it was originally planned.

Have you been watching the World Cup at all?
Yeah, every chance we get. We were all really happy when France lost.

Have you noticed if Americans are more or less interested in soccer than the Irish?
Soccer is definitely more important in Ireland than in the US. People are more intense about the
sport at home.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Neighborhood Spotlight: LOGAN SQUARE

Logan Square has long been home to immigrant populations & is now predominantly Hispanic (although Polish can still be heard on the streets). Logan Square is graced with a system of tree-lined boulevards and squares, including the one for which the community is named. Today, LS exhibits a vital ethnic and economic diversity. Although the neighborhood is facing issues of gentrification (more affluent moving in and economically pushing lower-income people out), there is no doubt that it is culturally thriving with diversity and an influx of great restaurants, bars, and galleries.

- KNOWN FOR: Historic architecture; Hispanic population; gentrifying hipster culture; green boulevards; farmer’s market during the summer months

- DON’T MISS: Lula’s Café (2537 N Kedzie) for local, organic, and creative food; The Whistler (2421 N Milwaukee Avenue) for specialty cocktails & free or cheap music; Logan Theater (2646 N Milwaukee Ave), where second-run movies are $5; Taqueria Moran (2226 N California Ave), for cheap, fast, & delicious Mexican food; Revolution Brewing Co (2323 N Milwaukee Ave), a new Chicago brewery and restaurant; the Logan Square Farmer's Market (on Logan Blvd, east of Milwaukee Ave), every Sunday from June 6 until October 31 from 10am-3pm.

- GET THERE: Take the Blue Line (towards O’Hare) to California or Logan Square