Archive for the category “Outdoor Attractions”

Robinson Family Burial Ground and Robinson Preserve

WHAT: Robinson Family Burial Ground and Robinson Preserve
WHERE: On the south side just west of N. East River Rd. and W. Lawrence Ave. in Norridge, IL
WHEN: Every day until sundown

OUR RATING: Do It!

20130505_121535_resizedWell, after last week’s interruption due to illness, Storefront City is back in business. For our first post this week, we explore something a little bizarre, but found that it makes for a great outing on the warm days that are thankfully becoming more common (got up to 71 degrees on Sunday!)

Although October has long come and gone, we stumbled across a strangely haunting location in the little village of Norridge, about 20 minutes north-west of the city. Steeped in local lore, the site is complete with trails, deer and ghost legends (look out for the supposed scent of lilacs and phantom drums), and families will have plenty to talk about as they traverse the forgotten paths that Native Americans once trod.

20130505_121553_resizedAlicia: Alexander Robinson (d. 1872) (Robinson was the English surname of Chee-chee-pin-quay, Chief of the Pottawatomie, Chippewa and Ottawa Nation of Indians) was initially given this piece of land in 1829 in return for his assistance to the Americans as an intermediary with the Indians during the time of the Fort Dearborn massacre.

20130505_121957_resizedBut what exactly could these woods be haunted by? The last of the Robinson’s lived on this land until May 1955, when their farm burned down. No lives were lost, but generations of the Robinson family lived and died on this land, including Alexander Robinson himself. And just five months after the Robinson farm fire the bodies of three young boys were found in a ditch near the parking lot in the woods. 1955 was an unfortunate year for this piece of land, and for the families associated with it, but decades later the woods are welcoming and beautiful, albeit with a muddy and strange history.

20130505_122713_resizedWe recommend travelling out to the boulder first, on the north side of the preserve, which marks the burial place of Chief Chee-chee-pin-quay. There’s a bench on either side if you want to rest for a bit before starting on your big hike. Look out for deer while doing this – we spotted nine small ones that seem very tame and docile, so if you’re still for long enough, they might come and have a look at you.

Picture 23Adam: Norridge, Illinois can be described as a small village (in municipal parlance) of around 14,000 people that has jealously guarded its independence from the encroaching city of Chicago. This ability to resist encroachment has no doubt been helped by the large forest preserves abutting this enclave, that obviously prevent any further development and protect the pristine nature of the environment.

The Robinson Forest Preserve is divided into two sections, being north and south, with the Robinson Burial Ground and surrounding areas located in the north tract, while the south tract contains plentiful pasture, along with numerous nature trails that zigzag across the Des Plaines River.

20130505_131916_resizedIn all honesty, Chicago itself provides little of the mystery and wilderness of this place, which is both welcome and refreshing. Too often, we seem to be living our urban lives in the grid system of roads, trains and towering buildings, forgetting the simple pleasure of walking through the ancient woods or appreciating the history behind a place.

On the south side, there is a beautiful field that is perfect for picnics and a long, winding trail with plenty of birds and wildlife available for watching. It’s fantastic to find such an untouched place so close to the city (you can take the CTA from Downtown) and with its rich history and diverse wildlife, its worth the trek.

20130505_123459_resizedFinal Thoughts: Wild, picturesque and haunting, Robinson Preserve provides entertainment for everyone who likes the outdoors and all its mysteries. Great for picnics, treks and a spot of ghosthunting, you couldn’t find a more unique spot for a day out.

Maxwell Street Market

WHAT: Maxwell Street Market
WHERE: 800 S. Desplaines St.
WHEN: Every Sunday; 7am – 3pm

OUR RATING: Do It!

Dating back to 1900 when it was established by immigrants, today this market bustles in a new location with the life and produce of a new generation. An Aladdin’s Cave of everything from produce to electronics, it’s a quintessential Chicago experience and perfect for a hot day of strolling and bargain hunting.

Alicia: The Maxwell Street neighborhood is one of the city’s oldest residential districts and comes with a wealth of history. The neighborhood’s multicultural open air market is my favorite in the city, and the one I keep going back to when the weather permits. There’s a unique and honest life to this market that you might not find elsewhere in the city, and with produce, antiques, household items, food, and music galore, it isn’t easy to walk away empty-handed.

I love to start my journey through the market by purchasing a piece of fresh fruit from the vendors, usually a juicy plum or a peach. Not only does this provide a refreshing outlet to what is usually a long, hot adventure through the stalls, but it also protects me from buying literally everything as I pass stalls upon stalls serving up authentic Mexican fare, including favorites like Pupusas y Tamales Mama Lula’s pupusas, Xoco-Churro’s churros and a wealth of pambazos, tamales, quesadillas and, of course, tacos.

My main purchases usually include a pair of sunglasses, as there’s a wide variety of choices everywhere you look, and at very decent prices. And while you don’t have to speak Spanish to get things at a good rate, it does help to have a bit of it up your sleeve to assist you in bargain-hunting. But really, I don’t really ever go with the intention of buying anything, but rather just go in hopes of soaking up the ambience and energy of the market, and I’m always so glad that I do.

Adam: With over 500 vendors, the frenzied buzz of the market engulfs you the moment you are swept by the torrent of people at its entrance into the many blocks of stalls beyond. Food sellers hawk their wares, whether it’s an enchilada you’re after, or a piña colada in a hollowed out pineapple (these are a must, as they are substantially cheaper here than elsewhere in the city).

(cityofchicago.org)

(cityofchicago.org)

There’s something about this market that reminds me of a car boot sale – sometimes the things you will discover will take you back to your childhood or a simpler time. A big highlight has to be the many gaming stalls that are selling everything from complete N64s and their cartridges to cartridges even from really old systems like the Super Nintendo (if you had the good sense to keep the system). My great joy here is finding all the old Star Trek games I was too young for at the time.

(wbez.org)

(wbez.org)

Other items on sale include perfumes and colognes, but be wary of these as they tend to water down some varieties with alcohol or sell slightly reformulated types.

Excellently fun for a warm day, the market is so long that is will take you a good hour to walk up and down both sides. Make the most of it and take your time – you’ll find something awesome.

Final Thoughts: An abundance of deals and good food is not all that awaits you at Maxwell Street Market. Fitness Sundays are every third Sunday from 9am-1pm, Dance Sundays also occur about once a month, and there’s a variety of other special events that happen each week. So get your Chicago on and enjoy the outdoors, and don’t forget that fresh piña colada or maybe just a glass of yummy horchata.

P.S. Celebrate Cinco de Mayo at Maxwell Street Market this Sunday, May 5 from 9am-3pm with performances by Linda’s Dance Studio, Mariachi Mexico Viva, Los Hot Baneros, and more!

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

WHAT: ZooLights
WHEN: Nov 23–25, 30; Dec 1–2, 7–9, 14–16, 21–23, 26–31; Jan 1–6 from 5-9pm
WHERE: Lincoln Park Zoo (2001 N. Clark St.)
HOST: Lincoln Park Zoo (Presented by ComEd and Charter One)

OUR RATING: Do It!

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

When Lincoln Park Zoo does something, it goes all out! This year’s ZooLights at the Lincoln Park Zoo is a free and fun way to spend your evenings during the holiday season that will literally light up your night. With thousands of lights and displays illuminating every tree, building and branch in the zoo, and the care a precision taken to mount them, this attraction is one of Chicago’s finest, and highly recommended for families and kids of all ages.

We entered the ZooLights knowing what to expect, but were even more amazed than we could have imagined: lights everywhere, the smell of spiced wine, and the cry of the black howler monkeys hit you in a succession of waves. In a way, you might think that the jungle meets Christmas schtick is a little bizarre, but it works just as well as George of the Jungle on a snowy night, which means fun for everyone.

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights (photo courtesy of lpzoo.org and Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Lincoln Park ZooLights (courtesy of lpzoo.org and Todd Rosenberg Photography)

And there really is plenty to do: kids can have their picture taken with Santa until December 23rd, before he has to jet off around the world delivering presents. Holiday crafts and demonstrations are everywhere, with professional ice sculptors showing you every detail of their craft. There are also alcoholic holiday favourites for the grown-ups and plenty of food for sale.

The focal point of ZooLights is probably the musical light display, which changes soundtracks every 30 seconds or so, going from your more dreamy “White Christmas” to the holly jolly “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer,” all synced with lights at the south end of the park. Other light highlights include light tunnels (where you are surrounded by over 100 feet of lights), a beautiful tree with LED lights that look like dripping icicles and some pretty awesome neon zebra. Apparently, the first 1,000 guests each night also receive their cool holiday specs to check out the lights.

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo

The magic of the ZooLights never seems to diminish and this might be related to the human fascination with the conquest of nature: bringing light to the dark, the otherworldly glow dispelling our fears of the dark. But, at Lincoln Park Zoo, human ingenuity and natural beauty complement each other in an almost symbiotic relationship: the lights simply would not be special without the majesty of the zoo backing them.

So, grab a loved one, your family or just a pack of friends and head to Lincoln Park Zoo tonight for an unforgettable holiday staple of the Chicago winter season.

Christkindlmarket Chicago

WHAT:Christkindlmarket Chicago
WHEN: November 20 – December 24, 2012
WHERE: Daley Plaza (50 W. Washington)
HOST: German American Services, Inc (a subsidiary of the German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest)

OUR RATING: Do It!

In the spirit of the season, we ventured to the centre of Chicago and explored the institution that is the Christkindlmarket. For those of you who don’t know, Christkindlmarket is a traditional German-American outdoor market that appears every year on the Daley Plaza in Downtown Chicago. Inspired by the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, which began in 1545, Chicago’s version of the market was first held in 1996, and has been held every year since. Bringing the European tradition of Christmas to the bitterly cold Midwest, such a market is not out of place in this wintery city.

Photo courtesy of Christkindlmarket Chicago

Photo courtesy of Christkindlmarket Chicago

Adam: As we wandered through the quaint little town of temporary stalls and heated cabins, one cannot help but be transported to the heart of Europe, full of traditions of all sorts, from the beers of Schonwald and the Gluhwein of Nuremberg, to the stollen of Dinkel’s Bakery (which Alicia insists we go back for, particularly the Pecan strudel the Chicagoist raves about), Chicago and onto the more exotic heights of Nepal and Ecuador for some warm native goods. You don’t have to be German or even Christian to appreciate the artistry of some of the products on offer here, with entire stores dedicated to holiday ornaments that vary from the everyday (reindeer and stars) to the slightly bizarre (hamburgers and fries). While prices are steep, with ornaments setting you back at least $5 for the smallest of pieces, enthusiasts will revel in the sheer variety and quality offered.

Some of the more notable vendors included Honey Bee Enterprises, selling a variety of bee-based goodies, Fehrenbach Family Cuckoo Clocks, Dinkel’s Bakery (slices of stollen or strudel at $3–a great deal!), Teagschwendner, and, of course, the numerous stalls wafting delicious scents our way.

Alicia: And who can travel their way through this German market without grabbing a boot full of glühwein (hot mulled wine) or cold German beer? We could, but that doesn’t mean you should. You might want to grab a pint to go with those steaming hot plates of sauerkraut you just can’t take your eyes off of.

For the little ones, staff hand out Christkind Crowns and Passport activity books everyday to provide some extra entertainment. Or, visit Santa’s House (Fri, Sat & Sun until Dec 23, and X-Mas Eve). Plus, you can’t miss the giant Christmas tree, perhaps the most spectacular focal point of the market.

Yes, everything is overpriced and just not quite up to par with my family’s German cooking, but it really does hit the spot and bring back memories of my Grandfather’s sauerkraut and weißwürste, and of the beautiful glass-blown and hand-carved wood ornaments we placed on the tree every Christmas when I was growing up. I go back to Christkindlmarket every year and it only serves to ignite my passion for my heritage and my family traditions.

Photo courtesy of Christkindlmarket Chicago

Photo courtesy of Christkindlmarket Chicago

The final say: Need we say more? Grab a friend or loved one and share in the holiday spirit. The warm weather is calling to you.

Post Navigation