A Warm Welcome from a New Chicago Local
As a member of NAAAP Chicago and the Leadership Convention planning committee, I am thrilled that we will be hosting the 2017 Leadership Convention and Career Fair. The convention is a draw in itself with opportunities to hear inspirational speakers, learn about topics in diversity and talent management, and network with a range of professionals. But in case you are on the fence about visiting the Windy City, here are some of my personal insights about the people and vibrancy of the city.
1. Neighborhood junkies
During the summer, Chicago neighborhoods bustle with several street festivals each weekend. These festivals not only provide an excuse to venture to new parts of the city, but also a chance to engage with the community over a variety of interests. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the festivals that will be taking over Chicago in August:
- Chicago Hot Dog Fest (Aug. 11-13), Lincoln Park
- Ginza Holiday/Japanese Festival (Aug. 11-13), Lincoln Park
- Retro on Roscoe (Aug. 11-13), Roscoe Village
- Cuban Festival (Aug. 11-13), Belmont Cragin
- Beatles Festival (Aug. 11-13), Rosemont
- Tacos & Tamales Festivale (Aug. 12-13), Pilsen
- Northalsted Market Days/Gay-Friendly Street Fair (Aug. 12-13)
- Festa Italiana (Aug. 18-20), Little Italy
- Art on Glenwood Ave (Aug. 18-20), Rogers Park
- Evanston Art & Big Fork Festival (Aug. 18-20), Evanston
2. Hummers, foot-tappers, and those people who always have a song in their head
For me, the quintessential Chicago music experience takes place at the bi-weekly Millennium Park Summer Music Series. Every Monday and Thursday from June 12 to August 21, the city hosts free concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Pick up some wine and cheese at the nearby Mariano’s market or a burger from Shake Shack and let your senses be aroused as you sit on the grass, listen to music, and enjoy the dynamic backdrop of Chicago’s skyscrapers. Another unique music opportunity can be found at the Shedd Aquarium ($39.95 general admission) on Wednesday evenings for “Jazzin at the Shedd” There aren’t many places where you can enjoy live jazz amidst the company of 32,000 animals! Lastly, I recommend enjoying our nightlife by dancing to blues music from local artists at two historic blues clubs in Lincoln Park: Kingston Mines and B.L.U.E.S. The clubs are across the street from one another and offer intimate atmospheres to engage with other music-lovers and the musicians themselves.
3. That person who stands up to stretch between convention workshops
Out of all the noteworthy parts of Chicago, the clear winner is the fact that our lakefront is protected for the public. As the remarkable Chicago architect Daniel Burnham said of the beauty of the Lake Michigan shore, “What sort of prosperity is this that we should foster and maintain? Not that for rich people solely or principally, for they can take care of themselves . . . but the prosperity of those who must have enjoyment in order to live.” Rent a bike either through our bike-sharing program, Divvy, or a rental company like Bobby’s Bike Hike Chicago or Wheel Fun Rentals and enjoy the 18-mile Lake Front Trail. If you’re more of the lounging type (No judgment. Networking is tiring!), you can relax at North Ave Beach or Oak Street Beach. The Lake Shore area is also lined with tennis courts and volleyball courts, and there are several companies that rent jet skis, kayaks, and paddle boards.
4. Photographers looking for their next subject
For those who like to view new places through their camera lens, Chicago has a plethora of unique sights to capture. As the canvas for renowned architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Burnham, and John Wellborn Root and the birthplace of the skyscraper, our city offers countless structures that make Chicago a photographer’s dream. Here are a few within a 30-minute walk of the Swissotel:
- The Rookery Building (Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Burnham, John Wellborn Root)
- Marina City (Architect: Bertrand Goldberg)
- The Carbide and Carbon Building (Architects: Daniel Burnham Jr., Hubert Burnham)
- Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. building (Architects: Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham)
- Aqua Tower (Architect: Studio Gang Architects)
If you’re interested in hearing the stories behind Chicago’s legendary architecture, consider taking Wendella’s Original Architecture Boat Tour or one of the many themed tours offered by the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
5. Foodies, cocktail connoisseurs, and those looking for a unique dining/bar experience
On Friday night, the Leadership Convention will host a Taste of Chicago featuring the famous Chicago deep-dish pizza and the Chicago-style hot dog.
DISCLAIMER: Please take note that “People looking to maintain their summer beach body” was not on this list.
After experiencing Chicago’s famous foods at the convention, be sure to also visit one (or all) of the top deep-dish pizza places: Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s, and Pequod’s. Once you’ve recovered from the deep-dish coma with a nap in Maggie Daly Park, find room for a Chicago-style hot dog at Portillo’s, Chicago’s Dog House, or The Wiener’s Circle. Aside from these classics, Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, a quick train or Lyft ride away from the Swissotel, is a haven for the trendiest and most eclectic restaurants. Girl & the Goat, Avec, Roister, Au Cheval, High Five Ramen, and Green Street Smoked Meats are just a few fan favorites. Looking to taste the diversity of Chicago? Venture out to Chinatown, Little Vietnam, Greektown, Pilsen for Mexican food, or Humboldt Park for Puerto Rican food. After dinner, check out some of the city’s distinct bar options and even consider crafting a makeshift bar crawl! Here are a few to start you off:
- The Aviary- A brainchild of the world-renowned Alinea Restaurant Group that serves intricate drinks in a space where the cocktails are created right in front of you
- The Game Room/Cindy’s- Previously the billiards room of the Chicago Athletic Association, The Game Room is a retro cocktail lounge with bocce ball, billiards, chess, and other games. Upstairs is Cindy’s, a rooftop restaurant and open-air terrace, which deems itself “the jewel in the crown of the Chicago Athletic Association.”
- The J Parker- A rooftop bar, where you can enjoy views of the city and Lake Michigan
- The Violet Hour- A pre-prohibition style bar in the heart of Wicker Park.
- Emporium Arcade Bar- A Logan Square bar offering 40+ arcade games,two dozen rotating craft beers, and 50+ whiskeys.
- AceBounce- A ping-pong playground with award-winning chefs and mixologists.
The above attractions are just a fraction of what Chicago has to offer while you are here for the Leadership Convention. Honorable mentions that should not be missed include seeing a comedy show at the Second City, visiting the Art Institute (named the world’s best museum by TripAdvisor), eating ice cream at Jeni’s Ice Creams, and going to North Ave Beach to watch the Chicago Air and Water Show (Aug. 19-20).
I hope you have the chance to explore our amazing city. See you in August!
By Lauren Kee
Lauren is an active member of NAAAP Chicago and serves on the 2017 Leadership Planning Convention Committee. She works as a Senior Analyst at Mercer, a human capital consulting firm. When she is not working or planning NAAAP events, Lauren enjoys playing soccer, doing yoga, teaching ESL in Chinatown, and eating ice cream.