Friday, October 7, 2011

Family Foto Friday: Abbey, Melody, Miles, Christina, and Bobby!

This is a special edition!  I was hard-pressed to find people in the hostel today, because it's such a gorgeous day (thanks, Chicago, I appreciate it).  I ran into a family enjoying themselves in the 2nd floor lounge, playing pool, basking in the sun, and asking questions at the info desk.  I asked if I could intrude on their quiet time, and they were happy to share their favorite parts of Chicago and tell me about how they got into hostelling (Christina's uncle loves it!); their hometown, Nashville; and the fact that the whole family loves art so much.
Meet Christina, Abbey, Miles, Melody, and Bobby (from left)!  Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee. Welcome!

Christina particularly enjoyed the old Marshall Field's building and told me her suggestion to travelers would be to visit the old Deco building just to ride the escalators up the building and look up into the atrium (and never mind the snooty Macy's salespeople downstairs).  She also loved all the old theaters in Chicago, especially Apollo Theater in Lincoln Park.

Abbey had lots of things she liked in Chicago, but was psyched by the John Hancock observatory (we all are, I think), the Art Institute, and the Money Museum.

Miles had lots of fun on the rides at the Navy Pier, especially the ferris wheel (Chicago skyline at night?  Yes, please!)

Music-lover Melody really enjoyed a Million Dollar Quartet show as well as the Wicker Park area.  She told me that she has two friends she met at rock camp that belong to a band, "Those Darlings", that was playing at the Empty Bottle (how awesome is that?).  The whole family enjoyed the show!  I'll have to check out "Those Darlings" now!

Bobby also enjoyed the neighborhoods of Wicker Park and Lincoln Park (they said they were planning to go to the Lincoln Park Zoo today!) and the "el" system in Chicago.  We started talking about the gorgeous views of the city you get coming into the Loop on the Brown line, and I mentioned that you also get a wonderful view from the Pink line.  Which brought me to recommend the National Museum of Mexican Art to this art-loving family, and they said they might check it out tomorrow!

Thanks for talking to me, friends!  Hope to see you back in Chicago soon!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Exciting times at HI-Chicago!

Happy Friday, everyone!

Jugo de Mango at HI-Chicago, September 12th.

There's lots of buzz around here lately!  This week, HI-Chicago hosted HIUSA's annual National Operators Meeting.  We had a blast with all of the attendees and enjoyed a productive week.  We're sorry to see everyone trickling out of the hostel and back to their cities and hostels, but we're looking forward to seeing everyone at the next meeting!  

We kicked off the week with a reception in the hostel on Monday night, with a concert by local Latin band Jugo de Mango!  It was a fabulous time and a great chance to connect with our beloved hostellers, too :)

Frigg (Finland/Norway)
We have another exciting event coming up at the hostel next week!  HI-Chicago is teaming up with the World Music Festival to host a concert by Frigg (Finland/Norway) and DJ Sound Culture (Chicago).

Frigg, a seven-piece Finnish-Norwegian band, produces fresh Scandinavian folk fiddling. They represent a mixture of Kaustinen (Finland) and Nord-Trondelag (Norway) traditions, combined with a taste of Americana and Irish Folk music. Named for the Norse goddess of love and fertility, the band has received numerous accolades for musicianship and performance.

DJ Sound Culture, aka David Chavez, is a native of Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood whose music ranges from downtempo brazilian bossa, to NuJazz and AfroLatin House. He has lead a four-year Wednesday night residency at Wicker Park’s Subterranean Lounge, as well as playing most of the major nightclub venues in the city. Sound Culture is an organizer and presenter of cultural music in the city of Chicago. 

The performance is here on the second floor of the hostel at 5:30 p.m., and it's FREE, so invite all your friends for a fun time.  As an added bonus, we'll be hosting our weekly ice cream social at the same time, in the lounge this time, so you can get your yummies fix while enjoying great music!  We're really excited about hosting the event, so we hope to see you all there!

And, a moment you've all been waiting for!  TRAVELIXIR is coming!  We're teaming up with STA Travel and Whole Foods for our next travel party on Wednesday, September 28th, from 7-10 p.m.  This time, our theme is "Big City", and we're hosting it at Brando's Speakeasy.  (Fits nicely with the theme, huh?  You're welcome ;))

Remember, it's a fun travel party open to everyone 21 and up.  Come share your travel stories, mix and mingle with other people from the hostel and community, and have FUN! 

We're having door prizes, a special drink created just for us, nibbles provided by Whole Foods Market South Loop, and our photo contest!  Submit your "big-city" photo for a chance to win up to $300 in travel prizes.  We'll be voting at the party, and you MUST be present to claim your prize if you win!  Send your photos to  ONE original submission per person.  Our grand prize is a $150 travel voucher from STA.  Get creative with your submissions!  Hmmm...can I enter my own pictures?  No?  Awww, all right...

Get excited!  'Til next time!


Foto Friday winner: Kersten

It's Foto Friday! Today I met Kersten in the lounge, checking out our huge wall map. I asked if he was looking for his hometown (well, that's what I always look for when I see a map...) and he said he was just looking at all the cities he's ever been to. It was a long list!

I asked him to point out his hometown on the map for us :)

Name: Kersten
Hometown: Hamburg, Germany
Favorite thing about Chicago: relaxing in the parks.

Danke, Kersten!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Foto Friday Winners: Sarah and Michelle

I was not actually stalking a Foto Friday victim yet when I ran into Sarah and Michelle at the info desk on the second floor. They were looking for Union Park on a map, and I helped them figure out how to get there (FYI, you take the Pink line to Ashland). I started chatting with them and decided I had found my winners! In exchange for their time, they'll get to enjoy a free show at ComedySportz tomorrow night!

Names: Sarah (left) and Michelle (right).
Hometowns: Hempstead, UK and Harare, Zimbabwe.
Favorite Chicago spots: Willis Tower Skydeck and the Shedd Aquarium!

Thanks, gals! Enjoy the rest of your time in Chicago!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Foto Friday Winner: Zhi Huang

Today I was wandering around the almost empty hostel and bumped into Zhi in the common room, taking a break from the busy day. Ta-da...FOTO FRIDAY WINNER! Sadly, Zhi is leaving Chicago tomorrow, so he couldn't go to the ComedySportz show I offered him. But he still told me about his time in Chicago! It's actually his third time here!

Name: Zhi Huang
Home country: China
Favorite thing about Chicago: The weather, the skyline, and the friendly people

We like the friendly people, too, Zhi :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Foto Friday Winner: Anne-Claire

Each week, we pick one or two guests to be featured on the blog and win a free prize, and Anne-Claire is our pick for the week. She was chatting with another guest in the lounge when I spotted her, and she's just received two free tickets to ComedySportz!

Name: Anne-Claire
Hometown: Paris, France
Most excited to see: Film Museum

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Fond Farewell

Hello all my loyal readers! OK fine, let's be real...

Hi Mom.

This is my last week as an official HI-Chicago intern, and thus the last official HI-Chicago intern post of the summer of 2011! Have faith that another member of the HI team will be able to fill my (admittedly large) shoes with equally witty and informative contributions, and keep you in the know for all of Chicago’s top events! As we soak in the bittersweet moment, let us begin…

Chicago Air and Water Show: August 20-21, 11am-4pm

If you haven’t heard about the Chicago Air and Water show, you’ve probably heard it, at least if you’ve ever been within 500 miles of Chicago towards the end of August. This rocket-powered event features the US Air Force Thunderbirds, US Army Parachute Team Golden Knights, and US Navy Parachute Team Leap Frogs, all demonstrating their loud but impressive skill. If you’re super pumped to see the show as close as possible, we recommend posting up at North Avenue Beach, the Airshow center, where you’ll be right in front of the action and be able to listen to MC Herb Hunter broadcasts (or you can tune in at WBBM 780) and be on the front line where the Golden Knights land, but be aware that crowds flock here, so you should try to arrive 1.5-2 hours early to get a good spot. Other hotspots include Belmont Harbor Point, Diversey and the lakefront, Oak Street Beach, Ohio Street Beach, and Navy Pier – these may not be as packed as North Avenue, but the crowds will still be pretty dense, so don’t plan on sunbathing! *Insiders note: you can see the show without the crowds on Friday, August 19, as they do a full practice show during the same time!*

If you’re not planning on watching the show, then get the heck out of dodge. It might be a good time to explore the lovely neighborhoods to the south or the west, or really anything away from the lake! Check out Chinatown, catch a White Sox game at US Cellular Field (vs. Rangers, 6:10pm on Saturday, 1:10pm on Sunday), mosey over to Little Italy/University Village, or even play around in the Wicker Park/Bucktown scene – just avoid Lincoln Park and the downtown lakefront! And when you get that panic attack thinking Chicago is under siege, remember: It’s just the Thunderbirds. Free.

North Side Summerfest: August 20, 12-10pm; August 21, 11am-9pm

You’re probably wondering, why on earth would I go to another event with Summerfest in the name and Sixteen Candles, “Chicago’s favorite 80s cover band,” headlining? Seriously, they’ve played almost every street festival this summer; it’s impressive they have time to do anything else. But summing up the reason to visit this North Side festival can be done in 4 words: Hot. Dog. Eating. Contest. This is everything a summer festival should be, and North Side Summerfest is finally delivering. Even if you don’t want to stuff 20+ hot dogs down your throat (although if you soak them in water, I believe the bun goes down easier), some of the area’s top specialty hot dog vendors will be selling their gourmet dogs so you can get your chance at a real Chicago dog: yellow mustard, white onions, sweet pickle relish, tomato, pickled sport peppers and a dill pickle spear. Absolutely no ketchup allowed. Enjoy! $5 donation.

Wrigleyville Block Party: August 19-21, 11am-8pm

Don’t miss your last chance to tailgate with 5,000 of your closest friends for the Cubs-Cardinals series this weekend! The big draw of a Wrigleyville Block Party mainly comes from wanting to experience the general messiness of the neighborhood on a game day, and have the opportunity to do it on the street without fear of authorities coming in and ruining the fun. Then again, if you live in Wrigleyville, expect a higher-than-average amount of beer cans, hot dog wrappers, and rowdiness on your front lawn. Sorry about that. Anyway, the game schedule is as follows: 8/19-1:20pm, 8/20-3:10pm, 8/21-7:05pm, and tickets run from $15 to $75 (or way less if you choose to buy one on the street after the 1st inning is over). Entry to the block party is free.

And while I could go on about the various other festivals this weekend – you can also spend your weekend at the South Shore Summer Festival, Greekfest, or Ladyfest Midwest (not actually a street festival since it’s held in a bar, but it does have fest in the name – actually, this sounds pretty cool, anyone with a feminist kick should definitely check it out and soak in the post-punk, riot, girl power spirit), we’re going to end on a different note.

Summer is almost over, and the amount of programming the city has had to offer has been intense, to say the least. If you missed out on a few things, or have been so utterly overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of events at your disposal that you hid under the couch for most of July, don’t feel bad. It’s not too late to get in on the action, so behold a somewhat imperfect you-should-really-do-these-things-before-it-gets-too-cold-so-you-won’t-ever-leave-the-house-unless-it’s-necessary-for-survival list for the remaining weeks of summertime! Be sure not to consider this all-inclusive by any means;I’m sure there are some events out there that don’t revolve around free music or drinks. Maybe.

»Take in a free concert at Millennium Park

There is still tons of music to be heard (for free) in Millennium Park (for free) with the phenomenal backdrop of a Chicago skyline (for free). Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz will continue to host its Thursday night shows until September 1st, the Lunchbreak Music Series has its mid-afternoon performances until September 5th, and the critically acclaimed (and popularly acclaimed, so you know it’s actually cool) Chicago Dancing Festival takes place on August 27th, so there’s still time to experience this Chicago summertime staple! Labor Day Weekend wraps it all up with the Chicago Jazz Festival with live music in multiple locations, but the highlight rests at our beloved Pritzker Pavillion Friday night, September 2nd, for the Saxophone Summit. Did I mention yet that it’s all free?

»Get your groove on at Chicago SummerDance…

Free dance lessons, incredible bands and dance styles from all over the world, and the chance to stumble around with 200 other Chicagoans who have no idea what they’re doing? Absolutely. If you have yet to check out a Chicago SummerDance, every Thursday through Saturday in Grant Park, then be sure to hit it before its final installation on September 18th! Some highlights in the line-up include Cuban Salsa with Charanga Tropical (8/20), Honky-Tonk Country Two-Step with The Hoyle Brothers (8/27), Jump Blues and Swing with the Flat Cats (9/3), and African Expressions and Soukous with Occidental Brothers Dance Band International (9/15). It may not help you from looking like a fool at your friends’ weddings (shame that nobody does the Honky Tonk Two-Step at weddings anymore…), but it’s FUN!

»Enjoy the sunshine on a restaurant/bar patio or rooftop…

Many restaurants and bars have fantastic outdoor spaces that only make appearances in the warmer months, so be sure to hit a few beer gardens or rooftops before they go back into hibernation! Some of our recommendations: the newly debuted, spacious beer garden at Frontier in Noble Square; Bridge House Tavern in River North for a patio brunch overlooking the water; West Loop’s Market with a sports filled rooftop deck (and ping-pong in the beer garden!); killer views and a cocktail at Epic’s rooftop lounge; the sexy vibe at the aptly named ROOF atop the Wit Hotel in the Loop. Bring your sunscreen and enjoy!

»Check out a neighborhood art show and get in touch with your inner critic…

There are tons of free art shows all over the city, and even if you have no idea what that sculpture made of recycled condoms is supposed to be, it’s fun to guess. Head to River North and check out “What If: An International Art Show” this Saturday (8/20) – artists from all over the world have contributed to the out-there show claiming to represent an alternate universe. Not enough for you? They’re also serving free appetizers and free cocktails to those guests who cough up the $0 admission price. Yes, that’s supposed to say $0. It’s free.

»Snuggle up with some friends for a flick in the Movies in the Park series…

This series, sponsored by the Chicago Park District and Charter One, has offered movies nearly every day of the week in parks all across the city, and will continue until September 16th. Check out the schedule for a full list of parks and films for the rest of the summer, then be sure to pop some popcorn, grab a blanket, and head out at dusk to your neighborhood park.

»Explore your favorite neighborhood with an always-popular pub crawl…

Pub crawls are this writer’s favorite way to explore a city – they give you a good feel for the music, the people, the atmosphere…and they’re generally messy and loud and a freaking good time! Really any neighborhood that has a bunch of bars or clubs clustered together will always provide a good setting for a pub crawl, and you may stumble (literally stumble, depending how many bars you’ve already hit) across your new favorite dive or dancing spot. You can also visit sites like SmallTabs or Drinktown to see what specials are at bars all over the city to keep your wallet from feeling the pain of your explorations. Not comfortable planning your own? Join HI-Chicago on one of our volunteer-led nights out – we have upcoming bar crawls in Wicker Park (8/20) and Lincoln Park (8/27), or check back on our outings calendar for more dates!

»Be awed by the magnificent 15-minute Navy Pier fireworks show…

OK, it’s not that magnificent, but I don’t care how old you are, fireworks are still cool. Navy Pier’s summer fireworks series (Wednesdays at 9:30pm or Saturdays at 10:15pm) will only be around until September 3rd, but you can still catch them on Saturdays at 9pm throughout the fall until October 29th. Our suggestion is to pack up a picnic and head over to the lakefront by the Museum Campuses to see the show from there – the view of the city is even better from the south end, and you can bring your own food and drinks to avoid the overpriced tourist traps on the pier! Be sure to head back through Millennium Park so you can see Buckingham Fountain’s 20-minute light and water show (with music that’ll make you think it’s 4th of July every day…or that you’re at a Toby Keith show), which happens hourly after dusk.

»Run into the Tamale Guy at your favorite bar…

And call me immediately. That Claudio is elusive.

It’s been a lot of fun working here at HI-Chicago this summer (anybody looking for a fantastic internship and the chance to explore this magnificent city, check out the website for postings – White Sox fans need not apply), and I hope all two of you reading this took at least one of our suggestions for a great Chicago summer! Try to take advantage of these opportunities soon, mainly because the city is broke and really should stop spending all this money. Like maybe Taste of Chicago could be scaled down a bit; you can only eat so many Pickles on a Stick and Rainbow Cones in one week. And so, it’s been real, Chicago. I’ll be back soon. But for now…onwards to Iceland!

What? There was a cheap ticket. Maybe you’ll even get a blog about it.

Written by: Keren Mikva

Friday, August 12, 2011

Foto Friday Winners: Bernard and Richard

After a brief hiatus (you can blame it on the craziness of Lolla weekend!), we're back with your weekly installation of Foto Friday! Each week, we pick one or two guests to be featured on the blog and win a free prize, and Bernard and Richard are our picks for the week. They were chatting with our lovely front desk volunteer when we spotted them, so they've just received two free tickets to ComedySportz!

Names: Bernard and Richard
Hometowns: Lyon, France (Bernard) and Waterford, Ireland (Richard)
Upcoming plans for Chicago: Checking out the Signature Room at the John Hancock

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Get it Get it, Chicago

Aaaaaand we’re back with the best of Chicago summer weekend festivals and events! Keep your snow boots in the closet because we’re far from over – milk every drop of sunshine from August that you can!

Northalsted Market Days: August 13-14, 11am-10pm

This crazy scene is not your grandmother’s street festival – the high quantity of scantily clad attendees (see picture at right), free condoms, and general hot-messiness of it all makes Market Days a great time for those with an adventurous spirit, or those who are looking for a Lollapalooza-meets-Pride type of atmosphere. It also has a fantastic music line-up, featuring Darren Criss (all Glee die-hards reading this just gasped), Frenchie Davis (same goes for all American Idol/The Voice fans), and Ms. Gloria Gaynor herself (you should all be gasping – she’s terrific). A huge variety of drink and food options, along with hundreds of art stands, make this one street festival you don’t want to miss. $7/before 5pm, $10/after 5pm.

Mad Decent Block Party: August 13, 12-10pm

Aptly named, the Mad Decent Block Party is incredibly decent (dare we even say awesome?) – over 30 artists will be performing, including Curren$y, Dillon Francis, Reptar, Bosco Delrey, and more! Never heard of any of these people? That’s OK, us neither, but they’re actually pretty legit, span all kinds of genres, and you can check out various artists on the event’s Facebook page. This traveling block party is going to hit Chicago’s Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhood with a bang, and is open to all ages during the fest, though most of the after-parties are 21+. Did we mention it’s completely FREE entry? Like there won’t even be those $5 donations that are “suggested” but you know you’ll get the stink eye if you don’t cough up some cash.

We R Hip Hop Festival: August 13, 1-6pm

The sixth annual installation of this festival features break dancing competitions, rap and graffiti battles (we’re picturing people shooting spray paint at one another, but it’s more likely some kind of intense artwork contest given the pictures we found from previous years, bummer, right?), and performances by – you guessed it – tons of hip hop artists. Mass Hysteria, Phero, Struggle Academy, and, our personal favorite, Hood Huntaz, will all be tearing up the stages in Dvorak Park. Bonus points – this youth-run festival is dedicated to supporting peace and anti-violence in our community. So it seems Mass Hysteria will be wreaking peaceful hysteria, just to clear up any confusion. Free entry.

Wrigleyville SummerFest: August 13, 12pm-10pm; 8/14, 10am-9pm
Wrigleyville SummerFest is a fairly generic Chicago street festival, but with one noteworthy exception: old skool hip hop party band Too White Crew will be performing on Saturday at 8pm. The best way to describe them is to quote their own words, “Alright STOP. Collaborate an’ LIS-en. Remember when hip hop Talked About Sex? When you could Bust a Move, Shake the Rump, do the Humpty and no one was poppin’ caps? When Bell Biv Devoe called all y’all tricks “Poison” and warned all the fellas to “never trust a big butt & a smiiiiiile”? We do too.” Basically, it’s all original music with a Vanilla Ice/Pretty Ricky/Young MC inspiration. Who doesn’t love that? $5.

Ferrari Festival: August 14, 11am-2pm

The Italian Village’s 14th Annual Ferrari Festival gives you the chance to drool over 60 vintage Ferraris, enjoy a traditional Italian buffet, complete with Italian wine and beer, and to make a donation to the Children’s Memorial Hospital and Inspiration Corporation (100% of proceeds will be donated). Car fanatics and Italian-food lovers alike should check out this festival - $30 gets you unlimited access to aforementioned buffet, including drinks. You could do a whole lot more damage than $30 at another festival where $7 gets you a single tallboy. Just saying.

Taylor Street Festa Italiana: August 11-12, 5-11pm; 8/13, 12-11pm; 8/14, 12-9pm

Ferraris aren’t your thing, but you’re still craving a taste of Italy? Head to the Taylor Street Festa Italiana in Little Italy. Food booths from the fabulous variety of restaurants in the neighborhood will be lining the streets, along with four stages of live music. The line-up consists mainly of tribute shows, including those to The Rat Pack, Bon Jovi (YES!) and The Bronx Wanderers, along with DJ sets. Cultural exhibits, Italian merchandise, culinary presentations, and the requisite wine garden makes this festival a Littler Italy in one of Chicago’s most historic and beloved neighborhoods (see how we did that? Yes, we’re clever here at HI).

Chicago Korean Festival: August 13, 12-10pm, 8/14, 12-9pm

Immerse yourself in a unique culture at Chicago’s Korean Festival in North Park this weekend – dance performances, Taekwondo demonstrations and singing contests (apparently there are karaoke artists – it’s not just something you’re convinced to do after one too many drinks?) all give you a taste, but the real draw will be Korean wrestling matches, also known as Ssireum. The national sport of Korea, this sport may not be as bloody as UFC, but it’s just as entertaining with the sole purpose of body throwing your opponent. Who doesn’t love a good body throw?

Porkfest: August 13, 1-4pm

Though this Kosher-vegetarian blogger probably won’t be attending, it remains my duty to inform you about the granddaddy of all cookouts in August: McGee’s Tavern & Grill’s 7th Annual Porkfest: A General Celebration of Meat. Unlimited ribs, brisket, pulled pork, fried chicken, BBQ chicken, and basically any other kind of way you can cook meat will all be available for the entry fee of $20. Wear your pants with the elastic band and, in the words of McGee’s, “Get Porked!”

And while it’s tempting to leave off with “Get Porked,” it’s not necessarily the sentiment most suited to the rest of this post. So, we’ll end with something more generic. Like, “Until next time!” Or, “Happy heat wave!” Or maybe even, “Stay groovy!” Oh wait, we’ve used all of those already. Fine, you win.

Get Porked!

Written by: Keren Mikva

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Girl Scouts are in Chicago!

Written by: Krista Baum

Today, while walking in the hostel's kitchen I saw the Girl Scouts starting to get their food ready for their spaghetti dinner tonight at the hostel. I have never interviewed a group of Girl Scouts, and I thought it would be interesting to learn their story.

Girl Scout Troop 42745, a group of 8th grade girls from Oak Park IL, took the "L" train to get to HI-Chicago. They have been to Chicago with their families in the past, but never as a Girl Scout Troop.

This is their first time together as a Girl Scout Troop in Chicago, and staying at a hostel! The girls said that the hostel was "really posh" and that when they have been wandering around, they have heard a lot of British accents. They also enjoy eating with travelers at breakfast, and hope to meet more tonight at their spaghetti dinner.

So why did these ladies decide to visit Chicago?

They came to Chicago to earn their Discover Chicago Girl Scout Badge. To earn this badge these girls have to make their own Chicago tour. Each girl did research on a historic part of Chicago. They researched: The Great Chicago Fire, the Chicago Outfit (Chicago Mob), Buckingham Fountain, Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts, and her connection to Chicago, the John Hancock Building, and the Chicago Flag. After doing all of their research prior to their Chicago trip, they were finally able to learn about history outside of the books! They saw the John Hancock Building, the Chicago Flag, and tonight they will be going to see Buckingham Fountain and it's fabulous light show.

So would these ladies be interested in traveling again?

Most definitely! They all said that they wanted to travel around the world, and go to places like Russia, Australia, Greece, Switzerland, and many more places.

When I asked them about culture, they said that "Learning about culture is very important, because when you learn about foreign cultures you have a better understanding about their culture, and how it compares and contrasts from your own."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Lollapalooza is almost here!

Chicago is gearing up for what promises to be a crazy weekend, so let HI-Chicago help you get ready. Kick off the weekend right on Thursday evening with a mixer at the hostel from 5-7pm: 2 free drinks per guest (beer/wine available for 21+), snacks and DJ Idris Oladipo spinning! Directly following the mixer, join us for a pub crawl in Wicker Park to warm up your dancing feet (and your livers) and to meet your fellow festival-goers!

For Lolla itself, be sure to grab your wristbands before the shows start - check in on Thursday at 3pm, run over to the box office, and come back to the hostel by 5pm for the mixer! 3-day ticket holders are required to exchange their ticket for a 3-day wristband, which is non-transferable, non-exchangeable and cannot be replaced. They cannot be removed and must be worn all three days to allow entry. If the wristband is tampered with or mangled, it cannot be replaced! Single day ticket holders do not get a wristband and are not allowed re-entry. Wristbands allow only 5 re-entries per day. The box office, located at the Southeast corner of Michigan Ave and Van Buren St, is only 2 blocks from the hostel and is open Wednesday through Sunday, and box office hours are as follows:
Wednesday/Thursday - 3-8pm
Friday/Saturday/Sunday - 10am-10pm

The main entrance for the shows is at Michigan Avenue and Congress Pkwy, with the North Entrance at Columbus and Monroe. How much more convenient can you get? Band schedules, day-of FAQs, and after-party information are all available on the 2nd floor of the hostel so be sure to take advantage!

Who are you most excited to see? Like us on Facebook and let us know - we've been rocking out to Flogging Molly, Cage the Elephant, Damian Marley and Eminem all week in the intern office (seriously, you should see the intern rendition of "Lose Yourself")! Get pumped for this weekend, and the inevitable festival bonding that takes place 85 degrees and 15 bands into the day - you know those friendships last a lifetime. It's like being war buddies. Kind of.

See you all Thursday!

Traveler Spotlight--Candice

Written by: Krista Baum

Candice Basset has been on an traveling adventure this summer.

Candice is 25years old, and from Lyon, France. She studied International Marketing in school, where she focused on international marketing in hotels.

Last year, Candice traveled around China and thought it was so much fun!

This summer is her second time in the United States. The first time she visited the United States was four years ago, and she was working in California for three months. While she was there on the West Coast, she had the opportunity to travel to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and many other places.

As much as she wanted to go back to the West Coast, she wanted to see something new, so she decided to visit the East Coast! She started her trek in Canada, and went to Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, and Niagara Falls, and now she is in Chicago.

“Every year I try to travel—either internationally or nationally” Candice said. “I don’t really like routines, so I have to change it up. I love to discover something new.”

So what brought Candice to Chicago?

Candice was drawn to Chicago because of all the movies that have been filmed here. Movies like Public Enemies, Chicago, and the television show ER were all located here. I guess she wanted to see the city in real life instead of the big screen.

Candice is enjoying her time here, saying that “Chicago’s architecture, the traveler outings, and the beaches are great!”

Candice attended one of the Chicago Architecture Tours and said it was really interesting learning that there were a lot of French influences in the city’s architecture. I didn't even know that. Learning new things everyday is so much fun!

Before Candice leaves Chicago she plans on going on Bobby’s Bike Hike on Wednesday, and then seeing the fireworks by Navy Pier. It’s so great during the summer, because Chicago has fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday night!

Candice’s future plans are to go to Boston, New York, Washington D.C., New Orleans, Miami, and then back home to France. She says going home to France is like “going back to reality,” I totally agree with that. Whenever I’ve traveled it’s like living a dream, and then when you come home you wake up to the facts of everyday life.

Never stop dreaming, and never stop traveling!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Foto Friday Winner: Jaime

Here it is again, your weekly Foto Friday winner! Each week, we pick one or two guests to be featured on the blog and win a free prize, and Jaime snagged this week's slot. We've been seeing his smiling face around the hostel for a while now, so he'll be enjoying two free tickets to ComedySportz!

Name: Jaime
Hometown: Madrid, Spain
Favorite thing in Chicago so far: Concerts in Millennium Park

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Hottest Ways to Stay Cool

I’m a bit tired of the festival scene, so I think we’ll take a weekend off from the Chicago fest round-up to gear up for Lolla. Instead, in honor of the heat wave that we just finished and will be starting again shortly (although high-80s and sunny this weekend doesn’t sound too shabby!), here is your guide to the hottest places in the city to cool down – apart from sticking your head in the freezer, which is always a decent and efficient idea. (*Big thanks to Huffington Post for some of the pool ideas!*)

Public Pools

Chicago Park District has put a ton of time and money into developing the city’s parks, and most of them boast awesome outdoor public pools that Chicagoans can frequent during the summer!

Hamlin Park Pool: Roscoe Village (3035 N Hoyne Ave)

Lots of lounge chairs, sunny space to lay out, and shower and restroom facilities free of charge make this spot in Roscoe Village a popular spot on weekends (so we recommend arriving ~15 minutes prior to opening if you want to snag a chair!). The young adult crowd dominates the facility, and kids with their parents tend to stay in the shallows. Vending machines are available, but no other food/drink vendors beyond ice cream carts—you should bring your own drinks (especially some water!), but no coolers allowed. Free entry and use of all facilities!

Schedule: Mon/Wed/Fri 1:15pm-7:15pm, Tues/Thurs 1:15pm-8:15pm, Sat/Sun 11-7:15

*Please check website for exact Open Swim hours throughout the day*

Portage Park Pool: Portage Park (4100 N Long Ave)

Boasting an Olympic-sized pool with diving boards, a large deck for sun-bathing, misting sprays and an interactive play area for kids, Portage Park Pool also draws a large crowd on hot summer days. Passes are needed for Adult Lap Swim times, but otherwise it is open to the public for free. Quick warning – the lockers don’t actually lock, so be careful with valuables you leave in there! You might be better off taking a bag out with you to the pool deck.

Schedule: Mon-Fri 7am-10am + 4:30pm-7:15pm, Sat/Sun 9:30am-6pm

*Please check website for exact Open Swim hours throughout the day*

Chase Park Pool: Ravenswood (4701 N Ashland Ave)

With a smaller sized pool (maybe the size of a basketball court), Chase Park is definitely less crowded than the others, and usually has lounge chairs open – so what more do you need? Bike-friendly areas are available, and this park is actually a wonderful place to work out as well. An outdoor track, basketball and tennis courts, and baseball diamonds are all available free of charge (as is the pool), and use of the workout room is offered for a nominal fee. Work up a good sweat and hop in the pool to cool off!

Schedule: Mon-Fri 3pm-7:15pm, Sat/Sun 12pm-7:15pm

*Please check website for exact Open Swim hours throughout the day*


Lake Michigan, a.k.a the Heavens’ gift to Chicago, is quite possibly my favorite thing about this great city. As a New Yorker who grew up swimming in the Long Island Sound, trust me – you really don’t know how good you have it with the lake, so take advantage!

North Avenue Beach: Lincoln Park (1600 N Lake Shore Dr)

The young adult crowd that frequents North Avenue Beach makes it a bit of a singles scene, with sand, surf, and booze aplenty. Biking and running paths, volleyball tournaments, and equipment rentals also make this a work-out fiend’s dream. It’s easily the busiest beach in the city, so public transportation is recommended because parking is limited.

Oak Street Beach: Gold Coast (1000 N Lake Shore Dr)

Close to the Magnificent Mile and John Hancock Building, Oak Street Beach is steps away from the bustle of the city and thus a great place for people-watching (though there are definitely some eensy-weensy Speedos you may not want to look too closely at…). It’s also got a great running and biking path along Lake Shore Drive – but watch out for bicyclists with 2 headphones in and no cares as to whether or not they run you over.

Montrose Beach: Uptown (200 W Montrose Harbor Dr)

The home of Windy City Watersports, Montrose Beach is the best place to rent your WaveRunners, sailboats, and other equipment for some action sport fun on our Great Lake. This Saturday, you can even check out Beach Palooza, a crazy 5K obstacle course race on the beach starting at 9am. Either join in the festivities (race-day registration will be available for $65), or just come laugh at the fools crawling around drunk in the sand. All participants will also receive a pineapple hat, and you know how often that comes in handy. Every. Day.

*If you’re traveling with your pooch, check out Belmont Harbor (3200 N Lake Shore Dr) – the fenced in beach area makes this the city’s perfect unofficial doggie beach!*

A few more water-related ideas

-Splash around in Faces Fountain at Millennium Park – just because the average age of frolickers is somewhere around six shouldn’t stop you. Man up and channel your inner child!

-Rent a kayak to cruise down the Chicago River with Kayak Chicago. Be forewarned, this is not an activity for the faint of heart! Paddling back upstream is a work-out, and the river, while not toxic anymore, also has a bit of a garbage aroma at times. Nothing to worry about, just be sure to shower afterwards…really well.

-If you’re up for a bit of a drive, trek out to some of the best water parks in Illinois – Raging Waves in Yorkville is a great time, as is Hurricane Harbor at the Six Flags in Gurnee (and who doesn’t love a Six Flags?!).

-And finally, you can always head out to the suburbs and run through somebody else’s sprinklers. This is pretty self-explanatory. If it isn't, please see diagram below for directions.

And for those festival die-hards, here’s a brief list for this weekend:

Taste of Lincoln Avenue: N Lincoln Ave b/w Fullerton + Wrightwood Ave – Sheffield/De Paul

Saturday 12pm-10pm, Sunday 11am-10pm, $10 suggested donation

Randolph Street Market Festival: 1340 W Washington BlvdWest Loop

Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 10am-4pm, $10 entry ($5/students)

Fiesta del Sol: 1400 W Cermak Rd – Pilsen/Heart of Chicago/Little Village

Thursday 5-10pm, Friday/Saturday 11am-11pm, Sunday 11am-10pm, Free

Celebrate Hyde Park – July Summer Festival: 53rd St b/w Harper + Kimbark Ave – Hyde Park/University of Chicago

Saturday/Sunday 11am-9pm, Free

Also, don’t forget that Critical Mass is this Friday (the last Friday of every month) – take back the streets of the city with your fellow bicyclists for a fun, free community building event! Just show up with your bike in Daley Plaza by 5:30pm on Friday and join in the two-wheeling fun, and be sure to wish pedestrians, drivers, and passers-by a Happy Friday!

Enjoy the weekend, the weather, the water, and wow – so many good words start with a w (waffles, walruses, wine, Wham!…). Anyways, until next time!

Written by: Keren Mikva

What's cookin' in Cultural Kitchen?

Written by: Krista Baum

Chicago, a city known for its beautiful architecture, Chicago style pizza and hot dogs, the Magnificent Mile, international neighborhoods, world-renown museums, jazz and blues…and a destination site for many travelers.

One of the advantages about living in Chicago is that it is so diverse.

At Hostelling International Chicago international travel, diversity, and becoming a global citizen are some of the key components that make us who we are.

HI-Chicago offers a multitude of educational programs and traveler outings, but one that seems to stand out among the rest is Cultural Kitchen.

Cultural Kitchen is an educational program that HI-Chicago offers throughout the entire year, and is run primarily by Megan Johnson, and her current Education intern. This summer 2011, Megan and her Education intern, Eleanor, ran four Cultural Kitchen’s.

Cultural Kitchen’s purpose is to enrich the lives of Chicago’s youth and give them a better understanding of cultural awareness and what it means to be a global citizen.

This summer, Megan and Eleanor have worked with four different summer youth programs in the Chicagoland area. They were: Christopher House, McGaw YMCA, Centro Romero, and Gads Hill Center. Each group participated in classroom sessions, chose a country to study, and came to HI-Chicago to cook a meal from that country and then do a presentation afterwards.

Christopher House chose to study Brazil, McGaw YMCA chose Romania, Centro Romero chose Italy, and Gads Hill Center chose France. Each of these youth groups were able to come to HI-Chicago to cook a meal from their country, participate in Human Bingo, fill out their Cultural Passport, and give a presentation about all that they learned about their chosen countries.

All of the meals and presentations were great! Some of the groups got really creative, and demonstrated cultural dances, sang songs, and had examples of common phrases in that country’s native language.

Then everyone got to spend a night in the hostel. They were able to play games, meet travelers, and explore the city at night! The next morning, everyone attends a reflection about what they learned from Cultural Kitchen and what they will take away from their stay in the hostel.

I definitely recommend staff members, interns, volunteers, and travelers at HI-Chicago to attend a Cultural Kitchen at least once! It’s an amazing experience where you can learn a lot about a foreign culture through the perspective of Chicago's youth.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Traveler Spotlight--Mike

Written by: Krista Baum

Mike has been to places all over the United States and the world! He was born in Fargo, North Dakota, lives in Dallas, Texas and is now doing service work in Chicago, IL. This guy has been all over the place!

This summer 2011, Mike has been to San Francisco, San Antonio, Fargo, and Belize! His occupation is one that many travelers, backpackers, or couch surfers would love…he travels for a living!

Mike works as a professional travel guide with Wonder Voyage, a non-profit company with headquarters in Dallas, Texas, that does national and international pilgrimages, mission trips, and service learning activities with different student groups, college groups, church groups, and more.

Currently, Mike is the travel guide and leader of a church group of eighteen high school and college aged students from New York. That’s a lot of people! But Mike is not alone, there are many adult chaperones helping out on the trip. An extra set of eyes are always a big help J

This group has been doing service work and exploration in Chicago! For service work, they have inventoried a warehouse for an organization called Vital Bridges, and yesterday they did maintenance on a transitional home for women and children. Their next service activity will be doing work with elderly veterans and having lunch with them.

Along with their service work, these volunteers have really enjoyed exploring the city of Chicago. They went to Navy Pier, Millennium Park, and are looking forward to seeing the Art Institute of Chicago!

So what brought this group to Chicago in the first place?

The kids from the group had to vote on a city to do service work in, and Chicago won the vote! Chicago was preferred because a lot of the kids thought that Chicago was interesting, and a lot of them wanted to go to college here. Good choice guys!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Foto Friday Winner: Dayoung

Each Friday, we pick one or two lucky guests to be pictured on our blog and to receive a free gift from HI-Chicago. Dayoung was patiently waiting to check in when I wandered by, so she received a unique Hostelling International leather travel wallet!

Name: Dayoung
Hometown: Daegu, Korea
Where she's headed next: Millennium Park!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Happy Heat Wave!

We’re trying something a bit new this week, and giving you not only the big festivals of the summer, but also a guide to some cool events that are further off the beaten track. Grab your sunscreen and about 6 gallons of ice water and head out into the heat this weekend!

Big Fests
(like the other 10 street festivals you’ve been to this summer, but keep going to because they’re fun and have free giveaways)

Wicker Park Fest: July 23 – 24, 12-10pm

This may actually be one of the best street festivals of the summer (or so says the Tribune), but it does sound quite cool. 3 stages with nonstop music from bands and DJs with some of the weirdest names I’ve heard in a while (An Aesthetic Anaesthetic? What does that even mean?) will be playing all weekend, along with much more. A petting zoo, arts and crafts stations, bounce houses, and a DUNK TANK—which we believe has been severely lacking in the festival scene thus far—make this one of the more exciting fests of the summer! Also, the Summer Sizzle Sidewalk Sale will be going on simultaneously from 11am-6pm both days along all major streets in Wicker Park, so you can snag some deals from your favorite neighborhood stores! But let me reiterate the most important thing once more, dunk tank. $5 suggested donation.

Sheffield Garden Walk and Festival: July 23 – 24, 12-10pm

Head to the Garden District of Chicago and help support efforts to keep this neighborhood beautiful at the Sheffield Garden Walk and Festival this weekend! Check out self-guided tours of over 80 gardens, free guided architectural tours, food and drink vendors and, of course, live music. Headliners include Archie Powell and the Exports, Soul Asylum, and School of Rock! $7, $10/after 3pm.

Chariot Festival: July 24, 12:30-6pm

Celebrate Indian culture at the Chariot Festival this Sunday, hosted by the Chicago Hare Krishna Temple in Loyola Park! A parade headed by a hand-pulled chariot (Chariot Festival…get it?) kicks off the festival, beginning at 11:30am and making its way to the park. There will be free lunch for everyone, yes, free, along with traditional Indian dancing and music, family activities, henna, traditional Indian stores and more! Free.


Random but Very, Very Cool Events

(some alternatives that are pretty bizarre but awesome at the same time)

Chicago SummerDance—Soul Train Anniversary Party: July 23, 6-9:30pm

That’s right, it’s time to hop on the hippest train around to celebrate Soul Train’s 40th Anniversary, hosted by Chicago SummerDance at Grant Park! Yes, I recognize that there is a Summerdance event every Thursday through Sunday throughout the summer, but how many of them feature The Bop and Soul Train Line dance lessons with live music by The Platinum Band playing Soul Train Dance Party tunes? One. And it’s this Saturday, with lessons from 6-7pm and live music and dancing until 9:30pm. Strap on your disco shoes and nostalgia and head out to celebrate this institution’s Chicago roots! Free.

Big Dig North Avenue Beach Party: July 23, 9am-5pm

Join Chicago’s hottest summer beach bash (seriously, it will be in the 90s again, but how better to cool off than at the beach?) at the Big Dig North Avenue Beach Party this Saturday! While it’s too late to sign up for the beach games, spectators are encouraged (and welcomed for free with an RSVP!) to watch some volleyball, bags/cornhole, and dodgeball. There will be DJs and live performances featuring Kidd Russell and Na Palm, so come relax on the beach, listen to some awesome music, and watch others sweat profusely in way-too-intense beach games!

Dollar Beer Night at Beauty Bar: July 24, 10pm

I’ve always been a fan of this slightly gimmicky-but-in-a-good-way bar in West Town with its $10 Manicure and Martini special (come on, ladies, that’s brilliant!), but dudes should feel welcome at Beauty Bar this Sunday for $1 select brews and $3 well drinks. Phil Mixtape and DJ Red Ryder will be bringing you their favorite hits from the last three decades, so come liven up what would be an otherwise boring Sunday night—you know you can catch reruns of True Blood later in the week. Free entry, 21+.

Bags Benefit Tournament at Joe’s Bar: July 23, 2-5pm

Join in the 5th Annual Bags Tournament to benefit Special Olympics Chicago at Joe’s Bar on Weed Street this Saturday! Entry includes an open bar Coors Light drafts, well drinks, wine and soda ($25/spectators, $35/bags players)—while admission prices are a bit high, just remember its open bar for 3 hours and you could do much more damage than $25 in a night out. Also, it’s a fundraiser, you cheap skates!

Whole Foods FREE Beer and Wine Tasting: July 23, 1-4pm

Pretty sure this one is self-explanatory, but let me just spell it out: Free. Beer. And. Wine. Head to the Whole Foods on Canal St in the South Loop to couple your grocery shopping with some wine and beer tastings! We even double checked – it’s completely free. No fine print, no buying minimum, no cover. Seriously, just free. How wonderful is that?

Red Bull BC One United States Qualifiers: July 23, 8pm

Come watch the nation’s best B-Boys (break dancers, for all you non-ABDC fans) as they compete in the qualifiers to advance to the finals in Moscow! 16 crews will compete in 1-on-1 battles, so come support your favorite crew or one from your city (Chicago pride, anyone?) for their chance to represent America in the finals! DJ Skeme Richards will be spinning all night as you watch the best of best dance it out! $10 tickets or $20/VIP, 18+.

Happy heat wave! Anybody want to head to Oregon?

Written by: Keren Mikva

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Traveler Spotlight--Sam

Written by: Krista Baum

Earlier today, I talked with Sam…little did she know that today is the day that she would be featured for today’s Traveler Spotlight!

Sam is a 26 year old from London England. She has traveled extensively all over the world! She toured Africa during her gap year, visited family in Australia, has been to Hong Kong, Singapore, Russia, all over Europe, the southern parts of India, and traveled to Brazil and California for work.

For Sam, work has really allowed her to travel! She currently works at the Natural History Museum in London, England as a research assistant. There she studies botany, researching new species of plants. At the Natural History Museum she has been proactive in community outreach and education programs to engage children in having a greater interest in science.

So what brought Sam to Chicago? Sam recently came from St. Louis, Missouri where she saw the Missouri Botanic Garden and is now in Chicago where she will start her two week long research assignment at the Field Museum. She will be comparing botany specimens there to the ones back home at the Natural History Museum. The scientists have to make sure that their data about a species is correlating to other scientists’ data in another country regarding the same species. When I asked if I would be able to see the botany specimens at the Field Museum, Sam said that those specimens were collections that were hidden from the viewers because they need certain conditions to survive. There are so many hidden gems at the Field Museum.

I then asked Sam about what she thought of HI-Chicago, and she thought that it had a friendly atmosphere and wants to see her room so she can unpack all of her things and rest a bit before exploring Chicago!

So what will she do in Chicago?

Tomorrow, Sam’s boyfriend from London is arriving in Chicago, and they will be able to do some exploring together after Sam has finished her work at the Field Museum. She hopes that they can attend a baseball game, see the Shedd Aquarium, visit the Art Institute, and just wander around the city.

Sam’s future travel plans are to go to Northern India, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

And…little known fact, I asked Sam if she watched Prince William and Kate’s wedding, and Sam said that she did watch it and that one of her co-workers from London was at the same university at the same time that Prince William was there, and that they played cricket together!

What a small world J