My, my, how busy things have gotten in Chicago lately. No sooner are we past Memorial Day than activity just seems to explode. Of course, if you’re coming here for a Route 66 road trip, that’s all to your benefit — there are always more things to do here in metro Chicago than there is time to do them. Isn’t it great to have so many choices? So much good stuff is doable for cheap or free. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, there’s no better place to do a lot of this stuff than right out on Chicago’s lakefront, with the lake behind you, the park beside you, and the cityscape before you. Still, that means a plan may be in order, if you want to maximize your time here.
Yesterday, route roadies were all a-Twittering about the latest from the Skydeck at the Sears Tower: The Ledge (or at least the laminated shielding on the glass floor) cracked and scared the dickens out of some visitors from out west. EEEEEK! Even AOL news cribbed a report from Chicago’s WGN-TV midday news. Well, actually, the pressure-sensitive protective coating on the glass supposedly did what it was intended to do and spider-webbed into cracks to indicate that it needed replacement … then that window box was closed off for maintenance while the other one stayed open. And safe. Uh-huh. Right. Sure. Whatever you say. You go first, okay? No, I insist. Really.
As it turns out, neither the incident or the brouhaha about it scared off too many folks and actually may have attracted more people (for some, the risk only adds to the thrill). But if you’d rather try something different for now, there’s always The TILT at the John Hancock Building (which we covered this spring), where you lean against some bars on either side of a long window, and the entire platform leans toward the street. Whoa. Our friends at the ChooseChicago blog just noticed the opening of that attraction a few weeks ago.
Then there’s all the free music coming up in Grant Park/Millennium Park — and dancing! Right off Route 66! Can you believe it?? Chicago’s Summerdance, our own season-long outdoor dance party is in its 18th year in 2014, and the schedule is as varied as ever. All the action happens in the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park, just south of Congress Drive, where they put up a nice temporary wooden dance floor for us folks and a covered stage for the bands. If you’ve ever wanted to learn to swing dance, do a Cajun two-step, bust a mambo, maybe samba, or perhaps even try some Bollywood Bhangra, this is the easy way to learn — and it’s all free, with great live bands performing for you and some of the city’s best dance teachers. Por nada. Zip, zero, zilch. From June 27 through mid-September, there’s a different teacher, dance lesson and band every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night as well as Sunday afternoons. How can you beat that?
Well, maybe with one of our world-renowned big music festivals. The Chicago Jazz Festival won’t be until Labor Day weekend (August 28 through 31), but the Chicago Blues Fest is right around the corner on June 13-15. This year is the Blues Fest’s 30th anniversary but the 31st event (it began in 1984), and there will be three jam-packed days and nights of music, from 11am to 9:30pm over at the Petrillo band shell at the corner of Jackson Drive and Columbus Drive. That’s a mere block or two east of the original starting point of Route 66 at Jackson and Michigan Avenue. The big headliners usually play in the evenings, but people will be there most of the day, listening to various local and imported acts on a number of side stages. You may even spot some impromptu blues dancers via (CUBE, the Chicago Underground Blues Experience) who come in for the fest and dance through the sets (they keep up with each other via Twitter). Cool! Sunday night will feature New Orleans blues and R&B, with Aaron Neville leading for that NOLA pianist par excellence and voodoo-hoodoo man, Dr. John, whose appeal seems to have doubled since he appeared several times on the HBO series Treme. WOW, don’t miss that lineup if you’re in town.
The Grant Park Music Festival celebrates its 80th year of presenting classical music in the park, and for the last 10 years, it’s been showing off its orchestra and soloists in the Frank Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park (which is itself the NW corner of Grant Park). That’s the one with the criss-cross steel trellis above the lawn with the speakers on them and the stainless-steel curlicues surrounding the stage. Also at the Pritzker Pavilion is the Jazz Insitute of Chicago’s Made In Chicago: World-Class Jazz series, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The first event for that is coming up July 24. And then there’s a new music program in the evenings, called Loops and Variations, that Chicago magazine dubs the best new music series in town. Loops and Variations combines contemporary classical music with electronica for something entirely new. This, too, is at the Pritzker Pavilion, and the opening program, YACHT + Hauschka with Q Ensemble, was last night; the program runs weekly through July 3. The next program, Arca & Jesse Kanda + Civitas Ensemble, is next week on June 5th.
But wait — there’s more!
Meanwhile, out at Northerly Island next to the Museum Campus and Soldier Field, the outdoor music venue (which is to say, a big stage and even bigger open space, not much else) the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion is continuing its annual summer series starting this weekend with Jack Johnson, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in their Now To You Tour 2014. Later this month they’ll have everyone from Avril Lavigne and the Backstreet Boys to the Tedeschi Trucks Blues Band, and the Dave Matthews Band will make a two-day appearance over the July 4th holiday (July 4-5). For details on tickets, look here.
That’s it for now from your local guide to fun on Route 66. Have a great weekend!
Until next time,