New, improved Riverwalk is open for business

(Published June 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

The city’s renovated Riverwalk is open, and although some renovations continue, the scenic spot is a hotspot for both visitors and locals alike.

Among the improvements the Riverwalk now offers more greenspace, a walking path closer to the river and a community marketspace.

Two longtime Chicago Architecture Center tour directors praised the work.

“It’s gorgeous,” said Lorie Westerman, a CAC docent. “And it’ll be even better when it’s finished.”

“I like the amphitheater and the River Theater,” said Robin Bauer.

Westerman echoed Bauer, and noted the amphitheater is a very popular spot to sit down and relax. 

“One day on a recent tour, when we got done, I noticed people were sitting arm to arm at the amphitheater,” Westerman noted. “It’s very popular. 

One of the more ambitious additions to the Riverwalk is a marketspace. The Riverwalk has long featured businesses and restaurants but this space is intended to highlight women and minority-owned vendors. The vendors are selling food and drinks and the small kiosks are set up between Wabash and Michigan avenues.

These vendors have a six-month contract to sell at the Riverwalk. In addition, Lakeview’s Beat Kitchen has a three-year lease to operate under the staircase of the Michigan Avenue bridge.

According to the city, vendors are intending to make tourists aware of Chicago neighborhoods they can visit during their trip.

Visitors and locals can get a free, guided one-hour tour of the Riverwalk Thursday through Sunday. Anyone interested must meet at the Bridgehouse Museum Plaza at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The walks are first-come, first-served.

Bridgehouse Museum prepares for cruise fundraiser

(Published June 19, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Though the main Riverwalk entrance to the McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum is shuttered as city workers renovate that space, the museum is open and busy planning for an upcoming cruise fundraiser.

The cruise is June 26 and the boat ride offers a unique voyage on the Chicago River.

“It’s unlike any other tour,” Coles said. “We go places where other tours typically don’t go. We go all the way to Damon Avenue on the south branch.”

The Bridgehouse Museum celebrates the history of Chicago’s bridgehouses—the small offices once used to manually raise and lower the city’s drawbridges—as well as the history of the Chicago River. Aside from the museum, many of the bridgehouses are now closed and unused.

The museum, at the northern corner of Columbus Drive and upper Wacker, is only open during the spring, summer and early fall. Museum director Josh Coles said, despite the construction, he’s happy with attendance so far this year. He even praised the work on the Riverwalk, which he said will improve the exterior space.

“They are expanding the plaza space,” he said. “They’re going to add two large long planters full of native plants. It should be good.”

Inside the museum, Coles said the organization continues to welcome locals and tourists with a robust schedule of river-related events through the summer.

“In July and August we do a speaker series,” he said.

The free series will kick off July 8 and run from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. xperts will talk on a variety of topics, from the history of the area to the ecology of the river.

“We have all kinds of great people who know a lot about river-related issues,” Coles said. “Also, in late June, we have our annual fundraiser for the museum and it’s a summer cruise.”

Tickets are $85 for a single or $155 for two tickets, available online at bridgehousemuseum.org.

In September, the Bridgehouse Museum will offer a temporary exhibit, The Tender House project, which imagines the potential use of the other bridgehouses in Chicago.

The Bridgehouse Museum is open Fridays through Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Thursday from noon to 7 p.m. The museum is closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Navy Pier Pride Presented by American Airlines returns for fourth annual daylong celebration of love and equality

(Published June 13, 2019)
 
Navy Pier Pride Presented by American Airlines will soar onto the Pier with flying colors for the fourth consecutive year on June 29, offering a variety of festivities to embrace diversity and celebrate the vibrant LGBTQ culture in Chicago. The full-day free event, from noon to 11 p.m., positions the Pier as an inclusive Pride destination for all ages, with activities ranging from build-your-own Pride bracelets to musical performances by the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and a colorful and vibrant fireworks display.
 
As part of its Pride Month tribute, the Pier will be decorated with Pride flags all month long and display the symbolic rainbow colors in the center digital screen of the iconic Centennial Wheel. Further illustrating a visual celebration of diversity and inclusion, two essential tenants of Navy Pier’s values, the Pier will also adorn staircases near the Centennial Wheel and Crystal Gardens in rainbow colors, as well as project a custom “togetherness” wall asset highlighting the Pier’s mission to welcome all.
 
For the day-of celebration, guests can begin with an opening activity at Chicago Children’s Museum’s Family Resource Activity Station to celebrate LGBTQ families. On the Pier’s South Dock, create a rainbow bracelet as a symbol of Pride and learn about the museum’s LGBTQ inclusion resources that are available for parents and teachers from noon to 2 p.m.
 
PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois will be on-site from noon to 4 p.m. to speak to their mission of building a foundation of loving families united with LGBTQ people and allies who support one another. PFLAG envisions a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued and affirmed inclusive of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, and the Northern Illinois Council is a coalition of chapters within the Chicagoland area. Navy Pier is passionate about partnering with other likeminded nonprofits in the area to promote dynamic and eclectic experiences.
 
Reading gets revamped from 1 to 2 p.m. during Story Time with Drag Queens presented in partnership with Chicago Children’s Museum, where classic children’s books will be brought to life in fabulous fashion.
 
A variety of other performers will create an energetic musical atmosphere throughout the event starting at 2 p.m. through 11 p.m. at the Miller Lite Beer Garden.
 
All guests are welcome to join and follow the festive music processional led by the Lakeside Pride Marching Band from the People’s Energy Welcome Pavilion down the South Dock from 2 to 2:30 p.m. and revel in the musical stylings from the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus during a special performance at the Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion from 3 to 4 p.m.
 
As the sun sets, enjoy an energetic live performance as part of Navy Pier’s ongoing Wave Wall Wax weekly DJ series featuring reigning queer Chicago female DJ All the Way Kay at the Wave Wall Platform from 4 to 6 p.m.
 
Coinciding that evening will be the signature Aon Summer Fireworks lighting up the Chicago sky for a 10-minute vibrant display at 10:15 p.m. as a breathtaking closing to the celebration.
 
Please see below for the full schedule for Navy Pier Pride Presented by American Airlines:

Get out and grill in Chicago

(Published May 30, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

For grill masters and amateurs, there are several public parks and beaches that allow grilling.

“Grilling must be confined to enclosed metal containers and may only take place within dedicated grilling areas,” according to the Chicago Parks website. The parks also stress all hot coal must be watered and any remains should be disposed of in designated red receptacles.  

Some of the nearby parks and beaches that allow grilling:

Oak Street Beach

1000 North Lake Shore Drive

North Avenue Beach

1601 N. Lake Shore Drive

Montrose Beach

4400 N. Lake Shore Drive

Loyola Beach

1230 W. Greenleaf Ave.

Riis Park

6100 W. Fullerton Ave

Rules:

$50 fee to grill, must bring own grill.

Burnham Park

Promontory Point

5491 S. Lake Shore Drive

Rules:

Public fire pits or bring your own grill in designated areas.

Humboldt Beach

1400 N Humboldt Drive

For more information about the parks and beaches, visit chicagoparkdistrict.com

Not Your Average Mother’s Day

(Published April 29, 2019

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Treat mom to a unique Mother’s Day experience that goes beyond brunch.

Family Game Night Out

Does mom love family game night, but is often stressed playing host? Try Family Game Night Out in Lakeview, which takes the pressure off mom. Invite the whole family, from 6-24 guests, to play familiar party games in a private room that includes a host. Family Game Night Out is BYOB and welcomes guests to bring snacks. $45 per person for a 2-3 hour experience, depending on the number of guests. Make reservations in advance. Recommended for game players 18 and up.

gamenightout.com

2828 N Clark St., Chicago

312-448-724

Donut Tour

If mom is a pastry fan, then the Chicago Donut tour will be a treat. The Underground Donut Tour has two Chicago-based tours, one of which covers downtown, the other covers Wicker Park. The downtown tour encompasses two miles and each donut shop stop includes samples. Tours run Thursday to Sunday and begin at 9 a.m. The downtown tour is $35 for adults and $15 for children.

undergrounddonuttour.com

Freeze and Float

For a relaxing Mother’s Day, take mom to River North’s Freeze and Float, a recently opened spa specializing in cryotherapy treatments, infrared saunas and flotation therapy. Cryotherapy hyper-cools the body for three minutes, with temperatures in the chambers reaching -184F. According to the Freeze and Float website, Cryotherapy has rejuvenating effects, similar to the benefits of icing inflamed muscles. Infrared saunas improve circulation and help with injury recovery. Floatation therapy in Epsom-salt filled water is a meditative experience. They also offer classic massages, facials, and beauty treatments. For pricing and more information, visit Freeze and Float’s website, or call them.

freezefloatspa.com

371 W Ontario St.

312 809-7008

Windy Kitty

For the cat-lover mom, Windy Kitty is the place to go. Windy Kitty is a cat cafe in Wicker Park, where mom can hang out with some rescue cats, while having a snack or coffee. Cats at the cafe are available for adoption, but enjoy being visited too. Windy Kitty also features a kitten nursery, available to visit for those over 10. Windy Kitty strongly suggests reservations. Admission is $14 per person per hour. For parties of five people or more, Windy Kitty recommends a private party reservation. They often have fun events, such as Yoga with Cats or Painting with Cats. For more information, visit their website, or email them.

windykittychicago.com

meow@windykittychicago.com

1746 W North Ave

Let it Out

Moms often are subject to a lot of stress. To give mom a way to let go of that stress, take her to The Rage Room, in River North’s Escapades Escape Room. For those over 18, the Rage Room allows visitors to break as many items, such as televisions, crockery, and computer equipment, as they desire. The Rage Room provides safety wear to go along with a baseball bat, crowbar or golf club. The room can be shared with up to 15 people in a party, but only one person goes in at a time. Experiences can last up to 2 hours, or can be as little as 15 minutes. Prices vary. Online reservations required. Visit their website for more information.

www.escapadesescapegames.com

153 W. Ohio

312-526-3072

Learn Something New

For the jack-of-all-trades mom, check out Dabble, which has classes available in a variety of subjects. Pasta making, archery, glassblowing and soap making are just a few available on Dabble in the upcoming weeks. They also have food tours, architecture tours and drinking tours. Prices, locations, and times vary. Dabble’s website has a list of classes and is constantly updating new times, dates, and experiences.

dabble.co/chicago/

Summer fun for all: Parents have plenty to choose from in local summer camps

(Published April 29, 2019)

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

With summer around the corner, schools, museums and even watersport companies are offering summer camps for kids.

At Camp GEMS, kids can explore the city through a six-week program that mimics the school’s curriculum, although the program is open to all kids, even non-students. Through the camp, kids explore the whole city and the build and design the city features. Each week is $475 or $2,700 for six weeks. Camp Gems is open to kids 3-12.

Taneal Sanders, a GEMS teacher, said Camp GEMS aims to benefit the entire student.

“We focus on keeping the kids’ minds and bodies active,” she said.

Each week has a different theme, and students learn lessons based on each theme. The first week is “who we are,” the second weeks is “where are we in place and time,” the third week is “how we organize ourselves, the fourth week is, “how the world works,” the fifth week is “sharing the planet” and the final week is “how we express ourselves.”

Throughout the camp, kids explore the city, design model cities, visit a theater and visit various markets and festivals in the city.

“On Fridays, we do a share-out where all age groups come together and we kind of have a little assembly where we share what we learned during the week,” Sanders said.  

Last year, kids took a water taxi to Chinatown and on another day they visited the Field Museum.

“We don’t just stay right in the neighborhood,” Sanders said. “With the younger campers, we stay close to school, but for the older kids, we venture out on public transportation.”

In addition to the cultural diversity, Sanders said Camp GEMS is staffed by GEMS teachers and the ratio is five students to one teacher, ensuring the kids are learning as well as enjoying the city.

“It’s not just for GEMS students,” Sanders said. “We love that it brings in different people and different perspectives.”

A variety of other day and week camps are available for kids.

Sailing and STEM camp

The Chicago Park District is hosting its annual sailing and STEM camp in May, June and July.

Kids can learn to sail at Monroe Harbor, with no experience necessary. The camp is for 5th-8th grade students in Chicago and it requires a $250 donation, though low-income applicants can get in free. To apply for a spot, visit endeavourchicago.org.

The four day-sessions (Monday-Thursday) go beyond  sailing. Students will learn science, technology, engineering and math curriculum. The course opens May 4 and meets every Saturday at 9 a.m. A June camp runs from June 24 to Aug. 1.

Visit EndeavourChicago.org for more details and to apply online. Scholarships are available.

Urban Kayaks paddle and kayak camp

Urban Kayaks summer paddle and kayak camp kicks off July 29. The camp runs weekly from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and is aimed at kids ages 10 to 16. The course, at $550 per week with a 25 percent discount for siblings, is located at Monroe Harbor. For more information, visit urbankayaks.com or call 312-965-0035

Navy Pier’s Wiggleworms music program

While not a camp, Navy Pier is again hosting Wiggleworms, a free music program for children every Friday beginning June 21.

Wiggleworms, Old Town School of Folk Music’s early childhood music program, introduces young children and their families to a musical world. The program is at the Polk Brothers Park stage and it runs Fridays from 10 to 11:45 a.m.

Easter fever: The best local egg hunts

(Published April 1, 2019)

By Jesse Wright, staff writer

Many parents in downtown Chicago don’t have lawns for children to hunt eggs—but the city provides a plethora of alternatives, some including grandiose spectacles, for both kids and parents.

New Eastside’s Maggie Daley Park hosts the Great Chicago Egg Hunt on April 19, which, as the name implies, is not small affair.

Besides the Easter Bunny, the egg hunt includes various performances from event sponsor Medieval Times’ knights and princesses. The event is open to any child from 1 to 11 years old. though parents need to register kids. A spot is $10 per person online or $15 per person the day of the hunt. Parents can register on the park district’s site, maggiedaleypark.com.

Parents should register sooner rather than later because it is popular. “We had 5,000 people last year,” park supervisor Jackie Guthrie said. “It’s a pretty big egg hunt.”

She explained the hunt is actually several hunts, handled in waves, and a Medieval Times’ trumpeter will sound off each hunt.

The event is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and registration begins at 9 a.m

A Rainforest adventure

Across the river near Streeterville, kids and parents can get a hop on Easter  breakfast with the Easter Bunny April 13 and April 14 at Rainforest Café, 605 N. Clark St. The Cha! Cha!’s Egg-Cellent Easter Adventure breakfast includes a breakfast buffet, an egg hunt and basket and goodie bags for the kids. Children 3 and under are free, 10 and under are $14.34 and tickets for everyone else are $24.75. Tickets are available at Eventbrite.com.

Lake Shore Park Easter egg hunt

Streeterville families can take part in the Maggie Daley Park egg hunt and then, the next day, April 20, families can go over to Lake Shore Park, 808 N. Lake Shore Drive, for the Streeterville’s Easter egg hunts for kids 12 and under. Bags will be provided for the eggs. The event is free and open to the community from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Besides the hunt, there will be snacks, face painting, crafts and there will also be storytime reading by Blue Box Libraries and parents are asked to bring a book to donate. The event is free to the public and parents can register at easterinchicago.com.

The event is sponsored by Lake Shore and Seneca Park advisory councils and Church of the Beloved.

Doggy Easter Egg Hunt Comes to Lakeshore East Park

(Published April 1, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Dog treat truck Fido to Go is hosting their free Annual Easter Egg Hunt from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.on April 13.

The event will take place in front of the Drunken Bean, 400 East South Water St..  

The festivities begin at 10:30 a.m. and end at 12:30 p.m. The doggy Easter egg hunt (with human assistance on gathering) begins at 10:30 a.m. and will feature several treats and surprises, including a special golden egg. No need to bring your own bag, as Fido to Go will provide.

TAlso, there will be an opportunity for pups to meet and take photos with the Easter bunny, so bringdon’t forget a camera. The event is family friendly, but Fido to Go notes that this is an event for dogs, although children are welcome to meet the Easter bunny as well.

Fido to Go requests that all attendees RSVP on their Facebook page, to getso they can have an accurate count of treat-filled eggs. Rain date for this event will be April 20, and times and details stay the same. Monitor Fido to Go’s Facebook event page for updates.  

For more information about Fido to Go and the event, please visit their Facebook page, facebook.com/fidotogo/

Stay inside and get outside through the MCA’s ‘The Great Outdoors’ performance piece this weekend

For the Streeterville News

(Published March 20, 2019)

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago will present “The Great Outdoors,” a performance by writer-director Annie Dorsen that takes place within an inflatable dome on the theater stage where the public can stretch out on mats for a journey through ‘inner space.’

A lone performer, Kaija Matiss, reads aloud comments culled from internet discussion boards 4chan and Reddit in the past 24 hours, giving voice to the thoughts of countless individuals tapping away at their keyboards in isolation. With a unique stellar star show designed by Dorsen in collaboration with Ryan Holsopples, “The Great Outdoors” connects ideas of infinity and the unknown to today’s networked, hyper-connected technologies, and reflects on the cosmic nature of the internet. The Great Outdoors takes place at the MCA from Thursday to Saturday, March 21-23, at 7:30 p.m., with an additional 2 pm show on Sunday, March 24.

“The Great Outdoors” is a performance that changes each time it takes place, using a stream of that day’s internet comments that are fed through an algorithm produced by Dorsen herself. The algorithm sorts messages by their density, and operates independently of human intervention, delivering a flood of personal and collective thoughts that the artist calls the ‘internet’s id’ – a projection of ourselves unrestrained by ego, and protected by anonymity.

The Great Outdoors” invites audiences to consider the internet as both ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ space, at once a digital reflection of personal life and a connection to the world beyond the body and its physical location. Dorsen describes the internet as “a new Romantic landscape where we can go exploring, as explorers did in the nineteenth century.” As audiences imagine the internet’s infinite possibilities, musician Sébastien Roux mixes a live score on stage, experimenting with electronic and ambient sounds inspired by the theory that the universe is always expanding.

“The Great Outdoors”takes place in the Edlis Neeson Theater at the MCA and seating is limited. Tickets are $30 and can be reserved at www.mcachicago.org or by calling the box office at 312-397-4010.

Holi celebration set for Navy Pier

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Holi is coming to downtown Chicago.

Holi is a Hindu celebration that runs March 20-21. Navy Pier is hosting a free Holi festival on March 23, from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Aon Grand Ballroom.

Holi is known as the festival of colors and the festival of love.

It is a celebration of letting go of resentments, while playfully dousing others in colored powder or water. Holi begins with the lighting of a bonfire, meant to symbolize the triumph of good over bad, according to the official Holi Festival website.

A number of legends attached to the festival.

The legend that is said to have led to the celebration of colors involves the Hindi god, Krishna becoming jealous of his soulmate Radha’s light complexion, according to the Holi site. Krishna complained to his mother, who told him to color Radha’s skin any color he wished. He did so, and the mischievous act turned into a celebration, and a symbol of love between partners.

“Lovers long to apply color on their beloveds face and express their affection for each other,” the Holi site said.

Navy Pier’s celebration will feature musicians Red Baraat and Funkadesi. There will also be dance performances from groups including Peirce Elementary School and Mandala Arts. Bombay Wraps will sell food and colored powders will be available to be thrown outside in the Miller Lite Beer Garden, as supplies last, until 4 p.m. Visitors may not throw powder inside.

To learn more about the Holi celebration at Navy Pier, visit navypier.org/event. To learn more about Holi, visit holifestival.org.

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