If you’re coming to Chicago for the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target on Wednesday, you’ve probably already hit up Google to figure out what to do.
You’ve likely discovered that the various listicles offer suggestions of varying quality and usefulness. Most of them were super obvious: “Visit The Bean! See a Cubs game! Eat deep dish pizza!” All nice enough ideas. All very likely suggested by people who don’t live here.
I’m going to go a little further out on a limb and guess that, a) you don’t have a lot of time here in this fair city, and b) you’d rather not go home completely broke.
I’m here to help.
(Though, first things first, you should check out what MLS has to offer during All-Star Week. We’ve got a ton of fun events lined up between now and Wednesday night.)
Photo via the Globe Pub on Facebook
So first things first: if you’re in town for the ASG, you probably like spending time at soccer pubs. We’ve got some pretty great ones here in Chicago.
Probably the most well-known soccer pub is The Globe on Irving Park Road. Good vibes, good beer menu, and good food. It can get a little crowded, however. Other options include A.J. Hudson’s in Lakeview, The Atlantic in Lincoln Square, Cleo’s on the Near West Side, Heineken Pub97 at the PrivateBank Fire Pitch (practice facility for the Chicago Fire), The Galway Arms in Lincoln Park, and Fado in River North.
Photo CC by 2.0, by TNVWBOY on Wikimedia Commons
Where To Eat
So first things first, there’s pizza. Chicago gets a lot of love — and, weirdly, a lot of hate — for its signature deep dish pizza. For some, it’s nothing more than a tomato and cheese casserole. For others (like yours truly), it is a masterpiece of culinary genius.
There are more restaurants that serve up deep dish pizza in this city than I could possibly name in one post. I’ll keep it simple and list my favorite three: Lou Malnati’s (a Chicago institution), The Art of Pizza in Lakeview, and Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder in Lincoln Park.
If you want thin crust pizza — and hey, no judgement here — we’ve got plenty of that too. I’d recommend Leona’s, D’Agostino’s in Lakeview, and J.B. Alberto’s in Rogers Park. Of course, every Chicagoan has their own pizza place that they swear by; if you have a local friend who insists on a pizza place not listed here, listen to them.
Not up for pizza? Don’t worry. There are loooots of places to get a Chicago-style hot dog. I recommend Byron’s Hot Dog (two North Side locations), Superdawg Drive-In on the Far Northwest Side, and the (in)famous Wiener Circle in Lincoln Square. You can get some kickass burgers named after heavy metal bands at Kuma’s Corner on the West Side.
If you’re in the mood for sushi, I’d go with Tanoshii in the West Loop and in Andersonville.
Finally, if you want to sample some great food from Chicago’s Polish community, hit up the Red Apple Buffet on North Milwaukee Ave.
There’s a lot more I couldn’t include here, but rest assured — if there’s a particular kind of cuisine you’re craving, you’ll find it here. They might even be open past 2 am.
Photo CC by 2.0, by Samuel A. Love on Flickr
Where To Drink
Beside the soccer bars listed above, there’s plenty of options for you to get your drank on.
If you’re up for a sports bar and don’t mind crowds, Wrigleyville — the square mile or so surrounding Wrigley Field — has more bars per square block than fire hydrants. The Cubby Bear and Murphy’s Bleachers are the obvious touristy choices, but the prices can be high and you’ll inevitably find yourself sandwiched amongst loud and sweaty baseball fans. For a more relaxed vibe, I’d recommend GMan Tavern or Guthrie’s Tavern. (I’m partial to the latter because of their selection of board games.)
If you want an old-school authentic Chicago experience, you really need to visit the Green Mill, a former speakeasy that hosts live jazz every night of the week. If you want something a little refined, I recommend two cocktail lounges in Logan Square: the Whistler and Scofflaw. And I’m personally a big fan of Rogers Park Social on the Far North Side — great drink specials and a relaxed vibe.
Chicago’s also home to a number of independent craft breweries — a number of which offer tours. Some of my personal favorites (for both beer and facilities): Revolution Brewing on the West Side, Half Acre in North Center, Lagunitas on the South Side, and Empirical Brewery in Rogers Park.
Photo CC by 2.0, by Damian Entwhistle on Flickr
What To See
So I’m not going to list any of the really obvious landmarks. You already know about the Sears Willis Tower, Millennium Park, and Navy Pier. I’m going to suggest a few touristy things, but I’ll try stick to the ones that are really worth your time.
If you’re going to the All-Star Game, I highly recommend getting down there early in the day and visiting the Museum Campus. There’s the Field Museum of Natural History (home of SUE the T-Rex), the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. Any one of these treasures is worth your time— hitting up all three would be a day you won’t soon forget. I also can’t recommend the Museum of Science and Industry on the South Side highly enough, as well as the DuSable Museum of African American History.
If you’re into fine art, the Art Institute of Chicago is far and away one of the best collections of art in North America; their new Contemporary Wing alone makes it worth an outing. (Full disclosure: I am a former student of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, so I’m somewhat biased.) I’d also recommend the Museum of Contemporary Art in Streeterville and the Hyde Park Art Center. If you can extend your stay an extra week or so, I highly recommend checking out the Pilsen Art Walk every second Friday of the month.
Chicago has a bustling theater scene as well. There’s the Theater District downtown (of course), featuring an ongoing production of Hamilton. The Steppenwolf Theatre in Lincoln Park is world-renowned for fearless independent theatre, as does Victory Gardens Theater. And if you’re able to stick around until next weekend, I highly recommend taking in a performance of “The Infinite Wrench” from the Neofuturists.
Finally, there are a number of free concerts and other events at Millennium Park. One of the highlights of the season is the Summer Film Series, which continues on Tuesday night with a screening of Bend It Like Beckham. How convenient!
Photo CC by 2.0, by Hal Mann on Flickr
What To Do
Way. Too. Much.
Last week I wrote about Chicago’s crown jewel —18 miles of gorgeous lakefront space. If you want to get in a good run, ride a bike, play some beach soccer, or just soak up the sun, head to the beach— any beach— and unwind.
Beyond the lakefront, Chicago has 37 acres of public park space for any kind of activity (or non-activity) that you have in mind.
The city also unveiled a new option for recreation seekers within the past few years — the 606, an elevated trail for runners and bikers.
I’d also recommend renting a bike and exploring Chicago’s many, many neighborhoods. The city’s largest bikeshare program, Divvy, offers affordable rentals and plenty of suggestions for where to go.
If you want to hit the mute button on the world for a little while, the Chicago Public Library has dozen of locations for a quick escape. The flagship branch, the Harold Washington Library in the South Loop, is humongous and boasts and exterior ripped straight out of Gotham City.
Finally, I’ll share one of my favorite things to do. (You’ll need a car or a bike for this.) Head up to the Baha’i Temple in Wilmette. Make sure you get there at sunset or a little after. Take some time to wander around the temple and on the grounds. Be mindful of worshippers and respect the grounds. I guarantee you, it’ll be some of the most peaceful moments of your life.