Culture

Here’s Why Chicago Should Be On Everyone’s List Of Must-Visit Cities

If you don’t have Chicago on your bucket list, you’re sleeping on the vibrant metropolis.

The city has an enviable lakefront that runs 18.5 miles along the city skyline, a museum campus (and a number of other art and educational institutions nearby) that you could visit for years and still find something new, and dining options that run the gamut from Michelin-starred to hole-in-the-wall mom and pop shops. 

If that’s not enough to get your there, this might be:

For $2.25, you can take the CTA train into the city.

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Whether you’re flying into O’Hare or Midway, each airport offers a direct route into downtown Chicago. From there, you can easily transfer to any of the other train lines, buses or Metra (servicing the suburbs) to get where you’re going and oftentimes, get downtown just as fast as driving. Save yourself the headache of traffic and trying to find your rideshare—as well as cash—by taking the train into the city. Once you’re there, hop into a cab or transfer like a local.

Speakeasies and Cocktail Bars Aren’t Just a Fad

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They’re a historical part of the city. In 1921, the bar now known as The Green Door Tavern opened as a restaurant. Over the years, the restaurant was sold and renamed the Green Door Tavern. During prohibition, a green door would let people know that they could find a speakeasy inside. According to the Green Door Tavern’s website, many of the original fixtures found at the bar are from the 1920s. It’s easy to get caught up in the history of the first floor, but if you keep walking towards the back, and take the steps into the basement—you’ll find a woman with an iPad next to a bookshelf. Leave your name, head back upstairs and wait for The Drifter to call you. Once IDs are checked (again) you’ll find yourself in a tiny room that feels like you’ve stepped into an old-timey circus. Tarot cards are used as drink menus, you can play drink roulette by selecting a $10 fortune cookie that contains your drink order and every hour a different performer takes the stage. It’s easy to imagine one of Al Capone’s cronies posted at the bar grabbing a drink between jobs.

But The Drifter isn’t the only speakeasy worth visiting. In Wicker Park, The Violet Hour, considered the birthplace of artisan cocktails in Chicago, is worth the wait. Just be sure to follow the house rules.

Comedians Are Made in The Second City

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Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mike Meyers, Steve Carrell, Chris Farley, John Candy and most of the funniest names in entertainment came out of world-renowned The Second City, a comedy club, theater and school of improvisation.

To date, it has not produced a Latinx show on its mainstage (a disappointing trend in entertainment). However, actress/producer Vanessa Garcia is working to change that with “La Carne Asada 2: The Seasoning,” performed inside the venue’s Judy’s Beat Lounge. The sketch show for Latinos by Latinos is performed mostly in Spanish with deeply Latino characters and tropes. It sold-out its summer show dates and recently added new fall dates.

Garcia was inspired to write a sequel to last year’s sold-out run of La Carne Asada after a conversation that implied that Latinx content was not headlining stage material. With that in mind, the show is a statement about quality Latinx-centric and minority-centric content being as entertaining, engaging and mainstream as any headline show.

It’s a Magical Place—No Really, Magicians Are As Common As Bartenders

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In a profile piece on magicians for Chicago, Kevin writes about how the art of magic is taught mostly from books, and Midwest Magic in the suburbs is one of the largest magic shops in the world. It’s no wonder there’s been an uptick in magic-themed venues and entertainment. For an intimate, upscale experience head to the Magic Parlour at the Palmer House Hilton. In one of the gilded rooms, you’ll see close-hand magic performed by Dennis Watkins.

To see several acts in one place, head north to the Magic Lounge. The entrance is marked by a sign that reads ‘laundromat.’ Walk inside and start enjoying your night with a drink at the bar where a raised platform features a magician while you wait for your show to begin. Once ushered into the seated venue, various magicians will rove the aisles to keep guests entertained before the start of the first act.

Latino fans will get a kick out of Luis Carreon. The award-winning magician peppers his act with jokes that riff on Mexican culture.

It’s A Sports Fan’s Dream

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Between the Cubs and Sox (MLB) rivalry, Bears (NFL), Bulls (an NBA franchise synonymous with Michael Jordan and six league titles), the Sky (WNBA) and three recent titles between the Blackhawks (NHL), sports are an integral part of the city’s DNA—and that’s just the professional teams found within the city limits. Head to the suburbs if you want to see the Red Stars (MLS) play. It’s worth the drive considering four members of the Women’s World Cup Championship team play for the local league. The Chicago Fire, the men’s team, also plays at the same venue.

Even if you prefer a different type of entertainment, you’re not really experiencing the city if you don’t have some kind of sports encounter. Worst case scenario, you can eat really well since all the stadiums have local dining options in-stadium—like Big Star at the United Center where the Bulls and Hawks play— which is also across the street from the Cubs’ Wrigley Field.

READ: A New Incubator Is Opening Up In Chicago’s ‘La Villita’ And Will Embrace The Neighborhood’s Mexican Heritage

Lisa Frank And Hotels.com Created An Apartment That Looks Like The Inside Of Your 3rd Grade Backpack

Culture

Lisa Frank And Hotels.com Created An Apartment That Looks Like The Inside Of Your 3rd Grade Backpack

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Calling all ’90s kids. Was there ever a better feeling in the world than getting a new shimmery, colorful Lisa Frank binder? We all know that one person who had the whole kit; pencils, erasers, notebooks, stickers. Maybe that person was you or maybe they were someone you were always just a little jealous of, whether you admit it or not. It was a rainbow-colored explosion in every elementary and middle school in the ’90s. Yet, Lisa Frank stationery wants to make the experience immersive. You now have a chance to stay in an apartment decorated in the signature rainbow-colored and slightly psychedelic style of the ’90s brand.

The Lisa Frank apartment, a collaboration between Lisa Frank and Hotels.com, screams nostalgia.

Credit: Hotels.com

Lisa Frank teamed up with Hotels.com to bring your ’90s backpack to life. Hospitality company Barsala, which specializes in delivering the best value for price to their customers. A lucky few fans will be transported to the wonderful world of fluffy rainbows, unicorns, golden retrievers, and technicolor dolphins. The Lisa Frank-themed penthouse is in the Los Angeles Fashion District in downtown. But if you want to stay there, you better hurry. The room is only available for a couple of weeks this month only.

“We wanted to design a room that celebrates all things ’90s, and nothing screams childhood nostalgia more than these iconic designs,” Adam Jay, president of Hotels.com told Curbed LA.

The bed has Lisa Frank sheets and duvet and there are pillows with the trademark colorful kitties and puppies of the brand.

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The bedroom features a hot-pink four-poster bed with a light-up canopy outfitted with Lisa Frank’s signature chromatic bedding and rainbow-hued curtains. There’s a wall-sized mural featuring some of Lisa Frank’s most iconic designs like the rainbows coming out of fluffy clouds, the bear dressed like an Elton John-styled magician, and all of the animals and characters we remember.

The bathroom is an underwater technicolor oasis with all of the Lisa Frank nautical designs we all recognize.

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The bathroom walls are decorated with Lisa Frank’s underwater scenes that graced out school folders for years. Heart-shaped bubbles, rainbow colored tropical fish, and the famous pink and blue dolphins cover the bathroom walls. It is everything you ever wanted your parents to do for your bedroom and bathroom growing up.

Of course, Lisa Frank’s chromatic animal print collection is on full display in the kitchen. 

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You’ll find a true rainbow color spectrum in this kitchen from bright pink to pale blue and all the colors in between. Lisa Frank’s iconic animal prints come to life on the cupboards. Yellow zebra print, a red leopard print that fades to orange. The best part? The kitchen comes fully stocked with the most iconic vibrant-colored candy from your childhood —like Gushers, Pop-Tarts, Pixy Stix, and Planters Cheez Balls.

Get in touch with your inner pop artist with all the stationery and Lisa Frank goodies you can take home.

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If all the rainbows and colors are making you inspired, next to the lounge area, there’s an office space complete with all the cutesy rainbow Lisa Frank stationery you could ever want. The desk comes supplied with pencils, post-its, notepads and stickers. If ever we wanted to smuggle something out of a hotel room, this is it. 

Guests even get limited edition robes, slippers, and sleep-masks.

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With your booking, you get to take all of the goodies you like. The candy, the stationery, the Lisa Frank-embroidered robes, and slippers, all yours for the rate of $199 a night.

Yes, Lisa Frank is a real person, but the art was a collaborative effort.

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The Lisa Frank brand first rose to prominence in the 1980s and ’90s as purveyors of hyper-bright, animal-centric school supplies, including Trapper Keepers, pencil bags, backpacks, stickers, and stationery. Lisa Frank is a real person and started the company while she was still in college. However, many artists collaborated to design the illustrations. 

“The artwork was a collaborative effort, but it all began with me putting it on paper as a marker rendering,” Rondi Kutz, who was Lisa Frank Inc.’s Senior Designer and Product Development Leader told HelloGiggles. “The concepts came from Lisa, James (her husband), or me, so I can say that some of the characters were my idea and original design. But by the time it went on to an illustrator to redraw it, adding detail, then to a computer artist who rendered it on the computer (which entailed hundreds of hours of work), it had many artists’ stamps on it.” Kutz went on to work at the company until 2002.

Other notable themed properties available to rent (not on Hotels.com) include Bella Swan’s house from “Twilight,” a “Taco Bell inn” pop-up and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. Stays at the Lisa Frank Apartment are available only from October 11 through 27. The cost per night is $199 and the room can only be booked through Hotels.com.

READ: This Mexican Hotel Will Give You Unlimited Tequila And Let You Sleep Inside A Tequila Barrel

There Is A 9-Day Tour You Can Take Of Mexico To Celebrate Día De Los Muertos

Culture

There Is A 9-Day Tour You Can Take Of Mexico To Celebrate Día De Los Muertos

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We’re beyond thrilled that our favorite holiday is right around the corner, and we’re not talking about Halloween, but Día de los Muertos. We’re starting to plan our altars and decorate the house with papel picado. Aside from decorating and watching “Coco” for the billionth time, we wish there was more we could do to commemorate this Mexican tradition. Now there is, but before you get excited about the possibility of honoring the dead in a very new way, check out the details first and you may be too scared (or too broke) to participate.

A travel company is offering a 9-day trip to celebrate Día de los Muertos in Mexico.

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Flashback, a “Boutique group adventures for solo travelers in their 30s and 40s,” just launched a vacation package that has various stops throughout Mexico and is specially themed to honor Día de los Muertos.

The package offers, “a unique take on ancient traditions, the Día de los Muertos (as it’s called in Spanish) sees Mexicans gather to pay respects to the deceased. But there’s nothing somber about this occasion. What follows is a vibrant chaos of color, calaveras, and marigolds; beautifully-decorated altars and intricately-painted faces; music, dancing and a celebration of life. With only one departure running a year, this is your chance to experience Mexico on a truly special occasion, alongside all the classic cultural experiences.”

The trip entails a stop in Mexico City and partaking in La Catrina parade.

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Thousands of people gather in Mexico City dressed in the best Día de los Muertos costumes including many who go as La Catrina. On Day 2, the group (you and your new travel buddies) will go to the Zocalo Square in Mexico City to view the many ofrendas (altars). 

“Your guide will talk you through the traditions surrounding this sacred practice, with the chance to taste pan de muerto – a sweet bread recipe made especially for this occasion – and traditional Mexican chocolate,” Flashback states. “You’ll have the option to channel La Catrina and have your face painted in the traditional calavera style.”

On Day 3, the tour will include a boat ride to la Isla de las Muñecas, the Island of the Dolls. 

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Hold up. Now, we do love Día de los Muertos, but la Isla de las Muñecas is scary AF. “Shrouded in local folklore, the island is widely believed to be haunted by the ghost of a drowned girl. True to its name, you’ll find a plethora of creepy dolls hanging from the trees of this deserted island, some without heads or limbs. Your guide will talk you through the sad backstory of the island, before taking you back to the city center for an afternoon at leisure.” We’re not sure how much leisure we’ll be feeling after this spooky boat ride. 

The rest of the trip includes stops in Puebla, Oaxaca, hiking the Sierra Norte mountains and swimming in la Hierve el Agua. 

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The tour includes visiting la  Calle de los Dulces (the Street of Sweets) in Oaxaca, “where you’ll find rows of stores selling traditional Mexican treats. Dinner tonight will be enjoyed at a traditional restaurant, with dishes served in Poblano pottery,” and also experience how Oaxacans celebrate this historic holiday. One of the coolest parts of the Oxacacan stop is that the tour includes a visit to San Miguel Pantheon cemetery. 

This whole trip will cost you $3309, and that does not include airfare.

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That hefty price tag includes accommodation, equipment gear, a local guide, transportation, food that is on the tour, and airport pickup. There’s also limited space for 14 travelers, which does give way to an intimate experience. 

Is this something that sounds interesting to you? If so, you should probably book ASAP because we’re sure people (with money to burn) will want to explore an authentic experience to Día de los Muertos in Mexico. The trip begins on Oct. 26 and ends on Nov. 3. 

If you can’t afford this trip, we have a better suggestion. Book a cheap flight to Mexico City, and stay an inexpensive AirBnB. You can also take very reasonable bus rides to Oaxaca and Puebla because honestly, it shouldn’t be that pricey to visit Mexico. But, as we said, if you have money to burn and want to take in Day of the Dead in an Instagramable way with other likeminded travels, then this trip is definitely for you. Either way, enjoy Día de los Muertos!

Read: Mattel Is Releasing A Day Of The Dead Barbie Doll And You Better Believe Latinas Are Divided About It As Heck