CHICAGO GOSPEL MUSIC FESTIVAL FEST: CHICAGO GOSPEL MUSIC FESTIVAL DATE: June 2–3 WHERE: Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park SCENE: This free, family-friendly fest (with events taking place indoors at the Chicago Cultural Center and outdoors in Millennium Park) allows the depth of the gospel genre to fully unfurl with rousing solo, duo and choral performances in both traditional and contemporary styles. MUSTS: Start your Sunday with praise! The Gospel Brunch at House of Blues showcases national acts with a foot-stomping, hand-waving production; Polo Café is a more intimate, if no less passionate, environment. EATS: Feed body and soul alike at Pearl’s Place in Bronzeville, serving down-home Southern cuisine for 30+ years. Chicago’s Home of Chicken & Waffles is THE place to try this quintessential soul food pairing, among other delicious dishes. CINDY'S DRINKS: Decompress in cozy underground elegance at The Library (a Sodikoff venture) or head for the heavens at Cindy’s — the rooftop jewel in the hotel’s crown. DIGS: Immerse yourself in Chicago’s architectural history at The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, the celebrated 1890s men’s club that’s been reimagined as one of the city’s most lauded hotels. CHICAGO BLUES FESTIVAL FEST: CHICAGO BLUES FESTIVAL DATE: June 9–11 WHERE: Millennium Park SCENE: Hundreds of thousands of people descend upon Chicago for this annual gathering celebrating the beloved blues genre, which came to Chicago during the Great Migration. Concerts throughout the three-day festival, which is the city’s largest, are free. MUSTS: No blues pilgrimage is complete without a visit to Chicago’s blues clubs — including Kingston Mines (gritty and authentic), Rosa’s Lounge (warm and welcoming) and Buddy Guy’s Legends (just plain mandatory). SEVEN LIONS EATS: For excellent fare any time of day in casual elegance, hit Seven Lions; for a quick bite that will keep you groovin’ for hours, head to the incomparable Al’s Italian Beef. DRINKS: River Roast has an impressive selection of artisan cocktails and craft beers, as well as a Blues Brunch every weekend. Remington’s superlative starters and exhaustive wine list makes for perfect pre-show pairings. DIGS: A central downtown location makes the Silversmith Hotel Chicago Downtown a convenient choice for blues-festers — but its cosmopolitan pewter palette and top-tier amenities make it a blue suede shoe-in. COUNTRY LAKESHAKE FEST: COUNTRY LAKESHAKE DATE: June 23-25 WHERE: Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island SCENE: Gearing up for its third year, this relative newbie nonetheless attracts top country talent — national acts like Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw and Lady Antebellum were all part of the lineup last year. The 2017 lineup will offer 30+ bands on two stages, with the city skyline as its beautiful backdrop. MUSTS: Nothing says “summer in the city” like a day at 12th Street Beach. For a quintessential slice of summer in Chicago, head over to the world-famous Navy Pier for a ride on the Centennial Wheel and a scoop from Original Rainbow Cone in the balmy lakefront breeze. EATS: From traditional ribs to mouth-watering options like Pulled Pork Nachos, Barn & Company’s Texas-style BBQ is the perfect complement to a weekend of twanging guitar. Likewise for Devil Dawgs, which takes the Chicago Dog up another notch (or two). DRINKS: After the shows, head over to Wicker Park’s Big Star for bourbon, beer and tacos in a lively hipster-meetshonky- tonk atmosphere. For a little hair of the dog, catch the Southern Brunch and Bloody Mary Bar at Bub City. DIGS: The comfortable Best Western Grant Park will put you within walking distance of many key Chicago attractions, including Museum Campus. SHOP: You wouldn’t sign up for a weekend-long music fest in brand-new kickers, would you? Hit Wicker Park shop US #1 for the ultimate country music accessory: perfectly broken-in vintage cowboy boots you’ll wear forever. FKA TWIGS AT PITCHFORK MUSIC FESTIVAL CHOSEN FEW DJS MUSIC FESTIVAL FEST: CHOSEN FEW DJS MUSIC FESTIVAL DATE: July 1-2 WHERE: Jackson Park SCENE: The so-called “Woodstock of House Music” has been transforming Jackson Park into an enormous dance party since 1990, with an estimated 40,000 people on hand for the annual get-down. Renowned Djs Wayne Williams, Jesse Saunders, Tony Hatchett and friends rock the park with high-vibe grooves. MUSTS: Extend the party into the wee hours at Smart Bar, Chicago’s premier house-focused dance club. DJ-driven Primary is rumored to have the city’s best sound in its intimate underground digs. EATS: Fuel your groove with a hearty breakfast at Valois, urban Southern grub at PorkChop or casual, filling American fare at Miss Ricky’s, conveniently located within your hotel (see below). DRINKS: Keep the music pumpin’ with Lycheetinis at Chant, which showcases house Djs on Saturdays. Or trade beats for bleeps at Emporium Arcade Bar, where you can enjoy your whiskey with vintage arcade games like Asteroids, Donkey Kong and Dig Dug. DIGS: You’ll find downtown’s coolest accommodations at Virgin Hotels Chicago — voted “Best Hotel in the U.S.” by Condé Nast Traveler readers. SHOP: Chicago couldn’t maintain its thriving house scene without a vibrant vinyl culture; swing by Starke Records and Hyde Park Records to flip through the stacks for rare imports and vintage finds. FEST: PITCHFORK MUSIC FESTIVAL DATE: July 14-16 WHERE: Union Park SCENE: After dedicating a dozen years to promoting emerging artists, Pitchfork is THE place to witness the birth of a band. More than 40 acts perform over the three-day fest, with established acts like Sufjan Stevens and Miguel anchoring a slew of talented up-and-comers. MUSTS: Nearby Goose Island Brewing Company not only has an incredible selection of house-brewed hops (hello, Honey Chamomile Lager), but also offers smallgroup tours of their Fulton Street facility for just $12. EATS: A solid, meatforward menu and a bustling patio make Kaiser Tiger one of the city’s most popular summer eateries. Cool, clubby Au Cheval elevates comfort food with posh preparations and artisan sips, as well as a reliable late-night menu. DRINKS: The no-frills Bottom Lounge pairs beer and wine with above-average bar fare and live music; Beer Bistro has a full spirits bar rounded out with an ambitious craft brew selection. DIGS: The historic Allegro Chicago, a Kimpton Hotel delivers classic Art Deco charm with a convenient downtown location; ACME Hotel Company Chicago offers cozy rooms with cool, #instaworthy design. Both are near Green Line 'L' stops, which will get you to the festival with ease. LOLLAPALOOZA FEST: LOLLAPALOOZA DATE: August 3–6 WHERE: Grant Park SCENE: A well-curated collection of emerging and established acts keeps the Lollapalooza vibe intense and interesting. In recent years, the fest has welcomed a second generation of music lovers with a top-notch enclosed Kidzapalooza area. MUSTS: Pair world-class music with world-famous works of art at the Art Institute of Chicago. If you’re tight on time, the museum offers self-guided Highlights Tours to make sure you lay eyes on all the heavy hitters. If you’d rather enjoy the summer sun, carve out some time to enjoy the public art that’s all around you — including Grant Park’s Agora and Millennium Park’s Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate (aka “The Bean”). EATS: Thanks to local celebrity chef Graham Elliot, you need not leave the Lollapalooza “campus” for great grub; his Chow Town is festival food at its finest. If you do venture outside the fest, hit the Billy Goat Tavern — origin of the recently lifted Cubbies curse — or dig into the massive portions at Eleven City Diner. DRINKS: Hit Villain’s Black Market Craft for 40 on-tap microbrews, or Broken English Taco Pub for colorful, sugarand- salt-rimmed cocktails. DIGS: While shared accommodations are indeed on offer, Freehand Chicago isn’t your typical hostel — well-appointed rooms, award-winning food and beverage options, and access to local tour guides set it WAY apart. If you’re all about the after-party, staying at Hard Rock Hotel Chicago will put you in the heart of the action. SHOP: A visit to Wicker Park’s Kokorokoko may or may not get you a vintage tee from the very first Lollapalooza in 1991, but it’s certain to score you vintage souvenirs worth writing home about. FEST: CHICAGO JAZZ FESTIVAL DATE: August 31– September 3 WHERE: Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park SCENE: As a key destination for the Great Migration that began 101 years ago, Chicago has long been steeped in jazz tradition. The free Chicago Jazz Festival, held annually over Labor Day Weekend, is one of the country’s biggest and most respected celebrations of the genre. MUSTS: Take your appreciation on the road with Chicago Detours' Jazz, Blues and Beyond Bus Tour, which provides a fascinating overview of the city’s most prominent musical landmarks. Aficionados should also book a show at Jazz Showcase, an intimate 170-seat venue showcasing the best live jazz in the country. CITY WINERY EATS: City Winery offers creative Mediterranean cuisine with thoughtful wine pairings, PLUS live music; check the calendar to see who’s playing during the fest. Advance tickets are recommended. DRINKS: Add some sparkle to your evening at Pops for Champagne, where bubbly is served alongside live jazz on Sundays. A central Loop location and a wellstocked wine bar make Tesori a great choice, too. DIGS: Stay at The Alise Chicago, a Staypineapple Hotel, that's located in the Reliance Building, a National Historic Landmark designed by renowned Chicago architect Daniel Burnahm. NORTH COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL FEST: NORTH COAST MUSIC FESTIVAL DATE: September 1–3 WHERE: Union Park SCENE: Rightly billed as “Summer’s Last Stand,” this blend of hip-hop, jam and EDM artists is inarguably the most diverse of Chicago’s music festival offerings: a spirited mash-up of multiple genres and cultures. MUSTS: Nearby Ukrainian Village is a great place to immerse oneself in local color — tour the Louis Sullivandesigned Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral, visit the Ukrainian National Museum, check out historic workers’ cottages from the 1880s and shop for souvenirs at countless independent boutiques. Then fuel up with traditional baked treats at Shokolad Pastry & Café. EATS: Ukrainian Village is also chock-full of dining delights, and the time is right for alfresco dining. Sample perfectly prepared small plates on the bustling patio at Small Bar, or enjoy farm-to-table eats on the rooftop terrace at Homestead. DIGS: Sleek minimalist design, affordable rates and “Social Stay” (hostel lodging) options have made The Hollander an instant favorite with budget-conscious travelers. FITZ AND THE TANTRUMS AT RIOT FEST & CARNIVAL FEST: RIOT FEST & CARNIVAL DATE: September 15-17 WHERE: Douglas Park SCENE: The country’s premier mixed-music fest — genres include punk, rock, alternative, hip-hop and a host of crossover acts — has grown up over its 12-year history. But it’s still a punk at heart, with an always-intense blend of new and established indies. MUSTS: Keep Chicago indie by forgoing formal tours; a self-guided lakefront Divvy bike tour is always a great option, and if you plan things right you can reward yourself with a quick dip in the lake. EATS: Kuma’s Corner is dedicated to two not-so-Strange bedfellows — meat and metal — so it’s a great place to bang your head while enjoying a burger. If you want a quick bite without waiting in line, the tacos at La Chapparita are as fresh as they are filling. DRINKS: Chicago’s resident metalheads can be found enjoying the double-whammy of All Rise (brewery) and Cobra Lounge (rock club). Lagunitas Brewing Company also offers tours of their taproom if you’re interested in a deeper dive. DIGS: Chicago Getaway Hostel provides elevated shared accommodations, as well as utilitarian private rooms. Unlike most hostels, they do provide towels, sheets, pillows and blankets. SHOP: Gear up for the shows at Belmont Army, which stocks a full five floors of affordable independent clothing brands, including a great selection of leather. Or go straight to the source at either of the two Official Dr. Martens stores in Chicago — nothing says “punk” like a pair of the iconic laceup boots. SPRING AWAKENING MUSIC FESTIVAL FEST: SPRING AWAKENING DATE: June 9-11 WHERE: Addams/ Medill Park SCENE: Born in 2012, this 18+ electronic music fest is relatively young, by Chicago standards. But with last year’s lineup including international acts like Steve Aoki, Kaskade and Deadmau5 — with mesmerizing visual displays to match — EDM fans are looking forward to a better-than-ever offering in 2017. MUSTS: Before you let the music lift you, get some REAL perspective in the Willis Tower, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The Skydeck, on the 103rd floor, offers views that span four states; the Ledge takes the experience further by enabling you to step out into a glass box hovering 1,353 feet above the city. SKYDECK CHICAGO AT WILLIS TOWER EATS: They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and we’d have to agree — especially when that breakfast is White Chocolate Chip Pancakes from Stax. Sweet Maple Café is another great AM option, with countrystyle cooking that includes traditional breakfast fare, as well as a hearty selection of loaded home fries that will keep you carbed up for hours. DIGS: Wicker Park’s Holiday Jones will make your stay feel like summer camp, in the very best way: with affordable accommodations, both private and shared rooms, super-cool bunk beds and an on-site empanada bakery. SQUARE ROOTS FESTIVAL FEST: SQUARE ROOTS FESTIVAL DATE: July 7–9 WHERE: Lincoln Square SCENE: Craft beer and folk music—a match made in heaven! This low-key fest brings Lincoln Square to life with multiple stages programmed with a diverse mix of artists, from local indie acts to international artists and group jams. Local craft brewers like Two Brothers, Lagunitas, 5 Rabbit and others pour heavenly hops all weekend long. MUSTS: Old Town School of Folk Music co-sponsors Square Roots, so exploration is practically mandatory. Founded in 1957, this grassroots institution offers paid socials, workshops and kids classes, as well as drop-in jams. While you’re in the ‘hood, check The House Theatre of Chicago’s schedule; Nathan Allen’s innovative company aims to deliver a unique theatrical experience to a new generation of patrons. EATS: Start your day at Over Easy, where the signature Sassy Eggs or Banana Spiked French Toast will set the tone for a great day. Later, head up to the rooftop beer and wine garden at Gene’s Sausage Shop, where simple seasonal dishes go down easy with beer and wine by the glass. DRINKS: Recently voted Time Out Chicago's Best New Cocktail Bar, The Sixth has a cocktail called the Silly Rabbit that’s Trix cereal, reimagined as an adult beverage. Creative cocktails, craft beers and Michelinstarred cuisine can be found at Band of Bohemia, while Koval Distillery slings locally sourced, organic spirits. DIGS: The Guesthouse Hotel’s elegant, intimate vibe has earned it the coveted #1 spot among TripAdvisor reviewers — it’s like staying at the home of an incredibly gracious friend with amazing taste. DO DIVISION STREET FEST + FAMILY FUN FEST FEST: DO DIVISION STREET FEST + FAMILY FUN FEST DATE: June 2–4 WHERE: Wicker Park SCENE: This diverse Wicker Park event, which spans 10 city blocks, combines an eclectic sidewalk sale with two live music stages programmed by two respected live music venues — The Empty Bottle and Subterranean — known for booking the best indie acts around. A dedicated kids’ area offers just-for-littles activities. MUSTS: While you’re in Wicker Park, see an indoor show at festival sponsor Subterranean. You can also catch amazing live theater at the eccentric Chopin Theatre. EATS: Want to enjoy a great meal away from the crowds? Just outside the action, hit Dove's Luncheonette for Southern-inspired Mexican food in an old school diner atmosphere. Or try The Bristol, an acclaimed gastropub known for its innovative American cuisine and craft cocktails. DRINKS: The Map Room has an astounding number of beers on tap, and even more by the bottle. The Violet Hour’s drink menu includes artisanal cocktails with intriguing options like “Love, Curiosity, Freckles and Doubt.” DIGS: As the only skyscraper for miles, Wicker Park’s thoroughly unique hotel, The Robey Chicago, offers 180-degree views of the city skyline, ultra-modern rooms, four eateries and a posh, petite rooftop pool. SHOP: If you’ve brought the kids along (or if you’re a kid at heart), a visit to Cat & Mouse Games is in order. Or check out The Red Balloon, which carries souvenir clothing, games and more for kids of all ages. CHICAGO INSIDER BILLY BRANCH BLUES MUSICIAN What are some of the top Chicago music venues you recommend to music fans and why? Buddy Guy’s Legends is located downtown and offers excellent Louisiana cuisine. Kingston Mines is always lively, and features two bands nightly. Rosa’s Lounge has been my band’s North Side home for the past 30+ years. Known as “Chicago’s Friendliest Blues Club,” it’s run by Mama Rosa and her son, Tony Mangiullo. Also worth mentioning is S. P.A.C.E in Evanston and The Promontory, located on Chicago’s South Side in Hyde Park. What are your favorite Chicago hangouts or gems to take out of town visitors? The Chicago blues scene is like a family, and that’s what makes it so magical. You never know who might stop in and play. If you want to hear some “down home blues,” I’d recommend The Odyssey Lounge on Chicago’s Far South Side. They have a Sunday matinee session that features some of the best soul and blues performers in the city. Do you have a favorite meal or restaurant you head to before or after a show? One of my favorite restaurants is Thai 55, located in Hyde Park. I always tell people (even in Italy) that Chicago has the best pizza on the planet. Giordano’s is one of my favorites. ALL SUMMER LONG There’s FREE music and movement in Millennium Park throughout the summer with the Millennium Park Summer Music Series (multiple genres), Chicago SummerDance (tango, salsa, swing and more) and the Grant Park Music Festival (classical). EXPLORE WICKER PARK From vintage vinyl to craft cocktails and indie boutiques, the Wicker Park neighborhood is a wonderful place to get lost for an extra day during your festival trip. Watch a free flick under the stars on select summer nights, visit the Farmers Market on a Sunday or scour the stacks for rare finds at one of the area’s celebrated record stores, such as 1 Reckless Records, 2 Shuga Records and 3 Dusty Groove
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