175 ways to love chicago

By Trevor Ballanger

By Monica Reida

Contributing Writer

Chicago celebrated its 175th birthday March 4 by throwing itself a bash at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark St., complete with local luminaries, live music and actors dressed as famous Chicagoans. But in many ways, the month-long pre-party was every bit as engrossing as the main event.

In February, the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture asked 35 Chicagoans to list their five favorite things to do around town in a project dubbed “175 Ways to Love Chicago.” The replies were then posted on the office’s website, ExploreChicagoTourism.com.

“We thought the best way to capture Chicago was to talk to Chicagoans,” said Pam Morin, marketing director of the OTC. “So we reached out to a wide variety of people varied by their occupation, where they live and

their hobbies.”

The list, which includes a number of standbys like the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Green City Market and the Green Mill tavern, also contained unique suggestions. Black Ensemble Theater CEO Jackie Taylor advocated having a drink and a bite at The Spot, 4437 N. Broadway, in Uptown.

Deb Clapp, executive director of the League of Chicago Theatres, proposed seeing a play at The Side Project, 1439 W. Jarvis Ave., in Rogers Park. Former radio personality Steve Dahl recommended partaking in a game of softball in the summer.

Ron Burke of the bicycling advocacy group Active Transportation Alliance named Bike the Drive, when cyclists take over Lake Shore Drive, as his favorite.

Musician Jon Langford urged people to visit one of the city’s record stores, such as Reckless Records, Transistor, 3819 N. Lincoln Ave., and Laurie’s Planet of Sound, 4639 N. Lincoln Ave.

Also among the respondents was Liz Garibay, a tavern historian, who wrote a post on taverns that she feels tells the story of Chicago. Among the ones she cited were The Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott Ave.; Chief O’Neill’s, 3471 N. Elston Ave.; and the Old Town Ale House, 219 W. North Ave.

“I’m always trying to do stuff that appeals to both worlds [of tourists and residents],” said Garibay, who maintains the website TalesTavernsandTowns.com and an iPhone app about tavern history in Chicago.

“Rather than reviews, mine is all about the history of the location,” she said.

According to Morin, some of the contributors, like Christine Simpson-Forni, are tied to the city through October’s annual Chicago Artists Month.

“It seems like Chicago is a really great place to be if you’re an artist,” Simpson-Forni said.

The list she put together was history-based and included some artists studios in the South Sidecommunity of Bridgeport.

“Bridgeport is something I’ve just discovered in maybe the last five to six years,” Simpson-Forni said. “There’s always a new part of the city that I can discover. To choose five [places] in the city was actually challenging.”

The OTC shared a similar feeling with its strategy on how the authors of the posts were selected. According to Morin, the authors were chosen to represent the wide array of professions and neighborhoods they come from or are experts on.

“We believe there is something very exciting to see in every neighborhood,” Morin said.

While the series of posts ended March 2, the city has plans to make the suggestions permanent and has just launched a “175 Ways to Love Chicago” microsite on ExploreChicago.org.

The website will feature one or more events every day, according to Morin, such as a free celebration of World Theatre Day on March 27 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., and the 100th birthday celebration of the Girl Scouts to be held March 12 at Daley Plaza, 118 N. Clark St.

For more information on the events and activities held as part of “175 Days to Love Chicago,” visit ExploreChicago.org/175days.