I’d heard from many people just how lovely Chicago is during the summer, and it lives up to the hype.
The last three weeks have been a whirlwind, trying to enjoy the city in the height of its splendour whilst we can. The days have been a little cooler than the local average, but still perfect for cannon-balling into Lake Michigan. Bars and restaurants throw open their french doors, blurring the lines between inside and out. No one seems to really care how they look, people ride their bikes everywhere, and everyone stays out until well past their bedtimes. The longest lines are for the establishments selling frozen yogurt.
There’s a real sense of abandoning the rigid rules of daily life. In a Chicago summer, such rules no longer apply. It’s heady, fragrant, intoxicating.
The inhabitants of Chicago embrace the summer by squeezing in a much as they can into the months where the sun is highest, and the weather the warmest. It feels as though they’re attempting to make a surplus of memories that will enable them to survive the long, harsh winter months until they can reemerge and do it all again. As such, I am dutifully embracing the feel of the sun on my limbs, and suspending ‘real life’ to enjoy it with them. It’s a far cry from the summer months in San Francisco …
Here are seven things I’ve enjoyed so far in my first Chicago summer:
Chicago is a city that makes me look up. I usually am focused on watching my feet (I’m ever so clumsy), or lost in my thoughts, but the impetus to look up here is very strong. You get a real sense of the numerous architectural styles that often share a single block, as well as the sheer scale of some of these enormous buildings. And when you do look up, you’re usually rewarded with something beautiful. Or if not beautiful, then notable.
2: Lake Michigan
We live so close to the lake that we seem to be down there at least once a day to walk along the Lake Shore. It’s so energising to be so close to water, and I have a hard time believing Lake Michigan is not the ocean: it’s just so expansive. I love seeing how the water colour changes with the time of day and weather.
At the end of really hot days here, we seem to get the threat of evening showers — dark clouds threatening to cool us off, with a peppering of white fluffy ones thrown in to reflect the colours of the sunset behind us. It’s so hard to capture all the nuances of what I see with my phone — some things just have to be snapped as a reminder that it was even more beautiful than the photo depicts.
Here’s another shot I took of the lake, as featured this week on Jill’s blog, Battered Suitcases.
3: Local Street Fairs
Every weekend in the summer, there’s some local street fair going on. They close down the main thoroughfare in the neighbourhood to traffic, and open it for the locals to let their hair down and soak up sunshine, with a beer in hand and their mates by their sides.
We’ve been to a few street fests already, and it’s been fun to enjoy the relaxed vibe and the entertainment with the other locals. It was at the River North festival we found a great cover band called Rod Tuffcurl & the Bench Press. They’re super fun, and can’t get enough of their rendition of the Golden Girls theme song, too.
4: Belle & Sebastian
Whilst, technically, Belle & Sebastian are from Glasgow, they’re on the list because we saw them play at the Pitchfork Festival at Union Park in West Loop. After a day full of obscenely bright skies and muggy heat, it rained for most of their set — big, heavy drops. I loved every moment of it.
5: Summer Concerts in Millenium Park
Most nights of the week during summer, the city puts on free concerts and performances down at Millenium Park. Last week, we were lucky enough to see the Symphony (with a full choir) perform Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’, and last night was the Festival of Dance featuring the Joffrey Ballet.
The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is a work of art. I love spaces like the Pavilion because it encourages people to meet each other and enjoy the park in both active and passive ways. And it’s great to see how the other concert goers get into it the festive spirit. The folks next to us had it all sorted: comfy chairs, eskies with chilled wine, cheeseboards, bite sized pieces of sushi and handmade breads all perfectly presented on small collapsible Adirondak-style tables.
Just being outside, in the shadows of the skyscrapers as darkness descends, is one of my favourite experiences in the city so far.