Magazine article American Libraries

Offbeat Chicago: A Windy City Summer Guide from the Staff of American Libraries

Magazine article American Libraries

Offbeat Chicago: A Windy City Summer Guide from the Staff of American Libraries

Article excerpt

Willis Tower, Navy Pier, the Art Institute--they're all well worth a visit, but surely you don't need us to direct you there. Instead, the American Libraries staff offers a bevy of off-the-beaten-path ideas for enjoying your time in the Windy City. Each lies within a reasonable public transit or taxi/ridesharing trip from McCormick Place.

1 In downtown's Millennium Park, the Frank Gehry-designed JAY PRITZKER PAVILION offers free outdoor concerts. On the evening of June 23 or 24, bring a picnic and enjoy the strains of Stravinsky's The Firebird, performed by renowned American pianist Conrad Tao ( Not a classical-music fan? June 22 brings a concert by folk group Hurray for the Riff Raff and folk-rocker Matthew Santos; June 26 sees performances by jazz band Jaga Jazzist and electro-African group AfrotroniX.

2 In the Loop? The CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER ( is well worth a pop inside. This enormous, stunning 19th-century landmark once housed the city's main library; now it's an arts and culture center that offers free exhibitions as well as music, dance, and theater performances. You'll definitely want to wander into its Preston Bradley Hall, home of the largest Tiffany dome in the world. For the serious historical and architectural scoop, there are free tours on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 1:15 p.m.

3 As you might guess from its name, THE WICKER PARK SECRET AGENT SUPPLY CO. ( is a quirky boutique full of spy-themed gag gifts, such as a bottle opener shaped like a shoe, earbuds that make the wearer look like a Secret Service agent, and an "emergency bow tie" (for those last-minute disguises). But this secret-agent shop has a secret of its own: Every item sold supports 826CHI, a nonprofit that helps students age 6-18 develop their writing skills.

4 Think you know what Chicago-style pizza is like? Think again. Tavern-style pizza, which features a thin, crunchy crust and square slices, is a lesser-known favorite of the City That Works. Find it at FOX'S RESTAURANT AND PUB ( in Beverly, where each pie comes with pleasingly crispy edges.

5 In the Lower West Side neighborhood of Pilsen, the NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MEXICAN ART ( holds a trove of gorgeous and fascinating works from both sides of the US-Mexico border and from many time periods. In the folk art collection, the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) items are a special favorite. Admission is free. Afterward, on nice days, it's fun to take the 25-minute walk to DIA DE LOS TAMALES (, a tiny storefront restaurant specializing in tamales both innovative (buffalo chicken with blue cheese) and traditional (spicy black bean and corn).

6 In the historic Bronzeville neighborhood, GALLERY GUICHARD ( showcases art from the African diaspora. Housed in a former Borden's dairy, the gallery features works from painters, sculptors, and other artists from all over the world. Just down the street, PEACH'S ON 47TH ( is famous for comfort-food breakfasts and lunches, like shrimp and cheese grits or peach-bourbon french toast.

7 At the Judy Istock Butterfly Haven of the PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM (, more than 1,000 exotic butterflies representing 40-some species flutter their gorgeous wings, occasionally landing on visitors' heads or shoulders for a spell. Scattered benches make it easy to sit and soak up the tropical ambience. …

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