Choose Chicago and Illinois Restaurant Association Welcome Return of James Beard Awards®

Chef Darnell Reed Luella’s Southern Popcorn.

 In honor of the occasion, Choose Chicago, Illinois Restaurant Association, and Here Here Market collaborate on curated boxes in honor of Chicago’s James Beard Award-nominated chefs.

Chef Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde

Choose Chicago is partnering once again with the Illinois Restaurant Association in welcoming the James Beard Awards Presented by Capital One to Chicago Saturday, June 11 through Monday, June 13, 2022. Foodies and fans who are unable to join in the weekend-long celebrations can bring the ultimate taste of Chicago home starting June 1st with special orders of the Celebrate JBF Chicago Alumni Collection boxes, created in exclusive collaboration with Here Here Market, Gordon Food ServiceChoose Chicago, and the Illinois Restaurant Association.

The Celebrate JBF Chicago Alumni Collection boxes bring together a dream team of Chicago chefs in take-away form. Purchases will directly support both acclaimed local chefs and up-and-coming culinary talent through a dedicated scholarship offered by the James Beard Foundation. Imagine the ultimate foodie day with Mott St.’s Miso Caramel drizzled over waffles, followed by a bowl of Monteverde Gnocchetti for lunch’ Then it’s time for a munching intermission of Luella’s addictively crunchy Baye’s Mix Popcorn in between a Charles Joly-inspired happy hour and a fish taco dinner made with Chef Stephanie Izard’s This Little Goat Yucatan Everything Sauce or a yummy noodle dish featuring Mott St.’s sweet and savory Everything Sauce. 

Two box options include:

Sauce, Spice, & Everything Nice Box | RETAIL: $37 (shipping throughout most of the U.S.)

●       This Little Goat Tokyo Everything Sauce

●       Monteverde Lemon Pepper

●       GT Fish & Oyster Burn (green) Hot Sauce

●       Mott St. Everything Sauce

Charles Joly Crafthouse by Fortessa

Chicago Alumni Deluxe Edition | RETAIL: $73 (free shipping throughout most of the U.S.)

●       This Little Goat Yucatan Everything Sauce

●       Monteverde Gnocchetti

●       GT Fish & Oyster Smoulder (red) Hot Sauce

●       Mott St. Everything Sauce

●       Mott St. Miso Caramel

●       Luella Baye’s Mix Popcorn

●       Charles Joly Cocktail Jigger

To gain access to this exclusive collaboration visit Here Here Market: JBF Chicago Alumni CollectionTo learn more about the James Beard Awards weekend in Chicago, visit www.choosechicago.com/jbf

The James Beard Awards weekend in Chicago provides a particularly proud opportunity to celebrate the city’s vibrant hospitality community through a wide array of public events, including cross-country restaurant collaborations, education sessions, special menus, backyard BBQs, and now Here Here Market’s exclusive Celebrate JBF Chicago Alumni Collection boxes.

About Choose Chicago

JBF Sauce, Spice & Everything Nice

Choose Chicago is the official sales and marketing organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination, leveraging the city’s unmatched assets to ensure the economic vitality of the city and its member business community. For more information, visit www.choosechicago.com and follow @choosechicago on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. #CaptureChicagoExcitement

About Illinois Restaurant Association

Founded in 1914, the Illinois Restaurant Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, educating and improving the restaurant industry in Illinois. The IRA owns and produces Chicago Gourmet – the annual food and wine festival uniting hundreds of restaurants, chefs and beverage experts for a weekend filled with food and drink tastings, entertainment and more. For more information, visit www.illinoisrestaurants.org and follow @illinoisrestaurants on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Here Here Market

Bill Kim, Mott St.

Here Here Market is an online marketplace for food and drink enthusiasts to discover and buy specialty products from chef-preneurs, small-batch artisans, and local product makers, delivered right to your door nationwide. Launched in 2021, Here Here Market’s mission is to support and enable culinary creators at any point in their journey through a platform to share their talent and products with the world. Co-founded by Disha Gulati and Nicholas Florek, Here Here Market is a woman, minority, and LGBTQ+ company based in Chicago with a goal to uplift a diverse community of culinary creators. For more information, visit www.hereheremarket.com and follow @hereheremkt on Facebook and Instagram.

About the James Beard Foundation

The James Beard Foundation (JBF) celebrates and supports the people behind America’s food culture, while pushing for new standards in the restaurant industry to create a future where all have the opportunity to thrive. Established over 30 years ago, the Foundation has highlighted the centrality of food culture in our daily lives and is committed to supporting a resilient and flourishing industry that honors its diverse communities. By amplifying new voices, celebrating those leading the way, and supporting those on the path to do so, the Foundation is working to create a more equitable and sustainable future—what we call Good Food for Good™. 

As a 501c3 non-profit organization, JBF brings its mission to life through annual Awards, industry and community-focused initiatives and programs, advocacy, and events. Current programs include the Open For Good CampaignChef’s Bootcamp for Policy and ChangeBeard House FellowsLegacy NetworkScholarship ProgramsSmart Catch, and Women’s Leadership Programs. In addition, JBF celebrates the chefs and local independent restaurants at the heart of our communities with numerous events and partnerships nationwide throughout the year—including the Taste America culinary tour, JBF Greens events for foodies under 40, the soon-to-open Pier 57 Market Hall, food festivals, and more. For more information, subscribe to the digital newsletter Beard Bites and follow @beardfoundation on FacebookTwitterInstagramTikTokLinkedIn, and Clubhouse.

Chef Sarah Grueneberg’s Gnocchetti con Pesto

Serves 4

  • 1 pound Monteverde Gnocchetti Pasta
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher Salt
  • 4 Tbs cold butter, unsalted, cubed
  • handful basil leaves
  • 1 cup Basil Pesto
  • 1/2 cup whole ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino, for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, preferably Italian

Bring a large pot of water to boil, season with kosher salt. Add the pasta to the water and cook 1 minute less than directions specify. Using a skimmer, remove cooked pasta from pot and place in a large sauce pot or sauté pan, along with a 1/4 cup of the pasta water over medium heat.  Stir cubed butter into the sauce until thickened. 

Add basil leaves and serve in bowls, then drizzle basil pesto on top (about 1/4 cup per bowl). Garnish each bowl with a few spoonfuls of ricotta, grated pecorino and toasted pine nuts.

Basil Pesto

Makes around 1 cup

  • 1 ounce basil leaves (3 cups loosely packed), preferably Genovese-style
  • 1 ounce parsley leaves (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup fruity, mild extra-virgin olive oil (plus a touch more if needed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, like Maldon
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1⁄4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Place blender jar in freezer to chill. Meanwhile, submerge the herbs in a large bowl of cold water add a few ice cubes; let stand 5 minutes.

Using hands, gently lift leaves from water. Repeat again, using fresh cold water. Let soak for 15 minutes.  Remove blender jar from freezer. Place the garlic, salt and oil in the blender and blend until smooth.

Working in batches, lift herbs from water, shaking excess but not all water from leaves (a bit of water will make a smooth pesto) add to blender.  Blend using short pulses for each addition, just to breakdown the larger leaves (do not over-blend.) 

Finally, add the cheeses, and blend on medium high until smooth.  Remove and place over an ice bath and chill until cold.  Reserve for drizzling over your favorite pasta.

What’s Happening Springtime Chicago

The stages of Chicago’s theaters are once again lighting up after more than a year of darkness with myriad new performances that capture Chicago’s creative spirit, including the North American tours of Come From Away, Hadestown, Moulin Rouge! The Musical, SIX, To Kill a Mockingbird and others. The recently reopened Steppenwolf Theatre Company now has a new $54 million arts and education center that includes a theatre-in-the-round is hosting the world-premiere of King James, an intimate exploration of the place that sports and athletes (think “King” LeBron James) occupy in our emotional lives and relationships.

More Chicago Theater Offerings

Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) Commissioner Erin Harkey have just announced the designation of 2022 as the “Year of Chicago Dance”, a yearlong collaborative initiative which will activate Chicago’s dance industry to address critical issues facing dancers and showcase dance performances, social dancing, and special events for the public in dozens of venues throughout the city. 

The Arts in the City

At the Art Institute of Chicago, a groundbreaking exhibit on Life and Afterlife in Ancient Egypt will be followed by the first major retrospective of French artist Paul CEZANNE to be exhibited in the U.S. in over 25 years. The Museum of Contemporary Art will present the first career-spanning retrospective of the internationally renowned Chicagoan Nick Cave in an exhibition titled NICK CAVE: FOROTHERMORE while the blockbuster immersive arts venue Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago will house Frida: Immersive Dream, an exploration of the Mexico-born artist’s work with 500,000 cubic feet of monumental large-scale projections animating Kahlo’s oeuvre, accompanied by a ravishing musical score. 

With careful COVID-19 protocols and social distancing in place, hybrid and live events will return to the city with the 

Chicago Restaurant Week will follow soon after in late March/early April, celebrating the city’s award-winning culinary scene with special prix fixe lunch and dinner menus (ranging from $25-$55) available via dine-in or takeout/delivery options. At long last EXPO Chicago, the international exhibition of contemporary and modern art, will return to Navy Pier in early April.

Come find out why Chicago was once again designated by Conde Nast Traveler’s readers as the Best Big City in the U.S. in 2021, for the fifth year in a row and check out what’s new for Winter/Spring 2022! Visit www.ChooseChicago.com for more information.

Chicago Accolades!

The Langham Chicago
  • The Michelin Guide celebrated Chicago’s resilient culinary scene by granting three new restaurants Michelin stars, including: 
  • Ever (West Loop – Two Star), where Chef Curtis Duffy and Michael Muser preside over a bespoke room in which fine dining enchants palates with complex flavors, stirring textures and visual fireworks;  
  • Moody Tongue (South Loop – Two Star), Jared Wentworth’s seasonal, ingredient-driven tasting menu concept housed in the Moody Tongue brewery building;
  • Porto (Bucktown – One Star), where Chef Marcos Campos’ style is anchored by his Spanish heritage and explores the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal through its conservas, seafood and specialty rice dishes.

Chicago’s New Accomodations

Canopy by Hilton Central Loop, located directly across the street from Willis Tower, in the epicenter of Chicago’s financial district, features a total of 215 total guest rooms (192 regular rooms and 23 suites). Famous attractions such as The Art Institute of Chicago, Millennium Park, and Chicago Riverwalk are less than 10 minutes away.

Open all day, the onsite Depot 226, a Bistro, market and coffee shop, offers a stylish, retro space that is inviting and comfortable and perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or even a casual dinner. 

The Chicago Hotel Collection welcomed a new location in Millennium Park this summer featuring 4-Star all-suite accommodations with full kitchens, perfect for business, leisure, extended stays, corporate relocations, or large groups/families.

Guests will have access to an expert Concierge Team and receive an incredible daily amenity package featuring 3 drinks per night, free Wi-Fi, use of Peloton Bikes on-site with reservation, early check-in/late check-out, booking credits to use for their next stay when booked direct and a complimentary 1-year Club 1 Hotels membership. Another outpost, the Magnificent Mile Hotel & Suites, opened December 2021, just 350 feet from Michigan Avenue.

The LaSalle Hotel, Autograph Collection, situated in the heart of the Financial District, offers a sophisticated and tailored experience for business and leisure travelers.

Experience fine dining at Grill on 21, an elevated and modern take on the classic American grill concept featuring a focus on quality and sustainability. An expansive gym offers premiere TechnoGym equipment as well as Peloton bikes. World-class accommodations include spacious rooms averaging 430 square feet, oversized Calacatta marble bathrooms with luxurious walk-in showers, and a window-side marble top dining table. The hotel is projected to open in March 2022. 

Pendry Hotels & Resorts announced its further U.S. expansion with the renovation of the Art Deco Chicago landmark, the Carbide & Carbon Building (and former St. Jane Hotel), as Pendry Chicago in spring 2021.

Featuring 364 redesigned guestrooms and suites in a contemporary palette awash in warm minimal tones and comfortable finishes, the Pendry Chicago also features public spaces thoughtfully designed by Alessandro Munge’s Studio Munge. The hotel’s signature restaurant and bar concept, Venteux, is helmed by Executive Chef-Partner Donald Young (Temporis, Les Nomades, Bistrot Saveurs), Chicago’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, and overseen by hospitality and nightlife pioneer, Andy Masi, and his Clique Hospitality group. In addition, the hotel features a lobby bar and lounge, a spectacular rooftop lounge, 12,000 square feet of meetings and event space, curated fitness and wellness programming, and an extensive art collection.

The St. Regis Chicago is set to debut in 2022 as the 50th St. Regis globally. 

Through architectural ingenuity and a shimmering homage to sky and water, the 101-story St. Regis Chicago, designed by award-winning architect Jeanne Gang, has changed Chicago’s iconic skyline. It is now the third tallest building in Chicago, the 10th tallest in the United States, and the tallest building in the world designed by a female. The tower’s crystalline form was inspired by the facets of a shimmering gem and the building is coated in six varying shades of blue-green glass to reflect the changing colors of Lake Michigan. The Hotel will comprise the first 11 floors of the building, featuring 192 luxurious guest rooms, multiple signature dining options, a 12,000 square foot, world-class St. Regis Spa, a fitness center, indoor pool and outdoor sunken terrace with scenic views, a 5,000 square foot ballroom and 3,000 square feet of executive and pre-function space and the St. Regis Signature Butler Service. The Hotel’s backyard is a six-acre wide open botanical green space featuring a children’s play park, dog park, and attractive ornamental and water gardens.

Chicago Restaurant Week

This year marks the 15th anniversary of Chicago Restaurant Week (March 25-April 10, 2022), a celebration of the city’s award-winning culinary scene bringing together hundreds of the area’s top restaurants across more than thirty Chicago neighborhoods. This year there are 50+ women- and minority-owned restaurants participating (many for the first time) from neighborhoods as far ranging as South Shore and Bronzeville. Diners can enjoy special prix fixe menus from restaurants throughout Chicago and nearby suburbs, with multi-course meals available at $25 for brunch or lunch, and $39 and/or $55 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax, gratuity, and delivery fees). This year, diners will continue to have the flexibility to experience Chicago Restaurant Week through dine-in or takeout/delivery options.

Chicago Restaurants & Dining

Adalina

Opened last summer in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood, Adalina serves a modern and engaging Italian menu by Michelin-starred chef Soo Ahn, previously with Band of Bohemia. Adalina’s menu creates a balance between Northern and Southern cuisines; guests can expect house-made extruded and stuffed pastas, imported meats and cheeses, and hand-selected beef and seafood selections.

Alla Vita

Opened in September 2021 in the West Loop neighborhood, Alla Vita (which means “to life” in Italian) is the newest concept from Executive Chef Lee Wolen and Boka Restaurant Group, serving a casual, family-style menu of fresh, delicious Italian food made simply with the best ingredients.

Chef/Owner Stephen Gillanders (S.K.Y., Somerset) debuted his newest concept, Apolonia in the South Loop in April 2021. Named after Gillanders’ grandmother, Apolonia offers seasonal, seafood-centric coastal European and Mediterranean fare. Pastry chef Tatum Sinclair has developed a collection of noteworthy items such as a savory black truffle puff bread, and a signature pistachio gelato. Sommelier Jelena Prodan has created a distinct beverage program with wines thoughtfully sourced from all around the globe, an expansive by-the-glass selection, and an exciting, one-of-a-kind vermouth program with custom-blended Apolonia vermouth on tap. 

In partnership with the famous Gibsons Restaurant Group. Chef José Andrés debuted Bazaar Meat and Bar Mar in December 2021 inside Bank of America’s new Chicago headquarters, near the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Bazaar Meat celebrates all things carnivorous, including personalized tasting menus featuring expertly dry-aged Wagyu and the like hand-selected from more than 400 cuts of meat, while Bar Mar is a true celebration of the bounty of the sea, with modern takes on iconic seafood classics like fried calamari and lobster rolls.

Eric Williams, owner of The Silver Room boutique, has partnered with global hospitality design trailblazer Cecilia Cuff of The Nascent Group on his newest venture: Bronzeville Winery. Opening in 2022, guests of the winery will enjoy a rotating wine list with selections from around the world highlighting African American-owned labels paired with an ever-changing seasonal menu that pays homage to the flavors of the African diaspora, paired with wine, craft cocktails and beer for every palate. The team’s goal in the design of the Winery is to encourage guests to spend time, to socialize and network in the space. To that end, the decor will feature a revolving art collection, and a state-of-the-art sound system will pipe in a well-curated playlist and live music. Programming will feature wine talks, art openings, and cultural events; the space will also be available for private events.

Esmé Chicago opened August 2021 in Lincoln Square, from Chef Jenner Tomaska and Katrina Bravo. This fine-dining concept is also mission-driven and community-focused as they partner with local artists on collaborative tasting menus.

Gordon Ramsay Burger, a new concept from celebrity chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay, opened in a 5,000 square foot space in the city’s River North neighborhood in December 2021. The Chicago location, equipped with an island bar and seating for 120, will be the second Gordon Ramsay Burger location in the U.S – and the chef’s first restaurant in Chicago. Alongside elevated, butter-based burgers (blending different cuts of meat to impart a bolder flavor), the developing menu also plans to include milkshakes, fries, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. There are also ketchup-laden hot dogs on the menu (a bold choice for a Chicago audience).

Hinoki Sushiko from Chef Otto Phan & Chef Gustavo Barahona, opened April 2021. This two-story space in the Elston corridor offers two types of chef-driven experiences under one roof: a 50-seat izakaya-style downstairs lounge serves traditional Japanese comfort food with a modern take, along with craft cocktails and Sake and a 40-person upstairs dining room (and 8-seat sushi counter) for Edomae-style Omakase dining serving a 15 piece meal.

Kitchen United MIX, a to-go food hall, is opening a second Chicago location in the former Wells St. Market.  Kitchen United MIX, the future of takeout & delivery, is the nation’s first “Multi-Restaurant Ordering” to-go experience, the only destination that allows foodie fans who love variety to order meals from 10+ restaurants, all on the same bill. They have locations around the nation, including one in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.  The new 10,500 square-foot facility houses local, regional and national restaurant brands, including Hawaiian Bros, Greenleaf, Siri Indian Express, Trejo’s Tacos, Dog Haus, Plant B and more. 

Black owned Kitchen + Kocktails, which made its debut last summer 2021, has taken the city by storm. From flavored fried chicken and lobster tails, to shrimp and grits and southern classics with a twist, this is a great addition to the River North culinary scene. 

KOVAL Distillery opened its hotly anticipated tasting room last fall on Chicago’s Malt Row, named for the bevy of breweries in the Ravenswood neighborhood. The sun-filled tasting room, outfitted with a marble bar and leather sofas, seats 96. French doors open to an ivy-covered outdoor patio that accommodates up to 30 people. Guests can sample flights of whiskey and gin, or try cocktails made with KOVAL spirits and paired with small bites.

DineAmic Hospitality reinvented its popular, decade-old concept Public House, as Radio Room last summer, an American restaurant sports bar and music lounge set. The 10,000-square-foot space can seat 300 guests at full capacity in four unique spaces and becomes a go-to for everything from game day to late-night jam sessions.

A 15-foot stage is backlit with a wall of smart marquee bulbs that strobe and dance with the music during late-night live performances or laid-back sets at brunch, and the design theme juxtaposes vintage kitsch with today’s tech. At The Studio, an intimate private event and daytime dining space inspired by a real-life recording studio, guests can partake in blue-tooth headphone karaoke that only their party can hear. Meanwhile, nostalgia reigns in The Deck, a 10-by-10-foot space housing the Pop-A-Shot Shot Bar, where guests can shoot baskets and sip throwback shooters like Flaming Doctor Peppers and Pickle-backs. Chef Nolan Narut, former Executive Chef of Ella Elli and Stefani Prime, hits all the right notes with a menu inspired by American Southern comfort food from culinary cities like Nashville and Charleston but made with fresh, local ingredients.

Joe Flamm, the South Side Chicago native, Spiaggia alum and Season 15 winner of Top Chef, debuted Rose Mary in April 2021, inspired by his Italian heritage and the bold, bright flavors of Croatian cuisine.

The space, located in the historic Fulton Market District and named for Flamm’s grandmothers, as well as the herb rosemary which grows natively along the Italian and Croatian coastlines, offers a seasonal menu of rustic yet refined dishes that encapsulate what Flamm has coined “Adriatic drinking food.” Designed by award-winning Los Angeles-based firm Studio UNLTD, the dynamic interior with whitewashed brick walls, honey-colored oak millwork, and pale stone surfaces—all accented by moments of red clay and deep, azure blue tilework—reflects the utilitarian yet celebratory spirit of traditional family-run, age-old taverns in Croatia known as konobas. Rose Mary has also taken second place in TimeOut’s list of The 21 best new restaurants in the world right now.

In Summer 2021, José Andrés, chef, restaurateur and founder of the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, and his ThinkFoodGroup — opened Jaleo, in River North, bringing alive the spirit and flavors of modern-day Spain through an impressive assortment of tapas, paellas, sangrias, Spanish wines and sherries, all within a festive, casual atmosphere. In fall, he opened Pigtail, an intimate, speakeasy-style bar on the lower level of Jaleo, taking its name from the ibérico pork which infuses almost every dish on the menu (Pig), and the bespoke cocktails (tail). 

Time Out Market Chicago is excited to add to its carefully curated showcase of delicious cuisine with Lil Amaru set to open late January 2022 . A spinoff of its sister restaurant Amaru, located in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, Lil Amaru will feature globally inspired Latin Street Food and Tacos.  

Opened this past April 2021 in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, Tree House is a flourishing, nature-inspired, chef-driven bar and restaurant serving up elevated renditions of comfort food and bar classics, including three distinct styles of pizza. Marco Colin (The Publican, Soho House, Alinea), executive chef at La Luna Chicago, will take on the additional role of executive chef at Tree House with a high quality, ingredient-focused approach to modern Italian fare. The kitchen’s two ovens, a custom-built, wood-burning brick oven and traditional deck oven, serve up Tree House’s three styles of pizza. The bar program pairs well with chef Colin’s playful menus, featuring an array of vibrant cocktails curated for celebrating, such as Negronis, spritzers and frozen cocktails. In full capacity, the restaurant holds 200-seats, glistening with a disco ball fixture overhead and an aesthetic enlivened through fixtures like tree-inspired installations made by local artists, sprawling greenery, exposed concrete and bright colors and patterns.

New York food hall Urbanspace will open two Chicago locations, the city’s first new food hall since the pandemic. Urbanspace West Washington recently opened while a second 12,000 square foot location, inside Willis Tower, is projected to open in Winter 2022. 

This spring, Chicago’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, Donald Young (Temporis, Les Nomades, Bistrot Saveurs) debuted  Venteux, a lively French brasserie featuring a swanky oyster and Champagne bar located in the new Pendry Chicago. As Executive Chef-Partner, Young opened the high-energy brasserie in partnership with acclaimed national entertainment maverick and restaurant operator, Clique Hospitality (Pendry Hotels & Resorts, MGM Resorts International, Blackstone Group). Located at 230 North Michigan Avenue within the city’s historic 1920s art deco landmark Carbide & Carbon Building, Venteux commissioned world-renowned design firm Studio Munge to create a luxurious ambiance that invites guests in to get wrapped up in comforting French fare imbued with Young’s signature creativity.

Cover photo courtesy Christopher|F Photography featured on Choose Chicago.

Chicago’s New Year’s Eve Blast: Fireworks, Fun, and Safety

 Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, Arena Partners, Choose Chicago, and Navy Pier joined together in welcoming the New Year with a 1.5-mile-long midnight fireworks display along the lakefront and Chicago River.

These will be the largest fireworks display the City’s ever had and will be accompanied by a live simulcast from WGN. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic still threatening the health and safety of Chicago residents, the City has introduced health guidelines that will encourage visitors and residents alike to celebrate safely.

“I’m thrilled that we are able to welcome back our New Year’s Eve fireworks and hope to continue this tradition into the future,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Importantly, the display can be viewed outdoors where the spread of COVID-19 is less likely, so our residents and visitors should feel comfortable while masking up and social distancing or even watching safely from home. I look forward to welcoming a happy new year.

Promptly at midnight, a fireworks display choreographed to a special music soundtrack will light up the sky synchronized across eight separate launch sites along the Chicago River and in Lake Michigan near Navy Pier. The display will be free to view, courtesy of the City, Choose Chicago, and participating partners from across the hospitality community. A website has been created to provide details about the event including locations where people can view the fireworks. WGN-TV will be broadcasting live starting at 11:00 pm and showcase the Midnight Fireworks and accompanying music soundtrack. Viewers are encouraged to watch the show from the safety of their homes.

The Chicago Department of Public Health encourages everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are by far the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the virus. Even if you are vaccinated, consider a COVID-19 test (either through a healthcare provider or at home) before gathering, and encourage guests to do the same before indoor holiday gatherings. Tests can help protect unvaccinated children, older individuals, those who are immunocompromised, or individuals at risk of severe disease. As a reminder, the mask mandate for Chicago and Illinois remains in effect and a mask is required at all public indoor settings across the city. Many venues will also require proof of vaccinations or a negative COVID-19 test for entry. Effective Monday, January 3, 2022, any individual 5 years of age or older will be required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to dine indoors, visit gyms, or enjoy entertainment venues where food or drink are being served. If you have been exposed to COVID-19, are sick, or experiencing any COVID- or flu-like symptoms; you should not attend any gatherings for New Year’s Eve, even if you are vaccinated. For more information on how to stay safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19, visit chicago.gov/covid.

“This will be the largest fireworks display in the City’s history and one of the largest anywhere in the world,” said Arena Partners CEO, John Murray, who is producing the event again this year after a 2-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic. “It is so great that the City is open again and welcoming people back to our fantastic hotels, restaurants, and cultural institutions.”

Event partners are located in close proximity to the display launch points, offering guests beautiful views and plenty of entertainment options. Visitors and locals alike are encouraged to eat, drink and be merry at a variety of partner venues and events. The fireworks will also be broadcast live on WGN-TV.

“Navy Pier is incredibly excited to host the return of its iconic New Year’s Eve fireworks show to ring in a new year with the city of Chicago,” said Marilynn Gardner, President and CEO of Navy Pier. “We look forward to welcoming guests to celebrate safely at Navy Pier, one of Chicago’s most treasured and important civic institutions.”

“As any Chicagoan knows, this is a city of big thinking and big plans and New Year’s Eve 2021 will be big,” said Glenn Eden, Chair of the Choose Chicago Board of Directors. “We are thrilled to be working with this outstanding team to welcome 2022 and ring in the new year with our residents and visitors.” 

The event is made possible by support from the City of Chicago and partners from the hospitality industry, which employs more than 90,000 workers. 

Celebrate the Holidays in Chicago, Winter 2021

I love Chicago no matter the time of year, but this time of year with all the holiday lights and decorations, the streets and trees dusted with snow, it all takes on such a magical glow. That’s why I was happy when my friend Katie Papadopoulos of Choose Chicago sent me a list–and it’s a long one–of all the special ways to enjoy the city this season.

Visit the traditional Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza (celebrating its 25th anniversary this year) for a mug of glühwein and that perfect handcrafted gift. Lace up your skates and zip around The Peninsula Sky Rink (the only hotel skating rink in Chicago) followed by a traditional Holiday Afternoon Tea in The Lobby beneath the 20 foot Christmas tree. Marvel at the thousands of twinkling lights on display at ZooLights and Illumination at The Morton Arboretum or the dozens of festively decorated trees at the MSI’s Christmas Around the World display.  Or head over to Navy Pier’s new “Light Up the Lake, an indoor, temperature controlled experience featuring large-scale light-sculpture displays, a regulation-size Alpine ice rink, authentic holiday beer garden, kiddie train rides, Santa’s Village and gift market and other family-friendly events. Winterland at Gallagher Way will extend its festivities beyond the holiday season with ice bumper cars, skating lessons and curling lessons running through January/February 2022 and the popular Maggie Daley Ice Skating Ribbon will return with a fun new collaboration with the blockbuster art experience Immersive Van Gogh, projecting visuals of sunflowers and starry night brush strokes onto the ice. 

Come find out why Chicago was once again designated by Conde Nast Traveler’s readers as the Best Big City in the U.S. in 2021, for the fifth year in a row and check out what’s new in Chicago this holiday season! 

Visit the below links for more information regarding: 

Holiday Attractions & Programming

Attractions:

The holiday season kicks off in Chicago on November 20 with the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, returning  for the annual Tree-Lighting Parade down North Michigan Avenue with Grand Marshals Mickey and Minnie Mouse from Walt Disney World® Resorts in Florida. The event-filled day begins at 11:00 AM. starting at Lights Festival Lane (401 North Michigan Avenue) with a festive thoroughfare of booths and family activities, including photos with Santa Claus. The parade of fabulous floats, giant helium balloons, exciting marching bands, celebrities, musical performances, Santa Claus, and more begin at 5:30 PM., helping illuminate the more than 200 trees along The Magnificent Mile. 

The City of Chicago’s 108th Christmas Tree lighting in Millennium Park will return November 19, 2021 and shine through the holiday season until January 9, 2022. The festivities begin with a pre-show by DJ Selah Say (5:30-6:00 PM), performances by Mariachi Herencia de Mexico, the cast of Chicago Opera Theater, a youth dance ensemble from the Kenwood School of Ballet and special guests Dreezy Claus and Sister Claus (6:00-6:30 PM), the tree-lighting and fireworks (6:30 PM) and a post-lighting concert featuring  DJ Selah Say, Cirque du Soleil, Chicago Soul Spectacular and singer-songwriter Brian McKnight (6:35-7:45 PM).

Bring the holiday season onto the waters of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan with a series of brunch, lunch and dinner cruises from City Cruises by Hornblower celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Prices range from $60 – $300 and include 2-3 hours of buffet or plated dinner service, spectacular views of the city skyline and local landmarks, onboard entertainment, festive decor, open bar for select cruises or the ability to upgrade your drink menu with creative cocktails, wine and beer. 

The Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light Exhibits return to the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) from November 17, 2021-January 3, 2022, an annual tradition that began in 1942 with a single tree and now has expanded to feature a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree, surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. This year, MSI is celebrating the golden age of travel with themed décor and a spotlight on the Pioneer Zephyr train and Take Flight’s 727, which have been newly reimagined. Entrance to the exhibits is included in the regular cost of entry with museum admission ($21.95 for anyone Age 12+, $12.95 for any child 3-11) but those who wish to take a picture with Santa in his photo studio inside the Holiday Store must buy a special timed-entry ticket. 

Christkindlmarket, the beloved annual holiday tradition returns for its 25th season this year in Daley Plaza (November 19-December 24, 2021). Modeled after the 16th century holiday markets in Germany, this Christmas bazaar is a hub for traditional German fare, delightfully warm beverages, charming musical performances and charming holiday vibes that the entire family can enjoy. Enjoy a mug of glühwein (traditional hot spiced wine), snack on  currywurst, schnitzel and pretzels and shop for the perfect handmade gift. Another Christkindlmarket will take place at Wrigleyville (November 19-December 31, 2021).

Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park is thrilled to announce a new winter experience, Fairmont Lodge, debuting for its inaugural winter season starting November 20-February 2022. Completely transforming the hotel’s lounge, Fairmont Lodge celebrates the winter season with cozy décor, fire pits, festive programming, overnight packages and more.  Chef William Schultz completes the experience with a seasonal menu of wintery-themed bites like Sweet and Savory Fondue and S’mores, Oaxaca Spiced Short Ribs and more. Signature hand-crafted cocktails include a Flaming Eggnog made tableside and Oh So Delish Hot Chocolate, both served in a Lodge-themed collector cup. Cozy up to one of Fairmont Lodge’s nine indoor fire pit tables (every Wednesday-Sunday), enjoy weekly Thursday Happy Hours in December and check the calendar for special events. 

The ninth annual Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum returns as a walking experience from November 20, 2021 – January 2, 2022. Visitors can explore 50 acres of the Arboretum’s majestic trees during this one-of-a-kind spectacle of color, light, and sound, and see returning favorites and surprising new sights, including a special Human+Nature display and an experience featuring 150 colorful lanterns. Along the one-mile, paved walking path filled with festive music and lighting effects that highlight the beauty of trees in winter, guests can warm up by a crackling fire and roast marshmallows for s’mores, or stop in one of the concession tents for a snack and beverage. Advance purchase is recommended as many nights will sell out.

  • IllumiBrew returns for two nights (November 18 and 19), a special event where an ages 21+ crowd can sample seasonal beers, ciders, and meads from popular Chicagoland breweries stationed along the Illumination trail; each tasting ticket includes fifteen 3 oz beer samples and a souvenir light up tasting glass. 

Navy Pier’s “Light Up the Lake will open on November 26, 2021 and run through January 2, 2022. This indoor, temperature controlled experience will feature large-scale light-sculpture displays (more than 600,000 twinkling lights), a regulation-size Alpine ice rink, authentic holiday beer garden, kiddie train rides, Santa’s Village and gift market and other family-friendly events. Every ticket also comes with a free ride on the Centennial Wheel. Light Up the Lake will also offer sit-down dining with holiday-themed eats, signature cocktails, and seasonal brews.

Santa Baby Bar, opening November 17, 2021, returns for the holiday season with a multi-room, multi-level, over-the-top Christmas experience. All guests must reserve online, for no more than six people, and all tables are limited to no more than ninety minute intervals. 

Returning for its ninth season, The Peninsula Sky Rink (2,100 sq ft) is the only hotel skating rink in Chicago, located above Chicago’s bustling Michigan Avenue. Surrounded by Chicago’s skyscrapers and twinkling lights, the rink is tucked into a pine tree winter wonderland and bathed in festive music and snowflake lighting. The skating rink’s outdoor menu features a selection of hot beverages and snacks including hot chocolate, hot cider, and other treats, and is available for groups to rent or for private events. All monies collected include skate rental ($20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under) and are donated to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Hephzibah Children’s Association.

Winterland at Gallagher Way (November 19, 2021 – February 20, 2022)  will include a ceremonial tree lighting (November 29, 2021), ice skating on an 8,000 square-foot ice rink,Santa’s Workshop, wreath making workshops (December 4-5, 2021), holiday movie screenings (Thursdays in December 2021) and special programming at Hotel Zachary (weekends in November-December, 2021). New to this year’s transformation will be a special celebration of Hanukkah (December 5, 2021), ice bumper cars and skating lessons (January 2022) and curling lessons (February 2022). 

The popular Winter Wonderland returns to The Godfrey Hotel’s I|O Rooftop Lounge. The heated, clear-dome igloos on the rooftop’s outdoor portico will make guests feel like they are in their own personal snow globe. Order a hot cocktail and s’mores to roast over the outdoor firepits and enjoy winter in Chicago under the city lights. 

  • Minimum required to reserve one of the smaller (6-person) igloos is one bottle while the minimum for a larger igloo is $500. Due to extremely high demand igloos are only available for a two-hour window and fully close by 11PM (8PM on Sundays). 

ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago’s favorite holiday tradition, is back and better than ever (from November 19, 2021-January 2, 2022) with a new Pepper Family Wildlife Center at the heart of the zoo, a new holiday lights experience on the Main Mall, and an exciting new light show on the South Lawn. Also new this year: sensory-friendly visit times and an impressive 18-foot holiday tree sure to inspire festive oohs and aahs. Tickets are $5 per person (free admission on Mondays and Tuesdays).

Holiday Meals:

Guests at The Peninsula Chicago can enjoy Holiday Afternoon Tea in The Lobby beneath the 20-foot Christmas tree; the menu features a traditional English tea menu, including a variety of finger sandwiches, fruit and plain scones with house made preserves, Devonshire clotted cream, seasonal pastries with choux, chocolate, and winter fruit creations. (Vegan and gluten-free options are available). Festive Afternoon Tea is offered through January 9, 2022.

  • Guests at The Peninsula Chicago can celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (December 24-25, 2021) with a Christmas Eve prix-fixe dinner in The Lobby featuring Wagyu, Maine Lobster, Scallops and Peking Duck followed by a lush dessert buffet. A trio band will provide the entertainment and dinner is priced at $205 per person, with an option to add wine pairings for $65 per person. Or they can join for brunch in The Lobby on Christmas Day with an American four-course menu featuring à la carte options combined with buffet items served from a carving, seafood, cheese and charcuterie station and a decadent dessert buffet. A string quartet will provide the entertainment as well as a balloon artist and magician to entertain children. Brunch seatings (10:00 AM to 5:00PM) are priced at $275 per adult, $75 per child (five to 12 years).
  • Ring in 2022, Peninsula-style at The Lobby’s New Year’s Eve Gala (December 31, 2021), where a five-course prix-fixe dinner and dancing will be accompanied by a live band. The 21+ event is black tie optional and is priced at $205 per person with an additional $95 for wine pairings. Z Bar will also be ringing in 2022 with a ticketed soirée starting at 8:00 pm with an open bar, abundant passed hors d’oeuvres, DJ-ed entertainment and a Champagne toast at midnight. The party concludes at 1:00 am. Tickets for this 21+ event are $195 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. 

The Langham Chicago’s Holiday Afternoon Tea will return in partnership with Veuve Clicquot from November 17, 2021-January 9, 2022, where delicate pastries and savory petite sandwiches will be joined by Langham’s proprietary tea blends, seasonally-inspired treats and a special course from Veuve Clicquot.

© 2018 Galdones Photography
  • Travelle at The Langham will serve a Christmas Eve Entrée Special (priced at $82 per person) on December 24, 2021 from 5:00-10:00 PM; the menu will include a truffled chicken “pot pie” for two adorned with herb-roasted chicken, truffled confit thighs, black trumpets, and Caroline ruby sweet potatoes.
  • On December 25, 2021 Travelle will serve a Christmas Day Brunch (11:00AM – 3:00PM) with a variety of breakfast favorites, omelets made to order, artisanal cheese and cured meats, exquisite sushi and seafood options, and heavenly pastries. (The buffet is $195 per adult and $60 for children 5-12 years of age, and prepayment and reservations are required through the Travelle Tock.)
  • Or there is a six course Christmas Day Prix Fixe Dinner ($165 per adult) from 5:00-10:00 PM featuring a Royal Kaluga Caviar Amuse, Beet Root Panna Cotta Salad and Wild Mushroom Risotto appetizer, followed by a Roasted Prime Filet entrée and dessert service of Mont Blanc and Petit fours by Chef Nitin.
  • Ring in the New Year at Travelle at The Langham with a New Year’s Eve Prix Fixe Dinner on December 31, 2021 (5:00-10:00 PM) with a seven-course prix fixe menu featuring dishes including Nantucket Bay Scallop Ceviche, Hudson Valley Foie Gras appetizer, and Grilled Australian Wagyu NY Strip. To finish off a magnificent dining experience, guests can enjoy an indulgent dessert with Intermezzo featuring lemon with Grand Marnier and an extravagant Chocolate Experience with Manjari mousse, praline cremeux, and hazelnut ice cream. A splendid wine collection will also be available à la carte. Reservations must be made in advance through the Travelle Tock and prepayment is required at $190 per adult.

Private experiences with Santa, dinner packages and private events offered by Swissôtel Chicago for the 2021 holiday season include: 

  • Holiday Tradition Package: Stop by Santa’s Presidential Pad with up  to 15 guests to visit the man of the season and overindulge in unlimited Swiss hot cocoa, champagne and holiday treats including Candied Orange SnoBall Cookies, Reindeer Chow, Eggnog Truffles and more. The experience also includes cookie decorating, crafts with Make to Celebrate, face painting and letter writing, complete with a visit to Santa’s Post Office. $50 of  the total price will be donated to SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. Available to book every Saturday and Sunday for $600/hour from December 4 – December 19, 2021; 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.
  • Family Dinner Package: Gather with six or more loved ones for an over-the-top holiday dinner in  the Santa Suite, Duplex Suite, Vitality Suite or Chef’s Table Virtual Suite. Enjoy a 4-course  holiday-inspired menu by Chef Dan McGee, with menu items including Roast Chicken with red  cabbage, spätzle, raclette cheese, chicken jus, Pomegranate Braised Lamb Shanks with a  pomegranate bordelaise, Chocolate Peppermint Cake and more. Holiday crafts are available  upon request. Dinners are available to book daily beginning November 20-December 26, 2021 at $150 per adult and $50 per child.  
  • VIP Reception in Santa Suite: Whether it’s a  corporate holiday party or family reunion, the Santa Suite can fit up to 50 people for private  events beginning November 20-December 26, 2021. Work with the events team to curate an  experience with festive cocktails and a menu featuring Chilled Potato Soup & Caviar Shooter,  Smoked Duck Breast Marmalade, Curry Chicken Salad Sliders, Pecan & Roasted White Chocolate Tarts and more.  

Hotel Packages:

© 2018 Galdones Photography

A series of Yuletide specials this holiday season at The Langham Chicago (available November 19, 2021 – January, 2, 2022) include Oh Christmas Tree (including luxurious one-bedroom suite accommodations with a decorated Christmas tree in-room, deconstructed champagne cocktails inspired by the season; and bespoke cheese and charcuterie; rates beginning at $1,100) and Dive into the Season (including lavish guest room accommodations, $100 food and beverage credit for poolside snacks and beverages, two hours of exclusive access to Chuan Spa’s indoor pool and holiday-themed floats; rates begin at $825.

© 2018 Galdones Photography
  • Or splurge on A Signature Christmas in a 2,400 sq. ft. suite with floor-to-ceiling windows featuring panoramic views of Chicago, a four-course, in-residence dinner prepared by Executive Chef Damion Henry, in-suite dining entertainment, Club Lounge access and a custom-designed holiday tree set in the parlor. (Rates start at $13,525.)

At The Peninsula Chicago, holiday packages like the Holly Jolly Family Holiday Package and Merry and Bright Couple’s Holiday Package include such amenities as an in-room holiday tree or Menorah, holiday welcome amenity or bottle of wine/Champagne upon arrival, access to library of holiday themed movies, books and games for the kids or a $100 gift card to the nearby Neiman Marcus Michigan Avenue store, daily Peninsula breakfast and daily valet parking. Rates start at $1,250, packages available from November 26-December 31, 2021.

  • For six days, The Peninsula Chicago is offering special pricing for a Cyber sale commencing Thanksgiving Day (November 25, 2021) through Travel Tuesday (November 30, 2021) for 20% off rooms and suites on stays from December 1, 2021 – April 30, 2022. and special pricing on gift cards. The offers will only be available on the hotel’s website, or by calling the hotel directly.

For the eighth consecutive year, Swissôtel Chicagos Presidential Suite will be transformed into Santa’s home-away-from-the-Pole for the holiday season, welcoming Chicagoans and visitors alike. The Santa Suite offers sweeping views of the city, and is filled with 17 Christmas trees, festive decor, games and holiday craft kits for the kids, cookie decorating stations, “Letter to Santa” packs, and more. Book the Holiday Penthouse Hideaway (starting November 20 through December 26, 2021, from $1,500 per night). 

  • For a slightly more competitive price-point, consider a stay in an Elf Decorated Holiday Room featuring a Christmas tree and holiday room decor as well as a complimentary holiday amenity (Rates begin at $329 per night.)

Theatrical Performances:

A&A Ballet’s “The Art Deco Nutcracker” set in 1920s America and featuring Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, will play at the Athenaeum Theater on December 4, 2021. 

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a must-see Chicago holiday tradition now in its fifth decade and enjoyed by nearly two million theatergoers, is back playing at Goodman’s Albert Theatre, from November 20 – December 31, 2021.

A Christmas Symphony Tour, a new Christmas tradition by the world’s biggest-selling soprano and GRAMMY® Award-nominated artist, Sarah Brightman, will play at the Auditorium Theatre on December 10, 2021.

“Home Alone” in Concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the beloved holiday favorite will return to the big screen at Symphony Center; John Williams’ delightful, Academy Award-nominated score will be performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Riccardi Muti, from November 26-28, 2021.

Leslie Odom, Jr.’s The Christmas Tour brings the GRAMMY®- and Tony®-Award Winning vocalist, songwriter, author and actor to Chicago for a one-night holiday season concert at the CIBC Theatre on December 4, 2021. 

Christopher Wheeldon’s reimagined classic The Nutcracker follows young Marie and the Nutcracker Prince on a Christmas Eve journey through the 1893 World’s Fair; this annual holiday tradition celebrating the magic of the season and the rich cultural heritage of Chicago returns to the Joffrey Ballet from December 4-26, 2021. 

“’Twas the Night Before…” by Cirque du Soleil i is the exhilarating spin on the beloved Christmas classic as only Cirque du Soleil can imagine a vibrant acrobatic spectacle about the joy of sharing and friendship at the The Chicago Theatre, playing from November 26-December 5, 2021

Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) Now Helps Visitors Explore Chicago

The Tale of The Bean

Located in Chicago’s Millennium Park, Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, a 110-ton elliptical sculpture made of brilliantly polished stainless-steel plates, now does more than just reflect the Chicago skyline and clouds above and the perfect Instagram backdrop for selfies on the ground. The sculpture, nicknamed The Bean because of its shape, now is also an AI powered chat bot capable of answering questions about the city.

It all began when Covid hit and the constant stream of visitors stopped. The Bean, which is decidedly not good at knitting or baking bread, became focused on moving beyond being the most beautiful gigantic drop of mercury-looking statuary–though we must say it did a great job at that. Eager to be a vital part of the visitor experience, The Bean worked hard at becoming a digital communicator—wanting to interact with the millions of visitors who come to Millennium Park each year.  

When my fans come back, thought The Bean, I want to be ready. There were a few bad moments particularly when The Bean learned about other non-Bean art and culture for humans to enjoy in the city. This was a tough realization at first and The Bean did have an existential crisis but thankfully it was quickly dealt with after a few counseling sessions. Another glitch was that The Bean learned more than The Bean really wanted to know about intense fan rivalry between the Cubs and the Sox and how it splits the city into two regions: North of The Bean and South of The Bean. Being wise, The Bean refuses to say which team it likes best and denies reports that it was seen in Wrigleyville wearing a Cubs hat.

“We were surprised, and quite frankly, a little alarmed, when The Bean came to us and asked if we would be open to this new idea, after all we did not know The Bean had become sentient,” said Scott Stewart, Executive Director of Millennium Park Foundation. “However, after talking with Choose Chicago, we realized that our friend, The Bean, could be a great help to all of the visitors to Chicago so we are happy to be part of this project.”

Call it The Bean Knows All. Want to know where to get your favorite style of pizza? What’s happening in the city? Head to explorewiththebean.com to ask The Bean about anything from neighborhood restaurants to what events are happening next weekend as well as the latest in child-friendly activities, things to do, museum exhibits, and more.

Turning this 66-feet long by 33-feet high sculpture, one of the largest of its kind in the world, into an AI powered chat bot called for team work. A partnership was developed between Choose Chicago and Northwestern University Medill School’s Knight Lab, a diverse, multi-disciplinary and multi-generational community of designers, developers, students, and educators working on experiments designed to push journalism into new spaces says Glenn Eden, Board Chair of Choose Chicago, the official organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination.

“Our team of students was thrilled to have this opportunity to explore the design questions involved in making a conversational system that works well for visitors to Chicago,” said Joe Germuska, Executive Director of Knight Lab. “And if, in the future, The Bean needs us for new projects, we’re ready to help.”

The Bean Ups Its Game

Now that it’s also an AI powered chat bot, The Bean isn’t going to just sit back and relax. That’s not Bean-like. Instead, it wants to make even more friends and provide more information and so is continuously working to take its knowledge base to the next level. And by the way, The Bean loves when people take photos of it or pose with The Bean for selfies. But though The Bean thrives on attention, its goal is not to be The Bean-all when it comes to Chicago.

Instead, The Bean loves to share all that Chicago has to offer. All you have to do is ask.

Cloud Gate sits upon the AT&T Plaza, which was made possible by a gift from AT&T.

Millennium Park, located in the heart of downtown Chicago, is bordered by Michigan Avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the east, Randolph Street to the north and Monroe Street to the south.

Photos are courtesy of Choose Chicago and The Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Choose Chicago Announces a Relaunch of the Chicago Greeter Program

Just in time for the  summer 2021 season, the Chicago Greeter program will now showcase the city’s diverse neighborhoods through four different initiatives

Chicago, IL – June 17, 2021 – Choose Chicago announces a relaunch of the popular and world renowned Chicago Greeter program. The program now includes four different initiatives bringing the knowledge and passion of this network of 200 volunteer guides to locals and visitors alike in new ways, while remaining free to the public: the original In-Person Greeter experiences, Welcome to Our Neighborhood walks, InstaGreeter Downtown meetups and Self-Guided Greeter tours presented by Bank of America.

From Chinatown to Pilsen and Greektown to Little Italy, Chicago’s neighborhoods tell the stories of the people who made the city their home throughout history. Since 2001, Chicago Greeter has shown how these neighborhoods have remained just as vibrant today, with bustling cafes, restaurants, museums, public art and more.

“Choose Chicago is proud to relaunch and expand the renowned Chicago Greeter program this summer and share authentic Chicago neighborhoods with locals and visitors alike,” said Jason Lesniewicz, Director of Cultural Tourism for Choose Chicago.  “We now have four great ways to experience fascinating histories, diverse cultural traditions, iconic landmarks and off-the-beaten-path gems.”

Chicago Greeter Experiences

A recipient of TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for over ten years, the original In-Person Chicago Greeter experiences offer deep dives of 2-to-4 hours of the Chicago neighborhood of your choice. Guests are paired with a friendly, local volunteer based on their neighborhood and subject of interest for a personalized experience. Tours are available in over a dozen languages and are available to book now.

Welcome to Our Neighborhood Walks

Explore Chicago’s neighborhoods with these new, free walks led by diverse community groups and neighborhood organizations. Walks will dive deep into the highlights of each community’s unique stories, top attractions and under-the-radar finds, all through the eyes of people deeply embedded in the community. The first of these tours to launch will be through Chinatown in collaboration with the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute on June 19 and July 17.   

InstaGreeter Downtown Meetups

The InstaGreeter downtown meetups, returning July 2nd, were designed with those who are pressed for time or looking for a more flexible option in mind. These free, hour-long tours of Chicago’s downtown Loop neighborhood operate Friday, Saturday and Sundays departing at 11:30 am. No reservation is required and InstaGreeters depart from the Chicago Cultural Center’s Welcome Center located at 77 E. Randolph Street.

Self-Guided Greeter Tours

The new Self-Guided Greeter Tours, presented by Bank of America, provide visitors and locals alike curated, virtual tours designed by local experts to showcase each neighborhood’s unique history, culture and hidden gems. 

Through the power of video, blog and social content, this series will shine a spotlight on six Chicago neighborhoods by leveraging the knowledge and expertise of the Chicago Greeter volunteers. Each part will feature a different neighborhood, including a unique Chicago Greeter itinerary and logistical instructions on how to best explore the neighborhood in person.

The digital content will launch this month, with a blog post highlighting a self-guided walking tour of Chicago’s South Loop. Additional content will follow on a monthly basis, with Kenwood, Bronzeville, Bridgeport, Pullman and West Ridge to follow. 

“Chicago’s neighborhoods are teeming with history and culture, and that deserves to be celebrated,” said Paul Lambert, President of Bank of America Chicago. “We’re honored to partner with Choose Chicago to spotlight communities across the city’s South and West sides, to encourage people to visit these local landmarks, and to drive economic activity where it is needed most.”

This self-guided program is an extension of the successful 2020 International Greeter Day “do-it-yourself” tours, which was created during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual series highlighted Ukrainian VillageUptownPilsenHyde ParkChinatown and the Chicago Riverwalk.

For additional information about the newly updated Chicago Greeter program, visit https://www.choosechicago.com/chicago-greeter/.

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About Choose Chicago

Choose Chicago is the official sales and marketing organization responsible for promoting Chicago as a global visitor and meetings destination, leveraging the city’s unmatched assets to ensure the economic vitality of the city and its member business community. For more information, visit choosechicago.com. Follow @choosechicago on Twitter and on Instagram. Like us on Facebook.

Chicago Gourmet 2020 Food Festival

For those who love Chicago’s wonderful food scene, this September is the time to enjoy one of the country’s best food festivals, Chicago Gourmet. Going on now until the end of the month, Chicago Gourmet organizers at the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA), the event’s founding sponsor – along with presenting sponsor Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits – are offering a safe and spectacularly curated schedule showcasing Chicago’s diverse culinary offerings. Reservations and tickets are now available at chicagogourmet.org.

To help those impacted by the pandemic, this year the IRA is formally introducing the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF) Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, a new beneficiary of this year’s events. This recently established fund provides one-time, emergency cash relief to qualifying restaurant workers experiencing unforeseen hardships as a result of COVID-19. Funds raised through Chicago Gourmet will go toward providing necessary relief to  those with critical need.

Chicago area star chefs and leading restaurants are embracing this year’s innovative format and community focus by volunteering their time, enthusiasm and expertise to the festival’s many programs. This September is a win-win for all. Food fans can enjoy a range of experiences and support the those harmed by the pandemic. Chicago Gourmet represents the best of this world class city–its caring and its wonderfully creative food scene. Here’s what going on:

Can’t Stop the Hop Presented by DoorDash

The official kick-off to Chicago Gourmet every year, the popular Hamburger Hop expands beyond Millennium Park in 2020 with Can’t Stop the Hop presented by DoorDash, the nation’s leading last-mile logistics platform. This year, 100 chef competitors offer tasty burgers for dine-in, delivery or carry out from September 1-13. Food lovers are encouraged to hop around town, or visit the DoorDash app or website, and try as many burgers as possible, and based on flavor and overall presentation, they will vote on their favorite at chicagogourmet.org.

The champion will be announced the week of September 14 and will receive a magnum of fine wine from Josh Cellars, a Yeti cooler filled with premium meat and seafood from Buckhead Meat of Chicago and bragging rights for a lifetime.

$1 of every burger sold benefits the IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. Click here for a list of participants. Additional sponsors include Buckhead Meat of Chicago, Turano Baking Co., Blue Moon, Josh Cellars, High West Distillery and Choose Chicago.

As part of this partnership, DoorDash will feature an in-app carousel for customers nearby select participating restaurants  to order their burgers for on-demand delivery and pickup.

Go Gourmet Dinner and Virtual Series

Go Gourmet Dinner Series Presented by UnitedHealthcare. Intimate. Delicious. Memorable. Chicago Gourmet’s Go Gourmet Dinner Series Presented by UnitedHealthcare includes special, in-person events curated with love by many of the city’s most beloved chefs. Held on various dates between September 14-30, fans can revel in outstanding, multi-course dinners paired with wine and spirit selections courtesy of Unshackled by the Prisoner Wine Company, Legent Bourbon and more. The lineup includes:

  • Monday, September 14 – Wednesday, September 16 & Monday, September 21 – Wednesday, September 23: Chefs Laura, Kelly + Michael Cheng, Sun Wah BBQ
  • Tuesday, September 15: Chef Jose Sosa, Gibsons Italia
  • Wednesday, September 16: Chef Carlos Gaytán, Tzuco – With special guest chefs Gaby Ruiz from Carmela & Sal (Mexico City) and Gourmet MX (Villahermosa, Tabasco); Rodrigo Estrada from Agua & Sal (Mexico City) and Yemanyá (Mexico City); and Benito Molina from Manzanilla (Ensenada, Baja California) to commemorate Mexican Independence Day
  • Thursday, September 17: Chef Kevin Hickey, The Duck Inn
  • Sunday, September 20: Chef Erick Williams, Virtue
  • Monday, September 21: Chef Norman Bolden, Norman’s Bistro
  • Tuesday, September 22: Chef Tony Priolo, Piccolo Sogno
  • Wednesday, September 23: Chef Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde
  • Thursday, September 24: A special collaboration between Chef Cedric Harden, River Roast, and Chef Carolina Diaz, Terzo Piano (held at River Roast)
  • Wednesday, September 30: Chef Mari Katsumura, Yūgen

Reservations can be made directly with participating restaurants. To see the full lineup and reservations information, visit chicagogourmet.org. Prices and times vary per restaurant. All will adhere to current occupancy orders and health and safety guidelines.

Go Gourmet Virtual Series. Chicago Gourmet’s Go Gourmet Virtual Series invites celebrity chefs right into one’s home kitchen LIVE as they lead engaging cooking classes between September 14-30. Fans can purchase tickets to simply watch, or better yet, they can order meal kits in advance from anywhere in the U.S. to cook along and learn in real time. Meal kits arrive with ingredients to create a feast for four. Each live demonstration will also feature suggested beverage pairings and education from Campari / Aperol Spritz and JUSTIN Wines. The virtual schedule includes:

  • Monday, September 14: Chef Art Smith, Blue Door Kitchen & Garden
  • Wednesday, September 16: Chef Lorena Garcia, Lorena Garcia Cocina/Lorena Garcia Tapas
  • Thursday, September 17: Chef Thai Dang, HaiSous/Cà Phê Đá
  • Friday, September 18: Chef Fabio Viviani, Siena Tavern/Prime & Provisions/Bar Siena
  • Sunday, September 20: Chef Kwame Onwuachi
  • Tuesday, September 22: Chef Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill/ Topolobampo/XOCO/Tortazo/Bar Sótano
  • Saturday, September 26: Chef Jernard Wells, The Family Chef
  • Sunday, September 27: Chef Stephanie Izard, Girl & the Goat/Little Goat Diner/Duck Duck Goat/Cabra
  • Tuesday, September 29: Chef Jeff Mauro, The Kitchen/Sandwich King
@neiljohnburger

All Go Gourmet events benefit the IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. In addition to those named above, the series is made possible thanks to Mariano’s, US Foods, Bank of America, Gordon Foodservice, Performance Foodservice, Choose Chicago, Pepsi, Coker Service Inc. and Coca-Cola.

Online Auction

Let the bidding begin! The Chicago Gourmet annual online auction goes live September 14-30. Featuring an impressive collection of wine, spirits and dinner experiences underwritten by Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, one hundred percent of proceeds from the auction benefit the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. The non-profit organization – which has awarded more than $3 million in scholarships since its inception – provides mentoring, job training and financial support for the next generation of aspiring chefs and hospitality professionals.  

Chicago Gourmet 2020’s media partners include NBC 5 Chicago/Telemundo Chicago, JC Deceaux, 93XRT, 101.9 The Mix and Chicago magazine.

@neiljohnburger

Visit chicagogourmet.org for details, reservations and tickets.

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ABOUT CHICAGO GOURMET. Chicago Gourmet, the nation’s premier culinary experience, returns for its 13th year September 2020. Created by the Illinois Restaurant Association to honor Chicago’s culinary achievements and the creative vision of the chefs, Master Sommeliers, and wine-, spirit-, and beer-makers who participate, it spotlights Chicago as an international culinary destination via its unparalleled epicurean talent. The 2020 event supports the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (IRAEF) and the IRAEF’s newly established Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. Chicago Gourmet is possible with the support of presenting sponsor Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. For more information, please visit chicagogourmet.org and follow on FacebookTwitter and Instagram

ABOUT SOUTHERN GLAZER’S WINE & SPIRITS. Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits is the world’s pre-eminent distributor of beverage alcohol, and proud to be a multi-generational, family-owned company. The Company has operations in 44 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, Canada, and the Caribbean, and employs more than 20,000 team members. Southern Glazer’s urges all retail customers and adult consumers to market, sell, serve, and enjoy its products responsibly. For more information visit www.southernglazers.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @sgwinespirits and on Facebook at Facebook.com/SouthernGlazers.

ABOUT DOORDASH. DoorDash is a technology company that connects customers with their favorite local and national businesses in more than 4,000 cities and all 50 states across the United States, Canada, and Australia. Founded in 2013, DoorDash empowers merchants to grow their businesses by helping to solve mission-critical challenges, such as customer acquisition, on-demand delivery, insights and analytics, merchandising, payment processing, and customer support. By building the last-mile delivery logistics platform for local cities, DoorDash is bringing communities closer, one doorstep at a time. Read more on the DoorDash blog or at www.doordash.com.

ABOUT THE ILLINOIS RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION. Founded in 1914, the Illinois Restaurant Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, protecting, educating and improving the restaurant industry in Illinois. The IRA owns and produces Chicago Gourmet – the annual food and wine festival uniting hundreds of restaurants, chefs and beverage experts for a weekend filled with food and drink tastings, entertainment, cooking demonstrations, book signings, interactive seminars and more. For more information about the Illinois Restaurant Association, visit https://hes32-ctp.trendmicro.com:443/wis/clicktime/v1/query?url=www.illinoisrestaurants.org&umid=a1449715-9a22-4e2e-b964-7648b7df8c42&auth=30873f9b08d95a50bb5091e438311631aad9e118-2cf4648028941b73933d0ca994fa73c7af8c235c and follow on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

ABOUT THE ILLINOIS RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION (IRAEF) RESTAURANT EMPLOYEE RELIEF FUND. Established in 2020, the IRAEF Restaurant Employee Relief Fund is statewide emergency assistance fund that provides one-time direct financial support to restaurant industry workers facing unforeseen hardship as a result of COVID-19. Grants help cover basic living expenses such as rent, food and utilities as someone works through crisis. Donate here now.

ABOUT THE ILLINOIS RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION. The Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) dedicated to building the Illinois hospitality workforce through career exploration, workforce development programs and scholarships. It has awarded more than $3 million in scholarships since its inception. For more information, visit www.illinoisrestaurants.org/IRAEFAboutUs.