5 Top Year-Round Ways to Enjoy Chicago
An abundance of choices is a big part of why we love Chicago. It’s a fast-paced, year-round town that offers a spectacular array of things to do—from sightseeing, music, and culture; to famous gastronomy and sometimes-quirky history. So to help pare down the choices, here’s a rundown of the can’t-miss spots for new visitors to Chicago, along with some of the latest additions and emerging areas destined for greatness.
1. Spectacular Architecture
The richness of Chicago’s architecture cannot be overstated. The cityscape has seen many waves of building and design trends, some of them dating back nearly two centuries. But ever since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the Windy City began rebuilding according to the trends of each decade, including City Beautiful, Beaux-Arts, Art Deco, Arts and Crafts, and many revival styles. It helped to have some of the world’s top architects perfecting their crafts there, including native Chicagoan Frank Lloyd Wright, and the “father of modernism” Louis Sullivan. Today, 21st-century architects continue to earn fame by adding their most daring visions to the skyline.
Fortunately, the Chicago Architecture Center exists to share the city’s best sights by river cruise, bus, bike, or foot. Each tour runs about 1.5 hours and start at $26, and you can choose from dozens of themes, be it a city overview or niche interest. also offers architecture tours, most of them on foot and starting at $30 for about two hours.
But if you want to take in Chicago’s architecture all in one lofty panorama, buy yourself a CityPASS ($108 for five attractions) for skip-the-line access to the observation decks of both the Willis Tower (called the Skydeck), and the John Hancock Building (called 360 Chicago).
2. Cultural Abundance
The beauty of a good museum is that it’s there to inspire and delight visitors in any season. The CityPASS is a smart way to visit several of them (and save time bypassing the lines), including the marvelous Shedd Aquarium, natural-history Field Museum, inspiring Museum of Science and Industry, and Adler Planetarium (America’s first planetarium).
Your CityPASS includes entry to the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the world’s top art museums, with a magnificent permanent collection and brilliant temporary exhibits, all housed in a complex that combines classic and modern architecture.
Add to your arts adventure at Streeterville’s Museum of Contemporary Art where exhibits will introduce you to stimulating works created between the 1920s and today. The National Museum of Mexican Art, with free admission, is well worth a trip to the Lower West Side to behold colorful, rich art and events all year. (Don’t miss bites at nearby 5 Rabanitos taqueria.)
3. Explore the Loop
The Loop is Chicago’s downtown area, generally within the elevated-train “loop.” (FYI: the rail system here is called “the L.”) Within the loop you’ll find many of the city’s grand towers and attractions, including the 319-acre Grant Park along Lake Michigan. There you can check out Buckingham Fountain and Millennium Park—home to Anish Kapoor’s beloved Cloud Gate (the shiny, giant stainless-steel “bean”). The park also hosts year-round food and arts festivals; ice skating and rock climbing in Maggie Daley Park; and concerts and screenings at Pritzker Pavilion, the bandshell designed by Frank Gehry.
4. Chicago Lodging
With many great hotels occupying the city’s beautiful buildings, you can enjoy the city’s architecture in an intimate way by lodging in them. On the Loop’s north end, the Swissotel Chicago sits riverside as a sleek triangular high rise, with views of the Navy Pier, Lake Michigan, the inner Loop, and Grant Park. In addition to its comfy accommodations and polished service, the Swissotel is conveniently beside the Lake Shore Drive and the River Walk, for easy access via car or on foot.
Next door to Swissotel is the lovely, undulating Aqua building, wherein you can book your room at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, and swim in the elevated pool. Head out to the hip and happening West Loop (aka the Fulton Market District) to lodge in the brand-new Hoxton Hotel. To the south, check into the boutique Sophy Hyde Park for proximity to Robie House, the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
5. Flavors of Chicago
When it comes to dining, there’s far more to Chicago than steak, hot dogs, and deep-dish pizza, especially outside the Loop. In Ukrainian Village, head to Split-Rail for the best fried chicken in town, plus tasty sides and unique craft cocktails (don’t miss the blue sparkle of the “tiki death punch”). Head north to Lake View for a tasty brunch with unlimited cocktails at Barcocina, where you can lounge on the big outdoor patio.
A few blocks away in East Lake View, find the city’s finest cheese, charcuterie, and other dishes at Bar Pastoral, a restaurant spinoff of next door’s Pastoral artisanal market. North Broadway is lined with notable eateries, like Ceres’ Table, serving regional Italian cuisine with seasonal ingredients. In Boystown, discover how delicious all-vegetarian dining can be at the adorable Chicago Diner, famously “meat-free since ‘83.”
No matter where you dine, however, enjoy breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant & Bakery in the West Loop. The old-school diner opened in 1923, and is the self-described starting point to Route 66, serving unbeatable omelets, biscuits, pancakes, benedicts, and more, until mid-afternoon daily. But even beyond its famous food and sample donuts and other bonus treats, Lou Mitchell’s represents something unique: It’s a real-deal Chicago enterprise that feels timeless, making both its food and atmosphere well worth savoring.
6 Perfect Spots to Immerse Yourself in Southeast Montana's History
Interstate 94 and 90 are ideal for cruise control with long stretches of highway straight as an arrow. The prairie landscape goes on forever, dotted with cattle, crops, and badlands as you cruise along Interstate 94 and 90 in Southeast Montana. Break up the drive with stops at national monuments and state parks, not only to stretch the legs but to discover the fascinating stories that shaped the West. This corner of Montana has been home to prehistoric people, dinosaurs, homesteaders, and one epic battle between the U.S. Army and Native Americans fighting to preserve their way of life. The gateway to these parts is the city of Billings. The pace of life is slower in these parts of Big Sky Country – enjoy the ride! 1. Pompeys Pillar National Monument Courtesy Donnie SextonStart your journey in Billings, armed with a picnic lunch, then head east 30 miles on I-94 to Pompeys Pillar, a sizable rock outcropping. You’ll see first-hand the only physical evidence of the Lewis and Clark Expedition from their epic two-year journey to the Pacific Ocean from St. Louis. Part way up this 200 ft. high sandstone rock, Captain William Clark carved his name and date, July 25, 1806. Clark named the rock “Pompy,”a nickname he had given to the son of Sacagawea, the only woman to take part in the expedition. A boardwalk leads to the top of the rock for sweeping views of the Yellowstone River and valley and a chance to view Clark’s signature. The interpretative center is a must stop to learn about this grueling journey. Picnic under shaded cottonwood trees adjacent to the mighty Yellowstone River, the same waterway Clark and his men would utilize on their return trip via dugout canoes. 2. Makoshika State Park Courtesy Donnie SextonContinuing east on I-94, dinosaur lovers will delight in Makoshika, an 11,538-acre badlands park located within a stone’s throw of the town of Glendive. The word Makoshika comes from a Lakota Indian phrase, meaning ‘bad land’ or ‘bad earth.’ Imagine hiking over the playground of Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops. Back in 1889, a researcher scouring the area by horseback documented 500 triceratops skulls. The topography, from cap rocks, hoodoos, wrinkled hillsides, deep ravines, and boulders tossed about, begs to be photographed, especially at sunrise and sunset. With over 12 miles of trails, crowds will not be a problem in Makoshika. If your journey is via a motorhome or more adventurous with a tent and sleeping bag, this is the place to spend the night with both designated camping sites as well as backcountry camping. Add to this birding, an archery site, disc golf course, summer programs for kids, an amphitheater, mountain biking, visitor center, scenic drives – Makoshika has you covered! 3. Medicine Rocks State Park Courtesy Donnie SextonIt’s a bit off the beaten path but worth seeking out this otherworldly gem. To reach Medicine Rocks, exit I-94 at Wibaux, then head south on Hwy 7 for approximately 70 miles, passing through the town of Baker. The entrance is clearly marked. The area is characterized by sandstone rock formations, thousands of years in the making, shaped by wind and water, and peppered with holes and caves. It was a vision quest site for Native Americans, who would camp and scour the landscape for buffalo. Charging Bear, a Sioux Indian, described the site as a place “where the spirits stayed, and the medicine men prayed.” Their stories remain in the petroglyphs carved into the rocks. Cowpunchers and settlers of the old west left their names carved into the rocks as well. Don’t be tempted to carve your name on the rocks, as its both illegal and degrades this historic site. Hike it and camp it, and keep your eyes peeled for mule deer, antelope, and sharp-tailed grouse. 4. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument Courtesy Donnie SextonSome say there are days when you can hear the war cry of the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians riding into battle against the U.S. Army back on June 25-26, 1876. Often referred to as Custer’s Last Stand, it was one of the last armed efforts by the Plains Indians to protect their land and culture. By the end of the bloody battle, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, along with over 260 men, would lose their lives. Between 60-100 Native Americans were killed, according to estimates. The Little Bighorn Battlefield memorializes the site of the battle. Interpretive signage along the 4.5-mile drive provides an insight into how the action unfolded. The road ends at the Reno-Benteen Battlefield, where additional troops, under the direction of Major Reno and Captain Benteen fought. A visitor center, museum, and Indian memorial, along with a national cemetery, make up the complex. In addition to the drive, walk the Battlefield on the various pathways scattered around this historic site. The Battlefield is 65 miles southeast of Billings on I-90. 5. Pictograph Caves State Park Courtesy Donnie SextonThink back 2,000 years and imagine prehistoric people painting on the walls of one of three caves at this historic state park. Little did these artists know, working in black and white pigments, they were creating a history book of sorts for future generations to understand life in ancient times. Later images, estimated to be 200-500 years old, were created with red pigment and featured rifles, horses, and other animals. The park is a short 15-minute drive from Billings on Coburn Road. The park is day use only and makes for a sweet spot for picnicking. Check out the visitor center and gift shop. Bring binoculars to get an up-close look at the pictographs. Those keen on birding should be amply rewarded with sightings at the park. 6. Chief Plenty Coups State Park Courtesy Donnie SextonIt’s a 40-minute drive via Hwy 416, then 418 to Chief Plenty Coups State Park, the home and farmstead of one of the great leaders of the Crow Tribe. Chief Plenty Coups started as a Crow Warrior, but through his visions, could see the white man taking over the Crow land. He felt it best to adapt and work with the whites so the Crows and their culture could survive. His wisdom and leadership would result in him being appointed chief of the Apsáalooke (Crow) tribe by age 28. He became one of the first Crow to own a farm and work the land on the Crow Indian Reservation. His efforts to bring harmony between his culture and that of the white people resulted in Plenty Coups being honored by his people as their last traditional tribal chief upon his death. If your visit coincides with their Annual Day of Honor, this year falling on August 31, you can enjoy a free buffalo feast.
6 American Bars Serving Light & Tasty Aperitif Cocktails
Summer drinking is a funny thing. Between vacationing, spending time with friends and family, and just enjoying the warmer weather, we tend to eschew heavier drinks—like whiskeys, red wine and even straight-up martinis—for lighter, brighter, less alcoholic fare. And though rum and gin are still seasonal crowd pleasers, cocktails mixed with lower alcohol aperitifs, like the popular Negroni, are making a strong showing in bars and restaurants across the country. Meant to stimulate the appetite and usually dry rather than sweet, an aperitif is also a refreshing way to help stretch out drinking on a hot, sunny day. Thankfully, mixologists are taking your day drinking into consideration and creating menus chock full of these delightful cocktails. So, here’s to you, summer. 1. The Beehive, San Francisco This Mad Men-inspired cocktail lounge, located in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission district, is a unique conglomerate of old and new. And though its signature, namesake concoction is a laid-back affair of gin, honey, lemon and ginger, it’s the cocktails mixed with traditional Martini & Rossi Ambrato and bitter, like Bachelor #3 and Moda Royale, that caught our eye. For something tart, the Thunderbird is Campari-forward with a hit of lime, tonic, thyme and passion fruit, while the Quimbara is a celebration of an alcoholic slushie, swirled with Aperol, rum and lime. Nostalgia is served on all levels, with a retro food menu including fondue, though with these lighter drinks, you might want to gravitate towards the ceviche, coconut shrimp and fish sliders. 2. Peppi’s Cellar, New York City Jason Scott, a Sydney native, has brought his speakeasy aesthetic to this brazenly retro-cool cellar bar in Nolita. Just down the narrow stairs in the back of sister restaurant Gran Tivoli you’ll find a long, wooden bar, exposed brick, carved out booths and a small stage advertising a piano, where live music is allowed one night a week (the bar doesn’t have its cabaret license). The GT Spritz was created to match the classic American Italian style of the food upstairs, using the bitter notes of white vermouth and falernum to mingle with the sweet of the Italian prosecco. The namesake Amaro-Palooza is a cavalcade of sweet, sour and bitter, combining, among other things, Campari, triple sec, egg white and orange juice over clinking ice cubes. A limited bar menu is also available for some light bites. 3. Urbana, Washington D.C. Tucked away under Kimpton’s relatively modern Hotel Palomar near Dupont Circle, Urbana boasts a popular bar scene with a daily cocktail hour. In addition to $1 oysters and a satisfying raw bar, you can choose from an aperitif-heavy cocktail list. We especially like the Constituent Cup, an Italian spritz using Nardini Taglatello, fennel liqueur, lemon and sugar to mimic the flavors of an English favorite, the Pimm’s Cup—while the seasonal Piccola Perla infuses vermouth with chamomile and the Suits Get Crazy combines rum, tiki bitters and aperol. The bar menu also includes smaller, Italian bites and snacks to round out your experience. 4. Bar Clacson, Los Angeles A neighborhood hangout in the city of angels, this airy, international spot boasts a bodega upfront, serving paninis and bruschetta, as well as cheese and charcuterie boards. Once you grab your snack, snake your way back to the long wooden bar or hang out at the full-size petanque court. A notable list of spritz and sherry-based drinks include Campari and whiskey forward Garibaldi and the Clack_Dack, shaken with Amaro Angeleno, cracked pepper, blood orange and lime. The bar’s riff on a classic spritz, served long, will help you get through the day, combining white wine, lemon juice, prosecco and water. A seven day a week happy hour offers $10 cocktails along with small bites. 5. Ticonderoga Club, Atlanta Head to the back of dining and retail hub, Krog Street Market, and you’ll find this laid back, cocktail-forward restaurant. The lovechild of Greg Best, Paul Calvert and Regan Smith, three of Atlanta’s most renowned mixologists, it presents a rotating menu of exhilarating cocktails. Summer offerings include the Hootchy Cider Punch made with Amer Ticon, house bitter and dry cider, as well as a cocktail featuring Cognac du Peyrat, Dubonnet, and orange bitter, playfully dubbed the Space Ghost. And don’t forget to grab a bite from the eclectic menu, which boasts clam rolls and fish and chips as well as roasted moulard duck and a vegan noodle bowl. The one thing you’ll never be at the Ticonderoga Club? Bored. 6. Perch, Richmond, VA A southern twist on laidback luxury, this homey restaurant features a stylish yet industrial bar serving up a long list of low alcohol cocktails. Housed in a long-running, former Chinese restaurant, owner Mike Ledesma falls back on his years as a chef in Hawaii as well as his Pilipino heritage in both food and décor—bringing the Pacific Rim to this little corner of Virginia. The Jugo de Puma is sunshine in a glass with its watermelon shrub, Aperol, Citadelle and Galliano, while the Shinosaka Golf Club combines Japanese whisky, apricot liqueur and Rainwater Madeira and the Mexican Peach Cobbler plays sweet and smoky with tequila, Manzanilla, lemon and smoked peach slices. A full list of bitters and amari is also available and a happy hour menu includes cocktail specials as well as a bar menu with nibbles like Furikake peanuts, fried lotus chips and fried chicken banh mi.
The Beatles Tour of Liverpool: Penny Lane to Cavern Club
The Beatles had a worldwide influence, and there’s no shortage of places to follow in the footsteps of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Hamburg’s Reeperbahn is where the Fab Four honed their skills; New York has the Ed Sullivan Theater; and of course, London has Abbey Road Studios and its iconic crosswalk. This itinerary takes in all the top sites, exploring the birth places of John, Paul, George and Ringo. "There are places I’ll remember…" John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr are celebrated all over the city, but perhaps nowhere as much as the banks of the River Mersey. Start your tour on the waterfront, where a larger-than-life-size statue of the lads is nestled in the shadow of the iconic Royal Liver building, between the Titanic Memorial and Museum of Liverpool. From there, it’s just a few hundred feet to the Royal Albert Dock. This UNESCO World Heritage site is now an immensely popular multi-use tourist attraction which includes the Fab4 Store, the Fab4Cafe and the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. But the biggest attraction is The Beatles Story, perhaps the best Beatles-only exhibition in the world. The museum is chock full of objects and memorabilia, as well as a children’s discovery zone. It’s the perfect place to start your exploration. Christopher Furlong / Getty Images "Get back to where you once belonged…" The Beatles grew up in separate parts of Liverpool, so you’ll want to take a bus to do most of your touring. Ringo grew up at 10 Admiral Grove in the Dingle area, in a row house that was slated for demolition a few years ago until the public outcry put an end to those plans. George was the only Beatle who wasn’t born in a hospital—he was born in his childhood home at 12 Arnold Grove (a name he used as a pseudonym later in life) in Wavertree. Paul’s musical family lived at 20 Forthlin Road in Allerton. When the guys skipped school to play, they sometimes practiced at John’s house "Mendips," located at 251 Menlove Ave. in the Woolton area. John’s guardian, his Aunt Mimi, didn’t like it much ("The guitar’s all right for a hobby, John, but you’ll never make a living at it," she once said). Still, the semi-detached house with the sunny entryway was centrally located and probably the nicest of all the houses. Now it’s an English Heritage site. In fact it was close to Mendips—at St. Peter’s Church, on Church Road—where John’s skiffle band The Quarrymen was playing when he was introduced to Paul McCartney on July 6, 1957. Paul was a better musician than most of the guys in the group, and it wasn’t long before John invited him to join. A short time later, they changed their name to the Beatles. Speaking of names, there’s a gravestone in the churchyard with the name Eleanor Rigby. Inspiration, or coincidence? Mirrorpix / Getty Images "Listen to the music playing in your head…" The Beatles played all over the city before hitting the big time. The Casbah Club (tours available by appointment) was a coffee shop in the basement of original drummer Pete Best’s house at 8 Hayman’s Green in West Derby, and a frequent haunt for the band. The "Rainbow Stage" they played on there was little more than a nook. It’s a far cry from the Litherland Town Hall, where Beatlemania probably began. Now it’s a health center on Hatton Hill Road, but in 1961 it was where the band played its first gigs after returning from Hamburg—and quickly established they were the best draw in the city. Of course, the most iconic site—indeed, it could very well be the most important and famous music venue in the world—is the Cavern Club. The Beatles played the stifling cellar at 10 Mathew Street a staggering 292 times and it was here they were discovered by manager Brian Epstein. In fact, Mathew Street is the center of the Beatles experience for any visitor to Liverpool. In addition to The Cavern, there’s a statue of John Lennon, a couple of Beatles-themed bars, gift shops and tours, as well as The Grapes—the pub where the boys drank between sets at the alcohol-free Cavern. Jim Dyson / Getty Images "Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes…" You don’t have to dig too deep to find the places that had the most direct inspiration on The Beatles’ music—they’re name-checked in some of the band’s most famous songs. For instance, Penny Lane is a real street in Liverpool. Where it meets Smithdown Road, there really is a roundabout with a bus stop shelter in the middle (in fact until recently the "shelter in the middle of the roundabout" was a Beatles-themed bistro). There’s even a barber shop on one side of the square. If "Penny Lane" was Paul’s typically rose-colored look back at the places and people who filled his Liverpool childhood, for John it was bittersweet nostalgia inspiring "Strawberry Fields Forever." The song was named for a Salvation Army orphanage in Beaconsfield Road—just around the corner from Mendips. John and his friends would play in the wooded grounds, and they became a place of freedom and imagination. The old building is long gone, but the wrought-iron gates are still there and have been attracting Beatles fans for generations. Jim Dyson / Getty Images Make the Beatles tour of Liverpool happen It doesn’t get much better for a Beatles fan than Hard Day’s Night Hotel, with sculptures of the lads on every corner of the façade and more than 100 individually-designed rooms (all with Beatles themes, naturally). It backs directly up to Mathew Street, for easy access to the Cavern and other sites. The YHA Albert Dock hostel is a budget-friendly option with a Beatles theme as well. To get around, pick up a reloadable Walrus Card from Merseytravel for easy and inexpensive bus access. If you want to leave the planning to someone else, try the Beatles Fab Four Taxi Tour.
Just Two Hours a Week in Nature Could Change Your Life
The news that there are positive health benefits to spending just two hours in nature per week should inspire people to get travelling more to woodlands, beaches and parks. A study published in the journal Scientific Reports has found that spending two hours per week in the natural world gives a positive boost to mental and physical well-being. Based on interviews with around 20,000 people in England, those who reported spending 120 minutes in nature in the previous week had consistently higher levels of both health and well-being than those who spent less than that. One Long Walk or Several Short Walks Are Sufficient The results indicated that it did not matter whether the two hours of contact a week was achieved in one long stint or several shorter ones. This is good news because while some people may prefer long walks at the weekend in locations further from home, others may prefer regular shorter visits to parks or beaches in their local area. Most People Don’t Spend Enough Time in Nature The findings indicated that only one in three people who had spent at least two hours in the natural world in the previous week said they felt dissatisfied, while just one in seven reported poor health. By contrast, close to half of those who spent little or no time in parks, beaches or woods in the past seven days reported low levels of life satisfaction. One in four of these people said they were in poor health. The researchers found that the results were consistent across ages, sexes and residential areas, and even among those with long-standing illnesses or disabilities. The other interesting fact was that there is no need to spend huge amounts of times to get the benefits, as the positive impact levels off, so the people in the study didn’t report increased benefits if they exceeded two hours in the wild. To read the full study in Scientific Reports, please click here.