(More) Things to Do in Chicago During Lolla, 2015

If one is in town for Lollapalooza 2015, one’s schedule is probably already jam-packed with, well, Lolla. One may even be going to see Florence + The Machine…and, well, I wish I were going to see Florence and the Machine too. Lucky you, and make sure you take sunscreen, because skin cancer sucks.

But maybe one who is in town for Lolla would like to see more than just one small part of Grant Park. In that case, let me add my suggestions to the clamor of voices already offering pointers. There is so much to see and do here; while there’s no way to do it all in one weekend, while also taking in Lolla itself, an assortment of things would, I think, add spice to anyone’s trip.

The Art Institute of Chicago will be offering discounts to Lolla attenders who show their wristbands. Since this goes all the way through September, hang onto those wristbands for $2 off admission. (Or be an Illinois resident and go on free day, if you don’t have a membership.) As always, the AIC has amazing art on display, all the time. They are also running (as usual) several impressive special and/or traveling exhibits, including one on Degas’s sports and dance themed art and a small, incredible exhibition of Andean art from the Spanish-American Colonial period. (It’s amazing. Really. And I’ll be writing on it eventually, most likely.)

The Field Museum, much like the AIC, always has something incredible. I love the Ancient Americas, and the Hall of Jades, both of which are permanent exhibits. Since I last visited, new permanent exhibits have opened up–and, of course, the Field has some amazing travelers as well, including one on Vikings. I’m quite sure it’s a good fit with Vikings, although there will be no creepy-eyed Ragnar watching us all. And, for those more interested in the science-heavy, the Field has a lot to share.

For a brief digression out-of-town into the surrounding ‘burbs, anyone stoked at the idea of the Hall of Jades should check out the Lizzardo Museum of Lapidary Art, in Elmhurst near Elmhurt College. The museum is small, beautifully sized for a quick trip…that will probably turn into a longer one than anticipated. Its collections are magical, from the rocks in the basement to the petrified wood outside and the castle made entirely of precious stones inside, right down to its tiny canon and its waterfalls. (My brother S loved that castle. I loved pretty much everything.)

The Museum of Contemporary Photography, connected to Columbia College Chicago, is on Michigan Avenue a few blocks south of the AIC. It is small, with varied collections; for anyone interested in photography, it is a must-see. The Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium, meanwhile, are on the very same peninsula, right around the Field Museum. The Adler is a really cool space, and the architecture is awesome–I love how a thoroughly modern addition has been melded to the original tholos-shaped, very classic, building. So go see it for both the planets and the architecture, because it’s all so cool. And the Shedd, of course, has something for all interests…and a whole lot of really good science in with the dolphin shows.

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Detail of a Tiffany dome, Chicago Cultural Center.

There is so much downtown that it is impossible to touch on everything. However, both Millennium Park (though perhaps overexposed) and the new Maggie Daley Park are very worth a visit–even if said visit only includes a quick stroll (with a camera, one hopes). Take a spin along the lakefront, downtown or in Hyde Park (or South Shore, or wherever), because it is magnificent. And, if you’re downtown, drop by the Chicago Cultural Center, once upon a time the main library, and see mosaics by Tiffany! All over! As well as whatever cool things are currently being showcased, ranging from performing arts to visual arts to old radios. The place is a veritable treasure trove. And oh those mosaics…. (For that matter, when wandering down Michigan, take a moment to look at Solon Beman‘s Fine Arts Building, and at Adler and Sullivan’s Auditorium Building, the home of Roosevelt University…which is also my alma mater.)

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57th Street Books: always look at the display windows, because they are AWESOME.

Now, as a Hyde Parker and a South Sider I am honor-bound to recommend the South Side (and Hyde Park). Hyde Park is filled with awesome bookstores (I practically grew up in 57th Street Books), a world-renowned university, and a lot of museums. Normally I would urge any and all to visit the Smart Museum of Art, in many ways my “first” art museum. Unfortunately, it’s closed this summer for collection moving. The Oriental Institute, complete with its problematic and awkward name from the turn of the last century, is open–and it is amazing. Largely a research museum, the Oriental Institute is small, with great depth. It is also the home of fragments of the magnificent Yelda Khorsabad Court, including the mighty lamassu, or human-headed-bull; a section of an edition of the Egyptian Book of the Dead and a gargantuan statue of King Tut; a still-bright fragment of the Gates of Babylon (yes! really!); and everything from ancient games to tax documents and steles. (Si prefiere Ud. leer información sobre el museo en español, se puede aquí.) It’s totally worth a visit…and it’s easily accessible by bus, car, or train, and is right by Rockefeller Chapel, with its awesome carvings of scholars over the lintels. (The stained glass windows are pretty rad too: they are mostly geometric shapes, and wow the colors.) If you’re interested in more hidden chapels, check out Bond, buried inside the Quad. It’s tiny, and definitely worth checking out as a hidden architectural gem on the U of C’s striking campus. (It’s also often in use for weddings.)

Hyde Park is also home to the Museum of Science and Industry, on the grounds of Frederick Law Olmsted‘s Jackson Park. If you’re interested in art and landscape architecture history, this was the home of the World’s Columbian Exposition–and there was all manner of drama around the park’s inception and creation, including a long spat over the now-destroyed Ho-o-den Temple. For that matter, if you’ve ever read Devil in the White City, I think you’ll want to pay the area a visit. The Museum of Science and Industry itself was once the Palace of Fine Arts, the only building built to withstand fire. (You’d think we Chicagoans would have learned why that was important before our World’s Expo….)

Frank Lloyd Wright’s ultimate Prairie-style home, the Robie House, named for a family who lived there only briefly, is also in Hyde Park, at the corner of Woodlawn and 58th. (If you are unfamiliar with Hyde Park, it is close to absolutely everything else in Hyde Park and is easily accessible by train, bus, or car. You might have to hike a bit from your parking space, but what’s life in the city without a good walk?) While we architecture nerds might be most excited by the House, I like to think that it is interesting for anyone. It’s definitely a lovely space…although, cave dweller that I am, I would not want to live such a window-coveringless life.

The DuSable Museum of African American History, while not technically in Hyde Park, is pretty much right here as well. It’s in the Washington Park neighborhood, which is…beside another park by Olmsted! It’s also a couple of blocks from the street on which I grew up, and quite close to the Mansueto Library, which is a very interesting piece of civil architecture. The DuSable is currently running an exhibition on Chicago’s first (and only) African-American mayor, Harold Washington, as well as exhibits on African-American military service and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, among other exhibits. So, go to Hyde Park, check out all the fabulous things there…and then come on over to Washington Park, wave at the wreckage of my torn-down neighborhood, and visit DuSable.

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low-res shot of the South Shore Cultural Center, taken from the second floor

Go further south, and one finds South Shore, and in it a gem of Gilded-Age Chicago: the old South Shore Country Club, today the South Shore Cultural Center. The place is stunningly beautiful, and masively historic. We also have some very cool trivia: it was the location of Barack and Michelle Obama’s wedding. It is a totally fabulous location for a wedding, too. Excellent taste. The space is also used for concerts (my mother has performed there), as well as other civic events. The grounds host everything from Chicago’s police horses to an open golf course, a stretch of lake, and some native plantings. For those interested in Gilded Age architecture, or simply in seeing a really lovely building in an area of Chicago that is not as well known as it ought to be, it is very much worth a visit.

This is an almost absurdly truncated list of things one may do, while visiting Chicago for Lolla. It is also very, very much centered on the South Side, even though I can totally recommend things on the North Side! Probably even a whole dozen things! (Well, likely more, including instrument repair places. Go to A440, you guys.) The Chicago Trib has written up an article about need-to-knows before going to Lolla, Chicago’s emergency plans (isn’t there always a storm?), and news about wireless coverage, which is also good to know. They have also put together a cool list of tours to take in the Chicago area, which I am going to plug here. After all, they include Second City and the Chicago Architecture Foundation, so hooray! Totally worth checking out. (Unfortunately I think that many of these articles are behind paywalls–check to see if you can access them for free at your local public or academic library.) Finally, if you’re wondering how the heck to pay for the AIC and the Field and the Skydeck and the Adler…look into CityPass! Depending on your needs, and on the places and times you plan to visit, it would likely prove very helpful. (It also spares you some of the lines.)

So, have a wonderful (and safe) time at Lolla…and try to take some time away from it, to see just a little of what Chicago has to offer.

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