Chicago has a lot to offer. As a student at ICO, it can be quite difficult to get out and enjoy the city. Our schedules are jam packed throughout the week with many of the commitments spilling over into the weekends. Where does that leave time to relax and recuperate?
It is especially hard to get out when you are new to the area and have no idea where to even go. Well, an ideal time for ICO students to explore the city are the breaks. Here is a short list of places worth checking out for a little escape from the demands of optometry school.
1.Goose Island Brewery
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Goose Island, they are most famous for their 312 Urban Wheat Ale. Being from a state that prides itself on craft beer (Michigan,) I had to check it out. I also lived in Kalamazoo, MI over the summer visiting places like Bell’s and Arcadia getting to know craft beer better. When it dawned on me that Chicago has a few of its own big name breweries, I was excited and ready to visit them out over our quarter break. I went with a group of students and another Midwestern classmate who shared my appreciation for craft beer. We were not disappointed. The beer was on point and my fish and chips were phenomenal. For any craft beer fanatic, Goose Island Brewery should be on the top of your list to visit. It is easily accessible via the Red Line to North/Clybourn and then a 5 minute walk from the train stop to the brewery.
2. Navy Pier
Surprisingly, I had actually never been to Navy Pier until our Fall quarter break. I had seen it lit up at night plenty of times, and did come close after an architecture river tour the week of Orientation, but I had never really experienced it. It is a cool place full of shops, restaurants, and plenty of things for tourists to do. I enjoyed the Crystal Gardens most. It is a green house kind of room full of trees and fountains. During the winter months, this would be a great getaway. Simply because Navy Pier is one of the most iconic sites in Chicago, it is worth checking out. It is easily accessible via CTA bus 29 which you can get on at State and 32nd. The bus will take you all the way to the pier.
If you ask any Chicago native, they will tell you that Portillo’s is the place to go for a hot dog. This was another famous attraction I had not experienced until the Fall break. In Michigan, the Detroit-style coney dogs are much different than the Chicago-style hot dogs. I can’t say that I have a favorite style between the two, but Portillo’s did not disappoint. When I walked into Portillo’s with a group of classmates, I was not surprised with how busy it was, but I was concerned with how long the wait would be. However, the workers were very efficient with handling orders and we got our food without much of a delay. They also have a good beer selection available. There are several Portillo’s throughout the city, but the one we went to was easily accessible via the Red Line to Grand and then about a 5 minute walk.
As convenient as the cafeteria is, sometimes it can get old. If you’re ever craving some Italian food, there are many options, but I recommend going to Eataly at some point. My classmates actually found it with the help of Yelp. Eataly is a big market with several restaurants, coffee shops, gelato stores, and souvenir shops which are all Italian-themed. They have a wide variety of foods that can be bought to prepare a meal, as well as plenty of restaurants if you are interested in dining in. The set up is very unique. I used to work at an Italian restaurant during the summers between undergrad and pasta is my weakness so personally, I couldn’t say no when I was invited to dinner at Eataly. To my fellow Italian food appreciators, this is a great place to go. The food is delicious (although a bit pricey) and the staff strives to create an authentic Italian experience. It is easily accessible via the Red Line to Grand.
5. Brando’s Speakeasy
There are countless spots for entertainment around the city, but for those of you interested in karaoke, Brando’s Speakeasy is a great place to go. They actually pride themselves as being “Chicago’s #1 Karaoke Lounge.” After experiencing it, they really had a good setup. They had two separate lounges: one near the microphone for those who wanted to hear the songs and see those singing on stage, another in a separate room.
You signed up electronically for a song with your name. Each song was only about 4 minutes long, so no one was performing longer than the crowd wanted to hear them. They called your name three times and if you didn’t come up to the stage by the third calling, they moved on to the next name. It was very efficient. The group of us who went had a great time and I’m not even a big fan of karaoke bars. Also, after listening to some of my classmates sing, I have to say, ICO has some talent! The lounge was easily accessible via the Green Line to Adams/Wabash and then a 5 minute walk from the station.
During the quarters, it is easy to get caught up in the demands of our schedule. There isn’t much time to get out into the city. It’s easy to forget how much fun it can be. For those who do not go home during quarter or holiday breaks, these are great opportunities to explore the city. This short list can hopefully give you some direction toward places worth exploring when you do have the time. Try one over Thanksgiving!