What To Do in Chicago
We know that you’re coming to town for EPIC, but not just for EPIC. If you’re looking for some late October activities in Chicago that don’t involve the word ‘praxis,’ here are a few thoughts.
Seeing + Doing
Chicago River Architecture Tours – This is touristy, but also the best touristy activity in Chicago. A number of companies run tours on the River, offering a unique way of seeing the city and its diverse architectural styles. Recommend the one by Chicago Architecture Foundation – informative docents.
Chicago Mahogany Tours – TikTok famous historian Dilla offers tours that emphasize the rich legacy of south side Chicago neighborhoods like Bronzeville, Englewood, and Pullman. Fun fact, he is also a collaborator of keynote speaker Tonika Johnson in projects to disrupt segregation through community engagement.
Museum of Post Punk and Industrial Music – Founded by Martin Atkins who drummed for Public Image Ltd., Nine Inch Nails, Killing Joke, Pigface, etc.), the Bridgeport museum houses a treasure trove of post-punk and industrial memorabilia and ephemera. Visits are by appointment only, so get a party together and reach out.
entre horizontes: Art and Activism Between Chicago and Puerto Rico at the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) examines the artistic genealogies and social justice movements that connect Puerto Rico with Chicago. Also check out Rebecca Morris, a 21-year survey of the artist’s experiments in abstraction. And enjoy the rest of this amazing building and collection, hang out on the museum’s patio, and have a meal or a cocktail at delicious restaurant Marisol!
National Museum of Mexican Art – Día de Muertos, Living Presence Exhibit – Annual exhibit of art and altars around the Day of the Dead never fails to be striking.
Garfield Park Conservatory – One of the largest and most stunning botanical conservatories in the US. Often serves as a respite during Chicago’s winters! Tickets are free (donation suggested) but you need reservation and weekend slots often fill up, so make it ahead of time.
The lakefront – all of Chicago’s lakefront is public. On the north side, check out Montrose Beach Bird Sanctuary, and on the south side, Promontory Point designed by Alfred Caldwell. Each offers amazing views of Chicago.
The Neofuturists – If you want some late night theater on Friday or Saturday, look no further than The Infinite Wrench (fka Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind). The nearly 25-year-old company put on a show that is not only enduring, but is a master class in experience design – from the non-linear, ever-changing format to the ritual name change that each audience member goes through to ensure that you know the theater is a sacred space.
The Paper Machete at the Green Mill – If you are in town on Saturday afternoon, this free weekly “salon in a Chicago saloon” will have you covered for both Chicago’s “live lit” scene and “places where Capone hung out”
Eating + Drinking
We really like to eat. This list is neither definitive, nor exhaustive, but we’d definitely go out with you to any of these places.
Gaijin – Excellent okonomiyaki spot. They’ll even make it gluten-free! (West Loop)
Mexican Food in Pilsen – Chicago will go toe-to-toe with any city in the US when it comes to Mexican food. Pilsen and Little Village (a 10-minute ride from the Institute of Design) is the center of this goodness.
Lula Cafe – Mediterranean meets Midwest at one of the farm-to-table pioneers in Chicago since 1999, located in Logan Square.
Maria’s Packaged Goods and Kimski, a family owned liquor store, neighborhood tavern, and a more recently added Polish – Korean fusion counter restaurant in Bridgeport. Really nice atmosphere, drinks, and food!
Smartbar – Historic club in the basement of the metro. Open Thursday through Sunday.
Podlasie Club – owned by the same family since 1986, Polish community bar turned into DJ and dance club.
Metropolitan Brewing – While Chicago has its fair share of breweries, none is in a better spot than Metropolitan, overlooking a bend in the Chicago River. If you need a bite while you’re there, head across the street to Thattu for a taste of Kerala.
Chicago is a city of neighborhoods. Don’t limit yourself, but these might be a few to consider:
Bronzeville – Home of our host institution IIT and the Institute of Design, Bronzeville is also a historic and present-day center of African-American life and culture in Chicago.
West Loop – No neighborhood in the city has undergone a more radical transformation in the last decade than this one. Just walk around and drool at all the hip places to eat, immerse in some Yayoi Kusama at the WNDR Museum, and get your pinball on at Emporium.
Pilsen – A hub of Chicago’s deep Mexican roots and a burgeoning art scene. See above about the Day of the Dead Exhibit.
Hyde Park – Home to the University of Chicago, the Smart Museum, and the other, but original Powell’s (yes, they are related). Plus, the DuSable Museum, the nation’s oldest independent African-American museum, is next door in Washington Park.
Andersonville – Swedish roots, antique stores, a large LGBTQIA+ community, and a bakery that makes preposterously delicious gluten-free ding-dongs? It’s at least one co-chair’s favorite place to stroll.