#AEJMC17: What to do in Chicago

By Lois Boynton, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

When you’re not soaking up all that knowledge …

Far be it from me to assume anyone wants to break away from the 7 a.m.-midnight activities of the AEJMC conference, but, it’s safe to assume that all work and no play can have some less-than-enjoyable consequences. Here are some ideas that can take you out of the hotel and into the heart of the Windy City.

Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park

What a sight!

I guess you could call Chicago’s Cloud Gate the world’s largest Bean, topping out at 110 tons, 66 feet long and 33 feet tall.  Located in Millennium Park on East Randolph Street, it derived its official name, sculptor Anish Kapoor says, because it reflects the sky.  Tourists enjoy taking photos of themselves beneath the sculpture, which creates distortions like a carnival fun house mirror.

The Tribune Tower is right across Michigan Avenue from the hotel. You are permitted to tour the lobby, which has some beautiful carving work associated with the First Amendment. And, Chicago Architecture blog has catalogued 149 artifacts embedded in the tower that come from the Taj Mahal, the Berlin Wall, Bunker Hill, and more.

Those of us with perennially tired feet can enjoy a walking tour of sorts at the 360 Chicago Observation Deck, 94 floors above North Michigan Avenue. For the thrill-seekers among you, check out TILT, which gives you a face-down view 1,000 feet over Chicago’s skyline.

The Art Institute of Chicago has collections and exhibits for everyone – paintings, sculptures, photography, textiles by artists from around the world.


Like hangin’ out with the animals (other than fellow AEJMC presenters)?  Lincoln Park Zoo showcases the Black-necked Stilt, Japanese Macaque, Kagu and Klipspringer… as well as the more-recognizable beasts like lions, tigers and bears, oh my! Best part has to be that your visit is free. It’s about 3 miles from the hotel.

The Shedd Aquarium is home to 32,000 freshwater and saltwater animals. Tip from the top – buy tickets ahead online, or you’ll face up to 2 hours in line! In addition to the wildlife, Shedd provides the nightlife with Jazzin’ at the Shedd on Wednesday evenings, including Aug. 9.

Take me out to the ballgame

Although last year’s World Series champion Chicago Cubs will be on the road, you might catch a White Sox game against the Houston Astros (Aug. 8-10) or Kansas City Royals (Aug. 11-13) at Guaranteed Rate Field, 333 West 35th Street.  Tickets in the outfield upper corners are $7 – take your binoculars! Yes, they have pricier seats, too.

Preseason NFL action pits the Chicago Bears against the Denver Broncos on Thursday, Aug. 10 at Soldier Field, less than 3 miles from the conference hotel. Tickets start at $23 apiece.

If fútbol is more to your liking, the Chicago Fire has a soccer match before AEJMC’s conference gets underway, Aug. 5, against the New England Revolution at Toyota Park, about 16 miles from the hotel. The cheap seats are $26 each.

Bygone days

History buffs will enjoy any number of museums and monuments that Chicago offers:

The Chicago Cultural Center features – among many other things – Chicago Landmarks Before the Lens, an exhibit of dozens of the city’s attractions. It’s located less than a mile from the conference hotel at 78 E. Washington Street. Or, perhaps you are not as lazy as I am and would like to check out landmarks in-person…

Two monuments that may capture your attention:  the Monument to the Great Migration  (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. & 26th Place, less than 4 miles from the hotel) commemorates the journeys innumerable African Americans made from the South in the early 1900s, and the Victory Monument (35th Street and King Drive, 5 miles from the hotel), which honors African American veterans of the Great War (WWI).

Who knew? The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has a Money Museum on South LaSalle Street. No charge to visit, although I don’t think they provide any freebies.

You’ll need to take a cab or public transportation south less than 10 miles to visit the DuSable Museum of African American History, the country’s first African American museum. Tickets are $10 to tour exhibits about African American experiences.

Out(doors) and about

There are several river cruise offerings – Chicago Traveler provides info on many.

The century-old Navy Pier on East Grand Avenue is less than 2 miles from the hotel, a good walk for the hale and hardy.  Visit Navy Pier Park, take a high-riser ride on the Centennial Ferris Wheel and check out various events – among them, summer fireworks displays on Saturday and Wednesday evenings. There are a variety of restaurants, too, including Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co., City PorchRiva Crabhouse.

And speaking of eating…

Food, glorious food

Seems like everyone I asked recommended The Purple Pig restaurant, located at 500 N. Michigan Avenue. Its menu, the website says, features “cheese, swine and wine” that incorporate Italian, Greek and Spanish flavors.

Also close by is Chicago Eataly that includes a collection of restaurants, counters and markets inspired by chef Mario Batali.

You can’t go to Chicago without having deep-dish pizza… and pizzerias abound! Foursquare Lists showcases 11 that get rave reviews.

For a Chicago hot dog (skip the catsup!), see Chicago Eater. The wiener connoisseur, frankly, will want to take in the Chicago Hot Dog Fest in Lincoln Park, Aug. 11-13. And, save some dough by purchasing Dog Dollars (Yep… you can’t make that up!) in advance. Proceeds support the Chicago History Museum, another stop on your to-do list.


There are SO many possibilities for concerts, shows and theatre productions that I couldn’t begin to ID them all here, or Dean would fire me!  I’ve highlighted a few below – see the Chicago events calendar for more.

We lucked out this year – Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia continues its run in Chicago through Aug. 20 at the United Center on West Madison Street.  Tickets start at $35.

Watch movies under the stars at Millennium Park, on East Randolph Street. The 40-foot screen will show Ghost and The Shining on Aug. 8, beginning at 6:30 p.m. No charge!

The Grant Park Music Festival in Millennium Park has concerts featuring traditional Mexican folk music on Aug. 9, and Tchaikovsky on Aug. 11 and 12. The summer music series will feature music steeped in Senegal and Syrian cultures. Continue your cultural infusion with the Ginza Holiday Japanese festival and Festival Cubano, both held Aug. 11-13.

It’s a little over a mile from the hotel to the Adler Planetarium. A $12 general admission ticket opens the door to various exhibits as well as Cosmic Wonder and other shows.

Whew – there are zillions of opportunities. And, just about as many info sites. Here are a few:

Enjoy! Oh, and maybe you should attend a few research presentations and the PRD luncheon and social, too! Just sayin’.




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