Friday, April 22, 2011

Pay Chicago a Visit This Summer

Sunny and Humid (With a 100% Chance of Fun)
By Jessica Smith

Ask Chicagoans how they deal with the frigid and lengthy winters, and they'll likely give you a response somewhere along the lines of "Oh, but the summers make it sooo worth it." This week, as we near the end of April and we feel some sort of entitlement to springtime bliss, there's no doubt that Chicagoans are feeling a little bitter about the snow that's accumulating on our budding gardens (real or metaphorical gardens, either way we're not happy about fickle temperatures freezing them over). But let's not forget how soon warm weather and summer programming will be a reality. It's time for locals to get excited about summer, and travelers to begin plotting their trips - here are just a few reminders why:

On any given Thursday night in summer, you can listen to Mongolian folk music, Gypsy electronic dance, and Brazilian samba in Pritzker Pavillion as part of the Music Without Borders series. On any given Monday night, you can hear indie favorites like Iron and Wine, Blonde Redhead, and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists thanks to the Downtown Sound: New Music Monday series. And just about every other night of the week features more music, as part of the Grant Park Music Festival and World Class Jazz series. All for FREE, picnics and BYOB welcome, with our glowing city as a backdrop. So. Good.


Dave Matthew Band's Caravan Music Festival - Lakeside
When: July 8-10
Cost: $195 for a 3-day pass (no word of 1-day passes being available at this time)
In the inaugural year of this concept, Dave Matthews Band is bringing their multi-city music festival to the south side of Chicago for a big weekend of folky, jammy, and soulful music. The line-up is almost fully announced and includes David Gray, the Flaming Lips, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Kid Cudi, and more. Of course, the namesake DMB will be playing a full-length set on each night.

Pitchfork Music Festival - Union Park
When: July 15-17
Cost:$45 for a 1-day pass (3-day passes are sold out)
Pitchfork is the lower-key, yet slightly edgier little sister of Lollapalooza, now in its 6th year at Union Park. Animal Collective, Neko Case, Fleet Foxes, Toro y Moi, and many more - they're still announcing bands.

Lollapalooza Music Festival - Grant Park
When: August 5-7
Cost: $215 for a 3-day pass, $90 for a single-day pass (not yet available)
Lolla, with it's steamy early August temperatures, at-times rowdy crowds, and sprawling fest grounds in Grant Park, is not for the faint of heart. Being part of the chaos at least once is a great thing to cross off your bucket list, though! It's the 20th Anniversary this summer, so hopes are high for an extra great lineup (which will be announced on April 26th)

North Coast Music Festival - Union Park
When: September 2-4
Cost: $40 for a day pass, $95 for a 3-day pass
In its second year, the North Coast Music Festival will continue to deliver a progressive serving of electronica, MCs, jambands and everything in between. Featuring Wiz Khalifa, Thievery Corporation, Common, Lotus, Neon Indian, with many more to be announced soon.


Wine Riot - Union Station, Downtown
When: May 21
Cost: $45-50
Tour wines of the world with 250 different samples and wine seminars, as well as a photo booth, DJs and food pairings. Not cheap, but a great deal for the wine fanatics among us.

SausageFest - Wrigleville
When: June 4 & 5
Cost: $5-7
Formerly the Lake View Music Festival, Wrigleyville's new (giggle-inducing yet aptly named) SausageFest will feature slight re-branding but still retain music, arts and craft vendors and food from area restaurants, specifically encased meats. Smoking Popes, Sixteen Candles, and more artists TBA.

Street Food Artistry - River West
When: August 14
Cost: TBA
Considering how popular food trucks have become in just the few months since they were approved by the city, it's not surprising that there will now be a whole day to celebrate them! This festival of Chicago's food trucks and street-inspired dishes will include food samples, cooking demonstrations, a mixology class and a performance by Soul People.

Ravenswood Remix - Ravenswood
When: September 3 & 4
Cost: $5 donation
The inaugural fest features art made from recycled, found and reused materials by more than 125 artists. Food and drinks from forward-thinking vendors also available, along with live music and a variety of workshops.

For the complete listings of summer festivals, check out Metromix's 2011 Festival Guide.


Find Some Grass
The simplest way to enjoy the outdoors in Chicago is just to find a big, open grassy area in one of our many parks or boulevards. Grant Park and Lincoln Park are the favorites, but don't forget about smaller green spaces such as Oz Park in Lincoln Park, Hamlin Park in Roscoe Village, and the boulevards in Logan Square. Picnic, play Frisbee, start a pick-up game of soccer - surely you don't have to be told how to have fun in a beautiful park!

Beachy Times
Oak Street Beach epitomizes a city beach, due to its central location right off of Michigan Avenue below the majestic skyline of downtown Chicago. It also happens to be very clean, quaint, and relatively quiet compared to other beaches. And then there's North Avenue Beach, which is the epicenter of the fun-loving summer social scene. You can play beach volleyball, soak up rays, people-watch, and party at one of the beachfront bars - just don't come here for a day of quiet reflection. If you're goal isn't to see and be seen, then you might be better off at Foster Avenue Beach, a huge oasis of sand on the far north side that caters to the more family-friendly and serenity-seeking bunch. On the completely opposite side of the city, the 57th Street Beach in Hyde Park is another beach that is less of a scene and more of a place to unwind and enjoy the summer heat. A long day at the Museum of Science and Industry is wonderfully capped off by a visit to this beach.

While there are plenty of Chicagoans who bravely cycle through the city all year round, most of us hold off until summertime to use this as our primary mode of transportation. For those who are starting from scratch without a bike, you can always test out your biking abilities by renting one from Bobby's Bike Hike, a great company that offers a $20 a day ($25 on the weekends) bike rental deal to HI-Chicago. And although it has yet to gain the sweeping popularity that it has in cities such as Paris or Montreal, Chicago does have a bike sharing program called BCycle. For those that are already set with their own bikes, the 18-mile paved lakefront trail offers uninterrupted cycling bliss. If you're interested in becoming a better urban cyclist, the Active Transportation Alliance offers great bike workshops and organizes big-scale events like Bike the Drive and Boulevard Lakefront Tour.

Book your hostel beds at HI-Chicago and get ready for a great summer adventure!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kathy Schubert – HI-Chicago volunteer and Green activist

By Margaret Sheridan

On Saturday evening, March 26, Kathy Schubert left the hostel guests at HI-Chicago in the dark. By design.

Kathy, a 12-year HI-Chicago volunteer, brought her special passion to everything - from bike safety in the city to her promotion of all-green living and energy conservation – to HI-Chicago.

For sixty minutes she turned off all unessential lights and other electrical appliances to celebrate Earth Hour, a global event started in 2007 in Australia, to raise awareness and take action on climate change. (see website
It was a first-time event for the hostel, but the third year Kathy hosted such a happening. Usually, she does it at her home.

MS. Why did you introduce it in the hostel?
KS: I wanted to share with the guests, and then learn from their input how people conserve energy in their countries. One guy who worked on a submarine was forced to conserve water by showering only for a minute or two.

MS: What else?
KS: We had two young ladies from Japan who told us they have seven different kinds of recycling and try to separate items properly – batteries, glass, and paper. We had Geri Naynick from Madison, WI who does recycling and gave away her old lawnmower by putting it out on the front lawn with a sign FREE. This is how they do it in Madison. We agreed that people would probably recycle more if they were fined for not doing it right. Where people pay for garbage pickup and recycling pickup, they're more likely to participate. Most of the people who participated bicycle at least in the warmer months. The Japanese student from Columbus, OH lamented her college roommate's preference to turn the furnace up and the air conditioning down instead of adjusting clothing. We advised her to keep the temperature steady to keep the bills down and prevent damage to the system. I said that I hang my laundry indoors and have stopped using my electric dryer. I use my plastic bags for dog poop twice (I have a small dog). I use handkerchiefs instead of tissues for my nose and avoid using paper towels whenever possible.

MS: You’re well-known around Chicago for cycling with your dog.
KS: I’ve rode for 15 years with my dog Joey, a Miniature Schnauzer. She rode in a basket and wore a helmet. It was my way of educating other cyclists to wear a helmet. Joey died at age 15. My new dog is Suzy, 4 ½ years old. I got her from a shelter. I travel around the country, and world, with my dogs.

MS: Long bike rides with your dogs?
KS. Yes. I’ve done 12 RAGBRAIs (a five-day organized ride across IOWA), and I’ve cycled 12 days in Capitol to Capitol, a 669-mile ride from Ottawa, Canada to Washington DC with Joey. I’ve been cycling since I was a kid. I grew up in Albany Park.

MS: Any advice for would-be urban cyclists who are nervous to ride in Chicago?
KS: Open your eyes, unplug your ears and watch for pedestrians.

MS: What’s your professional background?
KS:. I graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in psychology. Worked in advertising and film editing for years, even had my own company for 20 years. I’ve lived in New York City and London. I volunteer at the hostel at the information desk. I enjoy leading tours to places like Maxwell Street or the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie. It’s fun to show guests how easy it is to use transit system. I also volunteer for the Red Cross in recruitment and on projects such as blood drives.

MS: How do you travel?
KS: I enjoy doing homestays in Europe and Australia. I like meeting people and understanding their culture and how they live. I belong to Servas. It connects travelers with home stay opportunities. (

MS: How do you live “green”?
KS: I do composting. I bike instead of drive. Use paper on both sides. Keep a garden. I try to teach my tenants to recycle, but it’s hard. They need to be reminded, and especially to keep the thermostat down in their apartments. Mine is kept at 58 degrees in the evening and 66 degrees during the day. I try to recycle stuff. My favorite site is You can give away what you don’t need and get free things that other people don’t need.