If you moved to Chicago in the past nine months, maybe you’ve heard about this thing called summer. Those of us who have been here a while promise it exists — and that it’s worth waiting for.
Now that daffodils are tentatively opening and restaurants are removing the wind covers from their doors, it’s time to start scheduling your outdoor time. Pro tip: It’s a bad idea to leave the city between June and September. Instead, lure your out-of-town friends with our ultimate Chicago summer bucket list. How many items can you cross off?
Choose your own festival adventure
Chicago’s cultural, musical, neighborhood, food, and beverage-focused street festivals are so numerous, we won’t even attempt to list them all here. Every resident should experience at least one of the city’s Big Three music festivals — Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, and Riot Fest — once in their lives. But for a truly Chicago festival experience, think smaller: Andersonville’s community spirit shines through during Midsommarfest (June 8-10), a celebration of the neighborhood’s Swedish roots, which features music, dancing, crafts, beer, craft beer, and everything else that makes a Chicago street festival great. Or drown out the swan song of the end of Summer Fridays with some sweet notes at the Chicago Jazz Festival (August 29 to September 2). The Millennium Park mainstay features legends and newcomers alike, as well as art, food, a New Orleans-style second-line procession, and tons of adorable dancing children.
Enjoy the city’s architecture by water
If you think Chicago’s architecture tours are just for visitors, you’d be dead wrong. There’s really no better way to see all of downtown in an afternoon than by water. We recommend Wendella’s Signature Lake and River Tour ($39), which takes passengers on a 90-minute journey through the locks and into Lake Michigan for an unparallelled view. In true Chicago fashion, the tour boats have bars. If you’re looking for a slightly more budget-friendly option, the Chicago Water Taxi connects commuters and tourists alike to locations from North Avenue and Sheffield Avenue in Lincoln Park to Chinatown. An all-day pass will run you just $9.
Find your summer cocktail
Chicago is lauded as one of the top culinary cities in the world, which, duh. But the cocktail scene is world-class in its own right. Pick your signature cocktail of summer and taste-test it at bars throughout the city, or try different ones depending on your mood. At Estereo, try the Breezy — the permanent menu option features a base of yerba mate, house falernum, lime juice, and bubbles; customers then choose their add-in spirit. Devereaux, the newest project from former Billy Sunday beverage director Lee Zaremba, features a spread of creative signature cocktails and daytime sippers; we’re itching to try the Pineapple Collins (tequila blanco, pineapple, lemon, mineral water). If you like your summer cocktails frozen, Parson’s Chicken & Fish does a slushy version of a negroni, along with a rotating daily slushy special (like a margarita and Dark & Stormy). In search of a dive bar that’s not really a dive? Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar is the answer to your quandary, where our go-to is the Hornswagglers High Tea, a blend of Earl Grey-infused vodka and cream soda. It’s yours for the low, low price of $7.
Hit the patio circuit
We’ve never seen a group of humans more excited about sitting outside than Chicagoans in summer. A great patio is the sprinkles on the soft-serve cone of the Windy City. A couple new options this summer: Nine-year-old taco haven Big Star, the gold standard of Chicago patios for years, recently gained a sibling; Big Star Wrigleyville opened in early April in a massive space at Hotel Zachary with some fresh menu items to go with the same old honky-tonk soundtrack. And Avondale’s Ludlow Liquors, located in the former Orbit Room space, is bringing picnic tables, two-tier stadium seats, and lounges to its revamped outdoor area. (Has someone invented a word for a patio makeover yet? We’ll call it a pati-over.) Create a drink sampler with cocktails served by the ounce.
Go Bar-Hopping in Boystown
If you like pitchers of vodka-lemonade and dancing, there’s Roscoe’s. If you’re looking for some less innocent dancing, there’s Berlin Nightclub. There’s truly a bar to fit every mood in Boystown, and on a hot summer night, the hours fly by so fast, you won’t believe it’s 3am. The neighborhood is especially lively during the annual Pride festival and parade (June 16-17 & 24), and Northalstead Market Days (August 11-12).
Make a friend with a boat
One of the surest signs summer is on its way: The return of private boats to Chicago’s harbors. Whether you’re part of the party-hard “playpen” scene at Ohio Street Beach or looking for a calmer afternoon of sailing, there’s a ship life for every Chicagoan. But before you can live out your aquatic fantasies, better make sure you’ve got a boat friend lined up to help make them come true. (Even better if it’s a friend-of-a-friend, so you’ve got an easy out in case of a summer romance gone sour.)
Navigate the air & water show — Or Don’t
There are two groups of Chicagoans: Those who hate the annual Air & Water Show, and those who are either from the suburbs or have a friend who lives in a lakeside high-rise. If you’re in the latter group, you know how to play this one. (Step 1: Ply your high-rise friend with lots of bubbly.) But for those who have HAD IT with the noisy fighter jets and lakefront crowds, Air & Water Show weekend (August 18-19) is a great time to check out all those places on the West and South Sides that you keep missing. Head down to Calumet Fisheries for legendary smoked seafood, or, if ribs are more your style, check out the barbecue at Smoque.
Play Hooky in Millennium Park
Across the street from the Loop business district, it’s almost as if Millennium Park was planned to taunt office workers during the summer. Take a break for an afternoon (or just for your lunch hour, if you can’t get away), and spread out on the lawn next to Pritzker Pavilion. Read a book, listen to a podcast, or just people-watch as friends chat and kids chase each other across the grass. We’ll also let you in on a little secret: At the southeast corner of the Pavilion is the entrance to Lurie Gardens, where visitors can take off their shoes and dip their feet in a man-made stream.
Take an extra-long bike ride
With miles and miles of lakefront, and even more parks and trails outside the city to explore, Chicago is best seen on two wheels, and summer is the perfect time to do so. Rent a Divvy bike if you don’t own one (but don’t forget a helmet) and hit the pavement. Biking can also be a great way to make new friends. Join Critical Mass as riders take over the streets for a massive group ride the last Friday of every month, or strip down for the World Naked Bike Ride on June 9.
Shop your local farmers market
While you’ve certainly enjoyed more than your fair share of local produce in Chicago’s restaurant scene, the city’s plethora of farmers markets mean it’s time for you to become the chef. Check out this schedule to find your neighborhood market. We’re particularly fond of Lincoln Park’s Green City Market, which features chef demonstrations, live music, and more dogs per square foot than a humane society.
Visit the original rainbow cone
This Chicago classic’s sole location is so far south, you’d swear you’re in the suburbs. (They actually start across the street.) But the cone’s layers of chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House, pistachio, and orange sherbet have kept Chicagoans young and old making the journey for decades. You can get the cone at select festivals like Lollapalooza, but nothing compares to the 92-year-old storefront.
We are always trying to make our travel life easier so we can spend more time experiencing the places we visit.
There are lots of travel accessories we think we need, but what is essential for your long-term travel plans?
With so many choices, what are the best travel products you can bring along to improve your long-term traveling?
You don’t want to bring too much along with you because you’ll be carrying these items around with you in your suitcase for a long time.
But with a little planning and whittling down the essentials you will be sure to have everything you need.
Below are a few examples of some of the best travel accessories that will make your life easier on the road.
1. Organise Your Luggage with Travel Packing Cubes
Keeping your bag in some kind of organized state can be difficult when traveling long term. One way to keep your bag organised is to use packing cubes.
These cubes are a great way to keep your clothes and other items separate. Pack your different items in cubes, tops in one, trousers in the other.
Also, use them for laundry to keep dirty and clean clothes separated. You can even use them as a travelling wardrobe, only taking out which cubes you need at each time.
If you can’t decide which ones to choose, then take a look at these best packing cubes review and find the best ones to suit you.
As well as packing cubes, other luggage accessories to consider bringing are travel bottles. Some mini bottles come in handy when you don’t want to carry around large bottles of toiletries.
Decanting your favorite items into smaller containers means you can bring along everything you need without the bulk and weight. Larger ones are also great to use and fill up water or other beverages!
2. Useful Mobile Phone Apps
You never go anywhere without your mobile phone nowadays and they can be a useful tool for travel.
There are so many apps out there that are beneficial for both long and short-term travel.
There are the well-known apps for reviews such as TripAdvisor which will give you traveler information about restaurants, locations and hotels. It’s best practice to check out reviews before you book to avoid disappointment.
Also, really beneficial are Language apps that will help you converse with locals. These apps include Duolingo and Babbel, these can be really beneficial when in a spot with language difficulty.
You might want to use apps to meet people too.
These apps such as Meet Up, Eat With a Local and Party with a local, enable you to meet like-minded people in your destination. Make new friends or find someone to go on a tour with you, great if you are a solo traveler.
Partying with new people has never been so easy. Your mobile phone may just be your best travel accessory yet!
3. When I Want to be Alone – Headphones
Looking for travel gadgets to bring along on vacation with you that can have lots of uses at different parts of your trip?
If you are traveling long-term and taking lots of flights then you might want to invest in a pair of noise cancelling or noise isolating headphones.
If you are planning to get some sleep on your long flights then blocking out the noise can be one step towards a good sleep.
Headphones can be a lifesaver if you are staying in a hostel and need some sleep or feeling particularly unsociable. Block out the noise or give yourself some alone time, listen to some music and relax.
On the other hand, when you are watching TV or doing some language learning, you will keep the sounds from annoying anyone else.
4. Save for a rainy day with a Pac a Mac
There’s always that chance of rain no matter where you are. I have been caught in many a rain shower and a trusty Pac a Mac is the perfect solution.
Having this with you means you can carry on with your journey or at least keep yourself dry whilst you wait out the rain. It can happen in the best of places and sometimes without warning.
Yes, you could buy a rain cover en route or duck in somewhere are hide whilst the storm finishes. But you don’t want to waste precious time in your destination either.
So, brave the rain, don your Mac and enjoy!
Thinking about what clothes you are wearing, make sure you pack small and think big. Bring versatile clothing that mix and match and work for the places you will be visiting.
5. Keep Charged with Electronic Converters and Adapters
When you are traveling from place to place, especially through different countries you’ll need an international plug adapter.
There’s nothing worse than realizing you can’t connect or charge your electronic device whilst you are away. It can be costly to buy adapters on the road and they may not be fully safe either.
Making sure you bring the right converters and adapters to your destination is essential to improve your travel experience.
Plan ahead so you know what kind of adapters you need and if you’ll be staying anywhere that you need a special kind – Universal adapters won’t work in some places in Africa for example.
You also need to remember all your leads and a portable battery charger for your various electronics. Keeping them in their own special electronics packing cube makes finding what you need in your luggage a whole lot easier.
What is your favorite travel accessory?
There is always something you can’t live without whilst traveling and everyone has their favorite travel gear.
Whether it’s a comfy travel pillow, ear plugs or headphones to block out the noise, or those trusty walking boots. There are many things that could make the list but as you can see the above five items are a must have for a long-term traveler.
What travel items would you add to the list? Leave a comment below.
New York City is the original concrete jungle, a bustling mass of skyscrapers, sidewalks, and subways.
Green spaces and gardens can be few and far between, making them especially coveted for residents and visitors alike – especially once the weather warms up.
Whether you’re searching for the perfect picnic ground, space to run and play, or simply a grassy knoll away from the teeming masses, here are a few of my favorite NYC parks (and a bonus one in Brooklyn!).
Not included in here are the riverfront greenways, but know that if you’re ever itching for a breeze and a tree-lined esplanade, heading to the waterfront is a good way to go.
Best parks in NYC
1. Central Park
Without a doubt, the most well-known park in NYC (if not the world). It takes up 778 acres in the heart of Manhattan: six percent of the total land area of the island!
There’s plenty to do in Central Park in all seasons: ice skating and sledding, bike riding or rollerblading, having a picnic in Sheep Meadow, or just wandering around to enjoy the leaves changing color or the magnolia trees blooming.
Although Central Park New York is a favorite place for New Yorkers to walk their dogs or play in a softball league, there are plenty of iconic sites as well. Have a drink at the Boathouse and watch the lovers row around the lake under Bow Bridge – or even rent a boat yourself.
You can splurge on dinner at Tavern on the Green, watch the kids (and adults) race model sailboats on the Conservatory Water, pop into the Metropolitan Museum of Art or see the view of Turtle Pond from Belvedere Castle.
Note that the farther north you go in the park, the fewer tourists you’ll see!
2. Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park is right in the heart of West Village, and only a few steps from the shopping madness of SoHo. The square is also lined with the NYU campus buildings, so it’s unsurprisingly filled with plenty of college kids.
Home to the most famous arch in the city – built to celebrate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration as president – there’s also a fountain that is filled with playing children during the summer months.
3. Fort Tryon Park
It’s hard to believe you’re still on Manhattan when you’re in Fort Tryon Park: it starts at 190 th Street. It holds the city’s largest public garden, overlooking the Hudson River with a view of the George Washington Bridge.
It’s big enough (and far enough away from the center of the city) that you can always find a quiet corner to yourself.
Fort Tryon Park is also home to the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that focuses on medieval art and is actually made up of ancient buildings that were transported from Europe and reconstructed on the site.
My favorite part of the Cloisters is the outdoor section: it has a herb garden with more than 250 species of plants that were grown during the Middle Ages.
4. Gramercy Park
Gramercy Park is arguably the most exclusive green space in New York City: you can only enter with one of 383 coveted keys to the park. It’s been fenced since 1833 and locked since 1844, with keys only granted to parkside residents, club members and hotel guests.
But even if you can’t wiggle your toes in the grass, it’s still a lovely and quiet tree-lined walk around the park.
5. Riverside Park
I feel like Riverside Park is one of the best-kept secrets in NYC: it’s only a few blocks west of Central Park, but almost no tourists venture that way.
It stretches four miles (from 72 nd to 158 th streets) along the Hudson River, with a wide space to walk or bike that is completely lined with gorgeous towering elm trees.
There are a few select gardens, historical monuments (the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ is likely the most well-known), playgrounds and a skate park.
Don’t miss stopping at the Boat Basin for a drink with a view of the marina after a walk through the park!
6. Tompkins Square Park
Located in the East Village, Tompkins Square Park is reflective of the eclectic, sometimes-grungy, sometimes-hipster neighborhood that surrounds it.
On a sunny day, the limited grass area is packed with sunbathers and picnickers sipping champagne out of red plastic cups. It’s not a huge park, but there’s a dog run, playground, plenty of benches and picnic tables, and often community events.
Fun fact: it’s also home to the original Hare Krishna tree, although you’re more likely to see adherents of the religion in Union Square today.
7. Prospect Park
Bonus Brooklyn park! I live in Brooklyn, so I may be biased – but what I love most about Prospect Park is that there aren’t very many tourists (not that we don’t love you!).
It was designed by the same person who developed Central Park, so there are a ton of similarities, but it’s full of locals!
It’s not quite as classically beautiful or as well-maintained, but it’s huge and green and full of wide open spaces.
If you’re looking for activity, try a bike ride around the loop (you can rent a CitiBike near Barclay Center) or a paddle boat around the lake.
It’s also worth checking out the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which is located right down the street: it’s especially resplendent during cherry blossom season, but there’s something blooming year-round.
As a perpetual solo female traveler, one of the questions I frequently get asked is do I get lonely?
I mean, what a question! Of course, I get lonely when I travel solo but also sometimes when I am at home.
Traveling without a companion or partner can be completely daunting but I’ve found it to be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling styles of travel.
Like most types of travel, solo female travel has its ups and downs but at the end of the day, I heartily vouch that every person should try it at least once in their lives.
1. Stay in social accommodation
No, I don’t mean a hostel. If you’re a backpacker on a budget and looking for cheap accommodation, shared dorm rooms in hostels will certainly introduce you to people.
But I’m past those years of my life, though occasionally I still stay in hostels but in private rooms.
Nowadays there is a wide range of types of hostels you can stay in, some are categorized as “luxury” even. So when I’m traveling and looking to meet people oftentimes, I’ll book into a high-quality hostel in a private room and spend time in the common room or communal areas to meet people or participate in hostel group activities.
But most of the time I don’t like staying in hostels so I look for smaller, more intimate accommodation options, ones where you meet the owners and other guests easily, like small B&Bs or on AirBnB.
AirBnB and other similar accommodation rentals are a great way to meet the locals and get to see a different side of a destination. I’ve made friends with many AirBnB hosts over the years and it feels like I’m visiting a friend in the city or country where I’m visiting.
2. Hop on a guided tour
Depending on your trip, your travel style and where you are going you might consider hopping on a tour.
Usually, there are a range of tours that meet every type of need and interest. Day tours or multi-day tours, photography tours and budget tours even pub crawls, there are many types to choose from.
Usually, when I’m in a place like Europe, I prefer to travel around on my own, but when I want to get to places where I need a car, I’ll just hop on a day tour instead. It’s a great way to pack in a lot of sightseeing and meet new people.
At the end of every tour I’ve done I usually leave with a couple of new friends and sometimes we would meet up later on and either travel together or just grab coffee. After all, everyone is in the same boat as you.
If I’m traveling to a country where I’m either not comfortable traveling alone (rare now but still it happens) or I’m looking for a different kind or unique travel experience, I’ll book a multi-day tour.
For example, I just came home from a 3 week horseback riding trip through Mongolia with Zavkhan Trekking. Not even sure how I would even begin planning that on my own.
Last year for Christmas I joined in on a small-group local tour around New Zealand called Haka Tours, both of which fitted perfectly for what I wanted and almost everyone else on the tours were also solo travelers. Even if you travel by yourself, you’re rarely alone.
3. Participate in group activities
Aside from hopping on tours when you’re traveling around, another great way to stay social and meet people on the road is to join in on group activities.
I love having hands-on travel experiences, like eating, when I’m on the road so I tend to gravitate towards activities like cooking classes, food and market tours, and lots and lots of adventure activities, like bike tours, boat outings, and scenic flights.
Most of these activities book more than one person on them so you are guaranteed to meet people. There is nothing quite like making a new friend as you kayak through rapids or bake a local dish in a new city.
4. Make a travel buddy on the road
This usually works when you are traveling for extended periods of time and have a flexible schedule on the road, but also it can still work when your schedule is a bit limited.
Once I’ve met other solo travelers, if we’ve hung out a few times and have similar interests or want to go to the same place, sometimes it’s easy to just travel along together for a while.
This happens a lot on the well-trodden backpackers trails in Europe and Southeast Asia but also works in other parts of the world too.
5. Have a “Say Yes” policy when you’re feeling a bit lonely and be friendly
Maybe it’s just me but meeting people has never come easy to me. I am an introvert through and through, and it almost goes against my nature to intentionally be outgoing.
In the beginning, I had to force myself to talk to people. The easiest way is just to be really friendly. Depending on the country, I’ve found the majority of people love friendly solo travelers. It’s less intimidating than when you’re in groups and it just works.
On top of that when I’m traveling I try to have a “say yes” policy when people invite me to things.
Of course, I judge the situation and definitely say no if I feel unsafe or weird, but often times just putting yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone can be very rewarding.
These are the moments I tend to treasure the most on the road.