The best places to see and be seen with Santa in Chicago

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

 

Adults may dream of a white Christmas, but for many kids, the holiday evokes another color altogether as a trip to see the old man in red is almost compulsory. Luckily, children in and around the downtown area have plenty of options:

 

Water Tower Place

The shopping’s never been better at Water Tower Place, a Mag Mile institution, and this year just as in years past, Santa will be around to meet with kids and pets. Reservations are encouraged to avoid a wait and there are various theme nights—like pajama night—so be sure to scroll through the options to get the perfect fit. To find the best night for your schedule and to make a reservation, check www.celebrateyourholiday.com

 

The Driehaus Museum

This popular destination has added Sunday dates for Santa. Kids under 2 are free, tickets for kids up to 12 are $15 and adult tickets are $20. The tickets include activities like sing-a-longs, story times and family fun. Anyone interested should get tickets as soon as possible, as several dates have already sold out. For more information, check the museum website at http://driehausmuseum.org

 

Soldier Field Breakfast with Santa

For a full morning with the big man, why not sign up for breakfast with Santa at Soldier Field on Dec. 8? Adult tickets are $50, $25 for kids ages 4-12 and free for younger kids. The tickets include a train display, an ornament contest and a cookie decorating area for children. This event includes a toy drive, so be sure and bring a new, unopened gift for a child in need. For more information, call (312) 235-7063 or email SoldierFieldBistro@aramark.com

 

Shedd Aquarium Breakfast with Santa

The Shedd Aquarium is offering a full morning of fun with Santa every weekend leading up to Christmas. Ticket prices vary for members and non-members, but the event includes breakfast, crafts, a Polar Express train ride and parade, an aquatic presentation and more. For more information, visit www.sheddaquarium.org/

 

Macy’s State Street Santa Events

Breakfast no good? Well, Macy’s has the solution for parents who want more options. The State Street department store is offering breakfast, lunch and/or dinner to folks who need some variety in scheduling time to visit Father Christmas. The events run through the month. For more information, visit http://macysrestaurants.com

 

Skate with Santa at Maggie Daley Park

Anyone who wants to get the kids out and about could do worse than this free opportunity to get the kids out on the ice with Santa at Maggie Daley Park in the heart of the New Eastside. On Dec. 16, from 10 a.m. to noon, kids can lace up and hold hands with the jolly red elf. For more information, visit www.chicagoparkdistrict.com

 

Swissotel’s Santa Suite

The hotel admits their newly-renovated Santa Suite is over the top, so expect to be wowed on the 41st floor by sights, sounds and decorations. The suite is open through Dec. 23 and tickets begin at $15 for individuals, and family packs can be had for $40. For more information, visit www.swissotel.com

 

Other places to find Santa

If you still can’t get enough Santa, follow the merry fellow as he travels through Chicagoland and beyond. This month, Santa will be visiting a number of nearby suburbs, and families can visit him in a variety of places. For more information, check out www.santainchicago.com

 

For folks in the downtown area, it’s easy to give back

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

 

The holiday season often inspires a desire to do good and give back. Lucky for folks who live in the Loop, it’s easy to find charities that need help right next door. Of course, if time is limited, these organizations would love a Thanksgiving or Christmas donation, just in time for the holiday season and in time to get a tax break next year.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 251 E. Huron St., offers a wide range of volunteer opportunities. Whether you want to knit hats for newborns, deliver mail or interact with patients, there’s something for everyone to do. Volunteers receive free flu shots, invitations to hospital events and discounts at participating retailers. Volunteer must make a six month commitment of four hours per week, be 18 years of age and complete a background check. Visit nm.org/patients-and-visitors/volunteer or call 312-926-2070 for more information.

Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s Hospital

Ronald McDonald House helps families with children who have medical needs by making sure family members can stay somewhere close when their child is in the hospital. Volunteer opportunities are numerous and varied. Visit rmhccni.org for more information. For information about volunteering with Lurie Children’s hospital, visit luriechildrens.org.

Skyline Village Chicago

Skyline Village is a membership organization for older adults. By volunteering, you can make a positive difference in an older person’s life. Volunteers can choose from a variety of jobs, including visiting members at home or in the hospital, accompanying them to doctor’s appointments, doing their grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions and providing technological help. Call 312-957-6060 or visit skylinevillagechicago.org for more information.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago

When you volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters, you will become a mentor and a friend to an at-risk child between the ages of 7 and 14-years-old. These relationships help children become better students and improve their relationships with their peers. Find out more at bbbschgo.org/volunteer.

Fourth Presbyterian Church

Fourth Presbyterian Church uses volunteers for its own church groups and activities, but also partners with other Chicago-based organizations such as the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Chicago Lights Urban Farm. In addition, the church organizes a group called Helping Hands, which helps with painting, cleaning, construction and gardening. Call 312-981-3382 or visit fourthchurch.org for more information.

In Her Shoes Foundation

In Her Shoes is a volunteer-run organization dedicated to empowering women and girls. Opportunities include mentoring, administrative roles, photography and videography. Find out more at inhershoesfoundation.org/volunteer.

 

All alone on Turkey Day with so much to do

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

 

At one time, Thanksgiving was a day for families to come together over food and enjoy each other’s company. These days, that’s not necessarily true for everyone. The holiday can be fun for the solo celebrant because Thanksgiving Day is as much a public holiday as it is a private holiday.

If you are alone, Thanksgiving could be a great opportunity to spend time catching up on reading, binging TV shows, going for a nature walk or doing whatever else you might want to do by yourself. But, for those who want company, you don’t have to spend the holiday alone.  These days, plenty of restaurants, bars, movie theaters and retail stores take advantage of the holiday and open their doors, so you will really only be as alone as you want to be.

First, if you have friends you know will be free, pick up the phone and call them. Don’t be afraid to set up a day for you and all your friends who couldn’t—or didn’t want to— leave the city to see their families.

Or don’t. Feel free to pamper yourself with a solo self care day; it is, after all, a holiday.

If you’re the athletic sort, join the flock and do the Turkey Trot, Chicago’s annual five or eight kilometer race. To avoid late fees, register as soon as possible www.turkeytrotchicago.com.

If standing still is more your style, don’t miss the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. The parade winds its way along State Street from Congress to Randolph. If you plan to see it live, get there before 7 a.m. to find a good spot and expect to stay through 11 a.m. if you want to catch the whole thing.

Once the parade ends, you will have several options for turkey day fun.

If you’re a sports fan (well, a football fan to be precise) then you have one goal—catch the game. There’s no need to sit at home and watch television,  as plenty of bars will be available for the Bears versus Lions game at 11:30 p.m. ET. In the afternoon, stick around for the Cowboys versus Redskins, and if you want to make a whole day of it, don’t miss the Falcons versus Saints, kickoff scheduled for 7:20 p.m.

Not a sports fan? Entertain yourself by dining out. Plenty of restaurants will be open the day of Thanksgiving, so if you don’t feel like cooking for yourself, don’t sweat it. For a full listing of what is available, check out the website www.opentable.com.

By the time the afternoon rolls around, you might be feeling ready to relax. Good news! Hollywood typically releases some of its most anticipated offerings in late November, and this year is no exception.

Opening the week of Thanksgiving, get ready for Creed II, Ralph Breaks the Internet or Robin Hood, an action movie based on the famous legend of English folklore. Want something a little subtler than a big blockbuster? How about The Front Runner, Jason Reitman’s chronicle of Gary Hart’s doomed presidential campaign, or Peter Farrelly’s The Green Book, the highly anticipated period drama set in the Jim Crow-era South. Finally, if Thanksgiving kicks off your Christmas spirit, check out The Christmas Chronicles, the first Christmas film of the season, opening Thanksgiving Day.

And of course,there is always retail therapy. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or for someone else, there are plenty of opportunities Thanksgiving Day. Want something traditional? Check out the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza, open Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Grab a glass of Gühwein and browse handmade wonders from around the world. Want something a little more name-brand? Wander down the Mag Mile and enjoy early Black Friday sales on your favorite merchandise.

If service is more your speed, there are homeless shelters and food pantries all over the city that need volunteers. Go online, find a nearby venue and spend your turkey day doing good.

Chicago Avenue, bridge, to undergo months of repair

Staff reports

 

Chicago Avenue Bridge repairs

The Chicago Avenue Bridge over the north branch of the Chicago River will close on Nov. 1 and part of the street will undergo repairs for months.

The old bridge, built in 1914, will be replaced with a new bridge that will be better able to suit pedestrian, vehicle and bike traffic.

The project will require Chicago Avenue to close between Larrabee and Halsted Streets. The entire project is expected to last five months but the roadway on Chicago Avenue is expected to reopen by the end of 2018.

Marked detours will direct bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists to new routes.

A temporary shared bus-bike lane will be installed on Halted Street between Chicago Avenue on Division Street to maintain effective service of the CTA bus route 66.

The final phase of the project will involve installing new lighting on the road.

License plate readers

In an attempt to reduce the number of carjackings and improve the speed at which stolen vehicles can be identified and recovered, the Chicago Police Department will expand its use of license plate reader technology.

At least 200 more CPD patrol cars will have the technology as part of a city-wide effort to prevent violent crimes

Street Lighting outages

Throughout the October, Alderman Brian Hopkins noted that a significant increase in street light outages had been noticed in the Second Ward and that his office is working to improve the speed at which outed lights are fixed.

Outages are usually caused by vandals pulling out the copper wiring of the lights, system shortages, squirrels, and nearby LED installations that can affect vapor lights.

In his newsletter, Hopkins said his office is “constantly communicating” with CDOT and that he has spoken with the CDOT Commissioner to address concerns that some all-light outages have taken up to a week to repair when repairs are supposed to be completed within 48-hours.

Streeterville officers vow to crack down on drug sales, seek help from residents

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Published Oct. 2, 2018

At their September meeting, CAPS police officials told Streeterville residents they were cracking down on drug dealers and buyers in the area.

 

Officer Thomas Baker said officers are trying to make cases against drug distribution networks, as opposed to people merely carrying illicit substances. However, he said, police need assistance from residents – “Our biggest thing is we obviously need help from the community, especially when you guys see everything,” Baker said.

 

The police action comes amid community concerns that drug activity is getting worse. One resident said open drug sales along Chicago Avenue are becoming problematic. Baker suggested forming block clubs that could create email and phone trees to channel information to police regarding problematic areas, and said police could help set up the clubs.

 

“We can train you, if need be, if you have a community room available,” he said.

 

A private security officer in the audience said drug dealers are selling to students, starting fights and criminally trespassing on the property of the Chicago Avenue McDonald’s where he works. Baker said police would soon hold meetings with the city attorney to find ways to more effectively stop drug sellers from loitering near a methadone clinic in the area.

 

Sergeant Christopher Schenk said residents safely taking pictures of drug deals and illicit activity could help arresting officers. “I don’t want you to put yourself in harm’s way,” Shenk said. “I have to say that. But if they have photos or anything they can take, or information that could help us out, that would be great.”

 

The officers added that anyone who has crime tips or would like more information can contact law enforcement for non-emergency situations at (312) 742-5778 or CAPS.018district@chicagopolice.org.

 

The next CAPS meeting is set for 6 p.m. on Oct. 4 at 115 W. Chicago Ave.

 

CAPS meeting dominated by noise complaints

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

At the August Community Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting in the 001st District, Sgt. Anthony Dombrowski announced new options for homeless residents in the area.

Dombrowski said some of the shelters will now admit pets as well as people who are intoxicated and who would otherwise be tossed out of other shelters. One new shelter, operated by the Franciscan Outreach program, is specifically for people on Lower Wacker in the downtown area.

Meanwhile, area residents complained about bucket boys and the noise they make, playing buckets for tips from tourists.

Dombrowski said if people are bothered by noise, they should call police because regular patrol officers are not always there to enforce noise restrictions without a complaint.

“You should call 911 and say that there is a noise disturbance and you want to be a complainant and speak to a police officer [in person], because you can’t be a complainant over the phone.”

Upgrades coming to Lakeshore East Park

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

Published September 4, 2018

After complaints of graffiti, vandalism and general wear and tear at Lakeshore East Park, repairs are finally coming.

According to a letter from the Office of Alderman Brendan Reilly, Magellan Development Group, the park’s developer, have long term improvements planned. These include replacing the play area surface material in the tot lot and new playground equipment that will offer more activities for children of all ages.

Gabby Hart, the director of planning and development for Reilly’s office, confirmed the plans. “Plans are in place for full replacement of the playground surface and upgrades to the playground equipment are planned as well,” Hart said.

Hart said the tot lot will be closed when repairs are being made, but will otherwise remain open throughout the project.

Repairs to the surface area are already underway. The other improvements are expected to take place over the next few months and be completed by the end of the year.

SOAR serving lunch to first responders, Streeterville

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

September 4, 2018

Once again, the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR) is preparing for its annual First Responders Appreciation Day. The event will be held Sept. 13, from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. at the Chicago Fire Department Engine Company 98, 202 E. Chicago Ave.

Bob Johnson, chairman of the safety and sound management taskforce for SOAR, said the event is a way to give back to the men and women who keep the neighborhood safe.

“The organization wanted to give thanks to our firefighters and our police officers and our paramedics who serve the community,” he explained. “We think they do a terrific job.”

In addition to the public luncheon, SOAR will deliver sandwiches from Timothy O’Toole’s Pub to the 18th Precinct District at 10 p.m. to recognize the overnight shift workers.

This year, the event moved from the Lakeshore Field House to a fire station two blocks west. Johnson said in prior years, getting the firefighters to go to an offsite location and then sit down for a meal could be tricky, especially if a fire broke out.

“The firefighters never got a chance to attend the event because they’d walk in, get a bite of food and then get called out,” he said.

However, Johnson said the event is for the community and not just for first responders.“Just show up,” he said. “Come as you are.”

Johnson said that while a local alderman or congressman might stop in, the lunch is less a political event as it is a way to build community.

“We just think it would be nice for our first responders to get to know our people and for our people to get to know them.”

Johnson said the lunch has been an event for years, and is something of a tradition in Streeterville.

“I think it was done shortly after the 9/11 [ceremonies], as a way to remember the 343 firefighters killed in 9/11,” he said. “It’s a time of year we think of them more so than during the rest of the year.”

For more information, visit the SOAR website, soarchicago.org.

Who says New Eastside’s not a real neighborhood?

“We are New Eastside, proud and strong. From Randolph Street to Wacker Drive, Michigan Avenue to the Lakefront— and we are getting bigger and better all the time.” – Jon Cohn

By Tom Conroy | Staff Writer

A recent article in Chicago Magazine highlighted several neighborhoods they deemed “straight-up fake,” claiming that “real estate [executives] toss around fictionalized neighborhood names with abandon.”

New Eastside, which joined Tally’s Corner, NoCa and Noble Square on the list, was described as being part of Streeterville. The magazine claimed New Eastside has little legitimacy because it is interchangeably referred to as Lakeshore East and River East.

While the magazine could not be reached for comment, several members of the community had something to say about the story:

“Streeterville and the New Eastside are separated by the Chicago River. Rivers are
dividing geographical markers like the Rio Grande and the Mississippi, so it really is a bold claim to make that Streeterville is New Eastside.

New Eastside is often considered part of the Loop, but the ‘L’ train that makes the Loop is not that close to us, because we are located east of Michigan Ave., another big dividing road. It’s the unique concentration of residential towers around a six-acre Lake Shore East Park, that makes the area feel like a real neighborhood within the city. I have never heard the place called River East.” — Elaine Hyde, editor of New Eastside News

“We got [Google] to add the New Eastside label to our very defined neighborhood by sharing the heading of the neighborhood website—neweastside.org, created in 1999—including a picture and reference to the dozen official city signs that have survived the elements and still identify our 1981 Illinois incorporated, non-profit New Eastside identity.”
— Richard Ward, president of the New Eastside Association of Residents

“Apparently, local real estate executives are getting a bit confused with the vast
growing array of Chicago neighborhoods, each with their own catchy name. Now, we can understand the confusion, but c’mon folks. The area Chicago Magazine listed as the New Eastside or Lakeshore East was described as ‘a plot of high rises at the mouth of the Chicago River, north of Millenium Park and south of Illinois Street. That is not us. That’s Streeterville!”

“Streeterville is close by and has a grand tradition of its own here in Chicago.
But let’s get it right, boys and girls. Our beloved New Eastside is just developing its
identity. We have our set boundaries, too. We don’t need to be caught in the shadows of our older brother just to the north. “We are New Eastside, proud and strong. From Randolph Street to Wacker Drive, Michigan Avenue to the Lakefront — and we are getting bigger and better all the time.” — Jon Cohn, community contributor to New Eastside News

The New Eastside community has spoken, and they are proud to identify with this neighborhood. It might behoove Chicago Magazine to have a conversation with neighborhood residents before they deliver their damning proclamations from up on high.

Shopping carts wreak havoc at condos

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

The carts keep coming.

And, at the Tides, that’s a problem.

On any given day, New Eastside residents leave as many as 10 to 15 empty Mariano’s shopping carts outside the door of the 360 E. South Water St. apartment building, according to Tides doorman John King.

“They have them all over the place, making the place look cheap,” King said.

King isn’t alone in his criticism. “I’ve seen them accumulated outside our building—it just looks horrible, to be honest,” said Tina Moutzouros, the assistant business manager at the Tides.

Some residents want to take the carts even further. “Sometimes they want to bring the whole cart upstairs as well, which is definitely not acceptable,” she said. “We have our own carts and if they need help they can ask for them.”

Moutzouros said the Tides’ sister building, the Shoreham, has the same problem.

The two buildings sit opposite Mariano’s, separated by Lake Shore East Park, an easy distance on foot. “It’s a convenience for residents,” Moutzouros said. “But if they take them they should be taking them back, which isn’t happening.”

While Mariano’s displays signs asking customers to keep the carts on site, shoppers of the Lakeshore East location seem to ignore the signs. Moutzouros said the Tides does not have a policy explicitly banning carts from the front of the building, but she wants the grocery store to send its employees to collect the carts more often.

Amanda Puck, a spokesperson for Mariano’s, said the store is willing to help out and the store has given phone numbers to all the door people at nearby apartments.

“We love being part of the community and we try to be proactive in getting the carts back to the store,” Puck said. “If anyone needs us to do that, they are welcome to give us a call.”

Puck explained that during slow hours, stores will send employees out to retrieve carts, even the ones left in front of apartments. But Moutzouros said this isn’t happening as often as it needs to.

“Craig, one of our concierges, he has been in contact with one of the managers. He said he was sending somebody from Mariano’s to go around and collect the carts,” she said. “But it doesn’t seem to be happening as often as it should.”

Published August 1, 2018

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