6 Unique Things to do in Chicago That Every Local Should Know About

Check out the recent Redfin article written by Ana Guzman that Travel/Food was featured in.

If you’re living in Chicago, chances are you’ve seen popular tourist attractions like Cloud Gate, also known as the Bean, or have walked around the Navy Pier. Although these attractions make Chicago unique, have you ever wondered what else is out there? If that’s the case, we’ve got you covered. We’ve gathered Chicagoans to share their favorite unique things to do in Chicago to give you some fresh ideas. So whether you’re ready to shake up your routine or new to the city looking for apartments for rent in Chicago, check out locally approved attractions you want to take advantage of.

Are you looking to step back in time? The Art Institute of Chicago will help transport you as you like. The museum houses one of the country’s largest permanent collections and other centuries-old artwork.

1. You can’t go wrong with the Art Institute of Chicago

Martin, a local Chicagoan from SmartMoneyMatch, a network that connects the global investment community, recommends the Art Institute of Chicago when the weather is terrible. “It’s always worth a visit. It’s filled with masterpieces from every era, from Georges Seurat’s iconic painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte to Andy Warhol’s print of actress Elizabeth Taylor.”

2. Visit the Chicago River in the summer

In the summertime, Chicago becomes an outdoor oasis for all residents and visitors. From the various parks and the waterways, you’ll find a place you’ll love to explore.

“My favorite unique thing to do in Chicago is to go kayaking on the Chicago River in the summer,” says May, a Chicago local from Nutrition Happens, a space dedicated to health, wellness, and nutrition. “Whether you’re a resident or just visiting, there’s nothing better than soaking in the famous skyline views with a peaceful paddle down the river.”

Chicago local Jane Simon Ammeson agrees. “Rivers were the highways of the past, but the Chicago River offers uniquely modern adventures for me. I can paddle its waters and shiver at scary stories during a Ghost and Gangster kayak tour, and sip a Spanish Rioja while gazing at the city lights. I love to stroll along the Riverwalk, choose a favorite place to dine, and plan my next adventure while watching the boats go by.”

3. Take a visit to the Shedd Aquarium

A unique helicopter view of the John G. Shedd Aquarium on Lake Michigan, Chicago.

Bungee QC Fitness shares that their favorite unique thing to do in Chicago is visiting the Shedd Aquarium. “With over 1,500 species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates from around the world, the Shedd Aquarium showcases an impressive array of aquatic life. 

The Shedd Aquarium is one of the country’s oldest and most respected aquariums. If you’re in the area, you don’t want to miss it.

4. Explore nearby neighborhoods

Chicago is full of charming neighborhoods like River North and Edgewater. You’ll indeed find beautiful places in Chicago that will blow you away within a matter of minutes from each other. So grab your shoes, head out the door, and get ready to explore.

“Chicago is a great city for food and family fun,” says Jenny and Sheena, local Chicagoans from “And Then We Had Kids” Podcast. “Park & Field, located in the Logan Square neighborhood, is an excellent restaurant for all ages, and they even host fun family events and a bottomless boozy brunch on the weekends. If you’re looking for a place to host your event, Park & Field features fee-free party rentals. And the best part is they’re dog-friendly.

5. Dine in local favorite restaurants

Whether you’re searching for homes for sale in Pilsen because of the authentic eats or just looking for hidden gems in Chicago, you’re sure to find something that will make your mouth water. 

If you’re a foodie, you’ll want to check out the Irish Nobleman Pub on the West Side. Enjoy a cocktail or glass of wine while enjoying the lush foliage, flowers & hummingbirds in the summer. The patio is lined with AstroTurf, so it’s like a green oasis near downtown Chicago – and that also makes it super comfortable for bringing my dog along. It’s not just a Chicago favorite spot to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day; the summertime patio is an attraction on its own.

Are you looking for a fancy night on the town? Vess, a local from Bus Connection, a sophisticated transportation service, recommends stopping by Bavette’s Bar and Bouf. “One of Chicago’s finest steakhouse restaurants, Bavette’s Bar and Bouf is truly a hidden gem. Feel the swanky ambiance of a prohibition-era speakeasy, softly lit with red velvet wraparound booths and sultry jazz music soundtracks. It’s the most unique and intimate place to wine and dine.”

6. Go to any event hosted by Sofar Sounds

Sofar Sounds connects the community with secret concerts in unique spaces. You’ll receive the address of the event within 36 hours before the event. You’ll experience different shows, from musical genres and comedy to dance. 

“My recommendation for a unique thing to do in Chicago is to go to events hosted by Sofar Sounds,” says Emily from Mezz Entertainment. “Through this experience, you can attend intimate gigs throughout the city, like the loop and Lincoln Park. I love discovering new artists to listen to from these shows.” 

About Ana Guzman

Ana is part of the Redfin content marketing team and enjoys writing about home improvement and life & style. Her dream house would be a contemporary style with lots of natural light.

Explore three stunning under-the-radar destinations by the sea

May we suggest the following:


Instead of the Maldives, visit Seychelles

Dream Yacht Worldwide began its first yacht charters in the Seychelles. And for good reason, as it’s one of the most beautiful places on the planet, comprising 41 of the earth’s oldest granite islands and 74 low-lying reef islands which embody the phrase ‘tropical paradise’. On a Seychelles yacht charter, travelers can snorkel among the treelike corals on Coco Island, or at stunning St. Pierre islet, where rugged granite rocks merge with lush tropical vegetation.

An unmissable highlight on any yacht charter in the Seychelles is a visit to the scented vanilla plantations at Union Estate on La Digue, one of the most beautiful islands in the region. While for nature lovers, there’s bird watching at Aride Island and the rare Aldabra tortoises at Curieuse, a protected island where you can observe these gentle giants. 

There are also the larger islands of Mahé and Praslin to explore. Here, you’ll find stunning landscapes, relaxed island hopping and plenty of opportunities to swim in the reefs.

Instead of the French Riviera, explore New Caledonia 

Dream Yacht Worldwide was the first company to offer sailing charters in this exciting cruising ground, and now have an extensive fleet operating from its base at Port Moselle in Nouméa, the capital of New Caledonia. 

New Caledonia is home to the world’s largest lagoon, a beautiful and unique natural aquarium covering over 9000 square miles, and one of the most remarkable and beautiful sailing destinations. The archipelago is also home to one of the world’s most extensive reef systems, with a diverse range of healthy coral and marine life, including whales, turtles and tropical fish. 

Nouméa is a cosmopolitan city which feels much like the French Riviera. Colorful waterfronts are lined with bars, cafes, restaurants, and nightclubs, and it’s an ideal place to stock up on superb French gourmet food and wine. The city is within easy reach of the south lagoon, where you can sail Îlot Maître, Île des Pins, Île Ouen, Îlot Brosse and Ilot Kuaré. 

Instead of Sicily, check out Sardinia

The island of Sardinia is off Italy’s west coast in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Sardinia sailing adventures begin from Dream Yacht Worldwide’s base in Olbia on the northeast coast. From there, it’s an easy sail to the Maddalena Archipelago and the glamorous Costa Smeralda – Sardinia’s most coveted sailing areas. 

Well known for their miles of craggy coastline, the world-famous Emerald Coast and the Maddalena Archipelago National Park and Marine Reserve are the places to find superb beaches and scenic coves. Travelers can swim, snorkel and take in stunning sunsets in the solitude of these largely uninhabited islands.

Many enjoy boutique shopping in the super-exclusive ports of Porto Cervo and Porto Rotondo, where travelers can mix with the international jet set. With a wide choice of dining options, from local trattoria to fine dining, it is recommended to sample the local cuisine during a boat charter in Sardinia, especially the amazing fresh seafood found on the coast.

About Dream Yacht Worldwide

Dream Yacht Worldwide, one of the world’s leading ocean tourism companies and a pioneer in making sailing and sea travel accessible to all around the globe, is making it easier for all to explore lesser-known destinations by sea plus some of the world’s favorite ocean vacation spots.

Offering sailing vacations in over 50 destinations, and with a fleet of more than 900 monohulls and catamarans, Dream Yacht Worldwide has sailing experiences available in almost every corner of the world including popular destinations like the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, but also under-the-radar destinations to discover. No sailing experience? No problem – just add a skipper or book a cabin cruise and enjoy a private stateroom in one of the company’s modern catamarans.

Since 2018, the company’s catamaran charters with skippers to assist with sailing have more than doubled (+133%) in select destinations like the Mediterranean. Due to demand and industry research pointing to an increase in Marine tourism, Dream Yacht Worldwide will launch 150 news boats in the coming season of which 80% are catamarans. The company will continue to offer sea travelers the option of crew support including a variety of skipper and hostess offerings to support sailors and non-sailors of all skill levels. 

Three Charming Villages on the shores of Lake Chapala

Born in the United Kingdom, Tony Burton, a Cambridge University-educated geographer with a teaching certificate from University of London, first traveled to Mexico after spending three years as a VSO [Voluntary Service Overseas] volunteer teaching geography, and writing a local geography text, on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. From there his travels took him to Mérida in summer 1977, where he spent several weeks backpacking around southern and central Mexico, returning two years later to teach at Greengates School in Mexico City.

Over the next seven years, Tony traveled extensively throughout Mexico, visiting every state at least once, and organizing numerous four-day earth science fieldwork courses for his students. He co-led the school’s extensive aid efforts following the massive 1985 earthquake.

From Mexico City, he moved to Guadalajara, where he continued to organize short, residential fieldwork courses for a number of different schools and colleges and began organizing and leading specialist eco-tours for adult groups to destinations such as Paricutín Volcano, the monarch butterfly sanctuaries, and Copper Canyon.

An award winning author, he’s written numerous books about Mexico including his latest Lake Chapala: A Postcard History (Sombrero Publishing). It’s part of a series he’s written on this region which is located about an hour south of Guadalajara. The 417-square-mile lake, Mexico’s largest, located in the states of Jalisco and Michoacán is situated at an elevation of  5,000ft in the middle of the Volcanic Axis of Mexico and is known for its wonderful climate, laid-back ambience, and is a popular destination for both travelers and ex-pats looking for a charming, low-key place to relocate. The three main towns along the lake are Chapala, Ajijic and Jocotepec. In an intriguing aside, Tony met his wife Gwen Chan Burton when she was working as at the director of the pioneering Lakeside School for the Deaf in Jocotepec. Gwen writes about the school and all that it has accomplished in her book, New Worlds for the Deaf, also published by Sombrero Books.

Tony’s other books about this region include Western Mexico A Traveler’s Treasury, illustrated by Mark Eager, now in its fourth edition; Mexican Kaleidoscope: Myths, Mysteries and Mystique, illustrated by Enrique Veláquez, and Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of Change in a Mexican Village. I’ll be covering them in upcoming posts.

Because I’m always interested in foodways, Tony was kind enough to share a copy of an undated Spanish language project put together by students from the Instituto Politécnico Nacional School of Tourism titled “Gastronomy of Jalisco.”  It includes numerous recipes from the region including one for the famous Caldo Michi of Chapala (the recipe is below).

I had the chance to ask Tony, who currently is the editor of MexConnect, Mexico’s leading independent on-line magazine, about Lake Chapala: A Postcard History as well as the time he spent in this beautiful region of Mexico.


How did you first become familiar with Lake Chapala?

I first visited Lake Chapala in early 1980, on my way back to Mexico City from the Copper Canyon and Baja California Sur. Little did I imagine then that it would be where I would later fall in love, get married, and have two children!

What inspired you to write Lake Chapala: A Postcard History?

There is no single overwhelming inspiration. I realized, while living at Lake Chapala and writing my first books about Mexico, that a lot of what had been previously written was superficial and left many unanswered questions. In the hopes of finding answers, I decided to trawl through all the published works (any language) I could find, which resulted in Lake Chapala Through the Ages (2008), my attempt to document and provide context to the accounts of the area written between 1530 and 1910.

My next two books about Lake Chapala—If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s Historic Buildings and Their Former Occupants, and Foreign Footprints in Ajijic: Decades of a Change in a Mexican Village—focused on the twentieth century history of the two main centers for the very numerous foreign community now living on ‘Lakeside.’ Part of my motivation was to dispel some of the myths that endlessly recirculate about the local history, as well as to bring back to life some of the many extraordinary pioneering individuals indirectly responsible for the area becoming such an important destination for visitors.

Lake Chapala: APostcard History is my attempt to widen the discussion and summarize the twentieth century history of the entire lake area. Its reliance on vintage postcards makes this a very visual story, one which I hope will appeal to a wide readership, including armchair travelers.



What were some of the challenges you encountered in writing this book? Was it difficulty finding the numerous postcards you included? And doing the extensive research that went into the book? Are there any intriguing stories about hunting down certain postcards and any “aha” moments of discovery when writing your book?

The main challenge was in deciding how best to structure the material. Because of the originality of what I’m doing, it is impractical to follow the advice that writers should start with a detailed plan and then write to that plan! In my case, after collecting the information and ideas that exist, the challenge is to select what can be teased and massaged into a coherent and interesting narrative.

Because the postcard book is the product of decades of research, I had ample time to build my personal collection of vintage postcards, through gifts, auctions and online purchases.

There were many significant “aha” moments in the process: some concerned the photographers and publishers responsible for the postcards and some the precise buildings or events depicted. While I’m saving some of these “aha” moments–because they are central to a future book–one was when it suddenly dawned on me that wealthy businessman Dwight Furness was the photographer of an entire series of cards (Figs 6.3, 6.4, 6.5, etc.) that relate to my next response.



If you could go back in time to visit one of the resorts that is no longer there that you featured in your book, is there one that stands out and why is that?

Ooohhh; I’d love to go back to about 1908 and stay at the Ribera Castellanos resort (Chapter 6) during its heyday. While staying there, perhaps I could interview owner Dwight Furness, his wife and a few guests? Apart from a few ruined walls, Furness’ postcards of the resort are pretty much the only remaining evidence of the hotel. And perhaps one night I could invite local resident and prolific professional photographer Winfield Scott and his wife to dinner to hear their stories?

How long did it take to write Lake Chapala?

The writing took less than a year; but only because of the many prior years of research.

Since I often talk about food and travel, are there any culinary specialties in the Lake Chapala region?

Long standing culinary specialties of the area include (a) Lake Chapala whitefish (b) charales (c) caldo michi. And, when it comes to drinks, there is a very specific link to postcards. The wife of photographer José Edmundo Sánchez, who sold postcards ( Figs 7.5, 7.6 and 7.7) in the 1920s from his lakefront bar in Chapala, is credited with inventing sangrita, still marketed today as a very popular chaser or co-sip for tequila. (Chapter 7, page 74).

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about your book?

I hope readers find the book as fun and interesting to read as it was to write!

MICHI BROTH

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons corn oil
  • ¾ kg of tomato seeded and in pieces
  • ¼ onion in pieces
  • ½ kg carrot, peeled and cut into diagonal slices
  • ½ kg of sliced ​​zucchini
  • 4 or 6 chiles güeros
  • 100 gr. chopped coriander
  • 2 sprigs of fresh oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 ½ liters of water
  • 1kg well washed catfish, yellow carp or red snapper

PREPARATION: Heat the oil and stew the vegetables in it, add water and salt to taste, let it simmer over low heat until the vegetables are well cooked, then add the fish and leave it for a few minutes more until it is soft.

Sangrita

I had the opportunity to stay at Tres Rios Nature Park, a 326-acre eco-resort north of Playa del Carmen and was first introduced to sangrita during my stay. I took several cooking lessons and learned to make a dish with crickets, but that is a different story. Chef Oscar also talked to us about the history of sangrita. The Spanish name is the less-than-appetizing “little blood” but hey, when you’re learning to grill crickets, you can deal with a name like that. The drink, as Tony writes in his postcards book, originated in Chapala in the 1920s.

Here is the excerpt:

”In the same year the Railroad Station opened, Guillermo de Alba had become a partner in Pavilion Monterrey, a lakefront bar in a prime location, only meters from the beach, between the Hotel Arzapalo and Casa Braniff,” he writes. “The co-owner of the bar was José Edmundo Sánchez. Regulars at the bar included American poet Witter Bynner, who first visited Chapala in 1923 in the company of D H Lawrence and his wife, Frieda. Bynner subsequently bought a house near the church. When de Alba left Chapala for Mexico City in 1926, Sánchez and his wife—María Guadalupe Nuño, credited with inventing sangrita as a chaser for tequila—ran the bar on their own. After her husband died in 1933, María continued to manage the bar, which then became known as the Cantina de la Viuda Sánchez (Widow Sánchez’s bar).”

Sangrita is typically used as accompaniment to tequila, highlighting its crisp acidity and helping to cleanse the palate between each peppery sip. According to Chef Oscar, the red-colored drink serves to compliment the flavor of 100% agave tequila. The two drinks, each poured into separate shot glasses, are alternately sipped, never chased and never mixed together.

Here is Chef Oscar’s recipe and below is one from Cholula hot sauce which originated in Chapala. Tony has a great story about that as well. More in my next post on his books.

For one liter of Sangrita:

  • 400 ml. orange juice
  • 400 ml. tomato juice
  • 50 ml. lemon juice
  • 30 ml. Grenadine syrup
  • 20 ml. Worcestershire sauce
  • Maggi and Tabasco hot sauce (mixed up) to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together all the ingredients and serve cold. Suggested duration of chilling : 3 to 4 days.

Cholula’s Sangrita

  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 20 pomegranate seeds
  • 3 fresh sprigs of cilantro or to taste
  • 1/2 stalk celery
  • 3 teaspoons smoked coarse sea salt or sal de gusano, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Cholula® Original Hot Sauce

Place all ingredients except salt in blender container, with about 1 cup ice cubes. Puree until smooth.Strain twice though a fine mesh sieve, discarding any solids.

Rim shot glasses with sea salt. Serve sangrita cold in rimmed shot glasses alongside your favorite tequila.

The Perfect Fall Getaway: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

Summer is officially in our rearview mirror, but that’s not stopping the twin-city destinations of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabamafrom looking at the open stretch of beach ahead! While these Gulf Coast destinations are synonymous with summer vacation for many travelers, today we’re sharing why a visit during the “off” season – specifically autumn – should be put on the map!

Autumnal Highlights

Mild temperatures, special rates and fewer crowds are just a handful of reasons why a trip to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is special in the fall.

The Beach Within Reach: After peak summer season, the temperature isn’t the only thing coming down. Average daily rates for lodging also drop in the fall. A list of seasonal vacation packages, deals and special offers can be found at GulfShores.com.

Uncrowded Beaches & Restaurants: With its colorful sunsets, fall is an amazing time to enjoy 32 miles of sugar-white sandy beaches and the clear – still warm – waters of the Gulf of Mexico without the heavy summer crowds. Food is this destination’s love language and there’s no shortage of dining options. Many restaurants here have outdoor dining well into the fall season and the wait times are much shorter at this time of year.

@Andrew Der

Fishing: Though fishing is a year-round sport along the shores of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, there are unique opportunities to reel in seasonal catches. The 2022 amberjack season remains open until November 1, and recreational harvest of gray triggerfish will be open until December 31. Check out the Fishing Seasons page for a full list of the best time to catch different species.

Mild Temperatures: After the country recorded its second hottest season on record, a break in the heat may be a welcome change. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are located in the southern subtropical area of the country, where mild temperatures – like an average monthly temperature of 71.2 degrees in October – greet visitors.

Fall Migration: At this time of year, birds and butterflies – including the endangered monarch – count Gulf Shores and Orange Beach as part of their migratory route. The destination offers such spectacular birding locations as Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Gulf State Park, and the Audubon Bird Sanctuary on nearby Dauphin Island.

Festivals & Events: There’s always something to do, see, and experience on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. The annual Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival takes place November 3-10 this year, and it will draw more than 200 songwriters from around the country and the world. The festival is named for Frank Brown, the former night watchman at the famed Flora-Bama roadhouse, and it serves as a fundraiser to provide healthcare for musicians, who are typically self-employed.


Accommodations Spotlight

From tiny homes to RV resorts to beachfront condos and resorts, there’s a place for everyone in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

Brett Robinson Vacation Rentals: Offering the largest selection of beachfront and bayfront condos and hotels on the Alabama Gulf Coast, Brett Robinson Vacation Rentals’ “Outstanding October” promotion features 15% off bookings now through October 31, with additional savings available the longer you stay.

Perdido Beach Resort: This family-friendly resort, which underwent a complete renovation in 2021, is located right on the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach. The “Fall into Savings” offer includes a savings of 30% off when booking three or more nights. The offer is valid through December 31.

Sugar Sands RV Resort: For those who take their “home away from home,” this RV resort features 82 spacious sites with full hook-ups and five “tiny homes.” Sugar Sands is offering end-of-season specials through October.

Dining Spotlight

Here’s a look at some new and beloved dining opportunities and experiences in the destination.

NEW! The Oyster Experience: Murder Point Oyster Company is debuting “The Oyster Experience” on Saturday, November 19. This one-day oyster festival will feature local and East Coast oyster farmers and restaurants. Tickets can be purchased on Murder Point’s website.

Fisher’s: Chef Bill Briand, a five-time James Beard Semifinalist, leads the culinary charge at one of the best restaurants in town.  Fisher’s Dockside is the downstairs, more casual restaurant, while its sister restaurant, Fisher’s Upstairs, offers a fine-dining experience. Open-air seating at both restaurants overlooks more than 150 yachts docked at Orange Beach Marina.

Fresh of the Boat: Enjoy waterfront casual dining at SanRoc Cay Marina in Orange Beach with an upscale bar and live music daily.

Picnic Beach: The menu at this indoor/outdoor, picnic-themed restaurant focuses on fresh, clean ingredients, from premium smoked BBQ to healthy green drinks. You can even take your picnic to go and head to the beach!

Opening Soon!  The owners of the beloved Jesse’s Restaurant in Magnolia Springs are opening a second location on Fort Morgan. Offering casual fine dining, Jesse’s is known for its steaks, fresh local seafood and signature entrees. This new restaurant is expected to open in late October.