May is here at last; is it warm yet? I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready for Summer, so let’s get started, shall we?
Sunday, May 6th, meet us at 77 E. Randolph St., in the lobby of the exquisitely beautiful Cultural Center, say around 10:15am, and we’ll take a one hour tour of downtown, hosted by a volunteer Instagreeter. These very nice, very knowledgeable people are on hand to lead us, telling the history, architecture, and thrilling stories about this action-filled area. We’ll start at 10:30, finish at 11:30, then take our time sightseeing and people watching through Millennium and Grant Parks, arriving at world-famous Buckingham Fountain about noon.
Just in time, as the good people of Chicago’s Park District throw a party to “Switch on Summer” and turn the water ON. This wonderful structure, with its Beaux-Arts landscape and intricate bronze sculptures has been one of America’s finest fountains since its dedication in 1927. Starting at noon, festivities will include live entertainment and free giveaways. We’ve brought the whole family, so let’s trade a few stories, then cheer and applaud at 2:00pm, when the magnificent fountain turns on. 301 S. Columbus Dr., Grant Park, Chicago.
The celebration continues until 3pm, and after this, I’m getting a bit hungry, aren’t you? Let’s walk north, up the Magnificent Mile towards Navy Pier. Heading over the Chicago River on the DuSable Bridge, we slow down and take in the sculptures and plaques that mark our crossing. The blazing white of the Wrigley building, and then Tribune Tower, come quickly into view. Today, we walk just a bit farther, east, then north to 201 E. Grand and Volare Ristorante Italiano. They serve fabulous, wonderful, mind boggling food, and they do it with great service and prices that (while not cheap, mind you) are better than you expect in the Streeterville neighborhood. Shall we split a bottle or two of wine? Oh my yes, it’s that good, and yes, save room for dessert. Let’s keep this up all month!
I’ve never been to Tuley Park, 501 E. 90th Pl., Chicago, but hey, there’s a free jazz concert there on Friday, May 11th. At 7:00pm, we can catch “Saxophonists Rajiv Halim, John Foster and Geof Bradfield as they reflect upon Von Freeman’s deepest musical influences: Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Charlie Parker.” That will be something to hear, jazz fans. This is a JazzCity free concert, now in their 21st season. www.Jazzinchicago.org, 312.427.1676
Lincoln Park Zoo is always appealing, remember December’s “Zoolights,” displays? As beautiful as that was, NOW is a much better time to visit, don’t you agree? The 34 acre zoo, right in Lincoln Park, is free and open almost every day. Whenever I go walking through the carefully tended environments, learning about these magnificent animals and birds, well, I’m always filled with respect and awe.
Meet us Sunday, May 13th, and not only will we spend the afternoon walking through the displays and animal habitat viewing areas, we will also bring our best appetites, because after the usual closing hours, this evening, from 6:30pm to 9:30pm it’s a Food Truck Social. All those colorful trucks, each with a different type of food to offer us, is just too tempting to pass up. Remember all that walking? We earned our appetites this day, so a bit of food enjoyment is in good order. We’ll eat what we want, and then, most likely, a little bit more, while we watch the evening settle in and the stars come out to shine and play. Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago. https://www.lpzoo.org.
It is spring, almost summer, and planting season is well underway. To help us along, Kilbourn Park Greenhouse, 3501 N. Kilbourn Ave., is holding their annual Organic Plant Sale. If you visit https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/events/organic-plant-sale-kilbourn, they will tell you: “more than 150 varieties of organically-grown vegetable, herb, and flower seedlings” will be available, Many are selected for gardening in small spaces and containers. Greenhouse volunteers, who help to grow the seedlings, will help us with plant selection and planting. Let’s buy a few things (I need some really hot pepper plants) and support the greenhouse and their excellent work that connects kids to nature and healthy foods. May 19th & 20th, from 10:00am until 2:00pm, cash only, prices are only from $2.00 to $4.00 each plant, I think I’ll plant an entire garden this year!
Would you like to take some time, breathe deeply and reflect upon life? Join me for a quiet, meditative walk through Graceland Cemetery, 4001 N. Clark St., anytime from 9:00am through 4:00pm, weekdays or 10:00am through 3:00pm on Saturdays. One of the oldest cemeteries in Chicago, filled with tombs of famous artists, deceased mayors, it’s truly the resting place of architects. From John L. Sullivan, “father of the Chicago School of Architecture”, through Daniel Burnham, whose Chicago Plan preserved our lakefront that we cherish today, on through those builders of skyscrapers, van der Rohe and Kahn, you’ll find their final resting places here.
Let me remind everyone that our new friends at the Windy City Playhouse are still presenting “Southern Gothic”, that dramatic, emotional, controversial, action packed, and wonderfully directed play that directly immerses you along the sidelines of a house party as the gossip, corruption and tension build to a very unexpected, yet satisfying climax. The actors make the play come alive. Seating is limited to about 30 people per show, and they are selling out well in advance. Get your tickets now, readers, you’ll be glad you went. Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving Park Rd., Chicago, www.windycityplayhouse.com, 773.891.8985.
There is a new show presented by our old friends at the world-famous Steppenwolf Theater: Doppelganger. Readers, friends, believe this: Steppenwolf is unsurpassed in so many ways. Every play is socially edgy, bringing us into the realms of race relations, marriage crises, family ties and life-long relationships that either thrive or fail before our eyes. The energy and emotion often just pours off the stage and up the aisles. Many now famous actors have started their performance careers here, including the founders, Jeff Perry, Terry Kinney and Gary Sinise.
Doppelganger, this newest production, is no different. It is a comedy, an “international farce” centered around “first world greed and backroom deals,” as an American tourist is suddenly thrust into playing at being a wealthy British businessman in the midst of serious negotiations over an African copper mine. “Chaos erupts,” as you can imagine, and the humor drives right through this irreverent exploration of the back-room political and economic deals that so shape the modern world. The ensemble cast is led by award-winner Rainn Wilson, whom you’ll doubtless remember as “Dwight Schrute” from the long-running TV comedy, The Office. Doppelganger will only run through May 27, so get tickets as soon as possible. Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theater, 1650 N. Halsted Ave., Chicago, 312-335-1650, www.steppenwolf.org
That really lousy, lingering, damp winter and spring are finally leaving, tulips are in bloom up and down Michigan Avenue, and throughout our city parks and personal gardens, sun shines more often, and people are starting to smile at each other again. Is this The Emerald City? Did we somehow get picked up by a tornado and transplanted to Oz? That must be the case, since I just met Dorothy, and she told me a great deal about her recent adventures. She, and Tin Man, Lion, Scarecrow and the good and wicked witches are all onstage at the classically beautiful Chicago Theatre, from May 8th through the 20th. Yes, friends, The Wizard of Oz has come to Chicago, in an amazing presentation by The Madison Square Garden Company, and they will walk and sing their way along the Yellow Brick Road through the many familiar travails and challenges they face together to get their beloved Dorothy before the Wizard and back to Kansas.
The fully restored, beautiful and iconic Chicago Theatre is a delight in itself. Now an official Chicago landmark, it first opened in 1921 as Chicago’s grandest cinema house. The Neo-Baroque French Revival style architecture still stands out and the brilliant marquee, three stories tall, is frequently seen in movies and on television. It is the largest, and oldest building of that style in Chicago, and one of the largest in the country. Originally, and throughout much of its history, a movie house, The Theatre is now a performing arts venue, with stage plays the primary attractions. The Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., Chicago, https://www.msg.com/the-chicago-theatre
May is a very busy month, dear readers, and we haven’t even gotten close to Memorial Day, where I hope you will ALL join me at Bike The Drive, the annual event wherein Lake Shore Drive is closed to automotive traffic until 11am and around 5,000 bicyclists will join the fun, catching views of Chicago’s magnificent skyline, from the north and south as we ride. Starting at Grant Park, we’ll pedal our way to the Museum of Science and Industry, where a rest stop lets us grab some food and water or juice before we head north all the way to Hollywood. There we turn around, rest once more, then complete our just-over-thirty-mile round trip. http://bikethedrive.org
There is a festival, of course, to welcome us back, with live music and presentations by cycling and outdoor related companies. It’s a happy, fun filled experience, and I encourage everyone to try it. Just once? Please? See you there!