Jon Samples is Time Out's former Chicago Assistant Blog Editor.
10 unexpected Valentine's Day dates in Chicago
Valentine's Day falls on a Tuesday this year, but that doesn't mean you have to settle for the traditional romantic dinner and sappy movie. Unconditional love is great, but there's no excuse for subjecting your bae to boring date after boring date (especially on Valentine's Day!). Whether your partner is someone who loves to dance, dance, dance or the kind of person whose idea of a romantic evening involves arts and crafts, these unexpected date ideas are guaranteed to spice things up. RECOMMENDED: More Valentine's Day ideas
Martin Luther King Jr. Day events in Chicago
Each year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day honors the legacy of the nation's most prominent Civil Rights leader. A Baptist minister and social activist, MLK led the U.S. Civil Rights Movement from the mid-1950s until his assasination in 1968. His work helped transform the country in countless ways, and his memory continues to inspire and shape social consciousness today. From free admission at Chicago museums to an anti-violence forum in Wicker Park, Chicago's cultural institutions are offering plenty of events and activities on MLK Day to help you learn more about the life, work and legacy of Dr. King.
The biggest Chicago sports stories of 2016
For every Chicago sports team not named the Chicago Cubs, 2016 was a major let down. The Bulls missed the postseason for the first time in eight years, the White Sox continued to do whatever it is the White Sox do and, despite looking like they could repeat as Stanley Cup champions, the Blackhawks were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the St. Louis Blues. But Chicago fans aren’t ungrateful and realize there's plenty to be thankful for. We recognize that a city with as much clout as ours will always have something to talk about in the world of sports. So break out the giant foam finger, put on your Robbie Gould jersey and get your head in the game with our list of the biggest Chicago sports stories of 2016. RECOMMENDED: The best of 2016
Why 2017 will be an epic year in Chicago
When we told you that 2016 in Chicago would be epic, we meant it. Thankfully, 2017 is shaping up be just as exciting. From a Broadway production of Aladdin to new CTA stations and an NHL Draft hosted by the Blackhawks, you can rest assured that the next 12 months will be a great time to be a Chicagoan. Prepare yourself for the year ahead with our top 10 most anticipated openings and events.
The weirdest Chicago news stories of 2016
Taken as a whole, 2016 has been the worst. In the last 12 months we’ve lost Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and countless other celebrity icons. But, the year wasn’t all bad. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series and Harriet Tubman booted Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill. There have also been plenty of weird news stories to help you through the many ups and downs of this past year. Mysterious black ooze didn’t return to Union Station, but Rod Blagojevich started a band in prison and more than a couple people were hit by cars chasing after Pokémon. Determined to top the weirdest news of 2015, we dug into the Time Out Chicago archives and compiled a list of the 10 strangest stories we covered this year. RECOMMENDED: The best of 2016
The most overused words and phrases of 2016
English is a simple language, but that hasn't stopped us from using it stupidly at times. We love to misaproproate common words and add a vapid layer of subtext and irony to every conversation. Sorry, not sorry. The editors at Time Out Chicago have picked through the hundreds of creative cliches you've introduced to our lexicon and selected the best (or worst) word choices of 2016. We've already retired "Netflix and chill," but we've uncovered many othr low-key words and phrases to get you turnt up (did we use that correctly?) to our ever-evolving language. RECOMMENDED:The best of 2016
Best Word on the Street of 2016 in Chicago
For the past 12 months, we’ve worked tirelessly to bring to light the strange and hilarious conversations taking place in Chicago—one weekly list at a time. Now, we’ve combed through all of the past editions of Word on the Street in order to bring you a truly epic collection of odd utterances. Here is our list of the best one-liners from 2016, keep 'em coming in 2017.
Merchandise Mart will light up Chicago River in 2018
Imagine seeing giant projections of public art on the almost three-acre, riverfront façade of the Merchandise Mart. In 2018, that vision will become a reality. The city of Chicago and the Merchandise Mart announced on Sunday that the building's owner, Vornado Realty Trust, is moving forward with plans to bring the largest architectural projections ever seen in the city of Chicago to the exterior of the 25-story structure. Architectural firm Valerio Dewalt Train Associates and creative studio Obscura Digital have been tabbed to develop a feasibility study for the project, which the city says will be a significant addition to Chicago's public art scene. "I commend the mart on this visionary project, as it will bring new energy to the Chicago River while strengthening our city’s reputation for iconic public art," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a news release. Specific details about the project haven't been released, but Merchandise Mart representatives say it will add to the vibrant public art already displayed in Chicago and be a "dramatic cultural attraction" along the Riverwalk. Renderings released as part of Chicago's lighting framework plan give some idea as to what the Merchandise Mart might look like illuminated with large public art projections. According to the city, the privately funded project reflects the city's commitments to continue recreational development along the Chicago River and invest in public art projects throughout the city. “We’re eager to welcome this incr
Everything you need to know about catching the solar eclipse in Chicago
It's lights out in the city, for the Year of the Eclipse is upon us. In August, Chicagoans will witness one of the rarest natural phenomena: a solar eclipse. Technically the city will experience 90 percent of a total solar eclipse, and that’s still pretty amazing. The last time Chicago was this close to the path of totality (sciencespeak for “total blackout”) was in 1925, and you can bet your vanishing stars that people are getting excited this time around. “You can prepare for it, you can study it, you can see photographs or movies, but when you’re actually in the eclipse, it’s kind of an eerie, primal feeling,” says Larry Ciupik, director of the Adler Planetarium’s Doane Observatory. “It’s a feeling of awe, but it also looks like a black hole in the sky. So I could see how people could be afraid of that.” Aside from feeling a little strange or having a bird land on your head (animals have been known to act squirrelly during eclipses), Ciupik says there’s nothing to fear. On the contrary, a solar eclipse is so rare that even witnessing 90 percent of one is cause for celebration; cue the Adler Planetarium. Three viewing parties are planned for the eclipse, which begins at 11:54am on August 21. Adler invites visitors to its main viewing party at the museum, where guests can participate in eclipse-related activities, chat with astronomers and snag a free pair of solar-eclipse–viewing glasses. About 10,000 people are expected to attend, with the museum hosting viewing parties at
Then and Now: North Clark Street and West North Avenue
1937 Photograph: Courtesy UIC University Library Special Collections It’s strange to see one of the city’s busiest intersections not packed with cars. Thanks to streetcars, the intersection of North Clark Street and West North Avenue (along with plenty of other streets in 1930s Chicago) had relatively light traffic in 1937. With more than 500 miles of rails and almost 100 routes by 1935, Chicago’s streetcar system was one of the largest in the world and the main mode of transportation for residents of the Windy City. This photo shows these relics of the city’s mass-transit past, in front of the Chicago Historical Society (now the Chicago History Museum). Tied to tracks and powered by overhead wires, this streetcar line ran along Clark between West Cermak Road and Howard Street—a 12-mile trip that took riders through the Loop and past a portion of Lincoln Park. 2017 Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas The Chicago Transit Authority bought Chicago Surface Lines in 1947, signaling an end to the city's streetcar system. Trains and buses replaced surface lines, and an explosion in automobile production helped turn this North Side crossing, as well as countless others, into a place you'd be smart to avoid during rush hour. Located at the border of Old Town and the Gold Coast, this intersection sits at the southern tip of Lincoln Park—home to the Chicago History Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Lincoln Park Conservatory. The west side of the street still has p
Have mercy, Riot Fest is throwing a John Stamos art show
In 2013, Riot Fest displayed a sculpture of actor John Stamos made of butter. This year, the punk and alt-rock music festival will celebrate its love of the former Full House star with an art show. Have Mercy: The John Stamos Art Show will be held July 14–16 at Cobra Lounge, and organizers are promising the "greatest art event ever in the history of the world!" "We are putting a call out to the Riot Fest community to tap into the inspiration that Mr. Stamos has shared with all of us, and to channel it onto the canvas," the festival said on its website. "The result of which will be, by all accounts, the largest collection of John Stamos-inspired artwork under one roof." If, like the beautiful minds behind the Riot Fest Twitter account, you too have frequent thoughts about Uncle Jesse, it's your lucky day. Riot Fest is looking for artists (that term is being used loosely), aspiring artists or pretty much anyone with a few tubes of acrylic paint to submit their Stamos-themed creations for a chance to win VIP passes and general admission tickets to the annual music festival, taking place from September 15–17 in Douglas Park. A panel of celebrity judges, including folks from the Nihilist Arby’s Twitter account, Riot Fest and the A.V. Club, will evaluate the submissions during an opening night gala on July 14. It's said that a very special surprise guest will also help judge the pieces (please let it be Stamos himself!). The Best in Show winner will receive the grand prize—two VIP
Celebrate spring this Saturday at the 606's Walk with Blossoms fest
Now that the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming, we know you're ready for spring in Chicago. You can celebrate the season (and the arrival of weather worth leaving your apartment to experience) on the 606 Saturday with music, arts, poetry and family friendly activities. A Walk with Blossoms is the name of the 606's upcoming spring festival, which will take place from 11am to 3pm at Walsh Park and the Ridgeway Trailhead. Guests will be able to see what's in bloom along the popular North Side trail, become a "citizen scientist" for the afternoon, or make beuaitful flower wear and stroll the Bloomingdale Trail in style. The event will also include musical performances by the Lawrence Peters Outfit (Walsh Park), Opera-Matic (Damen Arts Plaza), Mariachi Mexico Vivo (Humboldt Overlook) and the Mountainaires (Ridgeway Trailhead), as well as various kids activities (including plenty of arts and crafts) throughout the trail. So get outside this weekend and enjoy the changing seasons on the 606—it's just one more reason why spring makes us better Chicagoans. Want more? Sign up here to stay in the know.
House of Blues is throwing an adults-only Harry Potter party in June
Wizards, witches, Muggles and Squibs across Chicago will get a chance to nerd out at a massive, one-day Harry Potter party later this spring. PotterCon—an adult-oriented, traveling festival for Harry Potter fans—will take place at the House of Blues on June 3. Attendees will be treated to a full day of events and activities themed around the popular film and book series, including a live "sorting ceremony" (are you a loyal Hufflepuff or wise Ravenclaw?), costume contest and vendor fair. You must be 21 or older to attend PotterCon because in addition to trivia and costume contests, fans will be able to sip Harry Potter-themed beers and cocktails. In 2016, PotterCon debuted in New York City and Memphis. Almost 3,500 people in all attended those events, which led organizers to expand the festival to 14 cities in its second year. PotterCon teamed up with Live Nation to host Harry Potter parties in cities across the country, including Boston, New York, Las Vegas and San Diego. Tickets to Chicago's PotterCon are $15 and go on sale Friday at livenation.com. So, find a babysitter, gather up all the Potterheads you know and prepare for a very adult day of spells, costume and wizard's chess at the House of Blues. [Editor's note: Tickets to PotterCon on June 3 are now sold out, but a second date was added for the same weekend. Get tickets to PotterCon on June 4 here.] Want more? Sign up here to stay in the know.
Escape Room Races brings popular game to Millennium, Grant parks
Escape rooms are sure to get your adrenaline pumping, but the one drawback of the popular group activity is that most are held in...well, rooms, which limits the number of people you can invite and doesn't make for a summer-friendly activity. "I have been in the corporate event industry for 10 years now and noticed a demand for escape rooms for larger groups," says Lauren McSorley, of Escape Room Races—a new take on the increasingly popular game that gets participants out of the room and into some of Chicago's best-known outdoor spaces. Earlier this month, Escape Room Races began hosting its first outdoor events in the city. It's part scavenger hunt, part adrenaline-fueled competition that pits two teams against each other, as they solve a series of puzzles leading to the finish line. And because it's outdoors, Escape Room Races are open to groups ranging from eight to 500 people. Races are currently being held in Millennium Park and Grant Park, which means you'll be able to do a little sightseeing while on the run. McSorley says that's why Escape Room Races are perfect for not only large corporate teams but also people who might be new to the city. "It also is a unique way for tourists to see the sites of Chicago, and not to mention, participants get to compete against each other, which always makes things more interesting," she says. Typically, participation costs $65 per person, but Escape Room Races offers group discounts depending on the number of participants and day of
Get a free sandwich at Hannah’s Bretzel in honor of National Pretzel Day
If you're looking for a way to score a fast, free dinner on National Pretzel Day (Wednesday, April 26), Hannah’s Bretzel is answering the call. The local sandwich chain will be giving away one free Hot Melty sandwich and a side salad to the first 100 guests who visit either of its locations at 400 N Lasalle St or 131 S Dearborn St between 5pm and 7pm. The new Hot Melty sandwiches feature a warm pretzel baguette, organic meats and cheeses and fresh, house-made sauces and chutney’s. Hot Melty sandwiches launch the same day as National Pretzel Day and options include: the Hot Mess (organic grass-fed sirloin, pimento cheese and pickled red onions), Hannah’s Croque (Jambon de Paris ham, Swiss gruyère cheese, whole grain mustard and cheesy mornay sauce) and the Melty Milano (Plainville Farms smoked organic turkey, Wisconsin fresh mozzarella, organic baby arugula, piquillo peppers and housemade tomato aioli). Head over to Hannah’s Bretzel tomorrow for your free sandwich because, honestly, we can't think of a better (or tastier) way to celebrate to National Pretzel Day. Want more? Sign up here to stay in the know.
Two Chicago rescues celebrate Adopt a Shelter Pet Day with free adoptions
Sunday is National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day and to celebrate, Barkworthies natural dog treats is covering adoption costs at two Chicago shelters. Chicago Canine Rescue and One Tail at a Time were selected as featured shelters in the Barkworthies Chews Rescue program, which funds adoptions for eligible dogs during the last weekend in April. Adoption fees typically run between $150 and $350, which makes this promotion a treat for anyone looking to bring home a new four-legged friend. If you're interested in adopting a dog at either of these rescues, you'll first have to submit an application prior to the day of adoption and a background check must be completed. Check out One Tail at a Time's available dogs and fill out an adoption application here. If you’re interested in adopting from Chicago Canine Rescue, take a look at it's adoptable dogs page before filling out an adoption application. Want more? Sign up here to stay in the know.
Celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright's 150th birthday with free tours at three Chicago-area homes
Chicago is home to some of the best Frank Lloyd Wright works. In June, you'll be able to tour three of Wright's signature designs for free in celebration of the world-renowned architect's 150th birthday. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust will hold free open houses at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, the iconic Robie House, and the Japanese-style Emil Bach House. Each open house will take place on June 8, and run from 6 to 8pm at the Robie House and Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio and from 4 to 7pm at the Emil Bach House. Registration is required at the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust's website. In addition to these free tours, the trust is also holding the Wright Plus 150 Architectural Housewalk on May 20. The ticketed event will include tours of four private Wright homes. Want more? Sign up here to stay in the know.
Chicago's bag tax brings significant drop in disposable bag use, study finds
When it comes to paper or plastic, a lot of Chicagoans are choosing neither. A new study found that the city's 7-cent bag tax has led to a "dramatic decrease" in the number of shoppers opting to use a disposable bag when they checkout. The University of Chicago’s Energy and Environment Lab teamed up with researchers from ideas42 and New York University to determine what effects the new law has had on disposable bag use since being implemented on Feb 1—their findings were striking. According to the study, 82 percent of Chicagoans used at least one disposable bag during trips to the store before the tax went into effect. That number dropped more than 30 percentage points after the city began collecting the new tax, with only 48.8 percent of customers continuing to use a disposable bag at checkout. Additionally, the average number of disposable bags used per trip dropped from 2.3 before the tax to just one bag per shopper after—that amounts to a 42 percent drop in the total number of bags used. The findings suggest that even those customers who continue to use disposable bags are figuring out ways to make do with fewer, and those are results the city can live with. Chris Wheat, chief sustainability officer for the city, told the Sun-Times that the study's findings suggest the bag tax is working. “Seven cents has seemed to be a pretty significant incentive for people to reduce bag use... And we think that, over time, that bag use will continue to go down,” he said. The assertion
A riverfront park could occupy the former Fisk coal plant site
Ever since the Fisk Generating Station ceased operations in 2012, various plans for a riverfront park at the former site of the coal-burning power plant between Pilsen and Bridgeport have been proposed. Now, the city of Chicago is considering the creation of a brand new public park at Throop Street and the Chicago River. Last week, the mayor's office introduced a measure to the city council that would partially fund the creation of a $120,000 development plan for the proposed park. The measure would allocate $40,000 in Open Space Impact Fees toward the cost of the study, with the remainder provided by a grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' Coastal Zone Management Program. The Department of Planning and Development would oversee the study, as well as an implementation strategy for the park. In addition to a budget and potential funding sources, the plan would also evaluate design elements, including landscaping, wildlife habitats, access, stormwater management, trails, overlooks and fishing piers. Throop Street River Park would be located along the north bank of the South Branch of the Chicago River on a 1.5-acre vacant portion of the former power plant. If funding is approved, the study is expected to begin this spring. Want more? Sign up here to stay in the know.