Publication Date

December 1, 1999

Here are some relatively inexpensive and quintessentially Chicago ways to spend an afternoon or evening

Check Out a Blues Club. Two of the best blues clubs in the city are located on North Halsted Street: the Kingston Mines at 2548 N. Halsted (773-477-4646) and Blues at 2519 N. Halsted (773-528-1012). If you’ve been to the Mines in the old days, you may be disappointed with the renovations: there are now an ample number of clean bathrooms and the food service has been upgraded. But the music is what matters, and there are still two stages, so the music is continuous, alternating between bands on stages one and two, until 4:00 or 5:00 a.m.! Almost directly across the street is Blues, a classic in its own right. The club is a bit smaller and more intimate than the Mines, and perhaps more low key, which can be charming, depending on your mood. (Another plus: Blues doesn’t have an annoying emcee.) They don’t serve food, so go a bit early and try the excellent Thai restaurant next door.

On the south side, you might try the, well, legendary, Buddy Guy's Legends(754S. Wabash, south of the Loop; 312- 427-0333.) It’s a big place, with an extensive cajun-style menu and plenty of blues memorabilia on the walls. (Buddy Guy himself often plays sets in January.) Open until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., it’s a bit more touristy, but also tends to book bigger names.

General suggestions: These clubs open around 8:00p.m. and the first set starts between 9:30 and 10:00. If you want a seat, show up early. Arrive after the first set has started and you're standing for the duration. You can use public transportation to get back and forth (busses and/ or the el; ask your concierge for help.) Cab rides from the hotels to the clubs should be in the $10 to $12 range, but it's always good practice for visitors in any city to ask the cabbie for an estimate. Cover charges are in the same range. January schedules for these clubs were not available at press time, but the weekend acts are usually pretty good. A few bands that almost always give a good show include: Barbara LeShoure, Billy Branch, AC Reed, Magic Slim, Big Time Sarah, Otis Clay, Son Seals, Lonnie Brooks, and Otis Rush (check the Reader, Chicago’s excellent—and free—alternative weekly paper, or call the clubs for schedules).

Hang Out in Hyde Park. The University of Chicago campus and a long stretch of 57th Avenue are a great place to hang out for an afternoon. On the campus, check out the artifacts and the bookstore at the Oriental Institute Museum (1155 East 58th Street; T, Th-Sa 10:00-4:00, W 10:00-8:30, Su 12:00-4:00, closed M; 773-702-9521). See the memorial to the Manhattan Project (on the west side of the Regenstein Library at 1100 East 57th Street) or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House (58th and Woodlawn). Around the campus, you will find great used (try Thornton’s) and new (especially Seminary Coop) bookstores. Or stop at one of the many coffee shops or restaurants (try Medici for inexpensive Italian food.)

Go to a Museum. Chicago has many museums; here are a few of the most popular and/ or (personally) much-beloved museums and exhibits:

Museum of Science and Industry. (57th and Lake Shore Drive; M-F 9:30-4:00, Sa-Su 9:30-5:00; general admission $7 children $3.50; 773-684-1414) Well-known as a great museum for kids, it’s just as good for grown-ups. Don’t miss the German U-boat. First, see the film detailing its World War II capture, then take walk through it. Or, take a walk on the Zephyr train or through the coal mine. Even if you’re not a miniature lover, you will swoon over Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle. Pick up the telephones to hear the descriptions of how the tiny books were bound and the furniture crafted.

Art Institute of Chicago. (Michigan and N. Adams; M, W-F 10:30-4:30, Tu 10:30-8:00, Sa 10:00-5:00, Su. 12:00-5:00; general admission $8; 312-443-3600) Always a favorite with lovers of European painting (especially French 19th century and Spanish, French, and Italian 17th century), you can’t go wrong with a visit here. In January, at a special exhibit, Raphael and Titian: The Renaissance Portraits you can see what normally would require a trip to Florence: Raphael’s Donna Velata and Titian’s Portrait of a Man with Blue-Green Eyes. The pictures from the Pitti Gallery are accompanied by important Renaissance works from the Institute’s permanent collection. Also, the Institute has an extensive collections of ancient, Asian, African, and Amerindian art.

Field Museum of Natural History. (Roosevelt at Lake Shore Drive; daily 9:00-5:00; general admission $7, children, seniors, and students $4; teachers free; 312-922-9410). Don’t miss the Egyptian mummies. No longer just a row of mummies in a glass case, the new installation provides interesting (and sometimes stomach-turning) descriptions of the entombing process. Also, learn quite a bit about Sue, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found. Museum staffers are preparing Sue for a planned May 2000 unveiling; you can watch them at work in their glassed-in workroom. And for anthropology buffs, Lucy (our putative ancestor from 3 million years ago) is here , although museum staffers sometimes don’t seem to know that-ask again.

DuSable Museum of African-American History. (57th and Cottage Place, across from the University of Chicago; M-Sa 10:00-5:00, Su 12:00-5:00; federal admission $3; free admission with AHA annual meeting badge; 773-947- 0600).0ne of the oldest non-profits devoted to collecting and preserving African and African American cultural artifacts, this museum is well-known for its permanent collections of books, photographs, and art objects. Popular continuing exhibitions include Harold Washington in Office (Chicago’s first Black mayor), Africa Speaks (African art) and Songs of My People (a photo documentary of the world of African Americans.) On January 2nd, DuSable will be premiering a new exhibition, The Calling and the Courage: The History of African American Education.

Chicago Historical Society. (Clark at North; M-Sa 9:30–4:30, Su 12-5; suggested admission $5; free admission with AHA annual meeting badge; 312-642-4600) If you’re a fan of African American music, January is a good time to visit this museum. A CHS exhibit, That's Good News! Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music will be accompanied by the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibit, Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions. Lincoln buffs will enjoy A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln. And, if you’re interested in Chicago history- especially the Great Fire of 1871-be sure to see the exhibit Chicago History (especially the dioramas.)

Go Shopping. The annual meeting hotels are at the south end of the Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s famous (and sometimes pricey) shopping district. Bargain hunters and those who like a slower pace should consider the less-wellknown but charming State Street shopping district that begins at Van Buren with the DePaul University Music Center and runs to Marshall Fields at Randolph Street. Retailers go all-out on the Christmas decorations here, and they will still be up during the meeting. This Marshall Fields is bigger than Watertower—10 retail floors for your shopping pleasure (try the Frango mints.). Check out another Chicago institution, Baker's Shoe Store (go to the second floor for major discounts), or the newer Old Navy and Filene's Basement. Browse at Tower/Rose Records.

What else? Chicago has a reputation for excellent comedy clubs (try Zanies at 1548 North Wells Street; $14 cover; 312-337-4027) or the legendary Second City, now with two stages (1608 and 1616 North Wells; $15 cover (M $6); 312-642- 6514). Other possibilities include an art or foreign film at the venerable Fine Arts Theater (418 S. Michigan Ave., 312-939- 3700) or, if it’s not too cold, a trip to the (free) Lincoln Park Zoo.

Finally, there is always Navy Pier (600 East Grand Ave. (on the lake); M-Th. 10:00-8:00, F-Sa. 10:00-10:00, Su 10:00-7:00; 312-595-7437): 50 acres of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants, and attractions. Although the pier doesn’t really fit into the “relatively inexpensive and quintessentially Chicago” category (a bit too touristy), it’s included here because it is located close to the hotels, and if you’re willing to spend a bit, you can entertain yourself or your kids for hours. Visit the Chicago Children’s Museum, take a walk through the botanical garden, ride the ferris wheel, go ice skating, or go to Loew’s IMAX Theater to see Disney’s Fantasia 2000, an update of its masterpiece for the IMAX screen. Pricier and more adult entertainments include fine dining, shopping, and dinner cruises.

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