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!

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