Category Archives: Things to Do

Miss or Kiss? What You Missed at Chicago Pride 2014

Miss or Kiss? What You Missed at Chicago Pride 2014


You wait for it to come once a year. You take hours to prep for the festivities. You probably have a drunk relative wandering around making bad jokes. It’s like Christmas, but with more colors.


Every year, Chicago hosts one of its biggest attractions and certainly its most colorful: Pride. Chicago Pride is held the last Sunday of June every year running north from Wilson and Montrose to Sheridan and Diversey. Completing its 45th year, the Pride Parade is only a single part of the Pride Week that Chicago holds every year, but has become to be known as the signature Pride event.


Did you miss it? Technically, but what Pride means to its on-goers may draw you to attend next year. Besides the eye-catching floats, skimpy outfits, and the blast of Lady Gaga, Pride fosters an environment that means a lot to people from all walks of life. Check out what these Pride-goers had to say when we asked what Pride meant to them:


“As for me, I’m trying to figure it out, but as I look around and over the years I’ve noticed that a lot of people are proud of the fact that they can express themselves and this was not possible years ago, decades ago. Now that it is possible, it’s something to be even more proud of and celebrate.” - Steven, 31, Chicago


“To express yourself, to not be afraid of who you are. It’s acceptance, all over. Everyone’s okay with everyone and it’s amazing. Everybody should be who they are, period.” – Fabie, 19, Chicago


“Pride means everything. Happiness, equality, love, acceptance, being myself. And it means the world to me.” - Lorenzo, 28, St. Louis


“I think it’s a time to reflect on and be grateful for those who have come before us. We’re really lucky that we haven’t had to fight some of those fights that we’ve seen before, where people are literally beaten. So I think today we pay homage to those people as well as celebrate who we are.” – Paul, 34, Chicago


“[Pride is] an opportunity to embrace who we are, not only as a community, but as an entire nation, as the entire world.” – Kyle, 24, Florida


“I have a quote, I forget the philosopher, but it says, ‘To be comfortable, to be so at ease with one’s environment, that you can’t tell where your body ends and the world begins, because bodies extend into spaces and spaces extend into bodies.’ That’s what Pride means to me.” – Jasmine, 21, Baltimore



Pride creates a home for love, acceptance, and yes, men in tight swimsuits. Check out more of what you missed at Pride this year and watch our Pride video. See you all next year!


To get more information about future Prides and events held during June for Pride Month, visit for details.



Meet the New Wave of Chicago’s Influencers at Glappitnova

Meet the New Wave of Chicago’s Influencers at Glappitnova


What Chicago needs is a movement – a dose of inspiration and change injected into our daily routines. Imagine young influencers, entrepreneurs, and characters across many industries all coming together to share their wisdom. Austin, Texas claims its South by Southwest fame, Eden, Utah claims its Summit Series fame – now it’s Chicago’s turn. Making its second annual appearance on July 14 – 17, Glappitnova presents the city’s most unique storytellers, performers and teachers. Wrapped up into one big party, the summit takes networking and interactive learning to the next level.


Co-Created by Nick Brown and Mike Webb, Glappitnova began as a small underground culture perfecting the concept of storytelling from different young industry leaders. Now with the expansion of the team, and activities, it’s grown into a festival bringing influencers from around Chicago together, Glappitnova is an event where people can share their stories and join a community of diverse perspectives. I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick to find out the story behind the scenes. Here’s what I learned:



How did Glappitnova begin?


The first wave of the organization, called Glappit, sought out tech talent to help build the initial product that would automatically share products, ideas, and information surrounding your location. But when building our product there has to be a physical presence which is developing the community. Reaching further – “to the stars,” as Nick says, the designation “Nova” was born. The first Glappitnova festival was held in February 2013 – a small gathering, just for a few hours, along Milwaukee Avenue. It was all about executing a small idea, and getting better the next time.


Reacting to a high level of enthusiasm, curiosity and demand, this year’s festival expands to nearly a week of performances, storytelling and learning (and don’t forget the partying!). Mark July 14 – 17 on your calendar and purchase your tickets here.



What can we expect at this year’s Glappitnova?


Come with an open mind – you’ll have a great time and walk out having learned something new. Your perception of diversity across industries will be altered once you see and hear the creative, intelligent and fun contributions of the presenting influencers.


This is an interactive festival – we’re not setting up in an auditorium. Literally fostering an open environment by hosting the event in a loft space, the audience will have the opportunity to interact and engage with the speakers.


This will be a memorable experience and no doubt you’ll have lessons to take back to your own life.



Who are the most unique or inspirational influencers you’ve worked with?


Actress and dancer Elizabeth Adler of Chicago Dance Theatre Ensemble encouraged me to be more open and accept different perspectives. She encourages us to truly see what’s around you by listening to others. This is a great lesson we can all live by.


Another influencer I worked with left his corporate lifestyle to pursue what he was truly passionate about. Having that courage to start fresh by transitioning into something new was quite the inspiration.



Thanks Nick!




Now’s your chance to get to know Chicago’s young influencers – join the party this July and buy your Glappitnova tickets here before they sell out.


{Image from Glappitnova}



Chicago Trolley Adventures: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Chicago Trolley Adventures: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


For a crazy, unforgettable night, everyone needs to take part in Chicago’s favorite pastime at least once – a party trolley. Chauffeured around the city in a rented trolley car, you can experience 3 hours of moving dance party sing-a-longs with 24 – 30 of your closest friends. A typical Chicago trolley itinerary involves pick-up at a house or location of your choice, a few stops along the way for bars or photo opportunities, and a drop-off at a final destination – usually a bar or a house.


While this trip might seem like a good chance to get in your Chicago sightseeing, the level of rowdiness of the crowd will make that determination. With all of your friends in tow, you can capture great photos outside the planetarium with the skyline in the background. Additionally, you can visit some of the bars outside your usual boundaries without having to worry about taking multiple cabs. Set up your favorite tunes, stock up on your favorite drinks, and gather your crew for a night around town.


Of course with all privilege comes responsibility – planning a trolley can be a logistical challenge. As with any event, not all parts will go as planned. Here are some tips for navigating what could be the night of your life.


Questions to ask the trolley company:

  • Will your “advanced sound system” amplify my iPod/iPhone playlist?
  • Can we bring our own beverages on board (the answer is usually yes – but no glass)
  • Is the trolley heated/air conditioned, and can the windows be opened?
  • Is gratuity included in the credit card charge, or will the driver expect cash at the end of the ride?
  • Can I get a discounted fare if I “like” you on Facebook?


Questions to ask the bars you want to stop at:

  • Can you accommodate 25 people sometime between 8 – 10 p.m. with no cover and a limited line?


And finally, questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I willing to corral 24 – 30 of my friends and hunt them down for their share of the cost?
  • Do I have the patience for last-minute cancellations and added guests?
  • Do I want to buy all the beverages in advance, or ask guests to BYOB?
  • Am I willing to make sure the trolley is spotless at the end to avoid a cleaning fee?


Other helpful tips:

  • To collect funds in advance, use a service such as Crowdtilt, which allows credit card payments and will divide the total cost among the final number of guests that attend
  • If you bring on beverages, don’t rely on Styrofoam coolers – they will break. Purchase some cheap plastic tubs at WalMart to house your drinks and ice
  • Your playlist sets the mood – but bring good old mix-tape CDs as backup in case they can’t plug in your iPod/iPhone. My approach is to start off with mood-boosting Top 40s, continue with solid dance music, and transition into 80s ballads or 90s rap by the time you’re on your way to the third bar. Consider you’ll need about 2.5 hours of music ready if you’ll be spending one of the three hours on bar stops
  • Bring on trash bags, paper towels, Solo cups, etc. – clean up everything along the way
  • The homeless people outside are always looking for a free beer handout. Proceed with your own discretion
  • Clear communication with the driver is key. Provide an itinerary with addresses in advance, and make sure he/she knows the timing of each bar stop. Tell your guests when to return to the trolley, so no one gets left behind!



Have fun!!!


{Image via Coleman Forredondo}


Help Provide Housing for Hundreds of Chicago Families through Habitat for Humanity

Help Provide Housing for Hundreds of Chicago Families through Habitat for Humanity


Raise Your Hand Chicagoland: Habitat for Humanity


If you took a stroll down Michigan Avenue recently, you probably wondered why there was a whole house planted in between the Tribune Building and the river. Is someone taking up residence right there? Not quite – but the house will be transported to another neighborhood, allowing a Chicago family to become homeowners.


Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity


This past week I had the opportunity to join in Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity’sRaise Your Hand Chicagoland” event, helping to build houses for 13 families. Held in the high-profile Pioneer Plaza on Michigan Avenue (where the Marilyn Monroe statue used to reside), the event gave great exposure to the mission that drives Habitat for Humanity. Kicked off by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the four-day event drew hundreds of volunteers and numerous corporate sponsors, including BMO Harris Bank and Lowe’s.


Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization seeking to reduce homelessness and poverty housing by bringing volunteers together to build houses. The organization partners with families in need to create safe and affordable housing.


rahm emanuel, chicago mayor


lisa madigan, attorney general illinois


After hearing inspiring speeches from the Mayor and other leaders and supporters of Habitat for Humanity, I put on my safety glasses, secured my hard hat, and got to work. Habitat supervisors showed us how to read the architectural plans, gather the right pieces of wood and other materials, and position them together. We each grabbed a hammer and started nailing walls together. Hundreds of nails later, we had built six walls, some including doors or windows. We learned that the walls would be transported and fully assembled into a structured house in the new neighborhood.


Habitat for Humanity Pioneer Plaza



Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity



Chicago Bears Habitat for Humanity



Chicago Bears Helping with Habitat for Humanity


Not just a day of camaraderie and sunshine, our hard work reminded us that we have the ability to make a difference for those in need.



Partner families: Who are they?


The most inspiring part of the day was meeting a family who lives in one of the houses built by Habitat for Humanity. It’s important to note that Habitat for Humanity is not a hand-out – the partner families are carefully selected, and to live in the house they must contribute hundreds of hours of build time as well as pay all of the mortgage, with 0% interest (the mortgages are comparable to the mortgages in any city the partner families live in). They are supported with home ownership classes to set them up for success in their new home. Many benefits come with home ownership, such as stability, self-sufficiency and a sense of community.


Representing the partner families was Natasha Nicholes. Filled with energy and enthusiasm, Natasha shared her family’s story, her life goal of becoming a homeowner, and some of the incredible experiences she’s already had taking part in the builds. She’s also participating in Chicago Women Build Week (June 18 – 21), continuing the construction on the house we started for one of her neighbors.


As a Chicago blogger, Natasha shares her piece of the world on her website Houseful of Nicholes – sharing tales of her household of love, laughter and life. Today, she let us in on her experiences with Habitat for Humanity.



What inspires you the most about Habitat for Humanity?


Ever since we discovered Habitat for Humanity’s true goal, we have been determined to help as many as we can understand the mission.  It is impossible to hear how thousands are being helped a year and not feel a need to throw whichever hat you carry in the ring.  We are inspired by our fellow partner families.  We’re inspired by the idea that their goals are our goals; that their journey is our journey both here and abroad.  So with every plank, stud, wall, paint stroke, and swing of a hammer we are one step closer to realizing our dreams whether it be our house or someone else’s.  It doesn’t matter.



How have your experiences with Habitat impacted your family?


The impact of volunteerism has been tremendously felt expressly for myself, my husband, and my oldest son.  I don’t believe we would have donated as much of our time had we not been familiar with the Habitat program.  Once you start helping it is almost impossible to stop.  Homes will be built up our new block for quite some time.  So our time will be adjusted to account for our neighbors.



How have your experiences with Habitat shaped the way you feel about Chicagoans helping other Chicagoans?


I’m not certain if I’d say that this experience has shaped the way we feel as much as reinforced the way we feel about it.  We have strong faith and have seen community with our neighbors, our church family, and at our son’s school.  To know that way on the other side of town these same principles are being practiced and shared encourages us.  It lets us know that our corner isn’t the only bright one in this city and that there are and have always been lights flickering throughout. 



What advice do you have for our readers who are interested in getting involved with Habitat?


We would definitely suggest looking into your local Habitat for Humanity affiliate.  Habitat for Humanity is big on partnerships.  So businesses, schools, organizations, groups, concerned citizens, or folks in any other category I may have missed have an opportunity and an invitation to come and assist in the mission.  There are also opportunities to assist both here at home and abroad.  If you feel like all you have to offer is your time, Habitat can use that.  If you feel that all you can give is a modest donation, Habitat can use that too; building materials, supplies, equipment, Habitat can use it all.  This is an open invitation to come and be apart of something special with us.



Tell us a little about your blog! - Houseful of Nicholes


My blog was born from the fact that when my husband and I found out that we were pregnant with twins, we realized that there was nothing on line that mirrored our thoughts or feelings. There was TONS about people with singleton births, but nothing about twin births that I felt that I connected with. We cover everything under the Family Lifestyle niche, including recipes, travel, homeschooling, parenting, family life, and reviews. 


I like to educate as well as incite thoughtful debate. Especially about things that surround socioeconomic structure and the things that sometimes keep several races living in the same city from seeing things the same way. It has helped me grow as an adult, and also provided much needed conversation with people who were so removed from things that they insisted they weren’t a problem to begin with. 



What words of wisdom can you share with us?

I can only say that whatever you have a passion for, pursue it. For the last three years, I’ve been daring to dream, and while my dreams haven’t unfolded exactly in the time frame that I’ve wanted – they’re coming to fruition. Some, like the Habitat for Humanity journery, are happening a lot sooner than I expected. It’s a blessing to be able to work alongside neighbors and construction teams and see everything that is going on. There is no room for pompousness, because EVERYONE is working, and moving towards a common goal. It’s how the world should be.


Thank you Natasha!


Learn how you can make a direct impact helping hundreds of Chicago families


Year-round, Habitat for Humanity provides opportunities to get involved and provide a “hand up” to partner families. Time, talents and resources are greatly appreciated. While Chicagoland is supported by eight affiliate groups around the city and suburbs, here are the best ways to get involved in the Windy City group.


To volunteer as an individual (construction) – must be 18 years or older

Windy City Habitat for Humanity construction sites are located primarily on the South Side of Chicago. Volunteer days are Wednesday through Saturday, 8:00 am-3:00 pm.

  • Attend an orientation session (next one is on Wednesday, June 11) – email to sign up for a future date
  • Understand that construction activities involve physical labor, at your own risk (must sign liability waiver). Construction activities revolve around building home structures
  • Donate or fundraise a minimum of $50
  • Register online to search for a build day


Volunteer at the ReStore – managing and selling construction materials for upcoming builds. The ReStore will be opening in Fall 2014 at 6040 N. Pulaski Road.


Donate money – this is easy to do online on a one-time or recurring basis.



{All pictures by Lauren Fondriest | The Chicago Lifestyle}




Your Guide to Living The Chicago Lifestyle: Summer 2014

Your Guide to Living The Chicago Lifestyle: Summer 2014


Our blessed Chicago summer has finally arrived and we all have one goal: Make the most of it! Don your sunglasses and head out the door to enjoy Chicago’s best summer experiences. Because Chicago is so vast and I still have plenty of places I want to try, my list of things to do in Chicago this summer is broken down into two parts – “What I Love” – my own recommendations – and “What I Want to Try” – the places I’ve been dying to go. If you’ve experienced any of the things I want to try, please comment below and let me know how they are!



Al Fresco Dining

outdoor restaurants chicago, chicago summer


\\ What I Love \\

  • The Southern (1840 W. North) – This outdoor, partly-shaded patio gets sweeter every time I go. Refreshing seasonal cocktails are paired with a rotating southern menu, allowing you to try something new each time. When weather permits, the second story opens up with breezy cabanas for hosting your best group of friends. My favorite experiences have included Johnny Cakes, hushpuppies and even an all-you-can-eat crawfish boil.
  • Oak Street Beach Bistro (1001 N. Lake Shore Drive) – While most know about Castaways, Oak Street Beach Bistro is a tamer version at the next beach over. Don’t worry if your feet are covered in sand, stop in for a beer and some fish tacos while you people-watch the afternoon away.
  • Derby (1224 W. Webster) – Also featuring southern fare and drinks, Derby is fun year-round. When it’s a sunny Saturday in the middle of the summer, Derby is my first choice when I’m looking for outside seating – I’ve been lucky enough to get a seat each time! While the brunch menu isn’t that large, their main menu has an extensive list of choices, all of which you can top off with a Mint Julep, Beermosa or Cool as a Cucumber.



\\ What I Want to Try \\

  • RM Champagne Salon (116 N. Green) – Paying homage to one of my favorite drinks, RM Champagne Salon has a courtyard strung with party lights (gorgeous in the pictures). The restaurant opens up at 5 p.m. each night and 11 a.m. on Sundays for brunch. I can see myself lounging under the sparkling lights, ordering a cheese plate while sipping a glass of champagne…
  • Elle on the River (330 N. Wabash) – Situated on the patio outside the Langham Hotel and restaurant Travelle, this sweet new spot is serving up Mediterranean tacos, craft sodas (with the option to add your liquor of choice), and summer-flavored punch bowls titled “Better than a Bradford,” “Elle a Noir” and “Down by the River.” Don’t forget the lovely view of the city over the river.



Rooftop Party Hopping

rooftop bar chicago, chicago summer


\\ What I Love \\

  • ZED451 (739 N. Clark) – While ZED451’s rooftop is only two floors high, it still offers great city views of the surrounding buildings. You’ll enter through the restaurant’s first floor bar, climbing a set of stairs to get to the top. With a number of seating options – long benches, two-seater high-tops and mini cabanas for groups – you can sit down and order a bite off the restaurant’s lighter Cravings menu. This is a great spot for a special event or a night out with friends.
  • J. Parker (1816 N. Clark) – The drinks may be expensive, but the view makes up for it. Take the special elevator up to the top of Hotel Lincoln and step out to incredible visibility of Lincoln Park and the lake. The view encompasses some of Chicago’s best natural beauty and reinforces your love for this great city. Expect a hip see-and-be-seen crowd, and don’t expect to get a seat during peak hours.



\\ What I Want to Try \\

  • I|O Urban Roofscape (127 W. Huron) – Swanky hotel The Godfrey boasts an indoor/outdoor rooftop space serving up food and drinks to its fabulous visitors. Open from breakfast/brunch through late night, the restaurant/bar sits under a retractable roof that allows for year-round entertaining – and they even take reservations! My apartment window overlooks the hotel, leaving me wanting to go every day. One of these days I will make it happen!
  • 52Eighty Rooftop Lounge (166 E. Superior) – Several of my fellow Chicago bloggers made me jealous with their recent pictures from Mile North Hotel’s new rooftop, 52Eighty. Twenty-eight stories up, this brand-new space looks like it’s going to be one of the summer’s hottest rooftops!
  • Little Goat Rooftop (820 W. Randolph) – My Mom and I stumbled across this little gem while waiting to be seated in Little Goat’s main dining room. This cozy space offers cushioned benches, an outdoor bar, and even a few manicured plants and flowers to enhance the atmosphere. Perched on top of the main restaurant, this rooftop offers a great view in the middle of the West Loop. Since it is adjacent to the dining room that can be rented for private events, the rooftop is only open for very specific hours – please check their website for more details.



Fresh Air Fitness

outdoor fitness chicago, outdoor workout chicago, chicago summer


\\ What I Love \\

  • Running the lakefront trail – In my Chicago Marathon training days, I conquered approximately 10 miles (out and back to get in a total of 20!) of that well-worn trail. While the stretch between Fullerton and Oak Street is especially popular due to the beaches, this congested area is not the only scenic part of the route. Heading north between Montrose and Foster you’ll take in expansive fields, nearly empty beaches, and plenty of peaceful spots to camp out for the afternoon. Heading south, you’ll pass by beauties such as the Buckingham Fountain, incredible skyline views by the museum campus, and ultimately more sandy shores looking back up on the loop.
  • The Color Run – Read about my experience at The Color Run and enter to win 2 tickets here.



\\ What I Want to Try \\

  • Yoga at Lincoln Park Zoo’s Nature Boardwalk – Held under the unique wooden sculpture modeled after a turtle shell, weekly yoga classes bring your workouts back to nature. In addition to the picturesque view of the city skyline, you’ll be surrounded by wildlife living in the boardwalk’s ecosystem. Curious? You can even try it out for free – on Saturday, May 31 from 9 – 10 a.m. and Sunday, June 1 from 10 – 11 a.m.
  • Stand-up Paddleboarding – If you haven’t seen pictures of this unique sport, it’s a cross between surfing and kayaking – you’ll stand up on a board and paddle around in the lake. Chicago SUP offers rentals, lessons and even crazy classes such as SUP-Yo (yoga on the board) and SUP-Fit (cross training on the board). Who wants to sign up with me??



Low-Cost Culture & Events

free events chicago, chicago summer


\\ What I Love \\

  • Navy Pier Fireworks – Seeing a spectacle in the sky is not just for 4th of July anymore – in Chicago, you can be dazzled with fireworks every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. and every Saturday at 10:15 p.m. While you can go directly to Navy Pier to view the fireworks shows, I would recommend finding a rooftop to watch them from, or go out on a fireworks cruise on a boat or kayak.
  • Movies in the Park – Movies in the Park is entering its 14th season, bringing communities together to view classic and modern movies under the stars – for free! Bring your blanket, chairs and picnic to enjoy a balmy evening with friends. I had the pleasure of seeing my favorite movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, at the Chicago History Museum last year. Favorites this summer include:
    • July 5: Gravity at Jonquil Playlot (1001 W. Wrightwood)
    • July 9: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off at Chicago History Museum (1601 N. Clark)
    • July 17: The Sandlot at Wicker Park (1425 N. Damen)
    • August 8: The Goonies at Wrightwood Park (2534 N. Greenview)
    • August 12: The Blind Side at Montgomery Ward Park (630 N. Kingsbury)
    • August 23: Wizard of Oz at Oz Park (2021 N. Burling)
  • Arlington Racetrack – Bring your floppy hats, your sundresses and your bowties to spend a day in the sunshine at Arlington’s beautiful horse racing track. Unlike some of the other horse racing experiences you may have had, you can actually see all of the horses at this track. Even though this location is in the suburbs, it’s easy to take the Metra from Clybourn station and you can even drink on the train. With tickets typically only $12, you’ll get to see the horses race every 20 minutes and grab some food/drinks or place a bet before the next one. The track’s biggest race, the Arlington Million, will be a big party on Saturday, August 16.
  • Farmer’s Markets – There’s nothing like finding fresh inspiration for your dinner from the bountiful produce, meats, cheeses and more flowing from local farmers at Chicago’s many Farmer’s Markets. While my favorite remains the Green City Market in Lincoln Park, many neighborhoods host their own markets on various days of the week, including lunch hours in the Loop. Visit the link above to find one near you.



\\ What I Want to Try \\

  • Jazzin’ at the Shedd – I still haven’t made it to this weekly (every Wednesday 5 – 10 p.m. from June 25 – September 3) summer event, but not for lack of trying! I bought tickets/Groupons the past two years but had conflicts both times. This year I am determined to enjoy the concerts featuring rotating artists outside the Shedd Aquarium. Attendees can choose from various food and beverage options for purchase. Bonus points for fireworks in the background and extended hours on select museum exhibits.
  • Free Concerts at Millennium Park – The gorgeous Jay Pritzker Pavilion hosts free concerts throughout the summer, another great spot to bring a blanket and set up a picnic. There are several sets of concerts – Loops and Variations, which features new music mixed with electronica on Thursdays at 6:30 p.m., and Downtown Sound, which features varied genres of artists every Monday at 6:30 p.m.



Festivals, Concerts and Tours

chicago summer festival, chicago summer concerts, chicago summer


\\ What I Love \\

  • Chicago Pride Parade – This has got to be one of the city’s most fun one-day events. While the Pride Fest takes on a full week of festivities, the parade on June 29 guarantees color, spirit and a whole lot else! Warning: there might be sights you can’t un-see. But don’t let that stop you – the costumes, floats and performances make this a huge street party running for blocks and blocks in Boystown.
  • Chicago Food Planet Tour (Bucktown/Wicker Park) – In addition to getting your fill of Chicago-based delicacies, you’ll be treated to a neighborhood history walking tour. I had the opportunity to learn about the “Beer Baron Mansions,” the painted lady houses, and the history of the park (Wicker Park) itself. This tour also provided my only “official” tutorial on the history, components and principles of the Chicago-style hot dog.
  • Taste of Lincoln Avenue – One of Chicago’s most popular street festivals, Taste of Lincoln Avenue attracts a gathering so large you might end up crowd-surfing. To avoid the congestion, attend at off peak hours, catch one of the local cover bands (such as my favorite 80s cover band, 16 Candles), and sample the flavors of nearby restaurants you’ve never tried. This year’s festival is scheduled for July 26 – 27.



\\ What I Want to Try \\

  • Do-Division Street Fest – Held this upcoming weekend, May 30 – June 1, West Town’s street festival hosts concerts, a sidewalk sale of artisan vendors, local food options and even a fashion festival (runway show!). Centered on the unique businesses and shops that make up the area, this festival gives true neighborhood flair and welcome to visitors from all over.
  • Chicago Blues Fest – I feel like I’ve never fully taken advantage of Chicago’s history of blues music. From June 13 – 15, we can experience numerous blues and honorary acts in Grant Park for free. Headliners include Billy Boy Arnold, Bettye LaVette, Dr. John and more.



Follow The Chicago Lifestyle’s summer adventures around town on Twitter and Instagram.



Which of these have you tried? What tips would you give us for the places we haven’t been? Please comment below!



Get the Inside Scoop on MasterChef Contestant: Chicago Food Truck Chef Rickie Perez

Get the Inside Scoop on MasterChef Contestant: Chicago Food Truck Chef Rickie Perez


You’ve seen them parked along the streets, spreading delicious smells of food grilling within, and have likely sampled their local flavors. Chicago’s food trucks tout a loyal following and provide a quick and convenient spot to grab a bite to eat. Out of one of those food trucks emerged Chef Rickie Perez, a native of Logan Square with an appetite to prove his talent.


Rickie will debut on MasterChef on FOX this Monday, May 26 at 7 p.m., hosted by Gordon Ramsay. Judging alongside Gordon will be Chicago Chef celebrity Graham Elliot and restaurateur Joe Bastianich. Beginning with 30 chefs from around the country, the judges will eliminate at each round until the best contestant is dubbed MasterChef.


Chefs will test their culinary expertise with challenges each week, including:

  • Team challenge to prepare a meal for 500 service men and women on an army base
  • Preparation of a romantic meal for 14 couples
  • Restaurant takeover at a popular Hollywood dining destination
  • Competing for the best game-day grub for a group of sports fans



Excited to represent Chicago, Rickie gave me the inside scoop on his inspiration and competition:


Rickie Perez


What excited you the most about competing in MasterChef?

I have been a BIG fan of the show since the beginning. Plus, being a home cook from Chicago, I have always looked up to Chef Graham Elliot and the amazing things that have come out of his kitchens.


How did your food truck experiences prepare you to compete in MasterChef?

I have had the extreme pleasure of riding around this beautiful city in the Southern Mac and Cheese, 5411 Empanadas, Jerk Modern Jamaican, and The Fat Shallot Classic Sandwiches food trucks. In doing so, I have been able to immerse myself in foods and cultures that I may have never been able to if it wasn’t for the growing food truck population in Chicago.


Which judge is the toughest and why?

Graham was the scariest for me, but only because I truly look up to him so much.


How does your work represent Chicago?

I was born and raised in Logan Square and my beautiful wife, Jannice, and I still live there to this day. I have brought my experiences from living in this city, known for its amazing and vast variety of food, as well as those from growing up on my father’s food and having my mother-in-law’s amazing home cooking.


What food truck(s) do you run, where can we find them and what should we order?

I am no longer on the road, but I am launching my own project, Logan Oyster Socials. It is a traveling oyster bar for parties, cocktail hours, weddings or any get-together in need of a half shell.



Many thanks to Rickie and good luck during MasterChef Season 5! Catch the debut on FOX this upcoming Monday at 7 p.m.


{Images via FOX and Rickie Perez}



Sprinkles Cupcakes: The Best Treats in Chicago

Sprinkles Cupcakes: The Best Treats in Chicago


You may have heard of this little phenomenon called Sprinkles Cupcakes… if you haven’t, get yourself there now! Sprinkles is one of the top destinations in Chicago to satisfy your sweet tooth. With the Windy City Blogger Collective, I had the lucky opportunity to go behind the scenes at Sprinkles to see where the magic happens, as a #SprinklesTasteTester.


The allure of Sprinkles’ freshly baked cupcakes draws in droves of locals and tourists each day, clamoring for the sweet taste of this Gold Coast shop’s treats. The façade of the store is covered in the characteristic polka dots decorating the tops of many of Sprinkles’ cupcakes. You’ll be greeted first by the innovative Cupcake ATM outside the door – just use the screen to make your selection and you’ll have your cupcake in hand in moments! When you walk in the door, you’ll see what all the fuss is about as your eyes meet the rows of flavors for your choosing. A handy guide will show you which flavors are available each day of the week, and you don’t have to pick just one! Boxes are available to take cupcakes home or to make someone’s day as a gift.


Sprinkles Facade


Rows of Cupcakes


S'mores Cupcakes


Situated behind all the delicious temptations is a small but mighty kitchen churning out all the cupcakes the store sells. Trays and trays of the delicious cupcakes are surrounded by industrial size mixers, ovens, and cupcake pans of various sizes. For our lucky group, a set of unfrosted cupcakes sat out on the counter. I was ready to pick up a frosting spatula right away but my patience was rewarded with a lesson on how to frost cupcakes the official Sprinkles way.


How to Frost a Cupcake – The Official Sprinkles Way


After stirring the frosting a bit with the spatula, scoop up more frosting than will be necessary to top the cupcake. Spread the frosting smoothly over the top, running the spatula in both directions to create a flat surface. Brush the spatula along the side of the cupcake in short sections, removing the excess frosting. Take one final sweep with your spatula across the top and around the sides to smooth out the frosting, finishing the look by rounding out any edges. If you’d like, top with sprinkles or other decorations.


Frosting Lesson


Cupcakes Ready to be Frosted


Windy City Bloggers


I am a vanilla cake lover so I picked up a vanilla cupcake and chose the peanut butter frosting. With a few careful swipes my cupcake was iced and I was ready for the decorations. Chocolate sprinkles and a little pink whale topper seemed like the perfect accoutrements to my creation. Within minutes, I devoured each bite.


My Very Own Cupcake!


Not to limit my taste test to one flavor, I took home a box to try out several of Sprinkles’ other options. My favorite was the new Margarita flavor, which is actually spread with a layer of tequila before being frosted. My other favorite was the S’more cupcake, a concoction of graham cracker crust, chocolate cake with an even more chocolaty center, and a toasted marshmallow topping. With all the flavors and options, I know these cupcakes would make great gifts to a few very lucky individuals.


Sprinkles to Go


Vanilla Cupcake


Next time you’re craving a sweet treat or want to try one of Chicago’s gourmet creations, head to Sprinkles cupcakes to create your own delicious moments!


Connect with Sprinkles:

In-store: 50 E. Walton, Chicago, IL 60611


Instagram: @sprinklescupcakes

Twitter: @sprinkles


Looking to Volunteer: Best Places to Lend a Hand in Chicago

Looking to Volunteer: Best Places to Lend a Hand in Chicago


Have you been thinking about volunteering in Chicago but don’t know where to start? When we step outside our normal boundaries, there are so many in need in this great city, as well as thriving organizations just looking for an extra hand.


A few months ago, I had a rare Saturday afternoon with no plans, and was interested in volunteering. After a web search turned up no options where I could lend an afternoon without an extensive list of requirements, I nearly gave up. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Chicago Volunteer Expo, and came out with a great list of places to give our time and talents. Held at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the expo featured hundreds of organizations looking for your help.


Here are The Chicago Lifestyle’s top picks for simple, easy was to volunteer in Chicago:


1. Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon on Saturday, June 7


Chicago Cares is a volunteer organization targeting the city’s most critical needs. Their 21st annual Serve-a-thon draws over 5000 volunteers for a fun day of improving the city’s classrooms, parks, playgrounds, libraries and more in Chicago’s underserved communities. Focusing on creating change for the city’s children, this critical day of service contributes to the year’s funding for additional opportunities throughout the year. Celebrate your efforts with an after-party featuring food, drinks and live music. Signup is open now for this special annual event.


On a regular basis, it’s easy to volunteer for one-time events, just sign up on their website and view the volunteer calendar. One-time events include pet therapy, mock interviews, reading with kids, senior breakfasts and bingo, and introducing healthy foods to children and families, for example. The best part: you can filter opportunities by your availability and what sort of service or population you’d like to work with.



2. One Brick – One-time Volunteering Made Easy


Focused on making volunteering simple, One Brick works with thousands of organizations to compile a calendar of volunteer opportunities. Choose one that fits your schedule, enjoy the social atmosphere, and top off your work with a drink at a nearby bar or restaurant. Fully run by volunteers, One Brick is always looking for new helpers like you to fill their opportunities around the city.


Events featured on their calendar include poker dealing, neighborhood food pantry meal service, preparing supplies for Girls on the Run youth self-esteem sessions, and support for special events.



3. Help Run the Old Town Art Fair on June 14 – 15


Did you know the Old Town Art Fair is completely volunteer planned, managed and staffed? Pulled off with a force of over 750 volunteers, the Old Town Art Fair is one of the most anticipated Chicago summer festivals. Help is needed at the entrance gates, manning booths while artists take a break, selling merchandise to benefit the Old Town neighborhood, supporting aid to the artists and more. This is a great way to give back to one of Chicago’s iconic neighborhoods and mingle with the city’s influential artists and visitors.



4. Support Runners on Race Day with CARA


CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association) is one of the most well-known running groups in the city, providing training and race day support to thousands of runners across Chicago. CARA is a non-profit group benefiting over 8600 runners, dedicated to expanding, motivating, celebrating and supporting Chicagoland’s running community. Volunteer support is needed for races throughout the year, particularly for race day aid stations, corral setup and more.



What opportunities have you taken to get out there and support Chicago?


{Image via Salvation Army}



Popping Up All Over Chicago: Art, Music, Fashion and Shopping

Popping Up All Over Chicago: Art, Music, Fashion and Shopping


While it’s fun to shop at year-round stores or visit permanent exhibits, it’s exhilarating to take part in Chicago’s “pop-up” events – shopping, art, music or food experiences that happen just for a brief moment – and then they’re gone. If you’re in the know about these happenings – thanks to reading The Chicago Lifestyle, of course – you can take advantage of these fleeting events. You’ll have a unique experience, and you might find some unique items, that you’ll never find anywhere else.





Chicago is a city full of incredible art, visible in many museums, neighborhoods and galleries. Here are some new ways to experience art this month.


ACTIVATE Pop-Up Loop Art Party


The Chicago Loop Alliance, which manages the art and sculptures shown in the loop, is hosting an innovative event called ACTIVATE – which they describe as “part spectacle and part happy hour – featuring art and live music in a unique urban setting.” On Thursday, May 1 from 5 – 10 p.m., the Sullivan Center Alley will be overtaken for the ACTIVATE party, featuring art curated by Johalla Projects and a Zipcar DJ booth. Artists will use lights and lasers to simulate the “death of winter and the rise of spring.” The event is free and beer and wine will be served for $2 (cash only). Sullivan Center Alley can be accessed from Monroe between State and Wabash. RSVP here and get a free drink ticket.



Red Bull Canvas Cooler Project – Showcased in Chicago Restaurants and Bars


Red Bull Cooler Canvas Project


20 emerging Chicago artists were recently selected to each create a masterpiece on a Red Bull cooler covered in canvas. Paired with owners of Chicago’s hottest bars and restaurants, the artists were challenged to create their cooler in fitting with the theme of one specific venue. The artists were only given one day to execute on this creative project, and the coolers were submitted to judges to vote on the best piece, for submission into SCOPE Art Fair in Miami. The remaining creations will go on display in the next few weeks in locations including:

  • Hub 51
  • Three Dots and a Dash
  • Bub City
  • Chop Shop
  • Empty Bottle
  • The Brixton
  • And many more!


Red Bull Cooler Canvas Project




Red Bull Cooler Canvas Project


When you visit any of these locations in the next month, be sure to ask (and watch out for) these unique pieces of art. You’ll be able to surprise your friends when you know where they came from!


{Photos courtesy of Red Bull}





Listen in for this one-of-a-kind concert coming up next week!


Kaleidoscope Concert Featuring Lawrence University Musicians


Lawrence University Kaleidoscope Concert


Imagine a kaleidoscope of jazz, bluegrass, classical and opera music – all converging in one performance. Talented musicians from Lawrence University travel to Chicago to perform for one night only at Park West Theatre (322 W. Armitage) on Tuesday, April 29 at 6:30 p.m. The performance will feature acts such as Cuban drumming, a bluegrass quartet, an operatic aria and even a didgeridoo. Past shows have sold out and have amazed concertgoers with the fast-paced variety of music compiled into one event. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here. A pre-show reception with hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar will begin at 5:30 p.m.


{Photo courtesy of Lawrence University}





Get ahead of the curve with Chicago designers’ brand new clothing lines.


Chicago Designer Spring Showcase


Sine Qua Non Salon (2766 N. Lincoln Ave.) is hosting a spring trunk show featuring Chicago’s top designers this Friday, April 25 from 6:30 – 9 p.m. You’ll have the opportunity to see hot new clothing lines as well as preview new style bar services. Enjoy wine and treats from Paper Moon Bakery while taking advantage of retail promotions and salon booking deals. Fourteen unique vendors will show off their goods at this one-time event. The first 20 people through the door will receive a free blowout!





Vintage Garage Flea Market


Sunday, April 27 will mark the 3rd season of the Vintage Garage flea market. From 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., visit 5051 N. Broadway for a wide selection of vintage clothing, jewelry and mid-century furniture from 100 of the finest vintage dealers in the Midwest. Admission is $5. The event will also feature a “Vintage Style Ride” at 11:30 a.m. – bicyclists dressed in vintage clothing riding along the lakefront.



Randolph Street Market


Randolph Street Market


The classic Randolph Street Market (1350 W. Randolph) will return this weekend, April 25 – 26 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. both days. A treasure trove of all kinds of goods, from clothing, posters, furniture, home goods and more, the Randolph Street Market encourages hours of browsing to pick up just the right item that no one else has. This month the market is indoors, and admission is $10. As a special offering at this month’s market, Tandem Felix Letterpress will be offering classes to learn how to use a wooden letterpress for printing. Classes are $25 (including market entry) and tickets can be purchased here. Bonus! Show your entry ticket receipt after the market for a free glass of Prosecco at Nellcôte.



Spring Blooms: Flower Show and Hands-On Floral Design

Spring Blooms: Flower Show and Hands-On Floral Design

With spring tempting us a little more each week, and the tulip buds just beginning to show their tips, we are craving the bright happiness that flowers bring.


Throughout the summer, we’ll be surrounded by gardens full of lush and colorful flowers, many maintained by the City of Chicago. One of my favorite spots to view the flowers is the park outside the Lincoln Park Conservatory, adjacent to the Lincoln Park Zoo entrance.


Longing for the flowers to arrive, I recently attended the Secret Garden Flower Show, held at Macy’s on State Street. Tucked away in one of the top floors of the building, this free flower show featured blooms of all colors, shapes and sizes. Decorative scenes were supplemented by creatively placed pianos, bicycles, painted car tires and other unusual objects. The pièce de résistance was a 10 foot tall beauty donned in a dress of bright red flowers.


Immerse yourself in the beauty of the flowers in my Secret Garden Flower Show photo collage:


Flower Show Collage


If you’re interested in flowers and want to get hands-on, there are multiple opportunities in Chicago.


Floral Arranging Class

Allure Floral Design (1343 N. Ashland) is offering a 2-hour class at their shop in Wicker Park. Thanks to a LivingSocial deal, the course is only $47 (only a few weeks left to take advantage of this offer). You’ll be guided through floral fundamentals, design principles, and learn how to create your own bouquet. Spruce up your home or office with the flowers you’ll be able to take with you.



Terrarium, Orchid and Other Garden Classes

Sprout Home (745 N. Damen) offers one-time classes nearly every week to help you master your green thumb. Classes are usually $20-40. Learn new skills such as:

  • How to build your own mini garden inside a terrarium or bowl, creating a beautiful decoration for your home
  • How to care for orchids and avoid mistakes in keeping these beautiful flowers
  • How to create a living wreath to adorn your door in time for summer



Lincoln Park Zoo Second Saturdays Garden Tours

Tour Lincoln Park Zoo’s beautiful gardens with the Horticulture Department to learn how they’re designed and maintained. Seasonal plants and flowers will be highlighted each month. Tours are free and occur on the second Saturday of each month from 10 – 11 a.m. Upcoming tour dates include May 10 and June 14, and begin at the Nature Boardwalk Kiosk.