Goin' to Chicago, what should I do?

Since y’all were so helpful last time I needed help (planning a trip to DC, which turned out great! Thanks, guys!), I was hoping I could get some advice on a new destination.

In January, I’ll be heading over to Chicago to visit family for my 21st birthday. No, I won’t be 21 until the next week, so boozing it up is out of the question. That’ll be the following weekend, in Vegas. :smiley:

Anywho, I’ve been once before and frankly found the city sort of boring. Then again, I didn’t really do my research last time. My family with surely be up for letting me see what I think is interesting, as I’m the guest. I just have no idea what is interesting there.

For what it is worth, my family lives in Naperville. Last time, we drove to the city just about every day, so I don’t think traveling a bit is an issue. I’m a history nerd, so anything pertaining to that would be super cool. The neater and more obscure the better. At the same time, I am a 20 year old girl. So shopping I shall do. I figure shopping is the best way for my Californian ass to not totally freeze. Michigan Avenue we shall see!

So thank you an advance for any suggestions. I really don’t want to be bored out of my mind and dragged to Millenium Park. . . again. That lime bean thing freaks me the hell out.

Do you like museums? The Field Museum is pretty damn cool, but skip the Tut exhibit. The Shedd Aquarium is really neat, and not too crowded most days. The Museum of Science and Industry is always cool, but way too big to fit into one day.

The Museum of Surgical Science is unbelievably amazing, if you’re into that sort of thing. I haven’t been there in over a decade, but I’d love to go back. They have all sorts of exhibits of bizarre looking medical equipment from history.

The Notebaert Nature Museum is one I keep meaning to go to but haven’t made it yet. I’m not sure how much of it is indoors, but they are open in the winter.

Michigan Avenue shopping is sorta meh, IMHO. You can get the same stuff at any mall in California, with less attitude. I only go there to see the Christmas lights and window displays, but all that will be down by January. Lincoln Park is the place for really neat little boutiques and unusual little shops.

If you feel like doing any of these and wouldn’t mind the baby and I tagging along, we’d love to join you! Ironically enough, the only time I see all the great stuff Chicago has to offer is when someone’s in from out of town. My email’s in my profile.

I used to work at the Shedd Aquarium, and if you’re at all into that kind of stuff, it’s pretty cool. If you’re into the museum scene, the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum are both close by and they are all worthwhile places to spend a few hours. Also, the Art Institute is spectacular and close to the shopping areas on the Magnificent Mile. None of those are particularly obscure, though, if that’s what you’re looking for.

I’ve also enjoyed the river boat architectural tours, but it might be a little cold for that this time of year.

Chicago History Museum http://www.chicagohs.org/

Or a shitload of museums all on one site:

http://collaboratory.nunet.net/museums/pages.cfm
Plus, depending on how much money you want to spend, there are lots of great restaurants.

Chicago isn’t boring! Not by a long shot!

Get tickets for Second City. Have a drink on the 96th floor of the Hancock Bldg after dark (on a non-cloudy night) - it’s a great view. If you’re into really old history, the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago might be interesting. (http://oi.uchicago.edu/OI/MUS/OI_Museum.html) Or for something a little more recent, go see a movie at the Biograph Theater (where Dillinger was shot).

Have fun! Chicago is a great city, but next time go in June!

Damned skippy. However, we are not at the peak of our excitement in January for the most part.

True enough…but I’ll trade one weekend in Chicago in January for high summer in Poughkeepsie any day.

They have a museum of medical instruments or somesuch, I forget exactly what it’s called.
::still trying to get over the idea that Chicago could possibly be boring::

shoot, should’a checked WhyNot’s post
But this gives me an excuse to pimp the Hot Karl, I think they’re playing at IO these days.

And I’m back!

I didn’t mean to suggest anything negative about your fair city, it’s just that I’m not really a big, east-coast-like city gal. NYC? Not my type of place at all. Aside from some of the typical neat stuff, it’s really not thing. Chicago gave me a very similar. . . feeling? NYC did. Well, the people were nicer. Oh, except for the all made fun of how I talk! Like, can you, like believe that? :eek: :smiley:

Oh and I have been to Chicago in July and I almost died. Humidity + my desert dwelling butt = certain death. I seriously was slumping behind everyone while we were touring, wishing for a quick death. I’m not a cold weather person either (when it’s 50, I’m found in three sweaters and a heating blanket), but maybe seeing the city all covered and pretty will make a bit of a difference in my opinion of the place. Oh, did I mention I’ve only touched snow twice in my whole life?

WhyNot, thank you for the suggestions! Maybe I can sneak off from the family for a bit, as I would never subject someone else to their insanity. I’ll definitely keep your offer in mind though. The medical museum looks really neat and I’m definitely writing that one down. Plus, that would be something my mom would like as well.

Nature museums are sorta eh to me, but I appreciate the suggestion. I’m from the land of 30 million hippies, so we have nature museums up the bum, even in little Republican redneck Bakersfield.

And I know Michigan is a lot like Rodeo in LA (ie snotty AND over my price range), but the family will be there and ya know, it is going to be my birthday. What? :stuck_out_tongue: I’m kidding. I really do like just looking at the designer stuff, some of it is just so nice- like art.
Skammer, is there anything particularly cool about this aquarium? A particularly well done or neat exhibit? I just ask because I’ve been to some wicked cool aquariums in my time and I’m just trying to figure out if it is worth the journey.

Kalhoun- Hooray! History museum! Perhaps I should use this as an opportunity to brush up on some Chicago history? All I know is that one time, there was this cow that knocked over a latern that fell into the Lake and thus came Oprah and Jerry Springer. Right? :stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t really have to worry about the restaurants- my family pays for all of that when I visit. They also enjoy fancy pants places, so I’m definitely spoiled when I go visit. Hooray for Greek food! (something completely unheard of in Bakersfield).

Oh hey, are there any cool Civil War . . . things. . . in that area of IL? Like I said, a tiny bit of driving wont hurt anyone.

There are several cemeteries in the area which have Civil War soldiers buried in them. I know, weird, but they’re good for walking and pondering in. Um…Rosehill, Graceland, Oak Woods, and my favorite, Calvary are the oldest in Chicago and all contain Civil War era folks, I believe.

Cemeteries also tend to have snow in January. :wink:

Most of the military museums in Illinois are down in Springfield. The closest one with a Civil War exhibit that I can find is up in Madison, WI, the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum. It’s a good 2.5 hour drive from Naperville.

Dumb question, but how else would I know if I didn’t ask?
In winter time, do caretakers go through and clean off some of the snow from graves and stuff? Or does it just stay covered until everything melts?

Obviously, that sort of pertains to whether or not I’ll get to go wander some cemeteries.

Have a burger at Boston Blackies. (Don’t know what street it’s on, but I remember that it was off Michigan Ave.) Big, thick juicy burgers and great fries. Plus, it’s got kind of a cool ambience.

Aw, you silly California girl! How cute! :smiley:

Snow doesn’t (usually) stick to vertical surfaces, like most gravestones. The little flat horizontal-to-the-ground ones might get covered up, but the vertical headstones should still be visible.

There may or may not be snow while you’re here, honestly. The winters are crazy here. We just got done with a bizarre heat wave all week (as in, my teenager was outside in shorts!) and really pleasantly warm rain all day yesterday, and today it’s freezing. (Literally, the rain got in most of our locks and froze them when the temperature dropped overnight!)

Three or four years ago, we had a really strange freeze, and the lake froze in waves. Big, towering waves of ice. It was so cool to go walk betweeen the frozen waves. I was so nervous the ice would break, but it was exhilarating! (Of course, I’d never let my kids do it, but I had a blast!)

We had a great time going to plays. We saw the Blue Man Group and a play in the Garage at the Steppenwolf Theatre, and both were great. My favorite, though, was a production called Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, which is too hard to explain–just go see it.

Restaurant highlights included Mulan (in Chinatown–very fancy, very modern Asian fusion), Frontera Grill (downtown–Mexican, Rick Bayless’s place, though if money is no object I might hit Topolobampo next door), and Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba (in Lincoln Park–fantastic tapas), and the Goose Island Brewpub (though the whole not-21 thing might hinder that one).

The Lincoln Park Zoo was great, but might not be so great in January. My wife had great things to say about the aquarium.

It’s a great town–you’ll have a blast!

The top of the Sears Tower is basically an observation deck/souvenir shop/history exhibit. Just chew some gum on the way up … the elevators will pop your ears on the way up.

Here are a few similar threads:

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=379429&highlight=chicago

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=367735&highlight=chicago

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=351407&highlight=chicago

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=309716&highlight=chicago

As for history, hmmm. There is the Chicago Historical Society/Museum, which is interesting, but not all that exciting for most people. I’ve enjoyed some of their programs and tours. http://www.chicagohs.org/

There are a few civil war statues here and there (meh), and there is the Graue Mill (an Underground Railway stop), but that might not be open in January. http://www.grauemill.org/history.htm

As someone mentioned, January isn’t the best month for cemetary tours.

The Green Mill is a great old jazz bar that dates back to Capone days, but I think you need to be 21.

Damn. Let me think. Ahh… The Cultural Center is worth a stop if you are downtown: http://www.ci.chi.il.us/Tourism/CultureCenterTour/History.html The CCC also convenient to slightly-less-snooty shopping. You might want to check out the flagship Old Navy http://www.judysbook.com/cities/chicago/Apparel/7051/p1/Old_Navy.htm , What-Used-To-Be-Marshall-Fields, and various State Street outlet stores (all of which are nearby)

www.metromix.com is a good event guide, and (of course) you’ll want to pick up a copy of the Reader.

Enjoy the trip!

On a related note, I’m going to Chicago to spend New Year’s with my sister, brother-in-law and good friend from undergrad…is it worth going out on New Year’s Eve?? I’m from Boston originally and I’m really really weary of stamping my feet in the cold with lots of crowds for a few fireworks. Plus, my sister and brother live on Lakeshore so they claim if fireworks are needed I can just see them from their livingroom window.

My sister and brother refuse to go out for New Year’s Eve but my friend (and her friend) are still clinging to the notion that it’s not going to be a huge madhouse and we should go out on the town after the feast at her parents’ house.

So what is Chicago like around that time? Stamp around outside in the cold pubhopping in crowded joints or head over to my sis and bro’s house for more alcohol and fireworks? In spite of all the years I spent in Illinois I was never actually there for NYE.

The Stained Glass Museum on Navy Pier is my personal favorite. Frank Lloyd Wright stuff is also pretty cool, if you’re into design and stuff. One of his houses is right here in Hyde Park (where the University of Chicago is). I think it’s called the Robie House. UChicago also has a lot of random stuff worth seeing and I think they have a special collection of old books in the main library.

I think Hyde Park is a great neighborhood to spend a day in. I used to live there myself, and really miss it. You can see Robie House, which, I think, is a great house to see if you only have time to see one Wright house. You can hit the Museum of Science & Industry (a fabulous hands-on-type museum) and the Oriental Institute (I think mentioned upthread…it’s an antiquities museum).

In the park behind the Science & Industry is a really beautiful Japanese garden, which I think has been there since they held the Columbian World’s Fair in 1893 (as has the building the Science & Industry is in…I think it was one of the only permanent structures built for the fair, to hold the fine arts exhibits).

If you are interested in African-American history, the DuSable Museum is close by as well.

Along 57th street are several used bookstores and student-hangout type restaurants.

There are a bunch of nice little restaurants in the neighborhood, if you need a bite to eat. One I really enjoy is Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop, which serves pretty authentic Cajun food. Yum. If you like Middle Eastern food, Cedars of Lebanon is really good, too.

Have fun in Chicago! :slight_smile: