Chicago notes

I lived and worked in Chicago for 40 years, so I guess I know my way around.

Museum info
Hotel info


The itinerary is included in the Course Syllabus. A final, complete itinerary will be distributed at our meeting on Saturday evening, June 12. If I get it ready in advance, I'll post it here.

What exhibits will we see?

As of 4/12, the schedule appears as follows:
Adler PlanetariumGateway to the Universe
Garfield Park ConservatoryAfrican Dinosaurs
Chicago Historical SocietyTeen Chicago
Shedd AquariumAmazon Rising
Art Institute of Chicagoto be determined
The Field Museum of Natural HistoryTraveling the Pacific

How will we determine the undetermined?

I dunno. Probably put it to a vote.

What if I want to see something else?

There will be one large opportunity, and two smaller opportunities, to see museums on your own. In fact, you are required to spend at least two hours doing so.

The large opportunity is Sunday afternoon. We should be done with the Adler by Noon or so. You can easily get to any of the museums downtown, on the Near North Side, or in Hyde Park. Downtown is walking distance; other locations would require public transportation or cab. If there is interest, I can drive up to the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian in Evanston. We will distribute a list of recommended exhibits on Saturday night. We'll have sign-up sheets for students who want to go in a group.

The two smaller opprotunities are Tuesday night, when the art museums are free and open late, and Wednesday afternoon, when we will have a little extra time at The Field Museum of Natural History.

Of course, if you wanted to make your own arrangements to arrive a day early or stay a day late, that's up to you.

What about that blockbuster exhibit I've been reading about?

No "blockbuster" exhibits are included on the tour. If you wish to visit any, we STRONGLY recommend that you buy your tickets in advance via the museum's website. Chicago museums can get insanely crowded in the Summer, and sometimes sell out on the weekend.

Current timed, ticketed exhibits include the Oceanarium and Wild Reef at The Shedd Aquarium, and Splendors of China's Forbidden City and Underground Adventure at The Field Museum of Natural History.

If you wish to go on Sunday, get your ticket for 1:00 pm or later. Allow an hour-and-a-half to two hours, given the crowds. If you want to go on Wednesday, get a ticket for 12:30 and you should be OK. You can go to either The Field or The Shedd -- they are next door to one another -- but it would be tough to do more than one exhibit on Sunday, and impossible on Wednesday.

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Here's information on all the museums we will be visiting. A final itinerary will be distributed on Saturday, June 12.

Adler Planetarium
on the Museum Campus, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive
Open daily 9:00-5:00 (I think they may be open until 6:00 in the Summer)
Adult $7; if you want to add a Sky Show, it's $13 (not sure about student discount; there is no AAM discount)

Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N.Central Park Blvd.
Daily 9:00-5:00
Free; $3 donation suggested for African Dinosaurs

Chicago Historical Society
Clark Street at North Avenue (about 1600 N. Clark)
Open 9:30-4:30 (Sun 11-5)
Mondays free; otherwise Students $3; not sure about AAM discount

John G. Shedd Aquarium
on the Museum Campus, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive
Weekdays 9:00-6:00
$8-$21, depending on what you want. Not sure about student or AAM discounts.

Art Institute of Chicago
111 S. Michigan Avenue (at Adams)
Friday 10:30-4:30
Saturday / Sunday 10-5
Recommended student donation $6; free all day Tuesday; general admission always free to AAM members

The Field Museum of Natural History
on the Museum Campus, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive
Open 9-5 every day (last admission 4:00 p.m.)
General admission: Last time, students were $4. I think AAM members are free.
Special exhibits: $7 each.

SOME OTHER MUSEUMS (for Free Exploration)
Don't forget your student ID. Many museums will give you a discount on admission.


Chicago Architecture Foundation
224 S. Michigan Ave.
open daily 9:30-4:00

Chicago Athenaeum
307 North Michigan Avenue
Sun 12-5; Mon closed; T-Sat 11-6
$2 students

Chicago Cultural Center
an insanely long URL
78 E. Washington
Sat 10-5; Sun 11-5; M-W 10-7

Spertus Museum of Judaica
618 S. Michigan Avenue (just south of Harrison)
Friday 10-3
Closed Saturday
Sunday 10-5
Students $3


Chicago Children’s Museum
Navy Pier, 700 E. Grand Avenue
Open 10-5, Saturday 10-7
Adult admission $6.50

Lincoln Park Zoo
2200 N. Cannon Drive (between Armitage and Fullerton)
Friday 10-5
Saturday / Sunday 10-6:30
Admission free

Museum of Contemporary Art
220 East Chicago 312-280-2660
daily 10-5; closed Monday; Tues 12-8
studets $6 (free Tuesdays after 5:00 pm)

Nature Museum
2430 N. Cannon Drive (near Lincoln Park Zoo)
Daily 10-5, W 10-8
students $5


Museum of Science and Industry
57th Street and Lake Shore Drive
(773) 684-1414
Sunday 11:30-5:30; Monday-Saturday 9:30 - 5:30
Adults $9; if you want to add an Omnimax show, it's $15. Not sure about student or AAM discounts.

Oriental Institute
their really rudimentary website
1155 East 58th Street
Sunday 12:00 - 4:00
Adults $5 (not sure about discounts)

DuSable Museum of African-American History
740 East 56th Place (57th Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue)
(773) 947-0600
Sundays 12:00 Noon - 5:00 PM
Sundays are FREE to all


Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
2600 Central Park Ave., Evanston
Sat 10-5; Sun 12-4; Mon closed; T, W 10-5
Student admission $2.50

Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum
1852 W. 19th Street
Open daily 10-5; closed Mon

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The Congress Plaza Hotel will be our headquarters. Contact Kris Morrissey at for all plans regarding the hotel. A cheap, nearby alternative is the Family Hostel . Do NOT got to the Chicago International Hostel, which is way the hell north.

Both of these are right downtown and very convenient to the museums.

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Most of the museums we'll be seeing are downtown, on the museum campus or Michigan Avenue, and easily walkable. The Art Institute is on Michigan, a couple blocks north of the Congress Hotel. 10 minutes, tops. For the Museum Campus, head east on Congress through Grant Park. Turn right (south) on Columbus to the Campus. About 20 minutes; maybe 30 to get to the Adler.

If you are not staying at the Congress Hotel or the Hostel, then you are on your own for getting downtown. Check with the Chicago Tansit Authority (CTA). Website Phone 1-888-YOUR-CTA. There should be free maps and schedules at all the train stations.

In general, to get to the Congress Hotel, take one of the rapid transit lines to Jackson (NOT "Jackson Park," but "Jackson Avenue") and walk east to Michigan Avenue, then south a couple blocks. To get to the Art Institute, get off at Madison or Monroe and walk east a couple blocks to Michigan. To get to the Museum Campus, take a rapid transit train to Roosevelt Road and either walk 1 mile east, catch the #12 bus, or the tourist trolley.

Whenever getting on a bus, tell the driver where you're going so they can tell you if you're on the right bus, and where to get off.

Rush hour is not a pretty sight -- on bus, car, OR train. Leave plenty of time to get where you're going.

If you drive, there's lots of parking in ramps and underground garages, but it's expensive.


We will all go together via elevated rapid transit train. Meet in the lobby of the hotel NO LATER THAN 8:00 am. We'll walk a couple blocks to the Green Line, which takes us west right to the Conservatory. I believe the fare is $1.75.

When we're done at the Conservatory, we'll take the Green Line back east to Clark Street. We get off, cross over a bridge, and take a Brown Line (Ravenswood) train north toward Kimball. We will get off at the third stop, Sedgewick. Walk north one block to North Avenue (major street). Turn right and walk about four blocks to Clark. The Historical Society is at the intersection of Clark and North.

After we're done at CHS, you're kind of on your own. I can lead you back to the Brown Line, which you can take south to the Loop. Get off at State and Van Buren (the Harold Washington Library stop), and you're just a couple blocks from the hotel. Alternately, you could catch a cab.


YOUR BEST BET under all circumstances is to figure out in advance where you want to go and make at least some tentative plans.


We'll be down on the Museum Campus, wrapping up at the Adler around Noon or so. All downtown museums (Adler, Field, Shedd, Art Institute, Spertus, Cultural Center, Architecture Foundation, Athenaeum) are within walking distance. Or you can grab a cab if you want.

If you want to go further afield:

Hyde Park (Museums of Science and Industry, and museums within walking distance of there -- Oriental Institute, DuSable Institute, Smart Gallery)

It looks like your best bet is the Metra commuter rail Electric Line. Check the schedules carefully, especially on weekends -- they only run every 30 to 90 minutes, and we don't want you to get stranded. You can catch it at the Roosevelt Road station, maybe a 10 minute walks from from the Museum Campus. You have to pay your fare in the station

CTA trains to NOT service this neighborhood. CTA bus routes #2, #6, #10 and #28 all stop at the Museum Campus, and take you within a couple blocks of the Museum of Science and Industry. But check the schedule -- service is less frequent on weekends. A cab may end up being your best bet.

Near North (Historical Society, and museums in walking distance of there -- Nature Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, Museum of Surgical Science)

Traffic will be brutal -- there's Blues Fest downtown, and art fairs in the Historical Society / Zoo neighborhood.

Cabs may be easiest, but with bad traffic you could get stuck with a hefty fare.

Buses are safe, but will probably be slow. The #151 northbound bus will drop you off at the main gate of Lincoln Park Zoo. It appears that this bus also stops behind the Historical Society, just before it turns onto Stockton. Hard to tell from the map, though.

You can also catch the #156 bus northbound on LaSalle. Get off at North and LaSalle, then walk 1 block east to the Historical Society.

It looks like two local buses, the 36 (State Street) and the 22 (Dearborn Avenue) also run north and stop at or near the Historical Society.

Trains don't serve this area well. You can take the Brown Line to Sedgewick and then walk half a mile east. If you're going to the Zoo or Nature Museum, take the Brown or Red line to Fullerton and walk a mile east.

Near North, part II (Museum of Contemporary Art, Children's Museum)

The MCA is easily accessible by the Red Line -- just get off at Chicago Avenue and walk a few blocks east. But you'll probably want to save that for Tuesday when it's free.

The Children's Museum can also be easily reached by taking the Red Line to Grand and then catching the free trolley to Navy Pier. (Sure to be jammed on a sunny weekend.)


Mexican Fine Arts Museum -- take a cab

Mitchell Museum of the American Indian -- I can drive, if anyone is interested.

Free Exploration: Tuesday night

We wrap up at the Art Institute at 5:00. They are open until 8:00. The Museum of Contemporary Art (see above) is also free and open until 8:00. Nothing else is open late.

Free Exploration: Wednesday afternoon

We wrap up at The Field Museum around noon. The train leaves at 3:00. You have maybe an hour or so to see something on the Museum Campus. You're already at The Field, and the Adler is walkable. The Shedd is across the street, but the lines will be crazy -- if you want to go, order your tickets in advance.


It depends entirely on what you're in to. The free exploration does not have to figure into any of your papers (though certainly, if you see something really good, or really awful, feel free to incorporate it in your final). But if I had an afternoon to kill at a Chicago museum, my choices would be:

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I should probably start with the standard legal disclaimer: nothing on this page should be taken or construed as me (or any other animal, vegetable, or mineral) suggesting or encouraging you to engage in any extra-curricular activities while in Chicago. It is our official position that, whenever you are not in class, you should lock yourselves in your rooms, push a chair up against the door, and take turns standing guard. But on the off chance that you choose to disregard the sage advice of your elders:

Chicago is like any big city. It's got its good parts and its bad parts. If you go out, use common sense. Double up with a buddy or two. Avoid dark alleys. Do not engage in any conversations that begin "Psst, hey buddy..."


There are two free weekly newspapers with entertainment listings: The Reader (the thick one) comes out on Thursday afternoons; New City (the thin one) comes out on Wednesday. Another site you can check is Metromix.

The good news is, we are coming during a very active week. The Chicago Blues Festival is downtown in Grant Park on Saturday and Sunday. Free admission. I think it runs until 9:00 or 9:30. Typical street fair food, but a great crowd scene. Follow the instructions for getting to the Art Institute - the Festival should be right behind it.

Also this weekend are Chicago's two largest neighborhood art fairs: the Old Town Art Fair and the Wells Street Art Fair. Old Town is a little nicer -- more painting and sculpture, tree-lined streets, etc. But crowds can be intense. Runs 10-6. Wells Street is more crafts -- pottery, jewelrey, that sort of thing. They close off a major street for the weekend. A little more room to move. Both have the standard assortment of street fair foods. Runs 10-10. Wells sometimes has music. Admission is nominal, like $5 or something.

I gotta confess, downtown is not my favorite place to play. North Michigan Avenue has a lot of high-end shopping. The area around Clark and Ontario has all the tourist traps. And Rush Street is where businessmen go to get drunk. All walking distance, all eminently avoidable. Navy Pier is a "festival mall" -- a nice place to hang out on a summer's evening. (They also have a year-round sculpture park that changes annually and a stained glass museum.) But the food is pretty forgettable.

Around 1100 South Wabash you’ll find Buddy Guy’s Blues Legends. (From the Congress this is easy walking distance, or a short cab ride.) The neighborhood looks seedier than it is - it’s largely been taken over by Columbia College, and it's right behind the Hilton. Still, safety in numbers is always a good call in the big city.

Remember Real World: Chicago a couple of years ago? The orange-door apartment building is on North Avenue just east of Damen. This is Wicker Park, former run-down blue-collar neighborhood, taken over by artists, now being taken over by yuppies. Still, there’s the Double Door (or, my preference, Subterranean, a couple door west of Damen). Lots of restaurants, from fancy to greasy. And bars galore. It definitely has a 20-something vibe going. Stay within a block or two of the main intersection and you should be fine. A cab again is your best bet (I wouldn't wait for a bus at night in that neighborhood.)

Clark Street is the North Side's main entertainment corridor -- an endless string of bars, restaurants and clubs. The south end, around Armitage, is highly gentrified; it grows progressively less pretentious as you go north, peaking around Belmont, which is probably it's most interesting intersection. Great Indian, Etiopian, and Sushi restaurants. Then it peters out a little north of Wrigley Field. The Red Line subway (northbound to Howard) and Brown Line L (north to Kimball) will take you to Clark and Belmont; the Brown Line stations at Armitage, Fullerton (Red Line stops here too), Diversey and Wellington are all walking-distance.

Getting further out, Southport, for about two blocks north or south of Addison, is intensely gentrified. Lots of restaurants. Same for Lincoln Square (Lincoln Avenue from Montrose to Western). Take the Brown Line to Southport or to Western. NOTE: The Brown Line doesn’t run 24 hours. Watch your time, or you’ll be cabbing it home.

For those seeking a bit of an adventure, make your way up to the NeoFuturarium at Ashland and Foster. Saturday and Sunday nights they do a show called Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. 30 plays in 60 minutes, in random order, and changing every week. Random admission determined by the roll of a die. Instant theater -- just add audience. Get there early, at least an hour before the show -- they sell out almost every night, and they do not take reservations. Saturday the show starts at 11:30 and ends around 1:00. Sunday is earlier -- I think 7:00, and much less likely to sell out. (Around the corner is the intersection of Clark and Foster, the southern edge of Andersonville. You've got three or four blocks of Middle Eastern restaurants, Swedish craft stores, coffee shops (Kopi's is the best), a couple of bars, etc. I'm not sure what's the best way to get there from downtown.

Neither the Cubs nor the Sox are playing at home this week -- good for traffic.

Official City of Chicago home page: Information on public transportation (CTA -- Chicago Transit Authority) available at

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Breakfasts are all on your own. The Congress Hotel restaurant is nothing special, and kind of expensive. I confess I don't know too many good breakfast places downtown, though there is an Au Bon Pain and a Corner Bakery near the Art Institute (Monroe, I think).

As for lunch and dinner:


Both are on your own -- lunch probably on the Museum Campus or downtown. As mentioned in class, there's a great hot dog stand on the south side of The Field Museum (by Soldier Field). DO NOT eat at the Chicago Park District stands -- bad AND expensive (except for the soft-serve ice cream-- that't worth it!) As for downtown, you'll find a variety of places along Michigan Avenue and Wabash Street (under the L), and the various cross streets. Everything from fast food to sandwhich shops to reasonably nice sit-down places to outrageously expnsive.

Dinner Sunday is wherever you want it to be. Of course, a lot of restaurants downtown are closed on Sunday. Greek town (Halsted and Jackson -- a short cab ride) is always a good bet. Berghoff and Italian Village are Chicago traditions. And there's an Edwardo's pizza at Congress and Dearborn.

Other reasonably cheap eats near downtown: Gaylord's at 678 N. Clark is about the best Indian food you'll find downtown. There are some very good Greek restaurants on Halsted near Jackson, just west of the Loop. Star of Siam at 11 E. Illinois is your best bet for close-in Thai. The area around Ontario and Wells is tourist trap hell (Rainforest Cafe, Hard Rock Cafe, Gino's, Ed Debevic's, Rock 'n; Roll McDonald's) -- avoid, avoid.


It looks like we'll all order lunch from the Cafe at the Garfield Park Conservatory, and dinner will be pizza delivered to us at the Historical Society.


Lunch is the pre-ordered sandwich from the Shedd Aquarium. Dinner is on your own. We wrap up at the Art Institute at 5:00 -- plenty of restuarants in the Loop and on Michigan Avenue.


Lunch only. The Field Museum has both a Corner Bakery and a McDonald's. Otherwise, there's the hot dog stand, or walk over to Michigan Avenue.

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This page updated May 21, 2004.

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