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.