Friday, March 30, 2012

Dig Into Chicago-style Pizza

No visit to Chicago is complete without trying one of our most famous food delicacies – Chicago-style pizza.

Chicago-style pizza is a deep-dish pizza style that was developed in Chicago in 1943 at Pizzeria Uno. It has a buttery crust and is usually two to three inches thick at the edge. The order of ingredients on a Chicago style deep-dish pizza is “backwards” from a traditional think crust pizza. First, slices of mozzarella cheese are placed directly on the dough, and then additional ingredients such as mushrooms or onions are spread over the cheese. Finally, the pizza is then topped with fresh, chunky tomato sauce and topped off with a sprinkling of grated cheese and spices. Because it is so tall, Chicago-style pizza is generally eaten with a knife and fork. However, if you’re intimidated by the looks of this pizza and prefer think crust instead, you can definitely find that in Chicago too!

Be sure not to miss out on this tasty pizza during your visit to Chicago. Every restaurant has its own slightly different style of deep-dish pizza, but no matter where you go, you’re sure to get a great taste of Chicago. Here are some of our favorite options nearby!

Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria – South Loop
805 South State Street
Directions from the hostel:
  1. Head West on East Congress Parkway toward State Street
  2. Turn left on State Street
  3. Walk straight for 3 blocks and it’s on the corner of State Street and 8th Street

Gino’s East of Chicago
633 N. Wells Street
Directions from the hostel:
  1.  Head West on East Congress Parkway toward State Street
  2. Turn right on State Street and walk one block to the Harold Washing Library stop
  3. Take the Brown line towards Kimball and get off at Merchandise Mart stop (8 minutes, 6 stops)
  4. Walk straight on North Wells Street for 5 blocks and it’s on the corner of North Wells Street and West Ontario Street

223 West Jackson Boulevard
Directions from the hostel:
  1. Head West on East Congress Parkway toward State Street
  2. Turn right on State Street and walk one block to the Harold Washing Library stop
  3. Take either the Pink line towards 54/Cermak OR Orange line towards Midway and get off at the Washington/Wells stop (4 minutes, 3 stops).
  4. Head North on Wells Street
  5.  Turn left on West Randolph

Pizzeria Uno
29 East Ohio Street
Directions from the hostel:
  1. Head West on East Congress Parkway toward State Street
  2. Turn left on State Street and walk one block to the Harrison subway stop
  3. Take the Red line towards Howard (6 minutes, 4 stops)
  4. Get off at the Grand-Red stop
  5. Walk North on State Street for one block and turn right on Ohio Street

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lights OFF... Glow Sticks ON!

We are 125 hours away (and counting!) from Earth Hour 2012. Genius has struck here at HI-Chicago…and a Glow Stick Party is in the works for when we shut off all the lights at 8.30pm on March 31st. Earth Hour is the world’s largest public environmental action, and by taking part in this global ‘lights out’ event HI-Chicago will be acknowledging its commitment to operational actions that benefit the planet in the year ahead.

Last year some of the world’s most famous man-made marvels and natural wonders, including China’s Forbidden City, Eiffel Tower, Table Mountain, Great Pyramids of Egypt, Buckingham Palace, Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer statue, Niagara and Victoria Falls, Empire State Building, Sydney Opera House and many more global icons stood in darkness as a powerful symbol of landmark environmental action.


Join us this Saturday night to celebrate saving electrical energy and expending energy of our own while having a glow-stick-induced fun time! Glow sticks and snacks are free!

To get a better sense of the magnitude and inspiring nature of the event, take a moment to watch the Earth Hour 2012 official video at .

Monday, March 19, 2012

Earth Hour is Coming Up Soon!

HI-Chicago will be participating in a worldwide event called Earth Hour on March 31st at 8.30pm!
Click to watch the video below to learn more about it, and check out

Friday, March 16, 2012

5 Ways to Save Money While Traveling in Chicago

1.      Cook in our Awesome Kitchen 
Eating out for every meal adds up quickly, so why not grab food from the grocery store and cook in our large, fully equipped, self-service kitchen instead? If you need an idea, pasta and vegetables is a cheap and popular meal choice among travelers. Maybe you’ll even score something from the free food shelf or meet fellow travelers to share a meal with! 

2. Use the CTA 
The CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) is our public transportation system around the city. It is quick, reliable, and cheap. It costs $2.25 per ride, or if you’re staying a while we recommend purchasing a 1 day ($5.75), 3 day ($14), or 7 day ($23) pass for unlimited rides on any CTA bus or train. The elevated trains are also a great way to get a mini tour of the city before you set out to explore on foot. 

3. Check out “Free Things to do in Chicago”
Take a look at Free Things to do in Chicago , which provides a nice sampling of current low-cost events in the city. Favorite free destinations in Chicago include Millennium Park, Grant Park, Navy Pier and in the summer the miles and miles of beautiful beaches. And of course Lincoln Park Zoo is always free.

(The Bean: always free, always an amusing picture)

4. Check out Groupon and Living Social
These websites are an excellent source for purchasing discounts to restaurants, bars, attractions, and much more. With the right deals, you could potentially have a night out in the city (dinner, drinks, and a show) for half the price. Especially useful are the “Now” deals that you can purchase and use immediately – perfect for those of us who like to be spontaneous without spending too much cash. 

5.Ask the hostel's front desk and info desk for discount coupons
We have loads of discount coupons in the hostel for you to use during your stay with us. Also, your hostel key card can get you discounts at various restaurants, museums, and tours in the area. Check at the info desk for more information. 

Bonus! Go on an HI-Chicago Free Walking Tour
Take advantage of the awesome weather we've been having lately and sign up at the info desk for one of our free volunteer-led walking tours or cheap excursions. Examples include free walking tours of downtown Chicago and excursions to comedy clubs, festivals, and blue's bars. It's a great chance to mingle with locals and travelers alike!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Your St. Patrick's Day Itinerary

8am: It begins! Start your day with a traditional Irish breakfast(Bangers? Brown pudding? Your regular bowl of oatmeal with a touch of green food coloring?) and maybe a mimosa or two. Add some Baileys to your coffee...maybe just enough to make you less afraid of the mass of human traffic that awaits you on public transportation later this morning.

10:45am: Head downtown to watch your favorite Chicago River get dyed a bright shade of St. Patrick's Day green. The audience generally responds to this event as enthusiastically as they do to anything that happens in a Bulls game.

12pm: If you have survived the crowds at the River, you will now be rewarded with more crowds at the massive parade. More info here! If you are staying at the hostel, you will already be located super close to the start of the parade near Buckingham Fountain.

1pm (or whenever you manage to break away from the herd): You will no longer be feeling the effects of your early morning dose of Baileys, so head on over to one of the many Irish pubs that will be churning out Guinness faster than even Irish folks can drink it. The epic St. Patty's Crawl makes sure to stop by all the big ones.

Also 1pm: St. Patrick's Festival at the Irish American Heritage Center. If you can't make it to Ireland, might as well get as close as you can!

2pm: Shoreline Cruise. Irish buffet? Cash bar? Tour of the river with bits of Irish history sprinkled in? Is there anything to dislike?

Sometime in the afternoon: A nap?

8pm: Riverdance show! It might be nice to sit down after running around all day in the sun, and Riverdance is leaving Chicago soon, so this might be your last chance to catch it.

BONUS: If you didn't get enough of the holiday by the time Sunday morning rolls around and you feel the need to keep celebrating all things Irish, check out these belated St. Patrick's Day events around the city:

5k and 8k run/walk on March 18: You'll need to do something to counteract all of that Guinness, let's be honest.

Soda Bread Contest in Oak Park on March 24: This looks really cool. If you can bake, you should probably participate in this immediately.

AND REMEMBER: Let's be as safe as possible, guys. Know your limits and look out for your friends. Here's some good info to have in mind whenever you know you'll be drinking, and also make sure not to get too dehydrated while you're running around -- it's supposed to be pretty warm on Saturday!

*Photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
*Written by Jackie DesForges, Communications Strategies Intern

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Green. Verde. Grün. 녹색. Vert.

Chicago will be seeing green this Saturday in celebration for St. Patrick’s Day.  Here we don’t just wear green to avoid getting pinched… we add 100 pounds of green dye into the Chicago River to add to the festivities! The question is, how “green” is this tradition? Prior to 1966, the green dye was oil based, which sparked complaints by environmentalists who pointed out that the oil was detrimental to living organisms. Thanks to them, the green dye was changed to a vegetable based dye. So our crazy tradition has been environmentally friendly since 1966!
Green Dye into the Chicago River

At HI-Chicago we are getting greener…and not just for St. Patrick’s Day! This week we have implemented a new protocol for check in that cuts sheets of paper used per guest by 33%!
Instead of printing out the HI-Chicago rules for each guest to sign, the guidelines are now displayed on the front desk, and the guest’s signature to affirm that they will abide by them is captured on their receipt. Over time this will significantly decrease our paper usage and reduce our waste!

Let’s picture it this way – Considering the number of check-ins we had in 2011, and eliminating one sheet of paper per check in, we can estimate how much paper we can save in this upcoming year. From numbers in 2011 we estimate that 29,760 sheets of paper can be saved, and since one tree can make about 8,350 sheets…we will be saving 3.5 trees per year!  

Other Green Events to be aware of…
Earth Hour is coming up on March 31st at 8.30 pm. Across the globe people will be shutting off their electricity for ONE HOUR. Last year, More than 5,200 cities and towns in 135 countries worldwide switched off their lights for Earth Hour 2011. HI-Chicago will be participating in this event, and so should you! Check out  for more information!

Earth Day on April 22, 2012 Learn how you can participate in activities to help the earth at

Green Festival @ Navy Pier in Chicago on May 5-6th. Don’t miss this event, a project of Green America and Global Exchange. There will be over 125 visionary speakers, hands on workshops, green shopping, family activities, organic food and a lot more (including an HI-Chicago table!)
There are opportunities to volunteer! Just log on to   

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Martin Luther King, Jr. Mural Competition: Final Post!

This post will wrap up an ongoing blog series that showcases the murals that have been on display in our hostel this February in celebration of the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. Student artists were selected to create individual murals on the 2nd floor windows of Hostelling International Chicago. The artists intalled their work throughout the first two weeks of January. Here are the final two!

April Son, Zebadiah Arrington & Suhyung Go
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

"We've been kept inside of walls from fears that came when communication failed. Looking through the windows, we've missed a lot of chances. We've made enough mistakes every time we've tried to reach out further.

However, the time to go out always comes back just like the hands on clocks circle around. It's time to step back from the window and walk toward the doors again. We believe this is the message through the history of struggling for humanity, which Martin Luther King, Jr. also believed in.

Three individuals stand together in front of Window to put this together spontaneously for dreaming a perfection of communication. This piece is inviting and welcoming the viewers not only to appreciate it, but also to step back and look outside of the window. Black and White means a fairness of the difference. Every individual is as important as the next one. And everything has existed by sharing things, not dividing in mathematics. The unify and connectivity of biological geometry that is within all of us is a key symbol of understanding the equality for all."

James Teague & Cheryl Thomas
Hostelling International Chicago staff

"At some point in life we decide what's next for us! For some, it's not always a conscious choice. For others, it's not a choice that we make as much as it is made for us. Yet still, for some it is written in the stars for us and we simply do our best to live up to that.

For Dr. King, his path was, we believe, both focused and incidental. You see the picture of him during what I feel is in contemplation early in his life. Possibly a moment when fate intervened and his destiny was revealed to him? The yellow foot prints represent his fear of this dark path, and that of those who knew and supported him. The process of not knowing what is ahead of him, but knowing he must journey onward.

The red foot prints represent his commitment and resolve to make this world a better place for all and the price of his pursuit - his life. With many threats to his life and that of his family and his friends being murdered around him - he did not stop. Even in death.

Finally, his journey culminates at his final and lasting resting place - hoping that in death he can still impact life. And he has!

Many people that we know can attest to the ideology of the title of the window...the poor kid who makes it out of "the 'hood" to play pro-ball; the driven student who makes it to Harvard to receive his new law degree; the lost child who finds her fame and focus in front of an audience that she connects with. Life is about our commitment to being more, doing more, having more - it is about the journey. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s journey was to follow the path on which he believed that GOD had placed him.

What is your journey? Where will it lead you? Will it end at your death? Focus, drive, commitment is what gets that one foot in front of the other. Will it lead you to your destiny?"

We hope you've enjoyed this series of posts about the murals, and that you got a chance to come check out the murals in person for yourselves! For more information about this competition, and if you'd be interested in participating next year, please check out our website.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sustainability: Listening to Our Guests

This month HI-Chicago is taking steps to improve sustainability! Current projects include: installing motion sensors in offices, bathrooms, and storage rooms to ensure that lights are only on when they need to be, adding new recycling bins and signs to make recycling easier, and switching out paper towel dispensers for automatic hand dryers.

Reuse can be beautiful and creative!

Involving our guests in a discussion about sustainability at the hostel and in their travels is an important part of this green initiative, so we held a focus group to talk about sustainability. Ten travelers from around the world joined two interns – Kristen and Jackie – to chow down on Giordano’s deep dish pizza and bounce around ideas. We had guests from Brazil, USA, France, England, Chile, and Venezuela.

Ideas that were brought up include installing clotheslines in the laundry room, offering drying racks to guests, and investigating solar power. This international perspective was great, as we found out that the recycling bins are not designated a blue color in all countries! Most of all, it was encouraging to hear that sustainability is an important issue to our guests, and we hope that when you stay with us you can join us in our efforts!

On Monday, Kristen, our sustainability intern, gave a presentation to the HI-Chicago staff about sustainability – Here are a couple links to videos that were shown:

By Nasa – showing the temperature changes of the Earth from 1880 to 2011.

Energy for the world:

Remember to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!

If you are interested in learning more about Hostelling International’s sustainability efforts around the world, then follow HI-Sustainability on Facebook and @HIsustainable on Twitter.