For summer fun do Taste of Chicago or Windy City Smokeout and Pitchfork or Lollapalooza


In Chicago, food and music just go together. Ergo, no surprise that two big food festivals also feature bands and two mega music festivals include food vendors. Even a free summer jazz series is steps away from a slew of food counters and restaurants.


Taste of Chicago shows off some of Chicago's best eats. (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)
Taste of Chicago shows off some of Chicago’s best eats. (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)

Taste of Chicago

Diet after Labor Day. Head over to Grant Park July 11-15, 2018, to taste more than 70 restaurant favorites that have made Chicago  a foodie town. The festival is free but tasting is by tickets. They are sold in strips of 14 for $10 (expect a $3 charge for Taste amenities). Also available are 1-6 tickets for smaller “Taste of Portions” from each food vendor. Look for pop-up restaurants, food trucks and five-day regular booths. New this year is the Taste Oasis tent, a cool AC place in the park’s Butler Field to hang out and taste. Taste Oasis is $50 for the day you choose.

Get a discount by visiting a participating restaurant before Taste begins.. See Taste of Chicago discount info. For hours, map and guides to all the Taste-Of activities visit City of Chicago/Taste update.


Windy City Smokeout

Great a great mix of country music and food at the Windy City Smokeout,  July 13-15, 2018. The event stretches between Grand Avenue and the Chicago River. What to expect: barbeque flavors and styles from all over including Nashville and Chicago plus such folks as Renee Blair and Brett Young. For tickets, hours and other info go to Windy City Smokeout.

Read More

Three Fourth festival celebration ideas

Capitol Fourth on PBS (Shot from cameras throughout the DC area compliments of Capitol Fourth)
Capitol Fourth on PBS (Shot from cameras throughout the DC area compliments of Capitol Fourth)

How do you like to celebrate Independence Day? If in the Chicago area and looking for really spectacular fireworks, you are likely to find none better than the Aon Summer Fireworks’ July Fourth show at Navy Pier. You can make it an all-day Pier experience or go out on a boat to watch.

If you like the idea of saluting US troops, love entertainment and enjoy a good fireworks show but don’t want to deal with crowds or transportation concerns, there is a really good, gather-round-the-TV option.


Navy Pier

The fireworks are spectacular and Navy Pier is a fun destination with good skyline views, its famous  Centennial Wheel, games, shops, restaurants and entertainment in the Miller Lite Beer Garden.

The Pier does fill to capacity on the Fourth so go early. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the Fourth. Gates actually close when the pier is filled. but guests with advance tickets for shows or restaurants will be allowed on. See the Capacity and Transportation categories at Navy Pier.

Take advantage of public transportation  or the Pier’s free trolley service.  Offsite parking is cheaper than the Pier’s garages. In addition check the holiday’s Code of Conduct on the same site. For instance, no pets are allowed except service dogs because of the crowds.

Mercury Cruises will be doing a 3D fireworks event for July Fourth. (Leading Lady photo by Mercury Cruises)
Mercury Cruises will be doing a 3D fireworks event for July Fourth. (Leading Lady photo by Mercury Cruises)

Mercury Cruises

Watch the fireworks with 3D glasses aboard a Mercury Cruises boat. Mercury is hosting a 2. 5 hour lakefront, skyline tour that includes Chicago’s spectacular fireworks show off Navy Pier. Guests will be given 3D glasses to enhance the fireworks experience.

The cost, $64 adults and $49 children under age 15,  includes the cruise, treats and glasses. The cruise leaves at 8 p.m. to tour the lakefront. Fireworks are at 9:30. For tickets and dock location and information visit Mercury Cruises.

Capitol Fourth

Watch the country’s annual Capitol Fourth celebration that is broadcast live from the West Lawn. On PBS from 8 to 9:30 p.m. ET, the celebration  honors the men and women in uniform and their families with a star-studded concert, then presents Washingtin D.C.’s fireworks.

Four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano Renee Fleming will be singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel,” John Williams be on video on the 40th anniversary of “Superman” and there will be a tribute to the Beach Boys.

Also featured are music legend Jimmy Buffett with the “Escape to Margaritaville cast, three-time Grammy Award-winning  Pentatonix, pop siner/songwriter Andy Grammer, legendary actress/singer/dancer Chita Rivera, Motown stars The Temptations and multi-platinum country music star Luke Combs.

In addition,  the amazing lineup also includes, Gospel singer CeCe Winans, Grammy-winning violinist Joshua Bell, The Voice season finalist Kyla Jade and the National Symphony Orchestra led by pops conductor Jack Everly.

The celebrations is funded by grants fromn The Boeing Company, the National Park Service, the Department of the army and by the  Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.

Enjoy, celebrate and be safe.

Jodie Jacobs



Celebrate Chinese New Year with food and a parade


Special dinners, teas and parades mark Chicago’s Chinese New Year celebration of the Year o the Dog 4716.

With a vibrant Chinatown and several excellent Chinese restaurants plus venues such as the Chicago Cultural Center and Navy Pier promoting Chicago’s ethnic groups, there are plenty of places to learn more, see more and enjoy more Chinese dancing and dishes.

Often called the Lunar New Year and sometimes known as the Chinese Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year in 2018, begins Feb. 16 and ends 15 days later. However, tied to the Chinese lunisolar calendar, celebrations start the eve of the first day and culminate in the Lantern Festival.

If you go to any of Chicago’s Chinese festivals or restaurants, expect to see lots of red and the words “happiness” and “good fortune.”

Here are some Chinese New Year events to put on your go-to calendar.


The Peninsula Chicago is decked out for Chinese New Year.
The Peninsula Chicago is decked out for Chinese New Year.

Feb. 15-18

Decorated with red lanterns and a décor that celebrates the Year of the Dog, The Peninsula Chicago is a thoroughly Asian hotel (it is celebrating its 90th anniversary in Hong Kong).

This is a good place to stop in for Chinese New Year Afternoon Tea in The Lobby where tangerine trees and red flowers wish everyone good fortune. The tea includes special savories and sweets for $65. The Peninsula is at 108 East Superior Street.

In addition, there will be a Lion Dance that weaves through The Lobby during Afternoon Tea at 3:30 pm., Feb. 17. Children can “feed” lettuce to the lion for good luck in the coming year. The Lion Dance begins at the hotel’s front entrance amid drumbeats and cymbals (scares evil spirits) at 3:15 p.m.

Feb. 15-22

For an authentic, eight-course Chinese dinner, reserve a table at The Peninsula Chicago’s award winning Shanghai Terrace. It includes, among many other dishes, ginger wild chicken, seafood siewmai with black truffle, pan-fried prawns and kung pao beef tenderloin. Cost is $138.

For more information please call (312) 573-6620 or (866) 288-8889 and visit Peninsula Chicago.

Lion dancers will be prancing through some Chicago restaurants and at parades during Chinese New Year. Peninsula photo
Lion dancers will be prancing through some Chicago restaurants and at parades during Chinese New Year. Peninsula photo

Feb. 15-Feb. 28

Stop in at  Koi Fine Asian Cuisine in Evanston for dishes from its “Lucky Menu.” Different dishes represent wealth, long life, happiness, prosperity, good relationships and family. Reservations will be needed for the Lion Dance there Feb. 24.  Koi is at 624 Davis St., Evanston. Call 847-866-6969 and visit Koi.

Feb. 16

Preston Bradley Hall at the Chicago Cultural Center hosts Chinese dancers, martial arts and music from noon to 1 p.m. There will also be a peek at the Chongqing Chuanju Theater Troupe which performs at Symphony Center the next day. The Chicago Cultural Center is at 78 E Washington St. For more information visit Chinese Fine Arts Events.

Feb. 17

See acrobatic choreography, gorgeous costumes and enjoy Chinese arts during an afternoon at Symphony Center, home of the CSO. Performances featuring the Dong Fang Performing Arts and the Yellow River Performing Arts are from 1:45 to 2:30 p.m. in Buntrock Hall.

This is followed with opera segments by the Chongqing Chuanju Opera Theatre and folk music by Zhejiang Symphony Orchestra at 3 p.m. in Orchestra Hall.

The first program is free to ticket holders of the second program. Symphony Center is at 220 S. Michigan Ave. For tickets and other information visit CSO tickets.

Feb. 24

Head over to Navy Pier’s Aon Grand Ballroom for Chinese activities, shows and food. Navy Pier partners with the Chinese Fine Arts Society to present the Chicago Chinese Cultural Center Lion Dancers, Martial arts, Chinese music and the Flying Fairies dance troupe from 1 to 5 p.m.

The event is part of Navy Pier’s free Global Connections sponsored by ComEd. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave. For more information call (800) 595 Pier (7437) and visit Navy Pier Global.

Feb. 24

The Uptown neighborhood’s Argyle Street has a parade with floats, dragon dancers and marchers from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The procession goes from Argyle and Broadway Streets to Winthrop Avenue. For more information visit Explore Uptown.


Argyle Lunar New Year 2016 parade. Photo compliments Uptown
Argyle Lunar New Year 2016 parade. Photo compliments Uptown


Feb. 25

Go to Chinatown for the community’s annual lunar parade and to celebrate this neighborhood’s 106th anniversary.  It’s a fun, colorful event featuring lion and dragon dancers, marching bands, floats and Ronald McDonald.  The parade starts at 24th Street and Wentworth Avenue at 1 p.m. then goes north on Wentworth and west on Cermak. For more information visit  CCC Foundation.

For more Chicago Chinese New Year information visit Choose Chicago.


Navy Pier celebrates with free birthday bash

Hey, any year still alive is a good time to celebrate a birthday. So with its new Polk Bros Park Performance Lawns now completed out front, the folks at Navy Pier decided to celebrate the 101st birthday of the pier’s existence with a free, all-day program July 15, 2017.

Navy Pier at twilight. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Navy Pier at twilight. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The birthday bash features programs on the Polk Bros Park’s lawns starting at 11 a.m. then culminating with Felicia Fields, E. Faye Butler and Victor Garcia paying tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and Dizzy Gillespie on the lawns’ Lake Stage beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Originally called Municipal Pier to handle freight and passenger traffic plus public recreation, Navy Pier opened July 15, 1916. It was built by famed architect Charles Sumner Frost based on Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennet’s design plan

Since then it has undergone several reincarnations including a World War II naval training center, a University of Illinois Chicago campus, home to Chicago Fest and an exposition center before it was redesigned in 1995 for retail and cultural use and updated in 2014 under what has been termed “The centennial Vision” to include more gardens, play areas and fountains.

If at the pier during the day Saturday, go to the Polk Bros Park at 11 a.m. to see Native American drumming and dancing by Seven Springs and World Champion Fancy Dancer Larry Yazzie. Return at 1 p.m. for an African drumming followed by Asian drumming and then a Lion Dance presented by the Chinese Fine Arts Society at 2 p.m.

Because the event is a birthday celebration Navy Pier is holding a Group Quinceañera Celebration that includes free group photos. Interested parites can participate by clicking register here . The photos will be at the Wave Wall staircase on the South Dock at 2 p.m. There will also be musical performances by the Mexican band, Sones de Mexico.

Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. For more information call (800)  595-PIER (7437) and visit Navy Pier.


Stoneism rolls through past rock eras with Exhibitionism


If you’re a fan of legendary rockers Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and their Rolling Stones band you needn’t ask why go to Navy Pier to see Exhibitionism.

Rolling Stones instruments and more in Exhibitionism. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Rolling Stones instruments and more in Exhibitionism. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

An all encompassing retrospective, the traveling show that opens April 15 and goes through July 30, 2017,  has rooms of costumes, films, posters, art, recordings, instruments and personal paraphernalia, that are likely to bring back memories of concert tours and albums.

But even if other bands have had you screaming and shaking, the exhibit is still worth seeing as a cultural and musical phenomenon that goes back to the 1960s and continues in the 21st century.

A British export that is a combo of blues and rock ‘n’ roll, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. But they proved they could still draw crowds with their record breaking concerts: Voodoo Lounge Tour in 1994–95 and Bridges to Babylon Tour, 1997–98, to their Licks Tour in 2002–03 and A Bigger Bang Tour, 2005–07.

Band recording studio in Exhibitionism show. Jodie Jacobs photo
Band recording studio in Exhibitionism show.
Jodie Jacobs photo

What to expect at “Exhibitionism.” The show recreates the Chelsea (London) flat in Edith Grove shared in 1962 by Jagger, Richards and Brian (Jones shared in 1962. Also recreated is a Stones’ recording studio and a backstage area. There is a guitar room that includes Richards’ Maton that came apart during “Gimme Shelter.”

But where some visitors may be snapping photos and selfies is the fashion gallery of impressive costumes. They’re devilishly wild and what would be expected of the Stones. Save time to watch the films that include a concert near the exhibit’s end.

Jagger and Richards explained on the Rolling Stones website the why behind “Exhibitionism.”

Rolling Stones costumes in Exhibitionism at Navy Pier. Jodie Jacobs phto
Rolling Stones costumes in Exhibitionism at Navy Pier.
Jodie Jacobs photo

“We’ve been thinking about this for quite a long time but we wanted it to be just right and on a large scale,” said Mick. “It’s not going to be like walking into a museum. It’s going to be an event, an experience. It’s about a sense of The Rolling Stones – it’s something we want people to go away talking about it.”

“While this is about The Rolling Stones, it’s not necessarily only just about us,” said Keith. “It’s also about all the paraphernalia and technology associated with a group like us, and it’s this, as well as the instruments that have passed through our hands over the years, that should make the exhibition unforgettable.”

Details: “Exhibitionism is at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Av., Chicago, April 15 to July 30, 2017. For tickets and other information visit Stones Exhibitionism.


Around Town: Now and Coming

There is always so much going on in Chicago it is easy to miss something you will want to see or find that the tickets you wanted are gone. So check out the following events and opportunities.

Tchaikovsky opera 'Eugene Onegin' opens at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lyric photo
Tchaikovsky opera ‘Eugene Onegin’ opens at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lyric photo

Lyric Opera

If you love the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, you will love his beautiful, dramatic “Eugene Onegin” opera. The Lyric Opera of Chicago completes its 2016-2017 series with the musically lush opera starting Feb. 26 and going through Mar. 20, 2017.

Based on a Alexander Pushkin’s poetic novel about ill-fated romantic attractions, the Lyric production stars soprano Ana Maria Martinez as Tatiana Larina and baritone Mariusz Kwiecień as Eugene Onegin. The Lyric production is at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera.


Rolling Stones

Tickets are available for the Chicago stop of “Exhibitionism,” the first major touring exhibit of Rolling Stones memorabilia. Opened first in London and currently in NYC, the show will take over Navy Pier’s Festival Hall April 15 –July 30, 2017. Time dated tickets range from  $25- $35 for adults to $20-$22 for juniors. Special tickets are $80 for two visits, any time, fast-track entry.m Group tickets are available from  Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave. Chicago.

Read More

Chicago arts venues celebrate Chinese New Year


Arts venues from the Art Institute and Auditorium Theatre to the Chicago Cultural Center and Navy Pier are celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year from mid January to Mid February, 2017.

Griffin Court in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Griffin Court in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute has a full Chinese menu of activities the last Saturday of January. If you at the Art Institute of Chicago Jan. 28, follow the exotic sounds you hear.

They will pull you into Gallery 101 at 10:30 a.m. and noon for Chinese Guzheng performances and to the Griffin Court in the Modern Wing at 11:30 a.m. for a Lion Dance. Then, it’s back to Griffin Court at 1 and 2 p.m. for the China National Peking Opera.

In addition to the performances there is a Mandarin tour of the museum’s Asian collection at noon and calligraphy demonstrations in the Ryan Learning Center (near the Modern Wing entrance) from 1:30 through 4 p.m.

But even before Jan. 28, the Art Institute is celebrating with drop-in Chinese New Year fun for kids in the Ryan Center, Jan. 17 through Feb. 11.

Best entrance to use for the celebration and Ryan Center is the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing at 159 E. Monroe St., Chicago, IL 60603.  General admission fee and free to children age 13 and younger and free to Chicago teens 14-17. Visit AIC.

Chicago Cultural Center

If all you have is the lunch hour to celebrate, go over to the Chicago Cultural Center Jan. 30 for Chinese dances, martial arts and music in the very impressive Preston Bradley Hall. Jackie Chan’s Long Yun Fung Fu Troupe will be performing from noon to 1 p.m (free).

For more information visit DCAS  The Chicago Cultural Center is across from Millennium Park at 78 E. Washington St., Chicago, IL 60602.

Celebrate Chinese culture at Navy Pier. Photo complements of Chinese Fine Arts Society
Celebrate Chinese culture at Navy Pier. Photo complements of Chinese Fine Arts Society

Auditorium Theatre

To see the full Long Yun Kung Fu Troupe’s program get tickets to show at the Auditorium Theatre Feb. 4. Tickets start at $33. Show time is 7:30 p.m. The discount code is CFAS. The program blends dance and martial arts. The Auditorium Theatre is  at 50 E Congress Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60605. Visit Auditorium  and call (312) 341-2300.

Navy Pier

The following week, Navy Pier’s ‘Neighborhoods of the World’ series spotlights the Chinese culture on Feb 12, from noon to 4 p.m. Go up to the Crystal Gardens for arts performances and a Chinese marketplace. Navy Pier is at 600 E Grand Ave Chicago, IL 60611. Visit CFA 


Three things to blot out 2016 election static Nov. 3-6

Instead of subjecting oneself to all the election noise on TV and social media, try to feel good about the world, at least for a little while, by going to a fun event. An old fashioned musical opens this week.  See what creative folks are doing with functional art. Visit an outdoor destination that has an unusual indoor exhibit this weekend.

Danny Gardner as Don Lockwood in 'Singing in the Rain' at Marriott Theatre. Justin Barbin photo
Danny Gardner as Don Lockwood in ‘Singing in the Rain’ at Marriott Theatre. Justin Barbin photo

Read More

This Weekend: Three important art shows

Expo Chicago

The fifth International Exposition of Contemporary & Modern Art at Chicago’s Navy Pier, known as Expo Chicago, opens Sept. 22 with VIP parties and is open to the public Sept.23-25. More than a mere showing of works from 140 galleries across the globe, the fair showcases special exhibitions from art institutions and organizations and has panel discussions. There are also unusual suspended installations as part of IN/SITU.

Navy Pier, always a fun destination, adds art appeal this weekend as it hosts EXPO Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Navy Pier, always a fun destination, adds art appeal this weekend as it hosts EXPO Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Details: EXPO Chicago is at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago, IL. Hours are Fri-Sat. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are $20 one day, $30 3-day pass. For  more information visit EXPO Chicago. For Navy Pier information call (312) 595-7437.

Read More