Warm weather brings the best out of anywhere, but there’s something that’s especially magical about Chicago in the summertime. The city just sparkles. We enjoyed one wonderful weekend that captured everything I enjoy most about the city. Come with me.

1 — the sights.
After a raging night barhopping, the morning after needed to be laid back, tourist style. We strolled past Millenium Park and The Bean, through the city to Navy Pier, where we stopped to enjoy lunch and pretty decent live music while waiting for our next adventure — a tour of Lake Michigan on the Tall Ship Windy. This bella tends to get sick on boats, so believe me when I tell you — this was a smooth and scenic ride. What a gorgeous way to spend an afternoon.

2 — the eats.
After Navy Pier, we stopped by the elegant C-Bar, a rooftop lounge that’s part of the C-House restaurant. It was a fleeting visit — had a delicious pineapple mojito, then headed for an extravagant and amazing dinner at the historic Drake Hotel. We’d been to this moody, delightfully antiquated spot before to enjoy cocktails and admire Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe’s initials engraved in the wooden bar, but this time we splurged on dinner in honor of my mother in law’s birthday! If you’ve been looking for a luxe, old fashioned culinary experience, or a place to celebrate a truly special occasion, go go go. The lobster thermidor is the best I’ve ever had.

3 — the entertainment.
We saw the gamut — from a raunchy late night booze fueled loogie-fest almost-brawl at the Wiener’s Circle, a landmark hot dog dive that has to be experienced to be understood. Actually — This American Life gives you a taste in case you don’t like a side of abuse with your kraut dog. Rude, crude, disgusting, ridiculous, offensive, a little scary, and verrrrry Chicago. When it’s 4:30 a.m. and you’re unsteady on your feet, those cheese fries will taste like they were prepared by the hand of God. But if you’ve got delicate sensibilities (like me), the experience might leave you slightly horrified at the behavior of your fellow men. The Wiener’s Circle was Chicago at it’s gritty, gross, fascinating, OMG-did-you-hear-what-he-said worst behavior. But we ended our visit downtown at Venetian Night, a boat parade and fireworks show on Lake Michigan that gave us a taste of Chicago at it’s family-friendly best behavior.

After the illuminated, decorated boats had floated past, a soundtrack accompanied the truly amazing fireworks display. And that was the one thing that frustrated me about Venetian Night — the music. Lots of rock music and patriotic anthems… but the most obvious choice didn’t make it. C’mon — how are you gonna have fireworks at Lake Michigan and NOT play Homecoming by Kanye West? Seriously! Even just the chorus!

That’s just wrong. Hopefully they’ll correct that glaring oversight next year. In the meantime, Chicago’s Kanyeezy fans can comfort themselves with a sweet manicure from the Ford City Mall where we killed time before going to the airport — yes indeed, you can get Kanye on your fingernails there.

That’s Chicago, my kinda town. I hope it’s not too long before my next visit!

* lots of love to my in laws, and thanks for making every trip to Chicago memorable and fun!

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sdg1844 says:
August 11, 2008, 12:07 pm
Sounds like you had a lovely trip. I've always wanted to visit Chicago. it seems like a city I'd really dog.
SoFrolushes says:
August 11, 2008, 3:08 pm
my aunty was not long in chicago. the place sounds amazing.
Starr says:
August 11, 2008, 3:15 pm
Chicago is def on my cities to visit list but I'll have to wait until next summer, I don't do the Chi in the winter, lol. They're version of the cold is waaaay worse than NYC. But I'm glad you had fun, and those nails are craaaazy. I'm a nail freak--not that elaborate, but I can appreciate any woman "gangstarr" enough to rock those.
Brittany says:
August 11, 2008, 4:58 pm
Loves it!! I am headed to Chicago for the first time at the end of the month and I can not waiiiiit!
Sandra says:
August 11, 2008, 5:03 pm
I just came back yesterday from my first trip to Chicago. I was there for 8 days and love the city. I highly recommend the city just be ready to walk. Chicago is a beautiful city with lots of culture and activities. I didn't get a chance to see everything. I took alot of pictures and can't wait to share them with family and friends. I will be going back.
Product Junkie Diva says:
August 11, 2008, 7:40 pm
Sounds lIke I need to get to Chi town quickly :-) Glad you enjoyed your trip.
flygyrl72 says:
August 11, 2008, 7:45 pm
That's my town! Glad you enjoyed it. Ha! The first time I ever went to Wiener's Circle, back in the day, I was almost about to jump on old girl that was taking our order, no one "prepped" me to how they got down over there...LOL However, next time, you gotta get off the tourist trail, & go down & hang out in Hyde Park & Bronzeville, get in some of our Buppie culture, have you ever had a chance to have Harold's Chicken? Also, you'd love Wicker Park & Bucktown, they're really cool artsy neighborhoods, lotta good shops up that way. I always tell folks, if it wasn't for the weather, Chi would be overcrowded from all the people moving there...one thing I do not miss, now that I'm in LA, is the winters...LOL... I'm going home next month though, Labor Day weekend, the African Fest in Washington Park is in full effect! Peace Bella.
Sabrina97 says:
August 11, 2008, 7:47 pm
I have family in the Chi and I don't get up there enough. Maybe that'll be a trip for next Fourth of July. I've always wanted to go to the Taste of Chicago.
Mara says:
August 11, 2008, 9:24 pm
Bella, Glad that your trip was enjoyable. I am a born and reared Chicagoan. Quite proud of it. I am not however proud of the Wiener's Circle. It's too bad you had that experience and gave them more light in your blog. It's disgusting no matter how it's portrayed. That clientèle has used it's herd mentality to physically assault non-whites and anyone else that they deemed less than themselves. And the victims were not at the diner but passing by.
panda says:
August 11, 2008, 9:55 pm
I'm at home now and loving every minute of it. I've never experienced weiner circle, but now im intrigued. Im glad you enjoyed yourself!
bella says:
August 11, 2008, 11:01 pm
Flygyrl -- I really need to hit up Bronzeville next time I am in town. Haven't had Harold's Chicken, will check for it in the future. I've spent time in Hyde Park and Wicker Park, and we've got some really close friends who live in Bucktown. If we moved to Chicago (and I'd love to someday), that's probably where we'd wind up. Mara -- I see where you're coming from on the Wiener's Circle. I had never experienced anything like that -- although I will say there was no racism in the air on the night I was there. Plenty of misogyny and an overall cloud of combustible drunken violence. I didn't learn about the blatant racism there until I watched the This American Life clip, and I didn't know about the physical assaults until I read your comment. That's terrible to hear, but having been there, it doesn't surprise me. Hopefully my writing about it will encourage more people to avoid it. It wasn't an experience I'd repeat, that's for sure.
ChiLady119 says:
August 12, 2008, 12:57 am
Hey Afrobella! I never thought I'd see Ford City get a shout out from anybody, not from the Southside. LOL! Chi-town is definitely underrated by some folks. Yes, it gets cold but the Summer and Autumn almost make up for it. I'm going to be looking for you next time you make a trip.
Patrick Jnr. says:
August 12, 2008, 8:14 am
Glad you're back home safe and sound lil Sis! Reading you post made me feel to make a trip soon, especially as I tendered my resignation yesterday! I hope my new found feeling of liberation and joy lasts a while before the reality of impending broke-ness kicks in! Hah hah hah...
bella says:
August 12, 2008, 9:05 am
ChiLady, I get round! LOL -- Ford City mall was awesome and hilarious. Made me feel like I was at home in downtown Trinidad -- you never see mixtapes and heart shaped bamboo earrings on sale in the mall in Miami. We ate at IHOP and did some window shopping while waiting for our time to go to the airport. Patrick Jnr -- WHOA! Big brother, you resigned?? Good for you. Bask in the liberation and joy -- I know I would!!! Will call you later! love ya!
LBellatrix says:
August 12, 2008, 9:44 am
I lived in Chicago for 17 years and was glad to leave (long story) but I have absolutely no problems visiting it a couple of times a year. Some of that visiting I do for my job and I'm always happy to play tour guide. That whole stretch of Clark between Addison and Fullerton (where Wiener's Circle is) is twentysomething party central. I purposely didn't move there when I first came to Chicago because I didn't feel the need to be continuing college party life with my (predominantly white, also young) co-workers, almost all of whom lived there. The last time I was there on a weekend night I felt SOOO old, I cannot tell you. And Wicker Park is nowhere near what it used to be when I was hanging out there in the 90s and artists could actually afford to live there. I was just there a few months ago and I was like: What the HELL are all these YUPPIE SUBURBANITES doing in my 'hood? lol Co-signing Flygyrl: Get away from the tourists and check out the rest of the city, esp. the South Side. I too am shocked that anybody would give a shout out to Ford City. Also, I don't know if you're an architecture buff, but Oak Park (first suburb west of Chicago off I-290) has the largest concentration of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world. If I were ever going to move back to the area, I'd live in Oak Park.
Twanna /// FUNKY BROWN CHICK says:
August 12, 2008, 12:08 pm
Ah, Chicago!!!! :) I'm a New Yorker now, but damn it if I don't love my beloved hometown. Great place to be born & visit.
hbsoul says:
August 12, 2008, 12:43 pm
Make sure you visit the Japanese Gardens near the Museum of Science and Industry if you have a date when you come back. And get over to some soul food restaurants on the West Side too.
farsighted fly girl says:
August 12, 2008, 1:30 pm
Bella girl, I can't believe you left Chi and didn't stay for the Carifete festival this weekend. We don't have half the Caribbean presence as New York or Miami but everybody comes out--Trinis, Bajans, Yardies, Gayanese, Haitians, for our small but charming version of Carnival. It takes place in Hyde Park on the third weekend of August every year. You must represent when you come back and also check out the Trinidad Cafe in Chatham, another Southside neighborhood that you need to see before any more tourist spots!
flygyrl72 says:
August 12, 2008, 5:01 pm
Okay, I don't think I've ever even heard all this racist stuff about Wiener's Circle. Man, I need to look that up & stop being so clueless, haven't been there in at least 10 years though, so... Lincoln Park has never been my cup of tea anyways, all the White folks I went to college with live up there with their bar scene, they can have it... LBellatrix, yeah, things have been gentrified in Wicker Park & Bucktown, but I still like it. There are a lot of cool hip places to eat, shop & spa. There's a place up there called Northside Grill, right on Damen, just north of North Avenue. I love that place in the summer! However, if I were to move back, I'd probably move to the West Loop area, over off of Randolph, by Greek Town, yeah, it costs more & is already overdeveloped, but it's hella convenient. I've always liked that area. Or I'd go a little further west, off of Washington & Ashland, by the Stadium, my old hairdresser just got a great deal over there. And it's still under the radar a little bit...can't have folks all up in the bizness...LOL... Up until moving to LA 4 years ago, I lived right in downtown, on Lake Shore Drive, right across the street from the W Lakeshore. But it gets so hectic in that area, I don't think I'd do that again. Too many people & too much going on, I was right by Navy Pier, so everytime there were fireworks, which is weekly in the summertime, I could barely catch a cab... ;-)
p1tey1 says:
August 12, 2008, 5:28 pm
Glad to hear that you had a good time in the Chi Bella! I grew up there. My job relocated me from Chicago to Cali in 99, and I haven't been back since. I miss Chicago in the summertime and I especially miss STEPPERS SETS!!! They try to step here in California, but NOTHING can take the place of a Chicago steppers set. You can't replace that vibe!!
Los Angelista says:
August 12, 2008, 8:26 pm
Aww, I'm so glad you had a great time in my hometown! It is absolutely magical in the summer and sooo romantic in the fall. That Hawk though, I don't miss it not one bit! I'll stay in Los Angeles during the winter! :)
dominican_enigma says:
August 12, 2008, 9:46 pm
I just came from Chicago 2 weeks ago. I'm obsessed with that place and want to move there badly.
coco_fiere says:
August 13, 2008, 5:06 pm
Not surprised about your Venetian Night experience, as our local government leaves a LOT to be desired in their attempts to include everyone in city events. Summerdance used to include deep house music (NOT techno crap) and was a beautiful peaceful thing and now it focuses on polka (!), swing, etc. They still include a little latin dance but not much. Despite Kanye's influence, our mayor would not likely include hip-hop, etc, in a city function. I co-sign with incredulity at the Ford City shout out: I used to frequent it 10 years ago when a friend of mine owned a shop there but the last time I tried to go there I left in under 10 minutes-literally! The environment was swarming with negativity and unbelievably ignorant teens--fights and all on a weekday. I was appalled and haven't returned since that day 3 years ago...it was that bad of an experience. The Weiner Circle is something you have to be prepared for so you don't snap off on the girls behind the counter or the fools in line with you. As far as Harold's goes, not all Harold's locations are created equal. It's a franchise but not like McDonald's where all the fries are the same and sauce is the same no matter which location you hit. My faves: 22nd(Cermak) & Wabash, Balbo & Wabash, 87th & the Dan Ryan expressway (on the Marshalls side), 51st & Prairie (a little hood, a little scary but good), 63rd & Cottage Grove (like the last one mentioned), 70th & Stony Island, and 103rd & Halsted. The one on 89th and Stony Island is the one Common waxed rhapsodic about but last time I checked, they closed that location. I'm a bit of a Harold's fanatic, lol. Definitely hit up Hyde Park and Bronzeville next visit for good food and culture. To size up the real style of our city, skip the magazines that portray us as conservative dullards and check out Lincoln Park for the LA-trend influenced (think wannabes as styled by Rachel Zoe), Bucktown and Ukrainian Village for edgy, out of the box chic. The boutiques in these neighborhoods will make your shopping dreams come true. You'll find normal prices and some ridiculous ones (especially if you hit p45, etc.) on all kinds of unique finds. Michigan Ave has all the mainstream stuff you can find in any big city (Nordstrom, Macy's, Neiman's, Gap) so it's not as special, imo, and it's crowded. I hope you can check out Carifete or the African Fest (always Labor Day weekend) next year because the food, people, music and shopping is AMAZING!
notjustfoxybrown says:
August 13, 2008, 6:36 pm
Spent one of the best summers of my adult life in Chicago. Such an awesome place. So much to do (and eat). I'd definitely be a size or two larger if I lived there!
flygyrl72 says:
August 13, 2008, 7:38 pm
Hey Coco, what about the Harold's on E. 53rd in Hyde Park?! That's the one I always go to. However, will co-sign with you about the ones on Cottage Grove & Balboa & Wabash, that one, I used to always go to when I worked over on S. Wabash & Roosevelt...LOL...memories...
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