Top 10 Chicago Activities: Part 1

I’ve lived near Chicago my whole life and in Chicago for almost 5 years now in an awesome neighborhood (despite being overly yuppie / jock / gay if I am allowed to stereotype in politically incorrect ways) called Lakeview. I’ve loved every second of living in the city, where I’ve taken advantage of the amazing combination of jobs, low-cost real estate, nice people, and incredible cultural diversity (although heavily segregated) that only the city of Chicago brings to the table. I prefer Chicago to any other city in the country and can imagine living in only a few others that compare well in similar categories (SF, Denver, Austin) – but none put it all together like Chicago.

Like I mentioned, I love Chicago for its cultural diversity and the plethora of activities that exist as a result of that charactaristic. This article counts down 5 of my favorite 10 activities and activity combinations that are native to Chicago. I’ve selected the items on this list for their uniqueness and fun and excluded lame-o touristy activities like Navy Pier and overpaying to watch the Cubs lose.

10. Zoo Lights + Hot Cocoa and Baileys Irish Cream

I’ll admit that I’ve done this only¬†once, but it was fun enough to make this list. Basically, pick a painfully cold Chicago winter night – one that feels like Jack Frost is biting down hard on your nipples when you first feel the air – grab a bunch of friends, and go to the Lincoln Park Zoo for Zoo Lights. Take an old thermos and fill it halfway with Baileys and the other half with Godiva hot chocolate and milk after stirring it on the stove for a few minutes. Go to the zoo to see the world class animal exhibits, ice carvings, happy families, and Zoo Lights. The boozy elixir is the key to this one – it will be your only escape from the ridiculous cold and zoo smells. Share the mix, sip sip pass – don’t mess up the rotation – and this is a combo you will certainly remember.

9. Schubas Indie Rock [or “Schubas Tavern for Indie Rock”?]

Chicago has an an amazing mix of cultural offerings, including a vibrant indie scene specializing theater, comedy, food, and music. Schubas specializes in the latter. I grew up in the suburbs and frequented the Metro, which is another one of my favorite indie music venues, but Schubas’ selection of artists better fits my taste at this stage of my life. Schubas is great for the following scenario: It’s Saturday night, you ain’t got shit to do, and you want to have a good time. Go to Schubas without looking at the artists that are playing. I recently did this and found one of my new favorite bands (Astronautalis). Great place to see a show and grab a beer – enjoy.

8. Improv Olympics

Chicago is a great improv city and has produced some of the greatest sketch and silver screen comedians in the world. The most popular improv destination is Second City. Del Close is the comedic genius behind the legendary improv location that produced Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Tim Meadows, Mike Meyers, Andy Richter and more – some of my favorite comedians. However, the iO¬† is my recommended destination for a Chicago local as I’ve enjoyed the shows there more. If you go to the iO, you should buy tickets in advance and get there early for good seats, average drinks, and great laughs.

7. Hot Doug’s

Hot Dougs is the coolest hot dog restaurant (“Encased Meat Emporium and Sausage Superstore”) in the king of all hot dog cities. This place is run by Doug, who was trained as a chef at Kendall College (call out later in this list). Instead of working on a cruise ship, where chefs go to die, Doug decided to blaze his own path and bring gourmet to the world of hot dog sandwiches – think rattlesnake sausage with raspberry reduction sauce, smoked gouda with blue cheese crumbles. Hot Doug’s also does a great Chicago style dog. But the coup de grace is the duck fat fries, which they only cook on Saturday’. The knocks on Hot Doug’s are the 2-hour lines and the piss poor hours due to Doug’s desire to not work (lazy). In my mind, these are Doug’s trophies that he earned by saying fuck you to status quo and doing his own thang – bravo Doug.

6. Lakeview during Pride Parade

In June and October, the usual weirdness on Halsted Street in Boystown gets cranked to 11. According to some locals, the Pride Parade isn’t what it used to be (apparently sexual acts were performed on floats – it was the epitome of anything goes), but it still is definitely a spectacle, and I think I probably prefer it this way… The most recent Pride Parade I went to involved having a brunch of Bloodys at my friend’s house and then going out to do a photo scavenger hunt – highly reccommended. The goal was to get as many photos of specifically identified things-that-are-wrong-on-so-many-levels as possible. I ended up winning the “Pulitzer Pride” by snapping a photo of 2 women (assumed to be lesbians) licking each other’s nipples at the same time – all I had to do was ask.


Come back tomorrow to see my Top 5!

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