Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy 4th!

Chicago might not have the patriotic landscapes of Washington, D.C., but it is going to be far from quiet this Independence Day weekend. Your dedicated HI-Chicago interns have sniffed out some of the best deals for you to celebrate your 4th in style, not to mention a couple awesome events that you should be sure to hit!

July 4th Festivities

Lottie’s Pub (1925 W Cortland): Beer and BBQ Party

-Lottie’s is hosting its own July 4th BBQ on its open-air patio—$7 will get you a barbecued chicken plate with baked beans, potato salad and dessert. $3 cans and $4 drafts complete this American-style celebration!

Castaways Bar and Grill (1603 N Lake Shore Dr): Live Music Independence Day Weekend

-Castaways on North Avenue Beach, a popular beach hangout with casual walk-up service on the first level, also boasts a rooftop bar and restaurant that offers full food and drink service. Enjoy ice cold drinks and beachside burgers while listening to live music both Sunday and Monday: Chicago-grown DJ Jem will be spinning on Sunday, and the exciting new band Sunfallen will take over on Monday. Hit the beach on what promises to be a swelteringly hot weekend and enjoy these free performances! Music from 1 – 7 PM both days, no cover.

John Barleycorn (658 W Belden Ave): Independence Day at John Barleycorn

-A DJ dance party at John Barleycorn on Sunday (10 PM – 2 AM), including $1 sliders, $7 pizzas, and $18 Bud Light buckets, followed by a $12 all-you-can-eat buffet on Monday (what could be more patriotic?!) with all of your 4th favorites: ribs, chicken, burgers, and more! And this traveler’s personal favorite--$4 Arnold Palmers and vodka! Mmmmm…

Frontier (1072 N Milwaukee Ave): Independence Day at Frontier

-Barbecue and drink specials, but we’re most excited about Frontier's $12 firecracker punch, available Sunday and Monday from 11 AM – 2 AM, made with blue raspberry lemonade, raspberry vodka and blue curacao float. Independence has never tasted so good!

The Pony (1638 W Belmont Ave): Independence Day at The Pony

-Specials include $3 cans, $5 designer shots, and $2 mini-Chicago dogs, brats and burgers. Complimented by a DJ spinning American classic tunes, The Pony promises to be a fun time!

Bangers and Lace (1670 W Division St): 4th of July BBQ & Horseshoes

-Are you a horseshoes fanatic? Never heard of it but think it sounds fun? Check out Bangers and Lace anytime this weekend, Friday through Monday from 12 – 5 PM, for a backyard-style celebration. A horseshoes tournament will be accompanied by $1 hot dogs and craft beer, and winners may find themselves in the B&L beer of the month club!

And also…

Bushwood 4th of July RibFest: July 1 – 4 (Fri 3 – 11 PM, Sat/Sun 12 – 11 PM, Mon 12 – 8 PM)

Bushwood Golf Center (30 Madison St, Maywood):

If you are a rib aficionado, consider taking a quick trek out to the near-west suburb of Forest Park for its first annual RibFest! Friday through Monday will host live music, including a Bon Jovi cover band (YES!) and, of course, finger-lickin’ good ribs.

African-Caribbean International Festival of Life: July 1 – 4 (12 – 10 PM)

Washington Park (5500 S. Cottage Grove Ave, Chicago)

Ok, this is not really 4th-related, but SO COOL! Head to Washington Park and check out the 19thannual cultural celebration that will host food, vendors, and live music on two stages, featuring headliner Loretta Lee! That’s 10 hours of non-stop music all 4 days, so don’t miss out! $10/single day ($15 if purchased at door after 5 PM), $30/4 day pass.


While there will not be official city fireworks due to economic difficulties, fear not! Navy Pier will still hold its previously scheduled 15-minute fireworks show at 9 PM on July 2nd and 4th. If you've got your heart set on watching them from the pier, be sure to get there early. Last year's crowd reached over a quarter of million people before police had to shut down access to the pier entirely! Especially with the lack of fireworks elsewhere this weekend, expect enormous crowds to flock to Navy Pier. However, there are tons of places along the lakefront that you can see the show from, so be sure to check out fun restaurants and bars that have a view of the pier (and won't have those jacked-up tourist prices! $10 for a beer? Come on)!

Written by: Keren Mikva

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pitchfork Festival Kick-off Mixer!

Are you coming into town for Pitchfork Festival? Looking for a good way to start the weekend? Be sure to come by HI-Chicago on Thursday, July 14th at 5 PM for drinks, snacks, and great music by DJ Limbs! All current hostel guests are invited and will receive 2 free drink tickets (21+ only) and the chance to mingle with your fellow festival-goers. A pub crawl will follow the mixer in Wicker Park, so don't miss out on exclusive drink specials and more! The night will end at the Between Lounge, where the tireless DJ Limbs will be performing AGAIN until 2 AM (and has managed to secure a round of Patron shots for hostel guests)! A fantastic way to kick off what promises to be an incredible weekend!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Traveler Spotlight--Verena Gelbe

Written by: Krista Baum

I met Verena at the Traveler Excursion Event when we all went to the Kingston Mines Blues Club and thought she was fun, smart, and a perfect candidate for traveler spotlight!

Verena Gelbe is 27 years old and from Goettingen, Germany. She has done extensive traveling all over Europe, has visited Northern Africa and has seen numerous cities in the United States, including: San Francisco, New York City, Washington D.C., Orlando, and now...Chicago!

So why did she stay at HI-Chicago?

Verena found HI-Chicago on hostelbookers. HI-Chicago had the smallest dorm (4 bed dorm room) available, a good location, nice accommodations, and it was inexpensive. Everything that Verena was looking for as a traveler. Verena said that HI-Chicago "just turned out to be the best!"

While Verena was in Chicago, she immersed herself in the city life! She saw almost every mall, and really enjoyed Water Tower Place and checking out the shops on State Street. She went on a boat tour, as well as told me that HI-Chicago travelers could find coupons for it at the hostel! She also went to the Hancock Observation Deck, the Sears Tower Skydeck and the Art Institute of Chicago. Along with all the tourist hotspots, Verena enjoyed attending the Chicago festivals, including: Pride Fest, Green Music Fest, and the Taste of Chicago. She also really enjoyed the traveler excursions and the free concerts in Millennium Park!

This was Verena's first trip to Chicago, and she initially thought that it would be bigger and busier. She does state that it's not a bad thing that Chicago's not busier. She thought that it actually made everything a little less stressful when exploring the city.

As a woman traveling alone, Verena had a really nice time! She said that it was nice traveling on her own and that she could explore Chicago at her own pace and her own schedule. She was more open to meeting new people and made a lot of new friends at HI-Chicago through different events, like the traveler excursions, and thought that they were all very welcoming. She definitely wanted to mention that HI-Chicago has a very nice staff :)

She does recommend to women traveling alone that they should inform themselves beforehand and do not look like they do not know where they are or where they are going.

She did say that it would be tough meeting people if you're shy, and that you really have to be outgoing and put yourself out there. Another disadvantage of traveling alone was that she could not share all of her experiences or special moments with someone. So, even though traveling along can be an amazing experience, sometimes you just wish you could have a travel buddy.

Even though Verena is traveling alone in Chicago, she has a special someone at home waiting for her in Germany. Verena and her boyfriend have been dating for 4-5 months and both live in Germany. This then brought me to the topic about long distance relationships, and how it was for Verena being in the USA while her boyfriend is in Germany. She said that they are doing well, and that they talk on the phone regularly to keep in touch. She definitely misses him, but since they both know that they will see each other again in 4 weeks, it does not seem like it is that long of a wait. One of the most important long distance relationship advice that Verena gave was saying that a long distance relationship "is all about trust and communication."

So where does she plan on going in the future? Verena will be attending a wedding in Michigan later next week. It was interesting though because she said that her initial plan this summer was to go to Asia! Even though her trip to Asia was postponed, she still plans on going there in the future!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Foto Friday Winners: Alex and Elizabeth

Each Friday, we pick one (or two!) lucky guests to be pictured on our blog and to receive a free gift from HI Chicago! Alex and Elizabeth were checking at just the right time, so they'll be enjoying 2 free tickets to ComedySportz!

Names: Alex and Elizabeth
Hometown: Lincoln, Nebraska
What brought them to Chicago: Pride Parade!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

End June with a BANG! (because Chicago certainly will)

Are you in Chicago this weekend? While June might be drawing to a close, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing left to do this month! This weekend is packed with unique Chicago festivals, so if you’re visiting or you live in the area, be sure not to miss out on these summer-tastic events!

Chicago Pride: June 24 – 26

Join in the ninth annual LGBTQ community celebration in Boystown at Halsted and Waveland. Two stages will have live music, drag shows, and even pet parades from 5-10 PM on Friday and 12-9 PM on Saturday. Food vendors, arts and crafts, and more will all be available, showcasing artists and performers in Chicago’s gay community. And don’t forget the iconic Pride Parade on Sunday, which marches from Halsted and Belmont to Cannon Dr in Lincoln Park. This year’s theme is “Pride around the World” (how perfect!) so get out there and rep your country with PRIDE! $7 donation before 5 PM, $10 after.

Chicago Summerfest: June 25 – 26

Check out Lincoln Park on Saturday or Sunday for food and drink vendors, crafts and fine arts for sale, kid-friendly entertainment, and a non-stop line-up of live music at the Chicago Summerfest. Visitors can also take advantage of the historical or architectural tours of the mid-North area offered by the Mid-North Association. Oh yeah, and did we mention the pig roast?

Green Music Fest: June 25 – 26

Pig roast doesn’t grab your attention? This vegetarian understands completely. Head to WickerPark for the Green Music Fest on Damen Ave from North to Schiller. Live music, including Yo La Tengo and Les Savy Fav, will be performing from 1:30 until 10 PM on both days, along with environmentally-friendly vendors and services! Ride your bike there and park it in the bike valet (hello, green living!) and pick up a biodegradable plastic cup of brew—but to be clear, the cup is biodegradable, not the beer, so you should probably still drink responsibly! $5 donation.

Randolph Street Market Festival: June 25 – 26

If you’re vaguely recalling strolling along Randolph last weekend, you’re not suffering from festival amnesia—Randolph Street is hosting the season opener of its monthly Street Market Festival (visit the link above for future dates). Pick up some cool antiques and indie designs at great prices—vintage clothing, jewelry, furnishings (with free furniture delivery within downtown Chicago!), and TONS of food vendors will all be on display from over 200 vendors from the area. You can even get free entry to the last 2 hours of the market each month—check out the “See for Free” coupon on its website!

Taste of Chicago: June 24 – July 3

If you haven’t heard of Taste of Chicago already, you’re in for a treat (treat, get it? Like food…). Open each day in Grant Park from 11 AM – 9 PM (though it closes at 7 PM on the 3rd), this 10 day festival features over 70 restaurants and food vendors. While entry is free (our favorite word), purchases can be made with tickets only (12 tickets/$8), and you can grab anything from just a taste to a full meal. Live music, cooking demos, and a stellar view of Lake Michigan make this one of Chicago's most famous summer events. While there won’t be nightly fireworks this year (bummer, yes), there will be fireworks on Navy Pier on July 2nd and 4th, and you can catch those from the Lakefront Trail!

Written by: Keren Mikva

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Traveler Spotlight--Libby and Becky

Written by: Krista Baum

Happy 1st day of summer!! As part of my internship at HI-Chicago, I had the pleasure of doing my first traveler spotlight interview with two lovely ladies from England.

Libby and Becky have been friends for 6 years, are both 19yrs. old and live in Surrey, England. They decided that this summer was the right time to travel to the United States because Becky will be starting Uni in the fall and Libby is taking her gap year before Uni.

Their adventures started after flying out of London, England, and landing in Boston, Massachusetts. They have already traveled extensively on Amtrak to New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago.

But where did they stay?

After a poor experience at a private hostel in New York, they used to book beds at HI-Washington D.C. After a great experience at the D.C. hostel, they decided to stick with the HI brand in choosing HI-Chicago.

Currently they are at HI-Chicago! During their past four days they have seen a lot of things, including: the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Museum of Science and Industry. Along with famous tourist destinations, every town has it's own cuisine, and in Chicago it's the Chicago style hot dog! So what is on a Chicago style hot dog? A Chicago style hot dog consists of: an all beef hot dog on a poppy seed bun, yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices, pickled peppers, and celery salt. Yum! These ladies were in awe by all of the toppings! It was cute when we interviewed because they said they wanted ketchup on their hotdogs, I told them that ketchup was not put on a Chicago style hot dog, and then they understood as to why the hot dog vender was so perplexed when they asked for ketchup.
Before they leave Chicago, they plan on going to the Skydeck at Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower. As well as will try some Chicago style pizza and hit up the shopping scene!

What are their favorite things about staying at HI-Chicago?

Libby loves the view from the dining room and watching the trains pass by. Both Libby and Becky are healthy chefs and love the conveniance of cooking in the communal kitchen.
However, there are always challenges for travelers. Becky misses her phone, which she left in England, but because HI-Chicago has complimentary wifi she was able to keep in touch with her friends and family.

Libby would rather not have to live out of her suitcase. I can totally relate to Libby's comment because living out of a suitcase is tricky. I always had clothes tossed around in my suitcase, and sometimes I could not tell which ones were clean and which were dirty. That's when I would just close my eyes and hope for the best. Then there was all of the bath products that would be scattered about, and commonly found at the very bottom of my suitcase.

After Chicago, they plan on taking the Amtrak to Tennesse, New Orleans, L.A., and San Francisco. Hopefully booking with HI hostels in each of their destinations.

In the future they hope to travel to Australia! It's neat because Becky has family there, so maybe they will be her tour guides.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Foto Friday Winner: Eloise

Each Friday, we pick one lucky guest to be pictured on our blog and to receive a free gift from HI Chicago! We happened upon Eloise in our lobby, so she'll be enjoying 2 free tickets to ComedySportz!

Name: Eloise
Hometown: Liverpool, England
What she's most excited to do in Chicago: Museum of Science and Industry

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Intern Spotlight--Laura Cohen

Written by: Krista Baum

Intern Background

Name: Laura Cohen

Where you’re from: Mount Prospect, IL

Major/School: Double Major in International Studies and French at Illinois Wesleyan University

Intern Position: Non-Profit Development

KB: What international experience have you had?

LC: I studied abroad in Nantes, France for a semester where I immersed myself in the French culture by staying with a French family and all of my courses were taught in French. I also took a 2 ½ week class touring in Italy, and in the past I participated in a high school weeklong exchange in Paris. I have also traveled to England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and Mexico.

KB: Why did you decide to intern with Hostelling International Chicago this summer?

LC: I was interested in exploring non-profit development as a career path but I also wanted to do something that had international aspects to it. Also I’m very pro Chicago and I like the idea of such a well rounded hostel in this great city.

KB: What do you hope to learn from this internship?

LC: I want to learn about the fundamentals of non-profit development, how to create grant-proposals, and learn the logistics of how to execute a successful fundraiser.

KB: Where would you like to travel in the future?

LC: Spain and Greece!

Volunteer Spotlight - Jodi & Chuck Cerny

By Margaret Sheridan

Jodi and Chuck Cerny agree on many things: a love of Chicago, a curiosity about other cultures and people, the adventure of travel and the joy in giving back.

What divides the couple is giving directions. That is part of their volunteer job at HI-Chicago's Information Desk.

They handle the desk, morning shift, twice a week. Chuck works on Monday and Jodi is there on Thursday.

"We tried early on in our volunteer work to do the desk together, but it didn't work out," says Jodi. We got the guests to their destination but Chuck and I couldn't agree on which was the best way."

"We each have our own opinions," he added.


The Cernys are veteran hostel enthusiasts. They met as teens in 1956 on a camping trip organized by a hostel in Chicago. Friendship blossomed through many outdoor activities, but their lives diverged. Decades later they met by chance at a square dance reunion in 1980. They married eight years later. Due to their busy schedule, they made separate interviews for this article.

MS: How does volunteer work fit into your retirement?

CHUCK: I used to work in building and grounds management for the Park Ridge School District. Jodi taught geography in Junior College. Recently, we downsized from a home in Lincoln Park to a condo in the Lakeview neighborhood near Belmont and Lake Shore Drive. We both love travel and meeting people of all ages. That is the great part of working at the hostel. Retirement has given us the opportunity to be able to volunteer.

JODI: I like getting to know younger people and listening to their thought and opinions. We also like to explore the city, such as taking buses to different locations in the city.

CHUCK: I like helping people out and I am really proud of the city, so the information desk is fun.

MS: Do you travel well together?

CHUCK: Jodi has travelled more than I have. As a teacher she had summers off and took advantage of it. When started dating in 1980, we did a group tour to China, Korea and Hawaii for a month. It worked!

JODI: He likes his creature comforts...we used to camp a lot but not now. Your health changes as you age and one wants more comforts such as hot and cold running water and clean sheets on the bed. I did a lot of treks and overland travel in many continents. I’ve been to all 50 states, over 100 countries, and 7 continents.

MS: Talk about your other volunteer work.

CHUCK: I help at Hull House on a lecture series called "Rethinking Soup." I also do things for Gilda's Club and work as a Chicago Greeter (for the City of Chicago Department of Tourism).

JODI: I am also a Chicago Greeter and volunteer at the Art Institute. Besides this I am the President of the DePaul (University) Geographical Society.

MS: What's a cool memory from working at the hostel?

CHUCK: I had a little old lady, someone’s grandmother in her 70s, ask me directions to the Leather Museum. What? I didn't know we had one until I researched it (on Devon Avenue). It was exactly what she wanted. You know all the crazy stuff like whips. She was delighted and thanked me profusely.

JODI: There are many memories, but just one does not come to mind.

MS: What do you love about Chicago, what do you miss about when you're away?

CHUCK: The lakefront. It's always changing. The cityscape.

JODI: The people. Most people are outgoing and willing to help. The minute they see someone on the street with a map, they ask if they can help. Many travelers have mentioned this to me at the desk. I also like looking at Belmont Harbor and the lake.

MS: What are some of your personal favorite secrets about Chicago?

CHUCK: The Fine Arts Building (410 S. Michigan Ave.) It’s floors of galleries and studios. There is even a repair shop for stringed musical instruments. Plus, on the second Friday of every month there is an open house from 5-9pm. often with live music and theatre.

JODI: I like the Red Apple, a Polish restaurant on Milwaukee Avenue. Nearby is St. Hyacinth, a large Polish Catholic church, which Chuck discovered. The Asian pastry shops on Argyle Street, especially the sweet bean paste sesame balls, are another find. We also like to take bus rides, such as along Archer (#62 bus) or the Belmont bus (#77) to learn about new neighborhoods. Oh, there is the Mega Mall in Logan Square. There are stalls, just like in Mexico. To have a quiet time out in the downtown, go to Gallery 109 at the Art Institute. It is a dark room with some Oriental art, very quiet, calm and Zen-like.

MS: What is your next travel destination?

CHUCK: Australia and New Zealand.