a guide to hosting visitors in chicago

i absolutely love having visitors. luckily for me, lots of people get excited about a trip to chicago (but really only from may – september). this weekend, i am thrilled to be hosting my best friend since first grade and her boyfriend for a weekend of summertime shenanigans. though i always tailor each visitor’s itinerary to fit needs, wants, preferences and tastes, there are a few standbys i love sharing with guests. here are a few suggestions for anyone hosting guests in chicago this summer:

FOOD

obviously of the utmost importance. you gotta eat, right? and chicago has a LOT to offer in the way of deliciousness. again, everyone’s tastes are different, but it’s pretty common for outsiders coming to the windy city to request pizza. while i do adore giordano’s, gino’s and lou’s … my go-to is actually a little more off the beaten path:

chicago pizza and oven grinder co. a little detour from the deep dish style chicago is known for, this quaint, authentic italian basement joint serves pizza pot pies that are so hearty and filling, i often campaign my dining companions to find someone to share with. the added benefit of that strategy is that you can ALSO order the salad, which is delicious with their homemade dressing. whether you order meat, veggie, pizza or grinder, i have never been disappointed by an experience here. they don’t take reservations, and at prime dining hours on the weekends, it can be packed (think 2 hours plus wait time), but they have a beautiful bar to help pass the time. as an added fun bonus, the host never writes down anyone’s name, but rather remembers everyone’s face and how many in the party and where they fall in line. i’ve never seen him make a mistake.

frontier this restaurant/bar is a meat-lover’s paradise. if you bring enough people with you, they will roast an entire animal (boar, pig, etc.) to feed you. with a whimsically decorated space (including a gorgeous patio that’s perfect for summer dining), unique and delicious cocktails, plus entrees like alpaca sausage and bbq rabbit leg … it’s bound to be an interesting experience. after hours, the bar gets pretty crowded, and they don’t take reservations, so getting there a little early is advisable. also? order the mac and cheese. you won’t be disappointed.

kuma’s corner another meat-focused joint (sorry to all my vegetarian/vegan visitors!), but this time it’s burgers. with a rock and roll theme, no reservations and a line out the door, the ambience alone is worth stopping by for. BUT, come for the ambience, stay for the burgers. with all kinds of creative combinations (including veggie burger options), it’s hard to go wrong with any choice you make off the menu. the burgers are enormous and always perfectly cooked. i always TRY to go at an off time to limit waiting, but i don’t think i’ve ever been able to sit down right away. luckily they also have a wide array of craft beers on tap to keep impatient patrons occupied while waiting for a table.

ACTIVITIES

there are only a few months in chicago where being outside is acceptable, so i love taking full advantage when the sun is out and the snow finally melts. as a result, a lot of my default activities are outdoors, so they need to be tweaked for winter visitors.

chicago architecture boat tour

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is there a better way to pass two hours than on a boat, cocktail in hand, listening to an expert describe the historical significance of chicago’s architecture? i have done this tour several times and although i probably only absorb about half of the given information, i never get sick of the beautiful skyline views this tour affords. several different companies run the tours, but the one hosted by the architecture foundation is my ultimate fave.

baseball games

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although i am a chicago cubs fan (who knows why? not me!), i really enjoy taking in a sunny afternoon at either chicagoland ballpark. it’s more about the atmosphere anyway, so as long as you’re in good company, you basically can’t go wrong.

 

festivals

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pretty much every weekend during the summer months, a festival of some kind can be found on the streets of chicago. some are better than others, of course, but all that i’ve ever been to offer great people-watching, interesting food choices and a chance to seek out new chicago neighborhoods. a complete listing is here, but my favorites are burger fest, blues fest and the chicago craft beer festival.

once i started writing this post, i realized that i actually had more to share than i thought. i still have to outline the best coffee, bars and ice cream spots for visitors … which means another post! in the meantime, enjoy the suggestions. i’m sure we will be hitting up at least some of these this weekend!

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