Street Smart Chicago

Big Bang: Newcity’s Guide to New Years Eve 2009

Events, Food & Drink, Holidays, News etc. No Comments »

BARS, NIGHTCLUBS, HOTELS AND MOREist2_4331566-champagne-toast

Aberdeen
Listen to DJ Arkitek spin as you take advantage of a premium open bar and appetizers. There’ll be a chance to win prizes and a champagne toast, too. 1856 W. North, (773)772-5500.

Alhambra Palace
This two-floor, five-room spot is hosting an extravagant party from 9pm-1am with entertainment provided by DJs Shawn Edwards, Tony Tone, Ryan Pollano and others. For $75-$100, guests can get their drink on for four hours with a top-shelf open bar and fill up on an appetizer buffet. Additional information can be found at thepalace4nye.com. 1240 W. Randolph, (312)666-9555.

Angels & Kings
The DJ duo The Fabulous Ladies of Fitness will make an appearance alongside additional guest DJs as guests enjoy snacks, a dessert bar, a champagne toast and a souvenir champagne glass. 710 N. Clark, (312)482-8600.

Angels and Mariachis
Tables range from $50-$100 and the party package (10pm-1am) includes an all-you-can-eat taco bar, sangria, beer, margaritas, cocktails and a midnight champagne toast. Bottle service is also available for $50-$300. 1721 W. Division, (773)227-7772. Read the rest of this entry »

Open Your Dreams: Texas Fred gives everyone their fifteen minutes

Bucktown, Events No Comments »

microphoneIn Bucktown on Sunday nights at a squat side-street building with loud antics and a giant graffitied mural along one side, everybody gets their fifteen minutes. Texas Fred hosts the open mic every week at Gallery Cabaret while portraits of Picasso, Joyce, Poe and Shaw look down upon those at the bar. With shoulder-length white hair and wire-rimmed glasses, Texas Fred seems to have ignored every year since 1969. He announces each performer and delivers dusty anecdotes about hitchhiking with a voice rough from what could be the build-up of pot resin in his throat.

Fifteen minutes or three songs, whichever comes first. Pitcher after pitcher of Leinie’s, the Gallery’s special, is spent composing the perfect set list, while a middle-aged single mother is trying her hand at stand-up comedy and isn’t nearly as bad as the spoken-word poet that preceded her. Read the rest of this entry »

Santa’s Upgrade: Doors open on the left at North Pole

Events, Holidays No Comments »

widget_aTT7mKmDHkNQHp8FolyGWZHuddling under the heat lamps at the Brown Line stop at Damen, four rosy-cheeked little girls and three parents chat excitedly as they wait for the holiday train. A distant rumbling signals the arrival of yet another false alarm.

At 6:36pm, the train finally pulls in, just a few minutes behind schedule to the sound of cheers and screams. “Oh my gosh! It has so many lights on it,” one of the girls shrieks with delight.

Indeed, the CTA has gone all-out. The outside of the car is coated in Christmas bulbs, flickering and flashing ceaselessly. Between cars is a giant float, complete with sleigh, Christmas trees, a brick house (presumably Santa’s) and free candy. Inside, people mill around in wonderment, gazing up at the red and green fluorescent lights that bathe the car in an oddly eerie glow. The seats are reupholstered with red and green Santas, and the poles we normally grip with a single finger, like Captain Hook during rush hour, are wrapped in a candy-cane stripe. “Let It Snow” streams from the speakers. Wide-eyed toddlers clutch their parents, at once amazed and terrified. It’s like being in a Christmas-themed dream. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Green Christmas

Events, Green, Lincoln Park, News etc. No Comments »

“You want to give a gift to the earth too, right?” asks Lindsay Maldonado, coordinator of Family and Children Programs at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The museum, located at 2430 North Cannon Drive in Lincoln Park, will host a “green gifting activity room” every Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 3pm through December 20. “It’s just a part of our mission here at the museum to be environmentally conscious,” says Maldonado. “What we try to emphasize is creative reuse. When you think of crafts, you think of glitter and consumable goods that are probably just going to get thrown out later.” This year’s activities include making recyclable CD snowmen, envelopes to mail your thank-you letters in and gift boxes made out of old magazines and calendars. The activity room is free with admission($6-$9). “This is a time when we’re buying all of these things, and it’s important to know where everything comes from,” Maldonado says.

Light Up, Light Up: As if you had a choice at Daley Plaza

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Picasso-and-Christkindlmarektnight-image for webThis time-honored tradition, which nips at your nose the day before Thanksgiving, is spent in the freezing rain. Swarms of people are bundled in winter coats, scarves, hats and gloves as they stand and wait for the massive tree in the middle of Daley Plaza to illuminate and inform that the holidays are upon us.

Families and couples from all over the Chicago area, spanning from Algonquin to Zion, flock to this historical event that has been a city staple for years, bringing back the Christmas spirit before a dreaded month of crowded malls and retail nightmares consume their lives. Tourists stuff their faces with authentic German-style pastries and bratwurst as they peruse the Christkindlmarket. The aisles are filled with trinkets, artwork and countless other overpriced souvenirs to commemorate the trek downtown during the start of the most wonderful time of year.

Helping to celebrate the occasion is local movie star and daytime talk-show host Bonnie Hunt, always proud to call Chicago her hometown, saying this city makes her feel pretty when compared to Los Angeles, but we can let that slide. Read the rest of this entry »

One Gigantic Evening: Kinetic Playground is not normal

Events, Uptown No Comments »

big-gigantic-press-shot-3-200x134“Fifteen bucks but it’s totally worth it—Big Gigantic is here!” sounds a voice from the crowd of people gathered outside Uptown’s Kinetic Playground.

Such unbridled enthusiasm doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Big Gigantic, an electronica/hip-hop duo from Boulder, Colorado, has managed to amass quite a Chicago following. “Last time we played Chicago,” shares drummer Jeremy Salken, “200 people confirmed on Facebook, but 500 ended up showing.”

The opening band plays softly while the few that have arrived lounge on the large cushioned bench that lines the back wall. Almost no one has a drink in hand and, if they do, it’s a Red Stripe held almost disdainfully, as if it has been forced upon them or they are holding it for someone else. There is a masseuse in one corner giving what appear to be “tip what you feel it was worth” massages and a lone, blonde-dreadlocked hula-hooper twists her pink tank-topped torso to the beat in another. This is no Lincoln Park Pub Crawl. Read the rest of this entry »

Dark Matters: Astronomers dispel doomsday rumors

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1As part of the Adler After Dark promotion, appetizers and cocktails are served on this Thursday at the Adler Planetarium against the dark Chicago skyline, hardly discernable from the murky waters of Lake Michigan. It’s truly a serene sight, and also a stark contrast with the night’s theme: the end of the world. Dr. Mike Smutko, an astronomer at Adler, says, “Adler After Dark grew out of a way to try to reach the twenty- and the thirty-somethings, who haven’t been to the planetarium in a while and have forgotten how great it can be.”

“It’s very tongue-in-cheek,” says Smutko on tonight’s theme. “We were originally inspired by the CERN particle accelerator, which will be the world’s most powerful accelerator. They’re powering it up again this weekend.” He continues, “There have actually been lawsuits filed to prevent that from happening, because some people are worried that they might make these exotic particles that will destroy the whole world, and most people agree that would be a bad thing.” These tenuous concerns, however, hold no scientific backing. Dr. Don Lincoln, author of “The Quantum Frontier: The Large Hadron Collider,” is here to soothe peoples’ fear. Read the rest of this entry »

Holiday Events: Music, theater, shopping and more

Events, Holidays, News etc. No Comments »
THe Cratchits rehearse for The Goodman's "A Christmas Carol"/Photo: Liz Lauren

The Cratchits rehearse for The Goodman's "A Christmas Carol"/Photo: Liz Lauren

Remember the Twelve Days of Christmas? Now the holiday season fills up a month or more. But with our handy guide, you should be able to ensure a winter’s worth of seasonal cheer.

AARON NEVILLE AND HIS QUINTET
Neville and his brother Charles perform holiday classics as well as some of his greatest hits, hopefully including 1966’s “Tell It Like It Is.” The Venue, 777 Casino Center, Hammond, (866)711-7463. Dec 10, 7:30pm. $29.50-$49.50.

AMERICAN STARS IN CONCERT FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Each Christmas, people celebrate the birth of one of history’s greatest stars and the crucial, crunch-time guide work of another (literal) star. It’s only logical to make some stars of the prime-time variety—Idols, perhaps?—on your annual merry-making. Paramount Arts Centre, 23 E. Galena, Aurora, (630)896-6666. Dec 19, 8pm. $48.

3RD ANNUAL ANOTHER YEAR WITHOUT A WITTY TITLE CHICAGO CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR!
A rotating roster of sixteen short holiday-themed comical plays performed by A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Company. The Cornservatory, 4210 N. Lincoln, (312)409-6435. Fridays and Saturdays, 8pm. $15 or two for $25, $12 for students.

ART AND FAITH OF CRECHE
An exhibition with more than a hundred contemporary Nativity scenes from around the world. Loyola University Museum of Art, 820 N. Michigan, (312)915-7600. Dec 5-Jan 17. Free with general admission of $5-$6 and free on Tuesdays. Read the rest of this entry »

A Climb So High: Summiting Willis Tower for a cause

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sears-tower-exterior3The awaiting crowd erupts with joyous congratulatory support as each racer reaches the top of Willis Tower. Drenched in sweat and smiles, the participants in this year’s Sky Rise Chicago couldn’t be happier to finish the 103-flight climb, if only to glimpse one of the best views in the world. Racers catch their breath and converse with fellow climbers, gazing out the windows of the Sky Deck, able to not only see their houses from up here, but miles beyond.

This is the first year the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago organized this event, which raises money to continue awareness for their cause. Founded in 1954, RIC has been named the “#1 Rehabilitation hospital in America” by U.S News and World Report every year for the last eighteen years. Their standards of care and innovative research are commended, especially in the field of bionic medicine, robotics and neural regeneration. But you don’t have to be a Harvard graduate to understand the immensely positive affects the RIC has on its patients.

The more-than-1,800 participants include current and former RIC patients and employees, local firefighters, high-school track teams, elite climbers and Paralympics athletes, who have a hand-cycle event that allows them to peddle the distance and resistance of the massive 103-floor climb.

Read the rest of this entry »

Scrabbling for Literacy: Raising awareness through triple-triples

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scrabbleScrabble has been broadening players’ lexicons for decades. This day, November 14, the game proves to take that dynamic a step further at the annual Scrabble for Literacy Challenge, held in the Grossinger City Autoplex. All proceeds go towards adult and family literacy programs, in addition to the Jump Start program, which helps incarcerated youth.

“It’s kind of amazing,” says Dorothy Miaso, executive director of Literacy Volunteers of Illinois. “People are often surprised at what our literacy rate is in the United States. Generally we are thought to be one of the most powerful countries in the world, but national studies indicate that almost twenty-five-percent of the adult population have literacy problems.”

Player Steve Hartsman goes by the anagram “Trashman.” He’s not having the best of days. “I started off three-and-oh, had a great morning, and have lost all three this afternoon,” he laments. “So I went from being one of the contenders to one of the pretenders, and lost all three in heartbreaking fashions.” Earlier in the day Hartsman made some impressive plays: “Well I had a triple-triple—140 points—‘parities.’ That’s by far my highest scoring play, but I also had a non-bingo for 99 points. I played ‘quezal’ (a Latin American bird). The ‘z’ was on a double letter and it was a triple word, so that was the highlight of my day.” Read the rest of this entry »