The Winter Charms of the Windy City
Historians are routinely warned not to engage in prediction but rather to seek out past patterns in viewing the present. The four most recent AHA meetings in Chicago do not offer any pattern of consistency. The temperature has ranged from the high 60s with bright sunshine to a chilly 10 to 35 degrees with a varying humidity. Since all of the hotels the AHA is using are within several blocks of Lake Michigan, the effect of wind and moisture is somewhat greater than it would be even a mile inland . With a variety of warm clothing and boots, most Chicagoans find it possible to get to wherever they need. If there is an extra dose of snow or cold weather, you need to be a bit more patient in waiting for cabs and public transportation and allow extra time to go wherever you are going.
You will find that many stores on Michigan Avenue ("The Magnificent Mile") and on the next two blocks west (Wabash and State Streets) are in the midst of their after-holiday sales. Their welcome mats will be out. All three of these streets will still have their holiday decorations out and viewing them, even if you do not shop, makes for a pleasant walk.
Michigan Avenue, State Street, and Wabash Street all have bus lines running north and south, as do some of the east-west streets in the area. The Loop-El trains run above Wabash Street and under State Street and they connect with buses that cross most major east-west or north-south streets. These buses will take you to many of the neighborhoods that constitute the real heart of Chicago. For those who need to get to western, southern, northern, or southwestern suburbs, Metro trains run from the Union Station (just west of the river between Adam and Jackson) and the Northwestern Station (also west of the river on Madison Avenue) on regular schedules. Both these stations can be reached by buses or cabs from the hotels or by a walk ranging from one to two miles.
Within walking distance of the convention hotels are some of the major cultural attractions of Chicago. The distinguished Art Institute is located on Michigan Avenue between Monroe and Adams. The Cultural Center (formerly the home of the Public Library and an architectural landmark) is at Michigan and Randolph. It also houses the Museum of Broadcast Communications. The Museum of Contemporary Art is located at 220 East Ohio and the Terra Museum of American Art is at 664 North Michigan (both an easy walk from all of the hotels). The Harold Washington Chicago Public Library at State and Van Buren also contains ongoing exhibits. The museum campus houses the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium. This is beyond walking distance but within a short cab ride. Much renovation has occurred at the Museum of Science and Industry (South Shore Drive at 57th Street). This definitely calls for a cab or public transportation. If you go there you will also be close to the Oriental Museum, which is located on the campus of the University of Chicago. The Federal Archives and Records Center is at 73rd and Pulaski, which is a considerable distance from all the other institutions and is in the midst of an industrial area. The Chicago Historical Society—rich in Americana—is at the south end of Lincoln Park at Clark Street and North Avenue and is a short ride from the hotels. Chicago also has a large number of ethnic museums such as the DuSable Museum of African American History (740 East 56th Place on the south side) and the Spertus Museum of Judaica (618 South Michigan Avenue) . Check at your hotel or in the phone book for specific hours at your favorite cultural institution. Some museums close on one day each week; check with the museum for its schedule. Other than New York City we know of no other American city that has so many museums, galleries, archives, and libraries serving both general and specialized interests.
Those who want to experience an organized walking tour of the many types of architecture that characterizes Chicago should contact the Chicago Architectural Foundation (224 S. North Michigan) at (312) 922-3432 for times and locations. The tours that go along the various branches of the Chicago River are highly recommended, but are probably not available at this season. Chicago and its suburbs, especially Oak Park, also have a number of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. The Frank Lloyd Wright Tour Center can be contacted at (708) 848-1976.
After shopping, walking, and visiting cultural institutions your stomach may inform you it is time for a favorite Chicago activity—eating. There is no shortage of restaurants catering to every taste and to almost any budget. If the weather is really inclement you might decide to try some of the hotel restaurants. They generally feature coffee shops as well as more pricey dining rooms. But most Chicagoans enjoy exploring for restaurants, on their own, and they are likely to head to the neighborhoods and some of the suburbs. A few general hints: (1) call for a reservation, especially on Friday and Saturday night, and give yourself enough time to get there, especially in inclement weather (do not expect the restaurant to hold your reservation more than five or ten minutes after your set time); (2) take a cab or private car because public transportation is more infrequent at night; (3) all but a few restaurants accept credit cards, but don't rely on using personal checks. However, cash is welcome at all restaurants!
Berghoff's, a Chicago institution for more than a century, features lunches, dinners, and a standup bar serving sandwiches. While their beer deserves its fine reputation, the house brand of root beer is not to be missed. Located on Adams Street just west of State Street, it is closed Sunday, does not take reservations, and usually requires a wait. A full discussion of all the neighborhoods and suburban dining establishments would require a complete volume, so we will limit ourselves to a few areas outside the Loop.
You can find a variety of Chinese cuisine in Chinatown, a short cab ride almost directly south of the hotels. Greektown, near the University of Illinois at Chicago, is another short ride from the hotels. Its restaurants feature both standard and regional Greek cooking. The third area—along Lincoln Avenue from North Avenue to North Irving Park and on North Clark—has an eclectic range of ethnic and American restaurants, whose prices range from moderate to expensive. The hundreds of restaurants in this area include many that serve French, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Indian, Thai, or Vietnamese food. Most restaurants also serve alcoholic beverages, but a few that do not, allow you to bring your own wine.
For those who are more interested in entertainment than food there are a number of clubs on the lake streets (Ontario, Erie, and Huron west of Michigan). These clubs tend to be loud, some feature food as well as drink, and many have some type of cover charge, entry fee, or minimum. On all these matters the concierge in your hotel can give you detailed information, or we may be able to help you at the Local Arrangements Committee office.
Good food, a variety of architectural styles, dozens of museums, galleries, and retail stores, all catering to every conceivable need and want-all await your visit to Chicago. Come before the meeting or stay a few days later and enjoy the sights and tastes of this truly American city, the city of "broad shoulders." Do keep your fingers crossed so that the weather gods do not deal us a cruel blow.
Albert Erlebacher teaches at DePaul University and Joseph Morton teaches at Northeastern Illinois University. They are cochairs of the 2000 Local Arrangements Committee.
Tags: Annual Meeting Annual Meeting through 2010
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