Best places to view fireworks in Chicago

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Published July 4, 2018

The Fourth of July is upon us and Chicago is about to light up the sky for a grand celebration of America’s birthday. Here are the best spots to catch the shows.

Navy Pier

The fireworks display at Navy Pier is a must-see. Head to the Pier and visit Chicago classics like Harry Carry’s Tavern, or fun-themed places like Bubba Gump Shrimp Company or Margaritaville. Nearby beaches are also great places to take in the view. The free show starts at 9:30 p.m.

Rooftops

For a more adult scene, check out the J. Parker on the rooftop of the Hotel Lincoln at 1816 N. Clark St. The rooftop has views of North Avenue Beach, Lincoln Park and the fireworks show.

On the water

For an active experience, head over to Urban Kayaks on the Riverwalk. They offer a Fourth of July Fireworks Show with a 90-minute tour of the river while a guide gives a history lesson. For more water options, check out one of the cruises.

Odyssey Cruises offers three to four cruises throughout the holiday weekend
with brunch, lunch and dinner options from $56.90. On July 4, take in the fire- works on a two-hour dinner cruise with an on-board DJ and dance floor for $189. This 21+ event offers an open bar and din- ner. Boarding begins at 6:30 p.m. and the cruise goes from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. For more information, visit the website odysseycruises.com

Shoreline Sightseeing offers two-and-a-half hour Red White and Brew Cruise. The cruise features craft beer from Revolution Brewing. This 21+ birthday celebration will also feature food, a live DJ and a view of the fireworks for $119. Cruises will depart from the northeast corner of the Michigan Avenue Bridge alongside Pioneer Court at 401 N. Michigan Ave. at
8 p.m. and will return at 10:30 p.m. For more information, go to shorelinesightseeing.com

Spirit of Chicago, which also launches from Navy Pier, has a dinner cruise on July 4 with an open bar, music and dancing for $149.90. This three-hour cruise which takes off at 7:30 p.m. For more information, go to spiritcruises.com

To keep the celebration alive, check out fireworks at Navy Pier all summer. Through Labor Day, the Pier has shows Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 10:15 p.m.

Reaching new heights—adaptive rock climbing comes to Maggie Daley Park

By Angela Gagnon | Staff Writer

Published July 4, 2018

At first glance, the Maggie Daley Climbing Wall might seem daunting.

The mere thought of ascending 40 feet by gripping tiny rocks would give anyone pause, let alone someone in a wheelchair.

But, through a partnership between Adaptive Adventures and the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, anyone who wants to climb can.

Al Schiewe, one of the adaptive climbing lead volunteers, secures climber Suzen Riley in the ARC (adaptive ropes course) harness in preparation for her ascent. Photo by Angela Gagnon

For the third year, the Maggie Daley’s Climbing Wall hosts climbing opportunities every second and fourth Monday of the month for people with physical disabilities. Instruction, adaptive gear, support and encouragement are all provided.

Chris Werhane, the adaptive sports lead
in Chicago, says the Intro to Climbing
program welcomes about 40 climbers and
volunteers.

“We focus on what’s most comfortable
for the person climbing, what’s needed for
them to be successful,” Werhane said.
The adaptive equipment options can be
customized to fit the climber’s needs.

Oak Park resident and climber Suzen Riley uses an adaptive ropes course (ARC) harness along with the pulley system and handle-bar style “ascender” to experience the thrill of the climb. When she climbs, volunteer belays assist with the pulley system, and Riley grips the ascender to ratchet herself up.

“When you get up there, it’s so beautiful,” Riley said. “It’s good exercise and you feel this exhilaration that you’ve actually done it.”

The trained volunteers who assist with the climbs are just as vital to the process as the equipment.

Some climbers use side support wherein a volunteer climbs next to them as they ascend the wall. The side climber might help place a weaker limb on the rock or provide verbal assistance for visually impaired climbers. There is no limit to the styles and customized assistance climbers can use.

Adaptive Adventures was founded in 1999 by two individuals with physical disabilities who saw a need for sporting opportunities. Adaptive Adventures provides programs, camps and clinics for cycling, climbing, kayaking, skiing, sailing, scuba and more.

Greg Zbrezezny, the Chicago Program Director of Adaptive Adventures, added that they provide scholarships, too.

“The goal is to make it accessible to everyone,” said Chicago volunteer and belayer Megan Snowder.

The outdoor program will run through October, weather permitting. To learn more or to register, visit www.adaptiveadventures.org

Lakeshore East’s Vista Tower continues to rise, reaches midway-milestone

By Julie Whitehair | Community Contributor

Published July 4, 2018

Development of Chicago’s burgeoning Vista Tower is speeding along—the sky-scraper reached its halfway mark in June with the construction of its 50th floor.

The jewel in Magellan Development Group’s portfolio, is set to stand nearly 1,200 feet tall with 101 levels on East Wacker Dr. in Lakeshore East. This height would push it past New Eastside’s Aon Center as Chicago’s third-tallest skyscraper, behind the Willis Tower, 233 S. Wacker Dr., and Trump International Hotel and Tower, 401 N. Wabash Ave.

Chicago architect Jeanne Gang envisioned a unique, geometric shape for Vista Tower involving three separate towers or “tubes” of stacked frustums set side-by-side in varying heights. Curbed Chicago reported the first of the three tubes has been topped off already, and that a blue-green glass exterior will be added to the project ahead of its opening in 2020.

As construction continues on the building, its developers have set up webcams for architecture enthusiasts and anyone curious to watch the latest construction of the Vista Tower. The webcam can be found on the Vista website, vistatowerchicago.com/webcam.

Construction on the reported $1 billion building began in September 2016. Once opened, Vista will be a mixed-use tower featuring a hotel and high-rise residences. About 44 percent of the 396 Vista condos—a lower figure than originally announced because some buyers combined multiple units—have already been sold, the Chicago Tribune reported.

To combat swaying from winds, the Chicago Tribune reported the tower will have water-filled tanks atop the structure to slosh and counterbalance the winds as well as an empty “blow through floor” for the wind near the top.

Meet Maximo, the Field’s newest—and biggest—beast

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Published July 5, 2018

After a 100 million year absence, the titanosaur is back. The dinosaur made his debut at the Field Museum in June and he is quite the sight.

The skeletal cast of the titanosaur has replaced Sue as the main attraction in the museum’s entrance hall. The change is big—more like colossal—as Maximo is the largest dinosaur ever discovered.

Maximo reaches 122 feet across Stanley Field Hall on the museum’s main floor and stands 28-feet-tall at his head, which pokes over a second floor balcony. His friendly face can be seen from below and by guests upstairs, who can pose for a selfie with the
photobombing dino.

Maximo peaks over the second floor balcony | Photo by Taylor Hartz

Downstairs, guests are welcome to walk underneath Maximo and gaze up at his massive ribs and long neck. For an up-close-and-personal experience, guests are welcome to touch his red-tinted cast.

Also on the main floor is a collection of real titanosaur fossils, including bones that are bigger than most of the humans
looking at them.

Sues new habitat is still under construction | Photo by Taylor Hartz

Compared to Sue’s 40-foot frame, Maximo’s 122 feet reach across the hall is expansive at just under twice the size of the bean, or “Cloud Gate,” in Millennium Park, and some 75 feet longer than a CTA bus.

Sue, a favorite of museum visitors and a major tourist attraction since 2000, has been moved to the second floor. Fans can spot her through the window in her new home, which is currently under construction.

Her permanent display will re-create what scientists think a T. rex habitat would have looked like.

Hot dog! It’s a hot dog holiday

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

All-beef frank, yellow mustard, sweet pickle relish, chopped white onions, a dill pickle spear, tomato wedges, pickled sport peppers and a dash of celery salt on a poppy seed bun. No ketchup. When it comes to hot dogs, that’s the Chicago way.

The famous Chicago dog is an important part of the city’s culture year-round, but this month, it is honored—July is National Hot Dog Month, with celebrations peaking on National Hot Dog Day, Wednesday, July 18.

Here are the best variations on a classic: In Eater Chicago’s list of the top 22 Chicago dogs, Superdawg Drive at 6363 N. Milwaukee Ave. comes in at No. 1, with the Jumbo Char Dog at Wolfy’s at 2734 W. Peterson Ave. coming in a close second.

Serious Eats Chicago gave the number one suburban dog award to Gene and Jude’s at 2720 N. River Road in River Grove. They gave the top dog in the city to Hot
Doug’s at 3324 N. California Ave.

At Gold Coast Dogs, 159 N. Wabash Ave., all hot dogs are under $5. Grab a dragged-through-the-garden Chicago dog for $3.50 or try another type of Chicago classic—a Polish-style dog. Choose from the Maxwell Polish topped with mustard, grilled onions and sport peppers, for $4.50, or a Chicago Polish, with mustard, onion, relish, tomatoes, pickle spears, sport peppers and celery salt.

Or check out the chilli and cheese dog topped with Merkts Sharp Cheddar or nacho cheese and homemade chilli, or for a spicy option order the Joey Dog, which comes with fries, garlic-wasabi aioli and tabasco.

Portillo’s, in River North, also offers a char-grilled Maxwell Street Polish sausage, along with the classic Chicago-style dog. Both come in jumbo size.

Looking for a new style? Find it at Lincoln Park’s Dog Haus Biergarten.

Antoni Porowski’s recipe | Photo by Taylor Hartz

Their menu is filled with unique creations like the SOOO Cali with wild arugula, avocado, tomato, crispy onions and spicy basil aioli and the Ringer, with cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, onion rings and barbecue sauce, or the Free Bird made with a turkey dog, avocado, tomato, smoked bacon and miso ranch.

Or take a stab at the DIY dog suggested by chef Antoni Porowski on Netflix’s “Queer Eye.” Porowski suggests sliced, grilled dogs, topped with mixed dijon mustard and honey and crushed potato chips.

Running the river with Urban Kayaks

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Get up, get out and get active with Urban Kayaks, a water sports rental company that has something for everyone.

With two locations, the company offers rentals that allow patrons to cruise the river on their own or join a guided tour. In addition to the Riverwalk location, last month Urban Kayaks added a lakeside location at 111 N. Lake Shore Drive.

The company is open daily, 9 a.m. through 7 p.m., and Urban Kayaks has many tour options, including sunset cruises, the Navy Pier fireworks display and the historical Chicago sights and architecture.

Urban Kayak tours offer great views of downtown architecture | Photo by Taylor Hartz

Novices can start with the Riverwalk Introductory Paddle Tour, a one-hour experience for $45 per person.

Paddlers of every age and level are welcome. “Urban Kayaks has infant life vests available that can allow the littlest members of your family to join you safely on the water,” said manager Eric Schwartz. Schwartz said he takes his eight month old out with him regularly.

If you have older parents or grandparents who would like to check out Chicago from the water but fear they aren’t fit enough to keep up – tandem kayaks are a great option. Older kayakers can take the front seat while all the paddling is done from the back.

At the new location, the company offers paddle boards and sit-on-top kayaks.

“The sit-on-kayaks are a bit easier to get back on if you fall off,” Schwartz said.
Paddlers can sit or stand on paddle boards and Schwartz said they’re not difficult to master.

Those new to paddle-boarding can try out the Intro to Paddle Board Tour—a one-hour class. Meanwhile, for the masters, there is a paddle board yoga class starting in July.

A kayaker enjoys a paddle on the Chicago River with Urban Kayaks. Photo by Taylor Hartz

No matter the tour, arrive a bit early for a safety lesson. In their pre-launch safety video, Urban Kayaks explains that “The Chicago River works exactly like a city street” and makes sure kayakers are prepared to hit the road – or, river.

On the water, kayakers are encouraged to think of large tour boats like CTA buses, smaller, private boats as cars, and themselves as bikers with their own safe lane.

The company is offering a season pass. The pass includes unlimited kayak and paddle board rentals seven days a week and 25 percent off for guests during the week. If members rent a tandem kayak, they can bring a guest for free every time.

“The memberships are good for people who live around here and want to use it a lot,” Schwartz said. The next season pass is for the fall months, called “Fall You Can Kay-
ak,” for $100.

Go like a pro to Millennium Park’s summer events

By Julie Whitehair | Community Contributor

Published July 4, 2018

Millennium Park is a hub of summer entertainment for tourists and Chicago- ans alike. From free movies to ticketed concerts, Millennium—and its Jay Pritzker Pavilion—often draws a crowd. Here’s how to enjoy the park’s performances like a pro.

Get there early

Make sure to get to Millennium Park well before the performance starts—the general admission lawn fills up fast for the park’s most hyped shows. Definitely don’t arrive
late, or you might end up sitting on the hard concrete ground for the rest of the night. Keep an eye on the park’s Twitter account @Millennium_Park for updates, incase the crowd reaches capacity.

Bring refreshments—but check if alcohol is allowed at your event

Food and non-alcoholic beverages are always allowed at Jay Pritzker Pavilion, but a few events prohibit any outdoor alcohol. You can check which days alcohol is prohibited at the City of Chicago’s website and expect officials to check bags at the entrance—the city’s placing a new security perimeter and bag check for all events at the pavilion this summer.

As for food, some visitors pick up sandwiches for a snack, while others bring a full-on spread—tiny tables, gourmet cheese platters and all. Just make sure any coolers are smaller than 26 inches long, 15 inches wide and 15 inches in height and avoid bringing metal knives or cutlery in order to adhere to the park’s guidelines listed on
their website.

Pick a spot to meet ahead of
time

Meeting up with friends can be difficult when they’re giving vague directions to where they’re sitting. Avoid this by meeting outside the park or designating a spot near a notable location ahead of time—don’t be the person obnoxiously standing and waving in the crowd right before a show begins.

Rub-a-dub-dub, your drink’s in a tub

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Published July 4, 2018

Rubber ducks in a cocktail—need we say more? When we heard about the adorable, bubbly cocktail at The Bassment, 353 W. Hubbard St., we had to see—and taste—it for ourselves.

At Bassment, an underground live music venue below The Hampton Social Club, they serve their speciality cocktail not in a glass but in a bathtub. That’s right, The Bathtub arrives exactly how it sounds, in a miniature ceramic tub with tiny golden faucet taps—
but instead of water and bubbles, it’s filled with a tasty beverage.

This Instagram sensation is made with cucumber-infused vodka, jalapeño and a foamy layer of bubble bath made of lemon meringue. To complete the look, it’s topped off with an adorable rubber ducky.

At Three Dots and a Dash, 435 N. Clark St., make sure you’ve got your camera out and ready, because at the tiki-themed River North bar, you’ve got to get the perfect shot before you take the first sip. At Three Dots and a Dash glasses are designed to
look like tiki totems, skeletons and fish and the drinks themselves are vibrant hues of coral, teal and purple. Each is garnished with something different, from rubber toy sharks and skull-topped toothpicks to fresh tropical flowers and mermaid swizzle sticks.

The Caribbean punch is served in a heavy stone vessel, carved to look like a coral reef fish with big eyes and crooked, jagged fangs. It’s topped off with a tiny colorful skull, a lime slice and a bright pink flower.

The fish is filled with aged Jamaican and Panamanian rums, lime, pineapple, sarsaparilla, falernum and fassionola for a unique, flavorful summer refreshment.

Joffrey Ballet dances its way to new attendance records, ticket revenue

By Julie Whitehair | Community Contributor

Published July 4, 2018 

The Joffrey Ballet’s 2017-18 season was its highest-grossing season in the Chicago-based dance company’s 62 years, with attendance for the season also reaching a record high, according to a press release.

More than 100,000 people were in attendance for the 2017-18 season. The Joffrey—which is based at 10 E. Randolph St. but also tours—earned more than $7.7 million in ticket revenue, showing an 11 percent increase compared to the year prior.

“I am incredibly proud of the Joffrey dancers and staff for producing art of the highest quality,” Artistic Director Ashley Wheater wrote in the press release. “One of our goals is to engage people through diverse programming, whether it be a classic like ‘Giselle’ or a wild adventure like ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ There is much more to come in the seasons ahead.”

The company attributes its feats largely to the successes of Lola de Ávila’s “Giselle” and Alexander Ekman’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The productions grossed more than $2.3 million combined and earned spots in the Joffrey’s top five best-selling productions, excluding “The Nutcracker.”

Executive Director Greg Cameron said in the press release that the Joffrey is remaining loyal to its founder, Robert Joffrey, by honoring both the classics and the new.

“The numbers tell a story of success, though I assure you that our work is far from finished,” Cameron said. “Focused planning will keep the Joffrey at the forefront of the local, national and international world of dance.”

Earlier this year, the Alphawood Foundation awarded the Joffrey a one million dollar grant to fund a three-year project focused on expanding and sustaining its audience as the company grows.

Completing the 2017-18 season was Christopher Wheeldon’s production of the winter favorite “The Nutcracker”—which exceeded $4.6 million in ticket sales—and “Modern Masters,” the Joffrey’s program of various modern works.

Streeterville mural adds a touch of green to area

By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer

Published July 4, 2018

In mid-June, after six weeks of work, the Nancy Pochis Art Studio unveiled the new art piece, “Urbs in Horto,” Latin for Chicago’s motto, City in a Garden.

“Our goal was to depict botanic places in Chicago,” said Nancy Pochis Bank, the owner of Nancy Pochis Bank Art Studio. “We really wanted to brighten up that entryway.”

“This permanent, painted mural will be nine feet tall and a full city-block long (nearly 200 feet),” according to an emailed release from Nancy Pochis Bank Art Studio. The mural depicts Chicago covered in greenery, including flowers, butterflies and cornucopia. “It starts with the Logan Square Farmers Market, from south to north,” said Pochis Bank. The mural then depicts herbs as a transitional element—as Embassy Suites grows their own herbs.

It also includes the tulips from Michigan Ave., the Illinois state flower, the violet, mums which are Chicago’s flower and the Illinois insect, monarch butterflies.

The mural is located at the Embassy Suites’ valet drop-off, east of Columbus between Illinois and Grand, next to AMC River East.

According to NPB’s website, “NPB Studio Artists work as a team to create original large scale artwork that has maximum creative impact.” Their process includes a brainstorming session with the client, a thumbnail sketch, a finalized sketch and the execution of artwork, according to the NPB website. A team of two to six artists ultimately works on the design and implementation. Four female artists from Nancy Pochis Bank Art Studio worked on the Streeterville mural, including Pochis Bank herself, Shayne Taylor, Brandin Hurley, and Brittney Leeanne Williams.

NPB Studio has several projects featured around Chicago, including a chalkboard world map at Wicker Park’s Wixter Fish Market and lettering on the entrance to the press box in Wrigleyville.

The studio also does live mural or chalkboard paintings, including a Hungry Caterpillar chalk design at the Lakeview Chamber of Congress’s Sunday Spot event. NPB also created a live mural at Vitromex’s 2016 Tradeshow at McCormick Place. For more information on NPB Studio, visit nancypochisbank.com

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