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!