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Old 01-02-2013, 07:56 PM   #16
funkychunkymonkey
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Partying with gay people? Aswome!! got lots of gay freinds. I dont know were into clubs with good dancing and karokee (they sing, I dont). Were planning on going the last week of july. By what I see theres no festivels that week so less crowed! Anyone know of a firehouse with freindly firefighters?
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Old 01-02-2013, 08:41 PM   #17
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bike tour

We go to Chicago about once/year and have many friends there. The best thing we have ever done there was a bike tour (if you look at Trip Advisor's top rated attractions, you'll see several choices). We took our DD3 and DD8 and had a great time.

Also, if you want to do lunch or brunch, etc. at the American Girl diner, you need a reservation in advance. There are also several hotels near there that have American Girl packages with a free doll bed, etc.

Have fun.
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Old 01-03-2013, 02:58 PM   #18
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Before you pick your dates, go look at the Chicago Convention and Vistor's Bureau Event Calendar. http://www.choosechicago.com/meeting...tion-calendar/

Chicago does NOT have sufficient city hotel rooms for the number of visitors they get during summer conventions and major events such as Taste of Chicago, so there are some periods in summer where it is essentially impossible to find a room in the Loop or on the Mile with less than 4 months advance planning. Make it a point to avoid any dates when the city is expecting more than 8,000 convention visitors, because those dates will cost you a major premium in hotel rooms. Also avoid the weekend of July 12th unless going to Taste of Chicago is key to the plan; hotel rates go WAY up that weekend.

I don't recommend commuting in from the suburbs if you are planning on doing any real partying that involves drinking. You don't want to be trying to negotiate unfamiliar commuter train routes/schedules late at night with a buzz on. Stay where you can afford to cab it back from the clubs.
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Old 01-03-2013, 03:38 PM   #19
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Just going to add that if you like popcorn, you have to try Garrett. The cheese is really cheesy and the caramel is really buttery. We joke that you have to eat it with a spoon or lots of napkins.

I just shipped a box off to friends in California. When the guy at the post office asked if it was perishable I said yes. He said, let me guess. Garrett popcorn. Funny since I was in a suburb 30+ miles away.


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Old 01-03-2013, 04:11 PM   #20
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If you never have been on the ocean or the great lakes think of a lake tour. Two tour boats leave from Michigan ave & the river. They go down the river, thru the locks into Lake Michigan. Refreshing if the day is hot. They have day & evening tours. Over at Navy Pier you can go out on a tall ship or a fancy lunch/dinner cruise.
If your taking public transport stop at Navy Pier. Its free to walk around, have a stained glass museum sort of (free) and you can look at the various boats docked there. Eating & parking is expensive. Its also just fun being out by the lake.
The Art Institute is amazing & on Michigan Ave in the heart of downtown. They are really into impressionism like Monet, lots of modern Picasso and then older traditional art. You could easily spend a good part of the day there.
Lincoln Park Zoo is North along the lake, You can take a bus there easily. Parking is expensive in the area and hard on a busy weekend. Just north is an older conservatory. Lots of exotic plants. To the south of the zoo is something called Farm in the zoo. Some barns & farm animals for us city folks. Also just south of the zoo is a great lagoon with a wonderful view of downtown.
Sorry this is long. With only a 4 day visit you will get just a good taste of the city. Have fun.
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Old 01-03-2013, 04:56 PM   #21
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I don't think anyone mentioned this one...

I took my DD to Chicago last month and we went to this awesome little place in Wicker Park called I Cream. If you like ice cream, I'd call this a must-do!

http://www.icreamcafe.com/

We took the subway/train (blue line that ends at O'Hare) from downtown and it was super easy to get to, and seriously the best ice cream I've ever had! The flash freeze it right in front of you using liquid nitrogen. My DD LOVED seeing her ice cream go from milk, etc. to ice cream right in front of us.
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Old 01-03-2013, 06:05 PM   #22
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The views at The John Hancock are so much better than Wlllis Tower! The location is better too there's a Cheesecake Factory or other dining spots and right across is The Water Tower. About two blocks down is The Disney Store with the cutest Mickey Chicago merchandise!
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Old 01-03-2013, 06:09 PM   #23
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Someone mentioned Groupon already but also check out Living Social, Restaurant.com and TravelZoo. There is lots to do and very diverse - Chinatown. Greektown, Etc!
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Old 01-04-2013, 06:59 AM   #24
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Also check out WBIG (out of Aurora IL ) and WRMN (out of Schaumburg IL) radio shows. They have websites where you can buy discounted packages. Usually they are atleast 1/2 price off the regular price. They have been around a lot longer than Groupon.

Under the "shoppers guide" on each website, search buy city. I looked quickly and they have things like bike rental, restaurants, comedy clubs and even some tours (a chocolate tour an architecture tour and others)
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Old 01-04-2013, 07:25 AM   #25
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I second the suggestion of eating at XOCO. The food there was fantastic. Garrett's is also a must-do.

We did a river tour and since I'm a history geek, I loved it.

We found walking everywhere was easier, unless it was somewhere like the zoo or the Aquarium, where it was a bit too far away.
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Old 01-04-2013, 10:05 AM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiCat View Post
Rainforest Cafe?!?!?! NOOOOOOOOOO!

It used to drive me crazy when my friends would come into town and want to eat at a chain restaurant. You're in a city with all kinds of AMAZING foods and you want something you can get anywhere?

Ok off my soapbox now here's my recommendations:

Restaurants:

Bongo Room for breakfast.
Kuma's for burgers.
Hot Doug's for hot dogs.
Big Star for tacos.
Piece for pizza.
Portillos for fast food, get the chocolate cake.
Chop House or Gibson's for expensive steak dinner.

Those are my favorite places (besides Hot Dougs I've never been there, I just know it's good, be prepared to wait an hour or more at Kuma's or Hot Dougs) check out yelp to confirm my good taste .
Expect to wait at least an hour for Bongo Room, Kuma's, Big Star & Piece. I'll also say that they're pretty much worth it with the exception of Big Star which I find pretty overrated. The but the location is great!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiCat View Post
For a zoo, I would go to Lincoln Park for convenience unless you are driving then I would pick Brookfield.
Stay in the city, hit Lincoln Park Zoo. Its free, its convenient, you don't have to plan your whole day around it. You can pop in for a couple hours. While you are there you HAVE to go to the Caldwell Lilly Pool. Most people don't even know its there and it is a serene hidden gem. http://www.explorechicago.org/city/e...well_lily.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiCat View Post
For drinks:

If you are into punk/rock music I love Delilah's on Lincoln
If you want to get all dolled up and go to some place unique I recommend the Violet Hour, an old speakeasy in Wicker Park (where Piece and Big Star are), it's pretty on the inside and the drinks are pretty freaking tasty! It has no signs or windows so it can be tricky to find, it has just a light on the outside of the building signaling if its open or not.
Yes for Delilah's for the music (you can check out the DJ schedule before you go. But the crowd and be quite a bit older.

Violet Hour is incredible. Great atmosphere, delicious drinks. The downside is the wait can be very long and the drinks are pricey. Like $16 each last time I was there.

A lot of the younger crowd can be found at the local VFW, believe it or not. AND they have karaoke! Unlike every other Chicago bar, they do allow smoking.
http://www.yelp.com/biz/chicago-blac...7975-chicago-2
Unlike every other Chicago bar, they do allow smoking.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiCat View Post
I would skip Navy Pier for sure its beyond lame and not worth any of your time.
I wouldn't plan a day around Navy Pier, but I do love a once a summer ride on the swings and the Ferris Wheel. Navy Pier is also a good transport hub as lots of lines start/end there. DO YOURSELF A FAVOR and stay away from the "free" trolleys. You'll pay dearly with your time. Get a CTA pass.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChiCat View Post


I named my own price on priceline on my inlaws hotel last summer and got a great deal for the W but not included of course was the $50 or $55 parking per day charge! (just another tip)
I've had great luck on Priceline/Hotwire. Just as long as there isn't a convention/festival weekend.

If you think you'll be in the Wicker Park area, look into Two Urns B&B (my friends stay there every time and love it) or The Wicker Park Inn. Consider the amount you'll save on parking fees (as ChiCat stated above) and taxis.


Quote:
Originally Posted by notsosnowwhite View Post
A few years ago we took an architecture tour along the river - well worth the time and it was really inexpensive.
The Chicago Architecture Foundation has an amazing amount of tours by boat, bike, el, walking, etc. for a fair price. So many options!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by tinkmom2 View Post
You have to go eat at the Rick Bayliss restaurant XOCO. http://www.rickbayless.com/restaurants/xoco.html The food was awesome! If you are walking around, State street is pretty impressive. There are things there like the Chicago theater and the new state of the art Walgreens. Navy Pier does have shops but nothing you can't find cheaper elsewhere. We bought all our souvie shirts at Walgreens.
XOCO is a MUST! Incredibly delicious and really fairly (even cheaply) priced!! So much value!

Speaking of stopping at a Walgreens, the Walgreens at North/Milwaukee/Damen is even better. In a converted bank from the 1920s, take trip to the lower level to the "Vitamin Vault" (inside the real old bank vault, with the door still there and everything!)

Quote:
Originally Posted by funkychunkymonkey View Post
Anyone know of a firehouse with freindly firefighters?
I think every firehouse has friendly firefighters, and most seem to be sitting outside in the summer. Walk by any one of them, ask a question, and see who you meet. The ones in our neighborhood are always offering to let my son get his picture taken, touch the truck, etc.
Once again, I wouldn't plan an entire day around this but,
where the the Chicago fire started, just south of the loop, is the training center and sometimes you get lucky and see training.
http://www.time.com/time/travel/city...845971,00.html

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Originally Posted by NotUrsula View Post

I don't recommend commuting in from the suburbs if you are planning on doing any real partying that involves drinking. You don't want to be trying to negotiate unfamiliar commuter train routes/schedules late at night with a buzz on. Stay where you can afford to cab it back from the clubs.
YES!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn View Post
If your taking public transport stop at Navy Pier. Its free to walk around, have a stained glass museum sort of (free)
I forgot to mention the stained glass at Navy Pier. It is amazing and often overlooked. Grab a beer in the beer garden and stroll through.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaraJayne View Post
I second the suggestion of eating at XOCO. The food there was fantastic. )
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Old 01-04-2013, 02:28 PM   #27
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We must be the exception in Chicago. We enjoy Navy Pier. They have fireworks on Wednesday & Saturday night. They also have a beer garden with live bands on those nights. Anyone can go into that area to hear bands. I would not advise eating there though--$$$$$$ even their limited food court.

I completely agree that going to the Lounge at the Signature Room is awesome.

There is a firehouse near Water Tower Place--we have visited it with the kids before and they were very friendly. It is maybe 2 blocks South of Water Tower and 1 block east of Michigan Ave.
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Old 01-04-2013, 02:39 PM   #28
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Also as a warning--the Shedd Aquarium can have really long lines for General Admission but there is a side line for those with City Pass. Make sure to ask someone if you get a City Pass. Also in past years they have had something called Jazzin at the Shedd on Wednesday or Thursday nights where they have music, etc. which is fun.

The bean (I don't know the real name) is fun to visit in Millenium Park.

If you are interested in history, my kids love looking at the different rocks that are imbedded into Tribune Tower just north of the river on Michigan Avenue.

Lincoln Park Zoo is free and in the city but if you are using Metra there is a Brookfield Zoo stop (on the BNSF line that ends in Aurora) and they are open until 7:30 or 8:00 on Sunday nights during the summer.
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Old 01-04-2013, 02:47 PM   #29
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One more thing--I would recommend the Boat Architectural tour as well, they are very interesting and usually much less crowded & peaceful than any of the boat rides from Navy Pier. For a cheaper option to see the city, there are water taxis from just outside of Union Station that stop at the Michigan Avenue or Navy Pier. Believe you can get a day pass to ride as much as you like. It is kind of fun and I think they have an route that goes to Chinatown too and maybe by the Aquarium/Planetarium but I am not sure.

I have had cousins that have stayed at a Hostel close to the Art Institute that you may want to check out, if you are open to that. They made some friends to hang out with too.

Enjoy your visit!
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Old 01-04-2013, 06:27 PM   #30
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Shedd aquarium We thought it was better than SeaWorld. I will say we didn't find navy pier that great but millenium park was a lot of fun. Also there are a ton of water parks right across the border in WI if you feel inclined. Have fun, that has been one of our favorite vacations.
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