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The geek's summer guide to Chicago

Written by
Jessica Berson

For most of Chicago's residents, summer means heading out to the lake, taking in a ballgame or day drinking on a patio. In fact, the warm weather can be so tempting that it even lures out those who usually spend their time indoors with their noses buried deep inside a comic book. That's right, summer in Chicago is a geek's paradise, forcing hordes of pale-faced city dwellers out into the world looking for something to do. This guide is by no means definitive, but it should be a good start for those looking to indulge their nerdy side before (as Ned Stark warns us) winter comes.

Grab some geeky grub

Buzz was so big for Geek Bar that it opened up a "beta" location while its final home is finalized. The small space in the heart of Wicker Park is unassuming and not very pretty, but with Game of Thrones–themed cocktails (when they say there's pig's blood in your drink, they aren't kidding) or Ninja Turtle pizzas, no geek will be left unsatisfied. They also host tons of events, like a blood-thirsty trivia night, movie showings and Steampunk tea parties.

Opening the first week of June next to the AMC movie theater on Illinois Street, For the Win (or FTW for short), is the newest venture from Lucky Strike Entertainment, joining the existing bowling alley in the same complex. Early word is that it will be a less douchey version of Dave & Buster's—sort of its sophisticated older sibling. FTW will serve gastropub-esque food and craft beers while hosting state-of-the-art video gaming and mini golf.

Brush up on your gaming skills

If you're looking for a place to enjoy some retro gaming and get drunk in the process, Emporium Arcade Bar is your one-stop shop. It's got all the classic arcade games as well as a variety of table games and monthly pinball tournaments. Of course you can stay at home, break out the old Super Nintendo and crack open a tall boy, but where's the fun in that when you can do it in public?

If table top games are more to your liking, look no further than Dice Dojo. Every Wednesday night it hosts a free board game event where customers are welcome to try out any of the thousands of games on its shelves. All the other nights of the week are dedicated to some of the more popular games like Dungeons and Dragons on Mondays, Flames of War on Tuesdays and Netrunner tournaments on Fridays.

Geeks on stage

On June 5, Lindsey Stirling will come to the Chicago Theatre with her quirky hybrid of classical violin, modern pop music and dance. Stirling has won over the hearts of many geeks because of her well known love of video games, even covering music from HaloPokemon and Assassin's Creed. If that's not enough nerd cred for you, she also does a killer Star Wars medley.

On June 27, geek royalty comes to the Chicago Theatre in the form of Weird Al Yankovic. Hot on the heels of last year's Mandatory Fun album, which took the Internet by storm with the videos for covers of Pharrell's "Happy" and Iggy Azalea's "Fancy," Weird Al has always been a nerd favorite.

Geeks looking for something a bit more... adult, shall we say, should check out Gorilla Tango's weekly burlesque shows, which have titles like A Nude Hope, Game of Thongs and Boobs on Endor. The shows, which run Friday and Saturday nights through July, are perfect combinations of groan-worthy humor and titillating dance routines. Bonus drinking game: Take a sip every time you hear a snort from the audience.

Ultimate geek events

Though most of the bigger conventions happen out in Rosemont, there is at least one con in the city that is worth a visit this summer. The Chicago Alternative Comics Expo takes over the Center on Halsted on June 6 and 7 and specializes in featuring independent comics and artists through panels, trade shows and workshops. This is the place to be if your love of comic books goes beyond Hollywood superheroes to an appreciation for the real art form behind them.

Chicago will play host to the 50th Nebula Awardsotherwise known as the Oscars of science fiction and fantasy. The award will be held at the Palmer House Hilton from June 4 through June 7. Nebula brings the possibility of visits from the likes of past winners like Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin and even Hollywood nerds like Joss Whedon an Guillermo Del Torro. A mass autograph signing session will happen the Friday before the awards, so get your Sharpies ready.

No geeky summer would be complete without a visit to the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Though not in the city proper, the gigantic annual celebration of all things nerdy is worth the 45-minute drive, especially for cosplayers. The festival runs on Saturdays and Sundays (as well as Labor Day) from July 11 to September 7. Make sure to plan your trip before the unicorn goes back to her magic glade for another year.

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