February 20, 2017

Chicago’s CTA Holiday Train and Bus 2016

How have I missed the CTA Holiday Train in the 25 years that it has run on the tracks around the Chicago area? To this day, I have only seen video footage of Santa with reindeer and sleigh gliding through the wintry urban scenery. Each brightly lit train car has an elf inside passing out candy canes. Yesterday was the last Santa train this season on the yellow line. Santa drove his CTA sleigh from Nov. 29 through Dec. 23 on all eight CTA train lines. Drat, missed it again!

The CTA also runs a special Santa bus which makes runs on the various city bus lines. If you were taking the No. 3 King Drive bus yesterday, you may just have been lucky enough to board this festive vehicle.

These photos and the video below will have to suffice until next year when we can perhaps view these illusive sights with our own eyes:

Chicago’s Merchandise Mart gets a facelift

My husband wanted me to see the $40 million in-progress transformation of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart last weekend. As you’d expect in a business operation catering to interior designers and their well-heeled clients, the Mart wanted to freshen its look by opening space both inside and looking out.

At 4.2 million gross square feet in its two city block and 25-story structure, the Merchandise Mart has bragging rights for being the second largest office building in the world (the Pentagon is in first place.)

The food court where CTA el users exit is one of the biggest transformations. Large windows now feature views of River North and the elevated train station. Comfortable seating, modern lighting and a mirrored ceiling go along nicely with food from Billy Goat Tavern or Mezza Mediterranean Grill.

Also stunning is the 50-foot wide marble staircase rising from the lobby. Red leather seat cushions make the steps another innovative place for people to congregate with a retractable 25-foot wide projection screen above the “Grand Stair.”

The second level features a lounge overlooking the Chicago River replete with a bar, couch seating, pillows and coffee tables with board games.

Another new area to the Mart is River Drive Park with umbrellas and seating arrangements overlooking the Chicago River. The project designers even included an area for food trucks to park during warm weather months.

Whether you work in the Mart or near it, this is now a destination to check out, at least once.

http://themart.com/

Chicago Beach bar/restaurants from Oak Street to Hollywood on Lake Michigan

This is the perfect time to check out some of the park beach houses and food/bar spots.

Oak Street Beach Food + Drink Talk about a great view of the lake, the Drake Hotel and Lake Shore Drive. You must be at the Oak Street Beach sipping a frozen margarita and munching on a chicken mole taco or a BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich.

http://www.oakstreetbeach.com/

Castaways at 1603 N. Lake Shore Drive features DJs and live bands to go along with your cold brewskies, your jerk fish tacos or Castaways signature burger.
Then again, you could go fancy and order the Riva Shrimp Chopped salad or the blackened grouper sandwich.

http://www.castawayschicago.com/

Bacino’s at 248 W. Diversey, west of the Diversey Driving Range, an Italian Grill open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, featuring Bruschetta, salads, panini, pizzas, burgers and gelato.

http://www.bacinos.com/DIVERSEY/contact.html

The Dock at Montrose Beach, at 200 W. Montrose Harbor Drive, with a liquor license, full-fledged restaurant and live music.

http://thedockatmontrosebeach.com/

Nacho Mama’s Burrito Bar at 5701 N. Lake Shore Drive, Osterman Beach House. One of the newer lakefront venues with non-alcoholic beverages like hibiscus tea, ginger beer, coconut water and, you guessed it, nachos.

http://www.nachomamasbeachbar.com/new-page/

I know there are beach bar/food businesses north and south of the ones mentioned above. Please let me know if you have any favorite spots along Lake Michigan in the city.

Graceland Cemetery, a Chicago treasure

In my last week’s article on the South Park system in Chicago, I wrote about a famous large sculpture by Illinois artist, Loredo Taft. As a co-incidence, I also visited the lovely Graceland Cemetery on Memorial Day and saw two more evocative Loredo Taft statues in this storied graveyard.

Far from being morbid and forbidding, Graceland is as much an arboretum and architectural treasure as it is a final resting place for many.

I urge you to stop at the visitor’s center when first you arrive to pick up a brochure with a map of famous Graceland “residents.” The roster reads like a “who’s who” of Chicago architecture, industry, sports and culture.

Lake Windemere Bridge - Photo by E. DoyleLake Windemere, a small body of water amidst the greenery is especially lovely with a small bridge leading to an island containing the tombstones of Daniel Burnham and his immediate family. A pleasant walk takes you to the grave sites of Louis Sullivan, John Root, Fazlur Khan, William Le Baron Jenney and Mies Van de Rohe, to name a few architects of note.

A Taft sculpture depicts a soldier from the Crusades guarding the grave of newspaper publisher, Victor Lawson. George Pullman (Pullman railroad cars), William Kimball (pianos and organs), Phillip Armour (meat-packing) and Cyrus McCormick (the horse-drawn reaper) are but a few of the industrialists buried here.

A second Loredo Taft sculpture entitled Eternal Silence marks the grave site of Dexter Graves. Looking into the face of the eerie hooded figure, according to myth, gives the viewer a glimpse of their own death.

Eternal Silence by Loredo Taft - Photo by E. Doyle

Eternal Silence by Loredo Taft – photo by E. Doyle

Other historic figures include Carter Harrison Sr. and Jr., father and son who both served as mayors of Chicago, Alan Pinkerton of the famous detective agency, Joseph Medill of Chicago Tribune fame and Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, an African-American surgeon who performed one of the first open heart surgeries.

Parents or teachers could give their children and students a pretty wonderful overview of Chicago history with a walk through this verdant retreat. This is land within the Wrigleyville neighborhood that is truly full of beauty, serenity and yes, grace.

http://www.gracelandcemetery.org/

Chicago’s Stunning South Parks: Jackson, Midway and Washington

Memorial Day seemed like the perfect time to visit some park attractions on Chicago’s South Side that I had read about but never seen.

First up was the “Golden Lady” statute at the intersection of Richards and Hayes Drives in Jackson Park on Chicago’s south side. The original statue, three times the size of this copy, was by sculptor Daniel Chester French and was placed in the Court of Honor during the 1893 Colombian Exposition. The larger original work, “Statue of the Republic” was unfortunately destroyed in an 1896 fire. This newer and smaller version is completely gilded with the lady’s right hand holding a globe with an eagle on top and the left holding a staff with a banner that reads “Liberty.”  D. C. French is more well known for his statue of Abraham Lincoln that graces the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.

If you want to keep exploring, head north towards the Jackson Park Driving Range. Several golfers were unloading golf bags so this looks like a fun place to improve one’s swing. North of the driving range is a marked nature trail that leads to the water basin in back of the Museum of Science and Industry. Off to the west, one can see the storied “Wooded Isle,” with it’s Osaka Garden, also built for the 1893 Colombian Exposition. Alas, most of the park is under construction and several pathways are blocked for public admittance, including the island with Japanese landscaping and structures.

Photo by Elizabeth Doyle

The trail is still worth checking out with it’s verdant foliage and flowers and the spectacular view of the back steps of the Museum. Big things could be ahead for Jackson Park since it is in consideration for Barack Obama’s Presidential Library. World renowned artist Yoko Ono is also slated to install a new, permanent artwork called SKY LANDING on the Wooded Island in the near future.

Three areas, Jackson, Washington and the Midway Plaisance were actually designed as one big South Park. The Midway Plaisance joins Jackson Park on the east and Washington Park on the west. During the 1893 Colombian Exposition, the “Midway” was the site of less high-brow entertainment such as sideshows and rides. Today an ice-skating rink is on the site of the world’s first Ferris wheel which premiered during the 1893 Fair. The mile-long swath of green is next to the University of Chicago and seems part of the campus even thought it is public land.

Continuing west along the park boulevard system, the big artistic attraction on the border between Midway and Washington Park is Loredo Taft’s amazing concrete sculpture and reflecting pool called “Fountain of Time.” Inspired by the poem “Paradox of Time” by Henry Austin Dobson, the large scale sculpture features Father Time looking across water at a procession of one hundred humans. Private and public entities have donated money to preserve Taft’s national artistic treasure.

Loredo Taft, an Illinois sculptor born and bred, had his art studio nearby in a converted barn at 60th street and Ellis.

I definitely plan to be back as these three parks continue to thrive and evolve. The western area of Jackson Park holds particular interest, especially if Yoko Ono completes her art project on the picturesque “Wooded Isle.”

If you want to see the projected plans for Jackson, Washington and Midway Park areas, you may find this site interesting:

http://www.project120chicago.org/

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Kayaks on the Chicago Riverwalk

Some of you have been reading my Culture Beat blurbs since my tenure at the Fairmont Hotel and Convito Italiano many moons ago.

Here are some recent Culture Beat blog posts and their links:

The cell phone headset that has improved my connectivity:

LG Tone Pro Wireless Stereo Headset

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/03/lg-tone-pro-wireless-stereo-headset/

The little speaker that makes my phone or iPad a portable stereo:

Jambox speaker by Jawbone

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/08/jambox-speaker-by-jawbone/

My favorite site for foreign tv streaming:

MHZ Choice launches on Oct. 20 (updated blog post forthcoming)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/10/mhz-choice-launches-on-oct-20/

The show you may want to watch to see women in political power (in Sweden):

Those In Power: a Swedish political tv drama on MHZ

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/02/those-in-power-a-swedish-political-tv-drama/

If you want to delve into charming French literature, check out:

The President’s Hat and The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain (in English)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/12/the-presidents-hat-and-the-red-notebook/

A book I’m recommending if you like science and business:

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/03/elon-musk-tesla-spacex-and-the-quest-for-a-fantastic-future-by-ashlee-vance/

Need some food items to add a little zing to your healthy diet?

My current favorite taste sensations (triple cherry blend, rice tortillas, dill relish, sauerkraut)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/09/my-current-favorite-taste-sensations/

If you are trying to cut down coffee jitters and acidity, try this ayurvedic tea:

Raja’s Cup: the anti-oxidant coffee substitute

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/09/rajas-cup-the-anti-oxidant-coffee-substitute/

When your sweet tooth hits, candy from a home-grown company:

Terry’s Toffee and Wackerpop

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/10/terrys-toffee-and-wackerpop/

Stores that both amateur and professional chefs adore:

The Spice House: Seasoning the World

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/04/the-spice-house-seasoning-the-world/

Balsa Mela and Italian Herbed Salt at The City Olive

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/05/balsa-mela-and-italian-herbed-salt/

My favorite chain restaurant:

Lyfe Kitchen

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/03/lyfe-kitchen/

The delightful Chicago attraction that not everyone has visited:

Chicago Riverwalk from LaSalle to Lake Michigan (updated photos soon as construction continues further west)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/category/outdoor-fun-in-chicago/

Chicago’s classy classical record label:

Cedille Records Celebrates 25 Years as Chicago’s classical record company

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/04/cedille-records-celebrates-25-years-as-chicagos-classical-record-company/

One of the best apps for listening to customized radio:

AccuRadio: Hand-crafted by music lovers-not by a computer

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/05/accuradio-hand-crafted-by-music-lovers-not-by-a-computer/

My favorite app for news on your iPad or tablet:

Flipboard, a new way to get your news fix

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/02/flipboard-a-new-way-to-get-your-news-fix/

The best app for checking out other opinions on movies and tv:

Metacritic, when you want to know what the critics think

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/07/metacritic-when-you-want-to-know-what-the-critics-think/

Some of my favorite apps for finding sheet music, paid or free:

Printed Music in the Digital Age

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/04/printed-music-in-the-digital-age/

Best app for electronic music storage:

Sheet Music at Your Fingertips: ForScore

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/07/sheet-music-at-your-fingertips-forscore/

The best fake book for song standards on your tablet or desktop:

iRealPro app for your portable device or desktop

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/08/irealpro-app-for-your-portable-device-or-desktop/

More apps for the musically inclined:

Music App Happy

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/04/music-app-happy/

Chicago Riverwalk from LaSalle to Lake Michigan

West of Michigan Avenue

I finally made it down to the Chicago Riverwalk which is undergoing a transformation that should impress natives along with visitors to our city. From LaSalle to Lake Michigan on the south side of the Chicago River, marvel at the additions of concrete, wood, metal and landscaping that make this a most inviting promenade.

Sportive types can rent kayaks, electric bikes, surrey bikes that seat 2 to 6 people, recumbent bikes or motor boats for $150 an hour. Chicago Architectural boat tours are featured east of Michigan Avenue. Besides all of these floating and wheeled options, I saw people on motorized scooters, Segways and blue Divvy bikes so walking seems quite quaint.

There are several food and beverage concerns on the south side of the river such as City Winery, O’Brien’s and Flander’s Belgian Beers & Fries, but I prefer the foliage east of Michigan Avenue which lends great charm to Cyrano’s Cafe and Wine Bar and the Tiki Bar which features periodic booze cruises.

More established restaurants on the north side of the river include Smith & Wollensky, Dick’s Last Resort, Lizzie McNeill’s, Fulton’s On the River and Lagniappe Cajun-Creole Joynt.

The Riverwalk connects to the lake front by a viaduct that contains wonderful ceramic mural art. There is also a dark undeveloped corridor into Lake Shore East which you can pass through to get to Millennium Park. Navy Pier is also accessible from the Riverwalk but the narrow path across the North Lake Shore Drive bridge is a danger zone where bikes and pedestrians dodge one another.

I have written previously about the water taxis on the north side of the river which remain an excellent way to view the city from the water level. The Wendella sight-seeing tours also embark from the north side of the river although that side of the river has not been part of this latest development project.

Next visit, I plan to investigate the McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum which promotes events that involve bridges and the Chicago River. A link below contains the fall bridge lift schedule.

You may want to visit the Riverwalk in the next few weeks to avail yourself of the outdoor dining. Pray for an Indian summer!

McCormick Bridgehouse events:
http://www.chicagoriver.org/events/tagged/McCormick%20Bridgehouse%20&%20Chicago%20River%20Museum

Cyrano’s Cafe on the River:
http://www.cyranoscafeontheriver.com/

Chicago Architecture Foundation Boat Tours:
https://www.architecture.org/experience-caf/tours/

       

 

The 606: new Chicago Park above the fray

I finally got to visit the new elevated park connecting Wicker Park, Bucktown, Humboldt Park and Logan Square that opened on June 6, 2015. Built on the old tracks of the Bloomingdale railroad line, the 2.7 mile structure boasts a wheel friendly event plaza, an observatory, art installations and landscaping. There are twelve ramped access points between Walsh Park at Marshfield and Ashland on the east and Western Trailhead at Ridgeway and Lawndale at the western terminus.

We saw a man in a motorized wheel chair who had entered at the eastern entrance ramp to the trail. He had a little dog proudly sitting on his lap as they whizzed by the joggers and strollers. Leashed dogs are allowed on the 606.
If you are driving to the park, there are plenty of north/south streets west of Ashland that have free parking up until 6 pm when a neighborhood parking pass becomes necessary.
Managed by the Chicago Park District, the 606 adheres to regular park hours, 6 am to 11 pm.

The homes along the 606 view this structure as mixed blessing since park visitors can easily peer into windows and yards, but this makes for dandy gawking as one strolls, bikes or runs along the trail.

Photos by Elizabeth Doyle

The park is only ten feet wide but it crosses 37 bridges, has 1400 trees and 200 plant species. You might want to visit the 606 early in the day since it is a veritable freeway during peak hours.

I can’t wait for fall when the temperatures drop on the concrete path and the foliage gives us a variegated color scheme.

http://www.the606.org/visit/

 

Midsommarfest – 50th Anniversary in Andersonville

Every June, 50,000 people descend upon Andersonville for a weekend celebration of Midsommarfest featuring food, music, crafts and alcohol. This year, June 12, 13 and 14, the party will be even bigger since the festival is marking its 50th anniversary.

You will want to do some Clark Street window-shopping so you can see the vintage photos from the 1965 Midsommar Fest.  The retro car styles, hairdos and clothing will certainly give you a chuckle.

You don’t have to be resident to enjoy the festivities. Admittance is only $10 with kids under 12 and seniors being free. As added incentive, if you spend $30 at an Andersonville retail establishment or service provider and get a receipt, you are entitled to a free beer at the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce booth. (Restaurants and bars are excluded.)

There will be five stages featuring live events and entertainment including a Chicago Hula Hoop Festival, the Bow Wow Lounge Pet Parade and yoga classes provided by Smarty Pants Yoga and Bikram Yoga Andersonville.   Some of the performing groups include Joel Hall and Gus Giordano Dance companies, the Windy City Cowboys, the Jazz Institute’s Jazz Links Youth Ensemble and dozens of  live music groups of the “party hearty” variety. There is even a Miss Andersonville pageant!

Kids can enjoy a climbing wall, a giant inflatable slide, face painting, theatre games and many other family activities.

If you feel like being an honorary Scandinavian, you can catch a traditional Maypole dance, a Swedish-American Children’s Choir, Nordic Folk Dancers, the Merula Choir or the Nordland Band. Skol!

Parking during this weekend can be a challenge. Buses that will get you to the vicinity include the 22 Clark, the 36 Broadway, and the 146 and 147 Express buses;  the red line elevated train with a stop at Berwyn is also a convenient choice. May the Norse gods bring good weather.

http://andersonville.org/events/midsommarfest

Jaume Plensa Statues in Millenium Park

Photos by Elizabeth Doyle


Have you wondered what those new “head” statues are in Millennium Park?
To celebrate the park’s 10th anniversary, Jaume Plensa, the Barcelona sculptor who created Crown Fountain with it’s two facing towers spitting water from the mouthes of 1,000 alternating LED facial images, was asked to add to his famous attraction. The result was “1004 Portraits,” four gigantic heads of young girls on loan from the artist, three in the Boeing Gallery near the Fountain and a large white head serenely gracing the park entrance at Madison Street and Michigan Avenue.

Plensa used Barcelona girls from age 7 to 14 years for the four sculptures, capturing their portraits by laser scanner and then using 3-D modeling to flatten and stretch the images. The three girls on the ledge overlooking the Fountain are 20 to 23 feet tall, made of cast iron and bear the names “Laura,” “Paula” and “Ines.” “Looking Into My Dreams, Awilda,” the alabaster girl by herself is made of marble, resin and fiberglass.

The Plensa heads will grace Millenium Park until December 2015 so you have the opportunity to see them in all seasons.