I’m sure it is obvious to anyone reading this that I am a fan of Chicago. I rarely repeat destinations, but with good friends living there, Chicago makes a great home base to visit parts of the Midwest, like Kentucky and Indiana. Since this is a repeat destination for me, I won’t go into great detail on a few things, I’ll just give you the highlights and link to my other post.
Given the theme of our recent travels (#BourbonBinge2017 for the win!), our group thought a great first stop would be the Koval Distillery, located in Ravenswood. It is the first distillery to open in the city since the mid-1800s, and Koval prides itself on producing kosher spirits, made with mostly local and organic ingredients. This is a family business, with a master distiller who comes from a long line of master distillers. They offer fun classes, as well as tours so I would add them to the list of ideas for bachelorette/birthday party spots. To sum it up, Koval makes tasty small batch stuff with a quality set of corporate values that are easy to support.
We followed up our tasting with a trip to the perfect Band of Bohemia, whose claim to fame is that they are the first Michelin Rated Brewpub. Don’t let the term brewpub fool you, the place is all class, with the people who are forced to fold your napkin when you get up to prove it (can that aspect of fancy restaurants be retired, please!).
Pro Tip: Koval isn’t pouring with a heavy hand (by law, all liquor samples must be measured in Chicago). However, with so many great bars, breweries and restaurants nearby, I recommend taking a cab and making a nice, safe, day of it.
One of the women in our group had never been to Chicago, so we revived the ever delightful river architecture tour and a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago to see the Gauguin exhibit. Gauguin is always problematic and I give credit to the museum for acknowledging some of his more horrifying cultural appropriations (if you are interested, this article is a fascinating reflection on the complex realities of Gauguin’s exoticism).
Pro Tip: Despite it being July, we caught a summer rainstorm while on the boat, which was perfect for photography. If you can manage it, bring a poncho and enjoy the view on the upper deck when everyone else runs for cover.
The following day we checked out the Museum of Science and Industry. I haven’t been since I was roughly 12 years old, and I have to say, it is just as much fun now, as it was then. We decided to splurge and see several special exhibits, including robots; a mirror maze, which gave me both vertigo and my life; and an impressive display of Lego structures in the shape of iconic buildings.
We also saw the creepiest miniature castle ever made. I’m sure I saw it as a kid and promptly blocked it from my memory because it is THAT WEIRD. Created by Colleen Moore, a silent film star with a truly exceptional mind for investing, the fairy castle was originally taken on tour to raise money for children’s charities. Moore poured the equivalent of $7 million in today’s money into a 9×9 dollhouse, convincing and/or commissioning many prominent artists of the day, including Walt Disney, to help decorate the fairy castle. The thing has tiny china, minute babies in baskets, bitty tapestries, ect.. The display is accompanied by this bizarre pixie-lady voice pointing out castle features. The weirdest part of the eerie, astronomically expensive castle is that everyone acted like the thing was normal. It is not normal people! Don’t miss it if you are there, but be forewarned, it is strange.
Pro Tip: The museum is pretty expensive and not easy to get to so you will want to save your pennies and plan to be in the outer regions of the city for a fair amount of time.
Bonus Tip: Buy your tickets online to skip an impressively long ques.
Summertime in Chicago is a special thing (Kanye wasn’t wrong about that!). My friend suggested we take in some local flavor and go to a festival. As she explained it, festivals are ubiquitous in summertime Chi (can’t stop, won’t stop with the Kanye references) there are basically five or six going on on any given weekend. We decided on the Square Roots Festival, in Lincoln Square. It is primarily a music festival put on by the local chamber of commerce and the Old Town School of Folk Music, featuring a fantastic display of local businesses and family fun. Performers from the music school, as well as larger acts, filled four different stages, while local breweries, restaurants, and shops put up tents and sold treats. This really is the kind of thing you can bring your kids to, or attend with friends who have kids, so add it to the list of places to go with that couple you haven’t seen in a while.
A few other places we stopped by that I should mention:
- The Sixth – Super hip cocktail spot in Lincoln Square. Their cocktails are literally smoking science experiments, giving new meaning to the concept of a mixologist.
- Baker Miller – They have a few locations around town, and there is a reason for that. I binged on their pastries while binging the Great British Baking Show.
- Cindy’s – We went for the 4th of July. Located at the top of the Athletic Association building, the view is as wonderful as the food. It is a popular spot, so make reservations or be prepared to wait for ages.
- Magical grocery store I mentioned in my last visit (still my favorite thing ever).
PRO TIP: The Festival suggests $10 donation at the door, but that is really more of the price of admission. I watched one lady hold up the line trying to talk her way out of it to no avail. If you attend the festival, come prepared to pay and be OK with the fact that it supports something awesome.