Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Have fun in Chicago

We'll see you all in just a few days. Whether you're coming early, staying late, or just going to be in Chicago for a few hours, here are a few things to do in case you find yourself bored.

Get your pollution while you still can...
Not far from Lincoln Park is the industrial corridor flanking the North Branch of the Chicago River. A Lot of it is just warehouses, but along Cortland between Clybourne and the river is A. Finkl & Sons, a steel mill that still operates in the heart of the city. If you ride, walk, or drive by at night, you may catch them in the middle of the smelting process.

While it's really cool to see once in a while, it's not all rose-colored metal. They are one of the worst polluters in the city, accounting for nearly one third of the city’s total health risk from factory emissions.

High Laughs, Low Prices...
Among all the usual big-city distractions, Chicago's improv comedy scene is impressive for its diversity, quality, relatively low prices. There are nearly 60 improv events this weekend alone. With a lot of cinemas charging $10 each for tickets, being able to laugh uproariously for an hour for $5 (while drinking booze), cannot be overrated.

For low prices, convenient location, and consistent laughs, my favorite is iO, just a few doors down from Wrigley Field. If that doesn't float your boat, there are at least three other improv theaters within a few minutes walk. Another good bet is the Chemically Imbalanced Theater, which hosts Pimprov every Friday night (and it is BYOB to make up for a slightly higher entrance fee).

There's trees here somewhere...

Chicago can feel a little clausterphobic at times, being surrounded by honking, speeding cars, towering buildings, and encircled by hundreds of miles of interstates and railroad tracks. Frankly, the park system is a little pathetic and doesn't help to alleviate this situation. Most of the parks are sparsely wooded and fairly unattractive. The one exception to this is Jackson Park, near the museums of Hyde Park on the south side of Chicago.

It was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (designer of Central Park and Prospect Park in New York and also the grounds of the Biltmore Estate in Ashville, NC) for the 1893 World's Fair. He used is hard-won prestige to keep the financial backers of the fair from turning the park into the technology riddled sideshow they were looking for. Especially relaxing is the Japanese Gardens on the Wooded Island.

More to come shortly...

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