What do Locals do in Chicago?
I’ve now lived in Chicago longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, even the 17 years growing up in New Jersey. For the last ten years, I have been traveling a lot – sometimes for more than a year and more recently, I’d be away for a couple months at a time. But this summer, I stayed put. I spent the entire summer here and I loved it.
Each year here, I learn more, experience more and yet there is still more to do and see. Of course, there are the big things that are must-sees for visitors: Millennium Park, the Lakefront, the world-class museums, great restaurants, and beautifully landscaped Michigan Avenue. But there are tons of other things going on in the city and in the neighborhoods. Here are just a few things that I got up to this summer in Chicago.
Unique Things to Do in Chicago
How about getting a tiny taste of all those acrobatic marvels at the circus? I wrote earlier about getting healthier and being in the best shape of my life, so might as well try swinging from a bar high in the sky, right?
TSNY Chicago Trapeze School offers classes at Belmont Harbor during the summer or in the Broadway Armory all year long. You can take a two-hour class for $60 and learn a few tricks.
I was excited, but couldn’t believe how nervous and shaky I became once I climbed up the ladder. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this much adrenaline before. I’ve gone parasailing and repelling before, but this was different. It wasn’t a one-time jump. I had to do it over and over and over again. It was fun, but also tiring at the same time. And the fact that there were only two other students in the class that day, made it even more of a workout. When signing up, I initially thought, ‘I’ll go on a weekday when it will be less crowded and I’ll get more time.’ By just after a few rounds, and by the time I had caught my breath (not really), it was time to go up again and I was wishing there were more students!
Long Distance Bike Rides
Not only do I love going on bike rides, I love riding in Chicago, where it’s flat as a pancake. This summer, I took the opportunity to go on several long distance, group rides including one from the city to the Botanic Gardens, one through the Southside to Mount Greenwood Cemetery, a cool neighborhood tour around Forest Glen (an upscale area in North West Chicago that basically feels like the suburbs) and a food pilgrimage to the tasty and smoky world of Calumet Fisheries, a popular, little fish shack, just before the Indiana border.
There’s always something going on at the Lakefront – from boating and biking to golf and tennis. This summer, I tried something newer: Standup Paddle-boarding. SUP Chicago has been out at North Avenue beach for the last few years offering up a chance paddle your way around the lake a bit. For about $30 an hour, you can rent a board and go around a specific marked area (out of the jet ski and boating zone). It is a neat perspective on the city and a peaceful way to spend an afternoon.
Every Thursday evening in the summer, this small strip of Argyle Street, just east of the Red Line station, becomes a neat little market of food stalls serving up mostly Asian fare to a neat mix of locals from the surrounding neighborhoods of Uptown, Edgewater, and Andersonville. It’s the eclectic, down-to-earth vibe that makes it unique.
Ravenswood Art Walk
The RAW has been going for 14 years now, but this was my first time. This is such a cool event! The Ravenswood Street corridors are lined with cool, old warehouses and business buildings in a residential setting. Many open their doors to allow visitors in to see pottery studios, production companies, handmade funky carpet shops, co-working spaces, art galleries, and even a kids’ building workshop. And naturally, there are food trucks.
I never liked running. Now I run three to four times a week. I don’t strive for any major long distances so I am happy with a few 5Ks here and there to keep it going. As a traveler, I’m always in and out of O’Hare, but I have never actually had my feet on a runway! Running at ORD was a pretty surreal experience. If only jets were taking off right next to us.
Every September brings Chicago Gourmet to Millennium Park – a veritable foodie feast of bites from all the big name chefs and copious amounts of wine. It’s a full on assault of the best food Chicago has to offer in one gluttonous weekend.
Where the Heck is Matt?
I finally had my chance to join a Where the Heck is Matt video. I’ve loved his travels around the world bringing joy to strangers through dancing.
The video will be out later this fall!
Besides my travel writing and photography, I am also a TV producer and video consultant. One of my clients is Foodseum, a food-focused brand based in Chicago with the plan to one-day open a food museum. I am their executive producer, overseeing their video department known as Foodseum Films.
This summer our focus was chocolate (something I make sure I eat a little of each day) and we had the tough task of going all over Chicago profiling some of the city’s best pastry chefs and creating video stories about their passion for food and chocolate. My talented team produced 10 videos, which will start to be released later this year.
Another fun (and free!) thing to do on the Lakefront? Yoga! Every Sunday morning, the FFC gym offers free yoga classes on the north end of Belmont Harbor. This was great. It was a gorgeous and zen way to start off a Sunday in a warrior two pose while facing the skyline and the harbor.
I loved doing some other fun things like being a She Says Mentor and speaker, joining more Mealsharing.com dinners, which enable you to meet locals around their dinner table, and of course enjoyed many a rooftop in the warm weather. As some of you know I also am very passionate about animals and their welfare. This summer, I also started volunteering with Crate Free Illinois to raise awareness about the lives of factory farmed animals. Our hope is not only to ban gestation crates in Illinois, but also to keep putting pressure on this huge industry to raise the standards of which we treat these helpless animals.