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

Friday, July 15, 2011

Foto Friday Winner: Tom

Each Friday, we pick one or two lucky guests to be pictured on our blog and to receive a free gift from HI Chicago! Tom happened to be hanging out in the lounge at the right time, so he'll be enjoying 2 free tickets to ComedySportz!

Name: Tom
Hometown: Melbourne, Australia
What he's done in Chicago so far: Joined our pub crawl in Wicker Park last night, and it was a blast!

Weekend Update: Hosteller Style

If you thought that Chicago had run out of neighborhoods to have festivals in, you were dead wrong. In fact, this weekend is jam-packed with fests everywhere you look, from big ones like Pitchfork Music Festival to the lesser known Tour de Fat (that's actually what it is called). Read on for your weekend update from your friends at HI-Chicago!

Pitchfork Music Festival: July 15 – 17 (Fri 3-10pm, Sat/Sun 12-10pm

This indie alternative to the bigger music festivals like Lollapalooza has an amazing line-up this year, including Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes, TV on the Radio, James Blake and more! Union Park promises to be packed this weekend, so if you’re not planning on going to the festival, find a different route home! That said, you should definitely go to the festival. It’s seriously awesome. Tickets are still available on-site for Friday and Saturday! $45/day.

Tour de Fat: July 16, 9am-4pm

Ok, so while I had a lot of fun imagining food eating contests, deep fried Oreos, and a liposuction tent, this is actually cooler, and a lot less gross. This annual bike and environmental fest is hosted by Colorado’s New Belgium Brewery, the makers of Fat Tire beer (a-hah, it all makes sense now). The event will have live music by Dovekins and Mucca Pazza, a bike parade, a car/bike swap—which is maybe the coolest crazy idea I’ve heard in a while (see below for more details), and of course, tons of Fat Tire brews for sale. The brewery is making stops in 13 cities across the country (biking, of course) to promote environmental awareness and bike use – how awesome is that?

What is the car/bike swap, you may ask? In their words…It's when one fortunate soul hands over their car, title and keys to the Tour de Fat altar in exchange for a bike. Not just any bike, a New Belgium, fully-loaded, hand-crafted, Fort Collins-built commuter bike. There's 13 Tour de Fat stops - surely one near you - and that's 13 car/bike trade opportunities. It's about weaning yourself off the petroleum teat. It's about becoming a better, sexier person. It's about rediscovering the cultural thrill of public transportation. One year's time is the minimum commitment – commuting is your sentence.

Taste of River North: July 15 – 17 (Fri 5-10pm, Sat 12-10pm, Sun 11am-6pm)

Food and drink tickets for $1 each get you meals from some of the best restaurants in the area, including Citizen Bar, Green Door Tavern, Moe’s Cantina, and more! Galleries and shops will all be set up in the park, along with live music from Sixteen Candles and others. Pet and kid friendly! $5 donation.

Lincoln Park Arts and Music Festival: July 16 – 17, 12-10pm

Great music, fantastic artists, and tons of food and drink vendors will be over at Racine Ave this weekend for the Lincoln Park Arts and Music Festival. Headliners the Freddy Jones Band and Trevor Hall will be performing, along with tons of other local talent. What sets this apart from all the other festivals, you ask? Not much really. But why mess with success? $5 donation.

Old St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party: July 15 – 16, 5:30-10:30pm

While the qualification of world’s largest block party hasn’t been proven, Old St. Pat’s is still HUGE. Over 18,000 are expected to attend this annual fest, and vendors will be offering all your regular fest foods, as well as noodles! But noodles aren’t the best part of this festival; the price of admission allows you into all of the shows and even includes 5 drink tickets for beer, wine, pop (see? I’ve been in Chicago for too long) and water! Also, the line-up has some awesome big name bands, including Barenaked Ladies (remember them??), Plain White T’s, and Cobra Starship! $40/day in advance, $45/day at door.

Chinatown Summer Fair: July 17, 10am-8pm

Head to Chinatown for this annual neighborhood festival with music, dance performances, and tons of food from restaurants and street vendors in the area. But most importantly, it features a colorful lion and dragon dance procession lead by none other than Ronald McDonald – and yes, it will make more sense once I tell you that McDonald’s is hosting the festival…but it’s still weirdly cool.

Get out and enjoy this beautiful weekend, and we here at the hostel will be doing the same!

Stay groovy!

Written by: Keren Mikva

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Night at the Museum

Chicago is famous for its many quality museums. Between the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Art Institute, you could spend days exploring! However, if you don't feel like fighting the crowds during the day, or just want to mix up your summer museum trips, check out some of these special nighttime events
at your favorite Chicago museums!

Jazzin' at the Shedd - Shedd Aquarium
Wednesdays, 5 to 10 p.m. through August 31, 2011 (Note:
No Jazzin' on July 20th)

What's not to like about live jazz, cocktails, and fireworks, especially when they're at the Shedd Aquarium! Almost every Wednesday night this summer, you can take an evening trip to the Shedd and explore the fish, new
Jellies exhibit, and Oceanarium with an $18 All-Access Jazzin' ticket. Relax and listen to live music by the 360 degree Caribbean Reef tank, or grab a drink and enjoy the skyline views with more music on the terrace. Make sure you stick around for a great view of the Navy Pier fireworks around 9:30pm. Check out the website for the
list of upcoming bands and to buy your tickets online!

Tuesdays on
the Terrace - Museum of Contemporary Art
Tuesdays, 5:30 to 8 p.m. through September 27, 2011

A perfect way to spend your summer evening is stopping by the MCA for great food and music on Tuesdays, as well as free admission to the museum! Each week, this live music series features one of the many Chicago jazz talents, hosted by local radio personalities. You can grab some
summer snacks and stop by the cash bar before relaxing in the sculpture garden, or for $23 a person enjoy a dinner buffet on the terrace by Puck's restaurant featuring fresh local produce. The museum has lawn chair rentals for $5 each so you can really kick back in the garden. Head to their website to see the featured bands or to make a reservation for the dinner buffet.

Adler After Dark - Adler Planetarium
July 21, August 18, September 15, October 20, November 17, December 15
6:30-10:30 p.m (6-10 p.m. starting in September)

Get an early start to your weekend every 3rd Thursday of the month with Adler Planetarium's 21+ event, Adler After Dark. Come to stargaze with friends while enjoying appetizers and cocktails, or jump on this opportunity for a unique date! If you have ever wanted to look through the Doane Observatory telescope, Adler After Dark is the only time it's available, so don't miss out! On July 21st, the first 400 guests get a free glass of champagne, and DJ Marc Davis will be keeping everyone entertained. Advanced tickets can be purchased online for $12 (non-members) or $9 (members and students), or at the box office the night of the event for $17/$12. The Adler's website has the details each month for the upcoming event.

After Dark - The Art Institute of Chicago
Friday, July 22, 2011, 9 p.m. - 12 a.m.

Make sure you don't miss this chance to explore the Art Institute at night! On July 22nd, head over to the Modern Wing for After Dark. Check out the new galleries of African Art and Indian Art of the Americas and have some complimentary appetizers. Afterwards, stop by the cash bar and enjoy live DJs and performances by the theatrical ensemble Collaboraction. Space is limited, so make sure you get your tickets soon. Admission is $20 for members and students, or $25 for non-members. Keep an eye out for future evening events at the Art Institute with their website.

For all you night owls, don't miss out on these amazing summer events! Grab your friends, grab your tickets, and head out to these museums to grab some drinks and a good time!

Written by: Laura Cohen

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Traveler Spotlight--Nate and JD

Written by: Krista Baum

While walking through the HI-Chicago second floor lounge, I saw two guys playing pool, and they were almost done with their game. They looked like cool guys and would have some very interesting stories to share…and they did! *This is why travelers should meet and mingle on the second floor lounge because there are so many great people to talk to :)

Nate is 23 years old, and from Fort Wayne, Indiana and J.D. is 19 years old and from Goshen, Indiana and they have traveled to many great places around the world!

Nate has been all over Central and South America, and has lived in Argentina for 13 months and recently got back from his 10 month stay in China. While living in China, he also traveled to nearby countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

JD has traveled around the United States, been to Canada for two weeks and just recently got back from his 10 month stay in Bolivia.

So how did Nate and JD meet?

Nate and JD met through the Radical Journey program, which is a program through a Mennonite Mission Network that is based out of Indiana. When they said Radical Journey, I had no idea what that program was, so I asked them to elaborate. They said that Radical Journey is a program for men and women between 19-30 years old, and they do a year of service in a foreign country. The service that these people are providing varies on need, but some examples are: construction work, teaching English or tutoring children.

During their travels both Nate and JD had some surprises…

Nate learned that his house sister in China went to the United States for a year and met his Argentinian fiancĂ©’s best friend. Nate was pleasantly surprised to find out about this later, and really thought that this was a real life example of how small the world really is J

For JD, he had a less pleasant surprise when he encountered some passport problems in Bolivia. Due to this experience, JD recommends that all travelers get their passport work done as soon as possible!!

From surprises to shocks... What was the biggest culture shock for these guys while abroad?

Nate thought that the family life was a big culture shock for him. When in China, everyone in the family was really close, and friends were treated like siblings. He also learned that it was normal for a 33 yr. old and a 32 yr. old to live at home, versus in the United States when everyone starts leaving home at around 18 years old to go to college or work.

JD thought that language was the biggest culture shock while in Bolivia. Within the first couple days he wanted to continually greet people in English, however after 10 months there, he was conversing in Spanish every day, and now back in the United States he feels that he wants to greet people in Spanish. The switching between languages so fast can definitely result in some excellent Spanglish!

So what brought Nate and JD to Chicago?

For both these guys, Chicago was the reorientation city. After their recent experiences abroad, Nate living in China for 10 months and JD living in Bolivia for 10 months, their program chose Chicago as the place for all their participants to initially return to when coming back to the United States.

JD actually just arrived in Chicago this afternoon and said that he was in Bolivia this morning! How cool is that!?!

Their program thought that Chicago was a good fit because it is culturally diverse and it would be a nice transition from being in another country for so long. Both Nate and JD are enjoying their stay in Chicago and are readjusting to life back in the United States.

So where do they plan on going in the future?

Nate plans on going to Argentina, so that he can then bring his fiancé to the United States so they can get married. Then they will move back to Argentina for a while.

JD plans on going to Goshen College in Indiana so he can study Spanish and French, and he also says that he wants to study abroad in Spain for a year!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Foto Friday Winners: Caterina and Naomi

Each Friday, we pick one or two lucky guests to be pictured on our blog and to receive a free gift from HI Chicago! Caterina and Naomi came up to the Front Desk at just the right moment (See? It pays to chat with the awesome staff at the front!), so they'll be enjoying 2 free tickets to ComedySportz!

Names: Caterina and Naomi
Hometown: Lucern, Switzerland
Where they're heading next: Willis Tower

Your Chicago Weekend Guide from HI-Chicago

Here it is again—your never-failing weekend guide to Chicago summer events! Now that the Taste is over (phew!), there are TONS of other festivals and events that you really should check out! Be sure to hit some of these awesome spots this sunny July weekend!

West Fest: July 9 – 10, 12-10pm

Check out the best of the west (West Side, that is) at the West Fest in Ukrainian Village. What sets this festival apart, given its food and drink stands, live music and crafts vendors? An AWESOME line-up, including bands such as Hollows and Local H, as well as DJs Drop the Lime and Juan Maclean! $5 donation.

Dave Matthews Band Caravan: July 8 – 10, 1-11pm

While tickets are a bit pricey ($85/day, $195/3days) for Dave Matthew’s Band’s rolling caravan tour, the Chicago stop just might be worth it! A massive line-up, including OAR, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Kid Cudi, Michael Franti and Spearhead, the Flaming Lips, and, of course, DMB, is bound to make this an unforgettable festival! Tickets are still available, so check out the website for a full schedule and purchasing options.

Roscoe Village Burger Fest: July 9 – 10, 11am-10pm

The 2nd Annual Roscoe Village Burger Fest is exactly what it sounds like—a burger festival. And how awesome is that? Live music and mouth-watering burgers from nine of Chicago’s prime restaurants—many for cheaper than you could buy them in store! Turkey, beef, steak, BBQ, and, of course, veggie burgers will all be available, so go get your grub on! $6 donation.

Gold Coast Art Fair: July 9 – 10, 9am-7pm

Art lovers should head over to Butler Field in Grant Park for the 54th annual Gold Coast Art Fair. Over 450 artists from all over the world will have their work on display and available for purchase (insider hint: select artists will discount their work between 9 – 10am on both days for all you early birds…or deal-savvy travelers!). Food and drink vendors and live music will accompany the art, and work is priced anywhere between $25 and $25,000, so there’s something for everyone! Free.

Irish American Heritage Festival: July 8 – 10 (Fri 6pm -12am, Sat 12pm – 12am, Sun 12pm – 11pm)

Honor your Irish heritage (or somebody else’s) at the 26th annual Irish American Heritage Festival. Live Irish and American music on 5 indoor and outdoor stages, along with dance performances (get jiggy with it!), a singing contest, and even a matchmaking event. Also, be sure to wear your elastic pants because there’s no better way to enjoy this cultural fest than through the mashed-potato eating contest! $14 ($8/presale)

The Flesh Hungry Dog Show: Homo Hop: July 8, 9pm

This monthly LGBTQ and queer-friendly rock ‘n’ roll variety show, hosted by local musician Gary Airedale, features a vintage theme for July. Bric-a-Brac, Suzy Brack and the New Jack Lords, and Pieptone! will be performing, with DJ Sky spinning between sets. Giveaways from the Pleasure Chest and a go-go dancing set by The Revelettes make this event one of the most diverse LGBTQ events in the city! All are welcome to this ultra-inclusive, mini-rock extravaganza! $10/door, $8/presale. 21+

So be sure to get out there this weekend and take advantage of what a Chicago summer has to offer! Remember--not only will it be too cold to dance outside come December, but you can't move nearly as well in a snow suit and moon boots.

Written by: Keren Mikva

Travelixir: Festivus in July!

Travel bug? Feeling grounded? TRAVELIXIR: Festivus in July to the rescue! Come join Chicagoans who love to travel, those that aspire to travel, and HI-Chicago guests and get your wings back.

WHEN: Wednesday, July 20th from 7-10pm

WHERE: Butterfly Social Club, 722 W Grand Ave - right off the Grand Blue Line stop

WHAT: A FREE party sponsored by HI-Chicago and STA Travel to help you beat your wanderlust blues

A travel photo contest - party-goers vote on their favorite, and the winner gets a $150 travel voucher (good for airfare, accommodations, and other travel-related costs)

AND EVEN MORE: Free giveaways, food samples, world music DJ, dancing, networking with like-minded internationalists

DRINK SPECIALS: $5 Absolut cocktails & $1 off all beers (and free shot with the purchase of any beer!)

E-mail with 1 photo from your travels that depicts a holiday or festival (Holi in India, Carnivale in Brazil, Semana Santa in Spain, a hot dog eating festival in Texas - be creative!). Include a title for your photo. Submit your photos by Tuesday, July 19th at 5pm. You must be present at the party to win! Follow the photo submissions on HI-Chicago's Facebook page:

Come join us & become part of Chicago's hostelling community!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Traveler Spotlight—Omer Aydin

Written by: Krista Baum

As I was wandering around the main lobby at HI-Chicago, I saw a young man on his computer, and he looked like an interesting person so I decided to introduce myself and ask if he would like to be interviewed for traveler spotlight. He humbly agreed, and we started talking and had a very enjoyable conversation J

Omer Aydin is from Turkey, and currently a PhD student studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan. I later told him that I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and that both the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were in the Big 10. Currently at Michigan, Omer is researching cancer treatments and developing ways to use medicine that will directly target cancer cells and not the whole body of the individual who has cancer. What a brilliant student!

After discussing Omer’s studies, I was very curious to learn about where he has traveled. Omer left Turkey in 2010, and went to Alabama, USA, where he enrolled at the University of Alabama to take an English class, so he could improve his English skills. After Alabama, he traveled north to Michigan where he could start at the University of Michigan. I asked Omer if he had a preference between Michigan or Alabama. He said that he noticed political and religious differences between Alabama and Michigan, and as far as the social scene, he feels that downtown Michigan offers a lot more J

So what brought Omer to Chicago?

Omer came to Chicago for the 4th of July Weekend with an International group of students from the University of Michigan and was able to stay at HI-Chicago for a couple of days. It was Omer’s first time in Chicago, and besides seeing O’Hare airport, there was so much more to see and do! As a group they immersed themselves in Chicago, and were able to see the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, Art Institute, the Skydeck and Millennium Park.

As far as cuisine goes, Omer says that he misses Turkish food, so during this trip here to Chicago, he was able to go to a Turkish restaurant called A La Turka and he said that it was really good place. I have never tried Turkish food before, so I think I will try that place sometime. What better way to learn more about a foreign culture than through their ethnic cuisine? J

Omer’s future plans are to go back to the University of Michigan to continue his education as a PhD student!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Foto Friday Winner: Bernardo

Each Friday, we pick a lucky guest to be pictured on our blog and to receive a free gift from HI Chicago! Bernardo was checking at just the right time, so he'll be enjoying 2 free tickets to Kingston Mines!

Name: Bernardo
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
What he's most excited for in Chicago: The nightlife!