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!