Chicago Local Custom Tips by yooperprof Top 5 Page for this destination
Chicago Local Customs: 147 reviews and 178 photos
Art for art's sake
The River North Gallery District in Chicago is home to the second largest concentration of individually owned and operated galleries int he United States. According to the ever-helpful folks at Wikipedia: "A common definition puts the District in the area north of the Chicago River and the Merchandise Mart, south of Chicago Avenue, east of the Chicago River and west of Michigan Avenue. As it has grown and the area has gentrified, galleries can also now be found west of Orleans and east of LaSalle, though the core area still contains the highest concentration of galleries. Along with hundreds of art galleries, the area holds many bars, dance clubs, popular restaurants and entertainment venues."
A pleasant occupation is spend several unplanned and independent hours strolling from gallery to gallery, smiling at the attendants, pretending that you are a purchaser for a big league MVP footballer with an income in the 8 figures.
One of the best and most respected is the Victor Gruen Gallery at 226 West Superior. It really is a beautiful space, and always features some provocative, unusual, and one-of-a-kind pieces that you would be unlikely to find at your own local art fair. (All the photos at this page were taken at the Gruen Gallery.)
State Street is once again thronged with holiday shoppers, and now you can see street puppet theatre in small "carts". (I'm sure Mayor Daley makes sure that they are licensed.) This one featured a "Punch and Judy" story - its always fun to watch someone getting wacked on the head.
Home of the Hubbard Street Dance and the Chicago Opera Theater (as well as a number of other local performance groups), this new auditorium is located in the Millenium Park project. The box office and entrance foyer is right off Randolph Avenue, across from the Aon (formerly Amoco) Tower. But the theater itself is underground, buried underneath Millenium Park much like a parking garage. And guess what the theater lobby looks like?
This is modernism at its most unadorned and unapologetic. If you are going to like the place, you just have to surrender yourself to the aesthetic. If the interior seems to you like a streamlined European parking garage, that is the architect's intention. This is the antithesis of the Lyric Opera Building - no gaudy display of decoration here, no trappings of bourgoise taste. "Sprockets" style minimalism reigns. That said, the interior of the theater itself is quite nice - excellent acoustics where I sat.
I did hear people grumbling that after a three hour opera performance, they had to climb several flights of stairs just to reach street level. It's quite different from the norm of theater design, where audience members "descend from the heights" after the show.
Other Contact: 205 E. Randolph
fighting crime in the big dark city
No, Mayor Daley has not ordered that the official name of the city be changed to "Gotham". But it's true that in the summer there were plenty of "Gothamites" running around, as the Chicago was the prime location for the filming of the latest "Batman" epic.
Chicago has been featured in many memorable films, from "Ferris Bueller" to "The Blues Brothers", the "Home Alone" films to "North by Northwest". 2007 was a banner year in Chicago Movie History, as a record number of films were partially or wholly filmed in the windy city.
Don't be surprised to come across "location shooting" at various sites around the city. And it's not exactly unprecedented to see "the great Stars" in Chicago - sometimes at fancy or not so fancy restaurants, shopping on Michigan Ave. - or taking their children to see "Sue" at the Field Museum. (I read that in the summer of 2007, "Brangelina & Co." were given a special private tour of the museum. Nice for them.)
fresh air and good tunes
Pritzker Pavillion features "fixed" seating for 4000 people, with addition room for about 7000 on the lawn - so it's a fairly ample space, even if it isn't quite as large as some people would have liked. I attended a performance by the Grant Park Symphony - they played Bruckner's Ninth Symphony, not exactly "light pops" fare. Naturally, the performance was amplified, but the engineers have done their best to ensure that the sound is as "natural" as possible. Bruckner's wonderous epiphanies of brass were not just loud, they were rich. Unfortunately, some of the "piano" moments in the score were basically inaudible. I understand that "corrections" are still being made on the sound system to ensure that quiet passages have the same value as the fortissimos.
When the stage is not being used, a glass curtain wall descends and protects it from the environment. I would think though that even a limited exposure to Chicago's humidity would be detrimental in the long run - but what do I know?
the sound of music
Home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. People in Chicago rightly take pride in their great orchestra: the brass players in particular are local celebrities. Listening to the CSO in a great Bruckner or Mahler Symphony is a tremendous experience. However, acoustics here can be a little tricky: I've found that there are some "dead spots" on the ground floor, but in general the sound in the balcony is the best in the hall. Designed by the great Daniel Burnham, and opened in December 1904.
Dabs and me at our seminar on the uses of paprika
Not sure where to eat on your upcoming trip to Chicago? Check out the numerous detailed restaurant tips of dining maven Dabs here on VT. Dabs is called the Queen of the Chicago Restaurant scene for a good reason. Here I am with Dabs at a October 2004 VT clambake held at an excellent local favorite, Paprikash, after enjoying a taste-full meal of Central European delights.
a festive festival
Sitting in the "music shed" is an alternative to lawn tickets at Ravinia. It's more expensive, but you are guaranteed a good view of the performers, and you have some protection in case of rain.
I had tickets in the pavillion for a Gala Concert in the summer of 2004 that was celebrating 100 years of classical music at Ravinia. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra played under the direction of Christolph Eschenbach, with appearances by vocalists Renee Fleming, Susan Graham and Heidi Grant-Murphy, pianist Lang Lang, and violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.
The Ravinia Festival features classical, jazz, and popular musics performed outdoors, in north suburban Highland Park, from June to September. "Lawn tickets" are $10, and attract both professional picnickers (that class of people who lay out a spread that would please Teresa Heinz Kerry), and those seeking simply to enjoy a beautiful night listening to good tunes in the middle of a beautiful park. (The music is regularly accompanied by a chorus of chirping cicadas, as well as by the hoots of passing trains.)
When the weather is right, Ravinia is a great night out.
garden city usa
The Mayor of Chicago Richard Daley likes flowers. And so flowers abound. Recent years have witnessed a profileration of flower beds in and around the city - perhaps nowhere as dramatically as in the Loop. They add color and vibrancy to the streetscape, even making this parking garage entrance a thing of beauty.
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