Lincoln Park Zoo is a wild scene


Lincoln Park Zoo is free and is open 365 days a year. That is something few zoos of its  size and splendor can boast. There’s nothing else like a hot summer day at the zoo with the sun shining brightly. And there’s nothing else in the world like the aroma of zoo popcorn in the air and the laughter of children eating cotton candy.

Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago is a keenly unique zoo experience. There you are inYES-Tiger sprawling  Lincoln Park, wedged between the elegant condos along the Inner Drive and high-speed Lake Shore Drive along the deep sparkling blue Lake Michigan on the other side.

Surrounding the zoo are other fascinating mini-escapes from the city: the Lincoln Park Conservatory, a lily pad pond hideaway, a butterfly museum, gardens and lagoons and grassy knolls as well as numerous statues of famous people by famed artists. And a real sight to behold to the south is the mighty and breath-taking Chicago skyline.

The zoo itself and all of the surrounding area is a nice place to visit, even stay awhile, in any season. But this is no ordinary zoo. Year-round, the zoo hosts all sorts of activities. There’s plenty to do at the zoo, from tours to workshops to yoga (not just for adults — there’s also a parents/toddlers class) to sing alongs at the farm in the children’s zoo.

Yes-gorillaHere are some of the special events happening at Lincoln Park Zoo throughout this summer season:

Wine & Wildlife (a “wilderness story slam”)
Tuesday, August 22
6-8 p.m. at Café Brauer
Register here ($17; $14 for members)

WTTW The Big Idea Show (for kids/families)
Thursday, August 24
10:30-11:30 a.m. at Foreman Pavilion

Lincoln Park Zoo Challenge (adults: costumes and games; prizes awarded; food andYes-Giraffe margaritas available)
Friday, August 25
6:30-10:30 p.m.
Register here ($25; $22.50 members)
NOTE: Wear a costume; come as a team of two to five, or contact them in advance to be added to a team.

Night at the Zoo (adults 21+ only, particularly popular with folks in their 20’s and 30’s)
Saturday, September 9
6:30-11 p.m.
Buy tickets here (Early bird tickets now being sold for $17.40)

YES-RhinoZoomba at the Zoo
Sunday, September 17
9-11 a.m. at the Main Mall
Register here ($20; $17 for members)

Why hesitate: Make plans now to enjoy the Lincoln Park Zoo! Any time of the year, Lincoln Park Zoo is a beautiful place for animals and people in the middle of a beautiful city.

YES-large-Childrens Zoo

What’s happening at Chicago beaches, parks and other summer events

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Chicago boasts terrific beaches from the south side to the north side and beyond along Lake Michigan and even inland. This link gives an alphabetical list of them all including directions and information. Hyperlinks to each beach are included on this website so you can see pictures and learn more about each beach, including current water conditions; at times, the water may be too tumultuous for swimming or the water quality may not be safe; these things are vital to know before going to the beach if you’re planning to be in the water. Lifeguards are available at these beaches from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. You can still swim off-season, at your own risk.

Some beaches have bands and special events all season. North Avenue Beach has volleyball tournaments and other games plus Castaways, a fun restaurant/bar in a structure that looks like a beached ship where a predominantly young, sporty crowd gathers to play. Beware: The tropical-style drinks are delicious but deceptively strong. There are DJs spinning music through Labor Day (September 4).

North Avenue Beach is also where the Chicago Air and Water Show happens, which is coming right up August 19 and 20, although you can see — and you will definitely hear — the planes from many other locations in the city, including the day before when they are practicing. If you can’t get to the lakefront that weekend – or perhaps you want to avoid the crowds – try to find a rooftop or high window view overlooking the lakefront from where you can watch the show.

The Dock at Montrose Beach (not the actual Montrose boat dock but a restaurant/bar) features live music on stage in the summer. This is a pleasant place to enjoy live music with good food and drinks as the sun sets and is low-key compared to Castaways at hyper-popular North Avenue Beach. 2Small-12th St

Also worth mentioning: Adjacent to 12th Street Beach is Huntington Bank Pavilion, hosting big name artists all season. Outside the pavilion, in the park and on the beach, is like a party where people come to enjoy the lakefront, hang out and listen to the music. Sometimes officials close the beach during these concerts, but there’s plenty of room to spread out in the park. 12th Street Beach has a good taco place that has expanded into a sit-down restaurant with live music at times.

In case you missed it this year (it was in mid-July), be sure to be a part of this charitable beach event next year: Paws Chicago Beach Party. This is a very good cause: To help homeless animals. Your pets are welcome at this event! There is no reason any animal should ever be put down just because they find themselves homeless. Let’s become a humane civilization! Plan on this event next year, and in the meantime, you can donate the this important cause here.

Choose your beach to fit your taste – or try them all! While some of Chicago’s beaches (Oak Street Beach, North Avenue Beach) are almost like pick-up spots for the tanned and toned, others are more family-oriented, like Grand Avenue Beach (almost secretly tucked away nearby Navy Pier) and 12th Street Beach. Some are small, some are crowded. Montrose Beach is huge and sprawling where you can really spread out and not feel hemmed in.

Back in the day, Meigs Field was adjacent to 12th Street Beach, a small airport for private planes that was shut down after 9/11. It used to be kind of a thrill to watch planes fly in and out while laying on the beach. But now, 12th Street Beach is quite peaceful, except during concerts at Huntington Bank Pavilion, and a good spot to find sea glass.

A good day can be had bicycling to 12th Street Beach; a great route for this is via the lakefront along the backside of the Shedd Aquarium — and while you’re in the area, cycling down at Burnham Harbor (where you can fish – be aware of the rules and that you’ll need an Illinois fishing license, about $5 – $15 for a day; get it here) and around Northerly Island, a beautiful nature preserve from which you can also enjoy the Chicago skyline.

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Northerly Island, just one of Chicago’s many parks, also features special events, even camping. See other Chicago Park District events at several locations throughout the city here.

Paid Events

Worth mentioning are a couple of not-to-be-missed pay venues for your summer entertainment:

Through September 13, Wednesday evenings – Take in some jazz along with a stupendous view of the skyline at Shedd Aquarium’s Jazzin’ at the Shedd. It’s $20 for tickets, unless you’re a Shedd member in which case entry is free. For $60 ($46 for members), you can upgrade to Jazzin’s happy hour which includes open bar plus hors d’oeuvres and allows access to the Aquarium, including the hottest new exhibits.

Through September 17 – Take a trip outside the city to experience Ravinia Park, the classic, original, one and only Ravinia, an especially magical venue for concerts. They host famous musicians from classical (accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) to almost every type of music including famous modern bands.

You can sit in the pavilion — but what’s really popular is to stretch out on the lawn. Ticket prices vary per show; season passes are available. Pack your most elegant picnic-ware, including candles, vases with flowers and tablecloths: Ravinia is a one-of-a-kind setting where folks go all-out classy.

Heads up: For more popular performers, be sure to get there early (before doors to the park open) to claim a piece of land and get parking closer in. Be prepared, during super popular concerts to wait in long lines of traffic – from every direction – to get into the Ravinia parking lot (which costs $25). Sometimes the lots fill up, in which case parking is available at a nearby train station. Parking there yields a charming walk through the woods to Ravinia – but if weighted down with chairs and tables and coolers, the walk may seem arduous, especially at the end of the night in the darkness, although with the memories you’ll take away from Ravinia, it will be worth it.


You need never have a dull time in the city of Chicago if you know where to go. Nor do you need much money to enjoy Chicago in any season, especially summer! Follow my blog and I’ll keep you informed, with helpful insider tips only a savvy Chicagoan would know.

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August is here; live it up!


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This year, Chicago is enjoying a near perfect summer: Not too hot, not too humid, not much rain – mainly temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s and mostly sunny days! And now it’s August, the most summery time of the year. Chicago is the perfect place to be during summer. If you don’t live in Chicagoland, visit us soon!

Native Chicagoans know summer is a short season. So if you’re a resident, every weekend of your calendar, and even some week nights or days off for a staycation, could be jam-packed with activities to make the most of it!

Get out there and socialize and get your exercise walking around, bicycling, dancing. Now is that rare time of year Northerners can actually absorb enough Vitamin D from sunshine. All this while gleaning the most out of life. Nighttime in Chicago is just as alive as daytime. There’s nothing like a perfect summer night when you can comfortably wear your sleeveless shirts outdoors all night until dawn.

Here is a list of FREE events and activities, most involving live music, food and drink. This will keep you busy for the rest of summer:

Through mid-August – The Grant Park Music Festival (classical) takes place in Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion (through August 18) which also hosts the Millennium Park Summer Music Series (through August 21). This is like downtown Chicago’s answer to fancy Ravinia picnics for city folk; bring your food and drinks and relax on the lawn or grab the seats up front, while available.

Through September 4 – Navy Pier’s Miller Lite Beer Garden: Free live music with available food and drink (don’t bring your own alcoholic beverages; the police patrol Navy Pier heavily, and your drinks will be confiscated, along with your cooler). Fireworks happen every Wednesday and Saturday night. There are also free exercise classes, performances, special rotating exhibits, carnival rides and lots of beauty and good food to be enjoyed at the Pier. It’s Chicago’s #1 tourist destination. Join the crowd, at any time of year, to find out what the excitement is all about.

Through September 14, Wednesday through Sunday – If the idea of dancing under the stars to unique live music appeals to you, SummerDance is the place for you! It happens mainly at the Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park but also at other locations throughout the city. Music from all over the world is featured, including dance lessons. Food and beverages (including alcohol) are available as well as chairs (but come early for those). If you haven’t been to SummerDance yet, make this summer the one!

Through September 26, Tuesday evenings – The Museum of Contemporary Art features Tuesdays on the Terrace with free live jazz shows plus museum admittance. Food and drink are available, but I recommend you bring your own. The lines are long for drinks and snacks which are pricey. The MCA also has farmers markets during the summer and fascinating productions year-round.

Through October 26 – Don’t miss Movies in the Parks; there are many movies happening throughout the city all summer and into autumn. While you’re at it, check out the schedule for varied, fascinating events produced by the City of Chicago at Night out in the Parks which take place throughout the year.

There are also many smaller festivals sprinkled throughout Chicago neighborhoods, far too numerous to mention here, but here’s a link to find them all and be where the action is.

Stand by for my next post about what’s happening at Chicago beaches, including the Chicago Air and Water Show. To stay up-to-the minute, subscribe to my blog so you won’t miss any of the fun!

Check out the links I’ve included above, making it easy to plan your calendar; and come autumn, instead of regretting that you didn’t make the most of summertime, you can look back with wonderful memories at the summer of ‘17.

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Lollapalooza Chicago – No excuses: Be there!

Lollapalooza hits Chicago this week. Don’t miss it! Here’s a list of excuses you’re not allowed to use in order to miss out on Lollapalooza:

  • You’re clearly not 20-something anymore and perhaps there’s no hiding it short of aesthetic procedures…But you really love music, especially live, and no matter what your age, that is never going to change! Age is irrelevant: You deserve this!
  • Maybe you cannot afford the pricey tickets; after all, not everyone can justify the expense. If it comes to a choice between keeping a roof over your head or spending the weekend at an unforgettable rock concert…Well, it’s a tough choice.
  • Perhaps you don’t relish crowds or being fenced in, the long lines waiting for something to drink, something to eat, or to relieve yourself. Keep reading for an alternate idea.
  • All the general admission tickets are already sold out…Well, obviously, there are ways to get tickets if you seriously intend to, sold out or not.
Lollapalooza Gate

Lollapalooza is an experience of a lifetime, and if you’ve a mind to attend, I hope you will. When a gal pal called me a few years back while groovin’ to Snoop Dogg’s performance up close and personal at Lollapalooza, I endured huge pangs of envy overhearing Snoop and his exuberant audience over the phone.

And when I opted to miss Golgol Bordello at Lollapalooza — my excuse was that it was during work hours — I regretted it ever since, especially after reading the reviews and seeing the pictures. I repeat: Do not chance missing Lollapalooza; eating your heart out forever after is no fun.

Many of the bands live stream their shows on YouTube. So one option that’s better than nothing is armchair Lollapalooza. We chose this option when Foo Fighters played in the pouring rain in 2011. Perhaps you could throw your own Lollapalooza house party while streaming Lollapalooza.

But better yet: If you live in the Chicago area, I encourage you to come on down and make the scene! We do this every year; We call it “poor man’s Lollapalooza,” however politically incorrect that may sound. If you live downtown, you’ve got no excuse not to try this. You will discover the outer circle is full of fun-loving revelers. You’re not smashed together with the crowd in front of the stage, but you can still hear the music just as well — maybe better, and certainly differently — and see the light shows and the musicians on the big screen or on stage (bring binoculars).

Memorable Highlights

  • When long-time heart-throb Billy Idol came to Lollapalooza in 2005 — the summer Lollapalooza came to Chicago and made its home here — a gal pal and I took blankets and a picnic over to Lake Shore Drive for the concert. It was surreal with the traffic whizzing by, and we felt a bit conspicuous — but we were not alone: Lots of folks were doing it.
  • Rage Against the Machine was here in 2008, and my husband and I walked over from our downtown abode. As we approached, we could hear the concert just starting as it echoed eerily off the buildings. It sounded surreal, even psychedelic. As we walked through the peaceful park, Zack de la Rocha’s voice cut through the crickets and cicadas with clarity. Walking behind the stage, we discovered that is the best place to hang out if you favor the bass! It reverberated through our bodies and made me feel more exited than a kid on parade day when the drummers march by. We wound our way over to Lake Shore Drive where we found we could see them on the big screen, not to mention the music was clear as it floated out over the lovely lakefront, especially those insane guitar leads and the drums beating out a rhythm that was nothing less than empowering.
  • Walking back from Lollapalooza with thousands of music fans is a high-energy rush. Once while walking home from Lollapalooza, the crowds behind us started vocalizing. The sound was like a wave that caught on and caught up to us and we joined in as the wave of sound continued ahead of us: An unforgettable experience!

Have the best experience possible

  • Lollapalooza is heavily-guarded. Don’t try to penetrate or scale the fences. Plenty of people have been hurt/arrested doing this. It’s not peace-and-love Woodstock. Security guards are right there waiting in the cover of darkness and bushes to take you down.
  • To do a Lollapalooza walk-around will require plenty of walking: The whole area will be fenced off from Monroe to Roosevelt Road and parts of Michigan Avenue to Lake Shore Drive. But look at it this way: What could be better than to be out walking on a summer night in beautiful downtown Chicago. Oh the sights you’ll see, the music you’ll hear, the party people you’ll hang out with in the park and along the lakefront!

    Perry’s Stage
  • Do your homework: See the schedule and map to find out what time and on what stage your favorite artist(s) will perform. Stay on the Michigan Avenue side, in Grant Park overlooking the train tracks, to best check out Perry’s Stage. Get over to Lake Shore Drive to experience the Grant Park Stage.
  • SummerDance is happening just adjacent to Lollapalooza on Michigan Avenue and Balbo. You can enjoy live free music there without any of the hassle.

You still have time to plan on Lollapalooza this year. There are so many great performers; here are some really popular ones (including links to their YouTube channels):

Thursday, August 3: Lorde, Porter Robinson, MUSE

Friday, August 4: Blink-182, DJ Snake, The Killers

Saturday, August 5: The xx, KASKADE, CHANCE THE RAPPER

Sunday, August 6: Justice, Zeds Dead, Arcade Fire

Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky insiders — or maybe we’ll meet you on the fringe. Either way, it’s all good at Lollapalooza.

Experience summer in Chicago

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Are you afraid to come to Chicago? Chicago has gotten a lot of bad press lately that makes headlines around the world and makes Chicago sound really terrifying. Yes, it’s a big city and big cities can be intimidating. Yes, there are gangs and they have guns — but it’s extremely rare they would be in the tourist districts. (What happened this past weekend, when it was very hot and crime rates shot up in the city was unprecedented; and since then, the Chicago Police Department and security operations have really beefed up security!)

Chicago is actually nowhere near as dangerous as several smaller U.S. cities. It may surprise you (it surprised me) to learn St. Louis is the murder capital of the country and has held that distinction for years.

No doubt many potential visitors shy away from Chicago and thus miss out on so much. Yet Chicago should be on everyone’s to-do list, especially in the summer. Don’t worry: When violence goes up, the Chicago Police force gets beefed up. Downtown and especially touristy areas, like along the Mag Mile and in the parks, cops are everywhere: Patrolling the streets on foot, in their vehicles and even on horseback.

Downtown Chicago and its adjacent neighborhoods have loads to offer, literally something for everyone! Here is just a snapshot of what’s on offer:

The Chicago Loop (right downtown): Fancy hotels, restaurants and bars; popular theater productions; State Street shopping; Willis Tower; walking and bus tours; famous landmarks.

Grant Park: Taste of Chicago, SummerDance, Lollapalooza, beautiful parks bursting with lovely gardens and enchanting fountains including of course the spectacular Buckingham Fountain.

Millennium Park: Free concerts (including Chicago Blues Festival and Chicago Jazz Festival), shows, events and movies under the stars almost every night; the eye-catching Cloud Gate; fountains in which one can play (very popular especially with children); unusual gardens; food and drink including a beer garden.

Michigan Avenue/the “Mag Mile”: The Art Institute of Chicago, shopping galore (everything from high-end designer to Chicago sports team tee-shirts), The John Hancock Center, movie theaters, art galleries, eclectic restaurants.

Lake Michigan’s lakefront: Maggie Daley Park (fun for the whole family), beautiful beaches, scenic harbors, boat rides, bike rentals, segway lessons, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, The Field Museum, Museum of Science & Industry, Huntington Bank Pavilion, Northerly Island, lakefront festivities including the Chicago Air and Water Show, dining, cocktails, the incomparable Chicago skyline.

Navy Pier: Shops, sights, live music, 3-D movies, theater, carnival rides, interactive art installations, yoga and fitness classes, dinner and sightseeing cruises, regular fireworks displays.

Chicago River: Lush hotels, architectural boat tours, kayaking, water taxis all the way to Chinatown, the Chicago Riverwalk lined with charming restaurants, bars, live entertainment and breath-taking architecture.

All of the above is merely in the central area! Working one’s way out from downtown, one could spend a lifetime exploring all that Chicago has on offer, including many neighborhood festivals in the outskirts of Chicago and as far away as the remote suburbs. There truly is no place like Chicago in the summertime! And summer is coming up fast. Warm – even hot – weather is already here. It’s time to make plans to visit Chicago!

Want to learn more about how you can have fun in Chicago, enjoy outstanding restaurants, great entertainment and exciting events? Get email alerts when I post something new: Follow my blog.

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Red Nose Day in the USA

20170503_171353Red Nose Day is back! It first came to America in 2015. Riding public transportation to work in Chicago, passengers saw billboards mentioning Red Nose Day with a picture of someone wearing a red clown nose. I remember thinking it was a joke or possibly a movie poster. Then I discovered, at Walgreens of all places, that Red Nose Day was in fact a day denoting a serious charitable cause — while sporting a red nose, if you please — to help raise money for homeless and hungry children here and abroad, champion human rights and provide disaster relief.

Red Nose Day has been going on for decades (since 1988) in the UK, starting  as a TV fundraiser on the BBC, and has been huge ever since. Leave it to the UK, home of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and countless other hilarious shows born of British humor, to come up with “a good laugh for a good cause” and “do something funny for money.” The orchestrator of Red Nose Day is the charitable organization Comic Relief which has an incredible, lengthy history of helping the helpless.

Mark your calendars! Red Nose Day in the USA falls this year on Thursday, May 25, at which time NBC will host a special TV event. In the meantime, you can make a donation; it’s super easy online.

If you’ve been to Walgreens lately, you can’t miss it. At the registers, customers are invited to purchase a red nose. You may be thinking: “Who would wear a red clown nose for a day? It’s not going to be me!” But hold onto your hats; celebrities have been doing it for decades. If you still couldn’t see yourself doing that – I imagine most people would feel really silly commuting and showing up in class or at the board meeting in a red clown nose – there are alternative ways to show your support. A less conspicuous option is to take a selfie in a red nose and post it online like many are doing. Walgreens also sells Red Nose Day pens, wristbands and buttons.

Red Nose DayRed Nose Day is everywhere including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; and this will intensify over the next couple of weeks. Check out all the creative ideas on Pinterest. I see Red Nose Day as something that will continue to grow and grow – like Pinocchio’s nose – throughout the years.

If you’re bold, wear your red nose proudly on May 25 — and catch the NBC special. Let’s have some silly fun while doing some good in this world!

Rock out with THUMBKNUCKLE

THUMBKNUCKLE — mixing rock, blues, funk, country and its own genre-defying originals — made its debut on the Chicago music scene in April of 2011 at Lilly’s. THUMBKNUCKLE was born of a handful of musicians who had played together in other bands over the years and were ready to start fresh spreading good times and good music around Chicagoland: Toe-tapping, finger-snapping, head-bopping, danceable music.

Band members (in alphabetical order) are:THUMBKNUCKLE logo
Tim Alesi: drums, backup vocals
Dean Bolz: bass, backup vocals
Paul Stephani: lead guitar
Mark Stumpf: keyboards, lead vocals
Dennis Voges: drums, lead vocals

Tim “T Bone’s on the skins!” started playing drums when he was only 10 and was already performing in clubs by age 15. He’s been in more than one local band, most notably The Bad Boys. Tim cites the rock music of the 60’s and 70’s as his inspiration.

Dean “the Machine” who has been playing the bass for decades says he didn’t originally know what a bass was. He was at a party where some musicians were playing but they were missing a bass player. Dean volunteered and someone handed him a bass and showed him the ropes. Since then he’s played bass in many local area bands throughout the years such as Pump-N Ethel, Eddie and the Pizzalas, The Bootleggers and Soulified to name just a few.

Paulie a/k/a the “Blue Dragon” has been in several bands over the past 25 years. He says, “I love making sounds with my guitar,” and those of us lucky enough to have heard him know exactly what he’s talking about; he’s a phenomenal guitarist who can play any genre of music.

Mark a/k/a/ “88” got familiar with the family piano as he grew up and started jamming with his Indiana friends, The Shelby Brothers. In Chicago’s Old Town, he was a member of the house band Fish and the Blue Fins at John Beluschi’s U.S. Blues for five years. Since then, Mark has been a part of several bands including the LaSalle Band and Tango Ridge.

Dennis “Denny Deluxe” is from small town Indiana where he encountered his first drum set around age 10; he got a strong feeling about the drums at that time, but shrugged it off. Many years later, he felt the irresistible urge to finally give in and buy some drums. Subsequently he discovered, at a Baptist church, that he could also sing. Throughout the years, he’s been in many bands and is a regular at open mic sessions all over Chicagoland.

These guys’ lives have intertwined since they were young. Tim was only 13 when he met teenage Dean, already a musician. They played together in a band called Blucifer. Dean and Mark were both in the Bob Goode Blues Band. Dean, Paulie and Mark were also together in Best Kept Secret and Well Hung Jury. And everyone has played with Denny here and there. So this is much like a band of brothers.

Where can you catch THUMBKNUCKLE in action? At Smilin’ Jim’s Saloon where they kick off and host an open mic jam the first Friday night of each month. Mark your calendars: The next one is coming right up Friday, May 5. Musicians are welcome along with music lovers. This is a rockin’ good time guaranteed to start your weekend off on a high note. THUMBKNUCKLE also has an upcoming show June 17 at At Work Sports Bar.

Make it a point to catch THUMBKNUCKLE in person. THUMBKNUCKLE seriously rocks!