In Rosemont/Chicago for a few days. Where to go in my free time?
August 20, 2014 11:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm a Seattleite working at a con in Rosemont. I will have a few free time slots before/after work and before flying out. I'm poor, white, male, late twenties, tend towards being shy but very interested and kind, I like new things, design and evidence of complicated human intent or folly. Not interested in most "sights" tourism, or the idea of "authenticity" tourism. Where to eat and go?

The goal here is to be more adventurous after a disastrously misspent early twenties being poor and not doing much, so concrete experience gaining and memory forming is at a premium. I don't want to go home having done nothing much in Chicago.

I've identified Moaz Vegetarian and perhaps Cilantro Taco Grill as places to eat near the convention center. Deep dish pizza somewhere along the blue line seems like an obvious dinner choice. Maybe that's all I need for places to eat? Are there other cheap things I should eat while I'm here?

Last time I was at a convention here I went to see Cloud Gate and a neat cultural arts center, and that was good. This time I was thinking the art museum (pricey! but probably good) and simply riding the blue line as far as it goes while sketching and then getting bored of sketching and just staring out the window watching slices of other people's lives fly by startlingly quick. Also a possibility is taking selfies with any famous local fermented/cultured goods, as that's apparently what I do with instagram these days.

Friday until noon, possibly late Sunday after tearing down the booth, and Monday until my flight leaves at 3 are when I have actual chunks of free time.

Also. I do not know how to dress for weather. I literally left behind all my Seattle bad weather gear because I'm aware that the way I dress at home isn't even appropriate for the Seattle drizzle, let alone this rain stuff I've heard about. Should I be trying to find something specific article of clothing made out of some kind of material right now or I'll die of exposure tomorrow?
posted by tychotesla to Travel & Transportation around Rosemont, IL (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Art Institute is fantastic, arguably our (US's) second-best art museum, behind the Met.

Millennium Park (where you've been) is fun. See the amphitheater and look out across Michigan Ave through the scaffolding.

Get some Chicago pizza. You will get disagreement as to where is best. I suggest Lou Malnati's or Giordano's.

If you can, catch this architecture boat tour. It's superb. Really. Don't miss it.

It's going to be humid with rain. So umbrella. A nylon jacket for evening, maybe. But that probably won't be necessary.

Enjoy! I'm back visiting, myself. I love Chicago so much.
posted by persona au gratin at 11:36 PM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I was there for trade shows over the course of 10 years I usually ended up in the 312 at the blues bars in old town. Fairly easy to get there in a rental car. There is also a good transit into Chicago that I found interesting since Seattle didn't have anything similar at the time.
posted by ptm at 11:37 PM on August 20, 2014

I know you said no touristy things, but if you are interested in design, the architectural boat tour will be interesting. Chicago has beautiful architecture and building design.

I loved Moaz when it was in D.C. Nom om om. Chicago is known for their hot dogs, which you should be able to find pretty easily anywhere, and also their deep dish pizzas, which cost a lot and take a long time to cook.

Maybe while you're downtown (for the boat tour!), you could see what's at the House Of Blues if you'd be willing to go by yourself and hang out.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:13 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hey! You must be doing Wizard World Comic Con! I went a few years ago and enjoyed it very much--too bad I'm working midnights all weekend this time around.

As it sounds like you already know, you're a short walk from a Blue Line CTA stop, and from there Chicago is pretty much your oyster. On the Blue Line, I'm particularly fond of the Wicker Park neighborhood (Damen Blue Line stop) and Logan Square (same name stop). But it connects via downtown to every other train and bus on the CTA (subway/light rail/bus within the Chicago area), Metra (commuter rail, connects to farther-out suburbs), and Pace (suburban bus) systems.

I seriously always suggest this, but my very favorite thing to take visitors to in Chicago is the crazy shoestring absurdist improv theater show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind! Seriously, it's the best. Highly recommend, if it's the kind of thing you'd be into. Now over 25 years old, and still continuously running. They do have a Sunday evening show so you might be able to make it? Cost: $9 + roll of a 6-sided die; less if you check in/tweet/whatever (then you can use a 5-sided die!).

Hmm, experience gaining and memory forming. A couple of years ago, I took a sampler class at Trapeze School New York (Chicago), which was pretty awesome. Terrifying, for this scared-of-heights-person, but exhilarating all the same. Admittedly spendy; mine was a birthday present to myself, and that was with a Groupons/Living Social coupon (check for these) which more than halved the price. It's warm enough still that they're probably still doing the classes in their outdoor space by the lake, which is gorgeous.

It's too bad the Grant Park Music Festival (free and great) just concluded, but Ravinia will still be going on: it's a lovely park and a glorious place for a concert.

Big Joe's has turtle racing on Friday nights. It' experience.

Everyone I know who has been on the Architecture Boat Tour raves about it, seriously. Even people who say they aren't into that kind of thing. I'm sad I haven't been yet.

I have so many food recommendations! Big Star is pretty fun, it's a hip taco joint in Wicker Park. If you go to Too Much Light, Hopleaf is a Belgian bar just around the corner (the mussels are quite good). I'm a fan of Lula Cafe in Logan Square for farm-to-table inventive goodness (great brunch, but very popular), Mindy's Hot Chocolate is similar in vibe, more comfort-food-y contemporary American with award-winning sweets. XOCO is the most affordable of celebrity chef Rick Bayless' local restaurants; slightly expensive Mexican sandwiches and soups; there's also an outlet at O'Hare called Frontera at the Airport or something like that. Cheap, cheerful, and tasty is L'Patron, a taco/burrito/etc. place in Logan Square, which has been gaining popularity like a runaway katamari. Wasabi serves excellent ramen (the spicy roasted garlic miso is awesome; so's the tonkatsu). My favorite restaurant in Chinatown is Lao Sze Chuan, which does spicy Szechuan-style food. I could go on and on. Let me know if you have more specific cuisine or budget constraints or requests. Serious Eats does good reviews.

I'd offer to hang out but, aforementioned midnights. :( I miss the Pacific NW. I'll write again if I think of more! There's so much to do, but it's hard to tell what a stranger might be or not be into.
posted by spelunkingplato at 1:26 AM on August 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

The Frank Lloyd Wright house near the U of Chicago and the Field Museum. I loooove Chicago!

If not deep dish pizza, then deep fried ravioli.... Mmmmm....

I'm pretty sure Chicago is the home of the ImprovOlympics too.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:28 AM on August 21, 2014

Oh yeah, and what to wear: clothes? Seriously, it's not like some kind of weird other-land. It's been an exceptionally mild summer for us by Chicago-standards, so...shorts or jeans, shoes of some kind, t-shirts? Maybe a hoodie or jacket if it's cold inside or cools off at night. People actually use umbrellas here, so I'd get one of those and then probably be set for the weekend if it rains. The crazy blizzards only happen in a different part of the year. So don't worry. You won't die.

The forecast looks like mid 70s-mid/high 80s+ F, so maybe kind of hot by Seattle standards. And it looks like it might storm. If you're worried at this late date, maybe a cheap poncho so you don't get soaked, in addition to the umbrella. Shoes that can deal with getting wet (maybe sandals?), extra socks.

Other things: Logan Hardware. I think it's still around...hmm, but it looks like they've started making you buy something before you can get into the 'secret' videogame room in the back. That's the reason to go, really. Or you could go to the Emporium.

I really like the upscale food court located near the roof of the Macy's on State Street. If you time it right, position yourself accordingly, and get really lucky, you might be able to see the Joffrey Ballet (next door) practicing in their upstairs studios. That's a really lovely hidden gem.

If you just want chill-out sketch-time, there are a lot of lovely places to sit and think along the lake.
posted by spelunkingplato at 1:48 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nothing Xoco and the Architectural boat tour (touristy but the exact opposite of a touristy trap). Don't try to go to U of C; it's probably 2 hours on transit from Rosemont and there's not a ton else to do there. If you absolutely want to see Frank Lloyd Wright stuff, take the green line to oak park, where the main museum and a bunch of his houses are.

It rains hard here, but it tends to be over equally fast. Plus it's warm and humid so even if you get wet is not too bad. Buy an umbrella and you'll be totally fine.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 2:13 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe try The National Museum of Mexican Art? [Closed on Mondays] It's free and small, in an interesting neighborhood to walk around, and a fun train ride away. I went by myself one morning when I visited Chicago with my dad and he had work.
posted by the twistinside at 5:20 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Following up on the architectural boat tour, there's actually a whole slew of tours done by the CAF. I've done ones primarily walking, and even one running on the elevated. The walking tours tend to have more locals and be a bit less touristy - plus you get to go inside buildings. Everything I've done with them is fantastic. Highly recommended.

If you can get access to the car, the self-proclaimed biggest railway musuem in America is about an hour out of the city. They actually specialize in electric traction and have a running 5 mile trolley line that is active most days. (On weekends they also run diesel and/or steam.) Their collection is pretty expansive and there's plenty of folly to go around. You might be able to get out there for a little while on Monday morning since they open at 10.
posted by doomsey at 5:57 AM on August 21, 2014

Hot Doug's is closing in October.
posted by brujita at 6:34 AM on August 21, 2014

If I was traveling by El and foot on a rainy Chicago weekend, I'd want an umbrella and a to be in parts of town where I could perhaps duck into a coffee shop. It tends (at least in memory) to rain quite a bit harder in Chicago.

I'll n+1 th the Art Institute. It's a big, punchy, well curated collection.

When I go back, the restaurants I try to hit are Lula (a couple blocks south of the Logan Square Blue Line stop), Sticky Rice, Pork Shoppe, 90 Miles to Cuba, some middle eastern place in Albany Park, and maybe Paprika. And I like to get some Midwestern beers.
posted by wotsac at 8:16 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you are interested in seeing the Robie House, you could also go to the Oriental Institute (which supposedly inspired some of Indiana Jones), and the Smart Art museum. U Chicago's campus is pretty beautiful, too.

I really want to see Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, but haven't made it yet, so that gets my vote, too.
posted by ghostpony at 9:36 AM on August 21, 2014

Unless you're vegetarian, hit up Smoque for the best BBQ in town. It's a 5 min walk from the Irving Park blue line stop. Closed Monday though.

My favorite place to take people who like geekery and wonder is American Science & Surplus. Relatively close to the Jefferson Park blue line, it's a science surplus store that'll probably hit some of your "evidence of human intent & folly" buttons. Just calling it a science surplus store doesn't do justice to how unique and weird of a place it is.

Roll your own boat tour by getting on the water taxi near Michigan Ave and taking it all the way to Chinatown. Then hit up Lao Hunan, Hing Kee, or Joy Yee for something delicious.

Lula (which wotsac mentioned) is my favorite restaurant in the city. Logan Hardware (which matildatakesovertheworld mentioned) turned into Logan Arcade which is a bar with like a billion pinball tables plus arcade machines. I find it more chill than Emporium, but they're both big ol' beercade things. Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (which ghostpony mentioned) is totally worth seeing but I think their only show you'd be able to make it to would be the Sunday evening one.

If you make it down to the Mexican art museum there are a ton of great Mexican food options nearby.

Hot tip: if you're flying out of O'Hare and need a meal, there are two locations of Tortas Frontera (aka basically Xoco but everything costs a little more because airport and they don't have churros and chocolate) in the airport. A preflight torta is one of the only things that makes air travel bearable.

Enjoy Chicago! In case it isn't patently obvious I love the hell out of my city!
posted by torridly at 10:19 AM on August 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: To be honest the free time you mention is not going to give you time for very much. Your impulse to kind of stay along the blue line is wise, because this way transit will not absolutely devour every single minute of your stay. Everyone has made marvelous suggestions for the Damen, California, and Logan Square stops. But you probably should not attempt Andersonville, U of C, or Oak Park as you will end up rushing.

(I'm sorry! Too Much Light is awesome but I travel from Andersonville to Rosemont at least once a month, and it can take 2.5 hours each way, easily.)
posted by like_a_friend at 11:14 AM on August 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's a cool outsider art museum called INTUIT near the Chicago [Ave] blue line stop. I third Lula Cafe in Logan Square. Logan Hardware, mentioned above, has records, too, if you are into music. Revolution Brewing is a great spot for "local fermented goods" though it can get really crowded unless you hit it during off hours (say 2 or 3 p.m.).
posted by hyperizer at 12:41 PM on August 21, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you all.

I went to Lou Malnati's and Giordano's, and both were amazing. Deep dish pizza is amazing, and not what I expected. I thought it was just named that because it was invented in the deeps, but apparently it's also named that because the pizza itself is deep! Much wow!

I also visited Lula for breakfast one day, which was great. Part of the fun of riding the subway in another city is popping your head out of the ground, seeing a four block section of space + eating a meal, and then disappearing back into the deeps.

Unfortunately I was paid late in the morning, so I had to stick around instead of having time to catch the architectural tour. But that and many of the other suggestions here (Chinatown, taco place) are on my must-do list for the next time I visit. (instead I visited the downtown Lou Malnati's and sketched for my last few hours)
posted by tychotesla at 7:45 PM on September 2, 2014

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