Saturday, October 29, 2011

18th Street

From the Pink Line 18th street station, you can walk through Harrison Park, which is home to playgrounds, tennis courts, an indoor pool, baseball and football/soccer fields and the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, or, the National Museum of Mexican Art.

A couple blocks north is St. Adalbert's, fashioned in the Italian-Renaissance style. St. Adalbert has served generations of Polish immigrants and their American-born children; at its peak, parish membership numbered 4,000 families with more than 2,000 children enrolled in the school.

 Today the church is an anchor for the Mexican immigrants that have made the Pilsen area their home.
Check out the stop's beautiful Mexican designs when you get off and on the platform.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Orange Line Adventure

The Orange Line runs from Chicago Midway International Airport, through the Southwest Side, and around the Loop. It serves almost 60,000 Chicago-ians a day during the week, and the neighborhoods Archer Park, Gage Park, Back of the Yards, McKinley Park, Bridgeport and Downtown.

MIDWAY: The Midway stop of the Orange Line drops you off in the Chicago Midway International Airport. It serves both the airport and Toyota Park, the soccer-specific stadium located just a bus ride away. Toyota Park is home of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club of Major League Soccer, the Chicago Fire Premier, the Chicago Machine of Major League LaCrosse, and the Chicago Red Stars of Women's Professional Soccer.

PULASKI: The Pulaski stop of the Orange Line is right down the street from Curie Park, with an indoor pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, fieldhouses and volleyball courts.
Across the street from Curie Park is The Polish Highlanders Alliance of North America. The Polish Highlanders Alliance of America was founded in 1929 in Chicago as an organization that unites all other Góral organizations in the United States. Most of Chicago's Góral community is concentrated in this area, where the headquarters, also known as the 'Highlander Home' is located.   The Gorale ("literally "highlanders") are a group of indigenous people found along southern Poland, northern Slovakia, and in the region of Cieszyn Silesia in the Czech Republic. The building is built in a special Zakopane Style of architecture,


WESTERN: Western station of the Orange Line is surrounded by churches and parks. St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church and Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church are just west of the stop, both made in the resemblance of the "Polish-cathedrals".
There are a ton of parks around this stop. Oakley and Micek Parks are the smallest, with a playground, and basketball courts. Cornell Park has both a climbing and water playground. Gage Park, a 29 acre park with handball, tennis, basketball and baseball courts, and a football and soccer grass and turf fields. Sherman Park is 60 acres, with tennis, basketball, baseball, football, soccer, and volleyball courts. It also has a regular and water playground, an outdoor pool and a gymnasium.

St Mary of Perpetual Help
35/ARCHER: The 35/Archer station of the Orange Line is located in the McKinley Park Community Area, next to Brighton Park and Back of the Yards, just north of McKinley Park. The Park is almost 70 acres and features 2 gymnasiums, a gymnastics center, a kitchen, auditorium and meeting rooms. Outside, the park offers a swimming pool, artificial turf soccer field, baseball fields, basketball courts, athletic field for football or soccer, seasonal ice skating rink, playground and interactive water spray feature. In addition to programs, McKinley Park hosts fun special events throughout the year for the whole family, such as Halloween events and Movies in the Park. 

Canal Origins Park
ASHLAND: The Orange Line Ashland station drops you off in Bridgeport, just east of the beautiful St. Mary's.
St. Mary of Pepetual Help Roman Catholic Church is a church designed by Henry Engelbert in a Romanesque-Byzantine style, was completed in 1889. The architecture is magnificent.
Canal Origins Park is just north of the station, looking over the Chicago River.  The park represents the beginning point of the historic Illinois and Michigan Canal, a 96-mile long man-made waterway that was built to provide a link between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River.

HALSTED: Underneath the Halsted stop of the Orange Line is Mangia Fresca, an Italian Eatery that is overflowing with beautiful, delicious make-your-own pastas, pizzas, paninis and sandwiches. Most of their menu items are under $7.00 each! Check out the video below to see how they hand-make their food!

Halsted station is located in Bridgeport. Although the Irish are Bridgeport's oldest and arguably most famous ethnic group, Bridgeport has also been home to a large number of other groups. Many Lithuanian-Americans settled along Lituanica Avenue, which runs between 31st Street and 38th Place one block west of Halsted Street in what was once called "Lithuanian Downtown" and the center of Lithuanian settlement in Chicago . Today, there are also large numbers of first and second generation Mexican-Americans and Chinese-American who, like the Irish immigrants of the 19th century, have settled in the Bridgeport area due to its affordable housing and proximity to their work.

Also off of this stop is St. Barbara Parish, Henry Palmisano Park (a walking park with paths and trails), and McGuane Park (indoor pool, basketball, baseball and tennis courts, and playgrounds).

ROOSEVELT: The Roosevelt Station is the closest "El" station to Soldier Field, and the Museum campus, including the Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium. You can transfer to the Red and Green Lines here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Pink Line Adventure

The Pink Line is one of the most beautiful "El" lines in Chicago, due to it's station art, the many cultural neighborhoods and areas it serves, and the diverse population it carries to and from the Chicago Loop. The line runs almost 20 hours a day between Cicero and the Loop, carrying about 33,000 passengers a day

When the CTA was proposing the idea for the Pink Line, they were leaning towards the name being the Silver Line. But after a write-in essay contest for Chicago-area schoolchildren in kindergarten through 8th grade, of the top three colors- Pink, Gold and Silver- Pink had received the most votes. (A $1,000 savings bond was awarded to a selected essay writer who advocated the color pink.) When the line first began operation, it was only for a trial period of 180 days. In 2008, the CTA decided to make the Pink Line permanent.

54/CERMAK: Depending on which way you are going, the Pink Line starts or ends in the town of Cicero, one of the oldest and largest municipalities in the State of Illinois and the only incorporated town in Cook County. Al Capone built his criminal empire in Chicago before moving to Cicero to escape the reach of Chicago police. Once considered mainly a Czech or Bohemian town on 22nd Street (now Cermak Road), most of the European-style restaurants and shops have been replaced by Spanish-titled businesses.

CICERO: The Cicero station is in the town of Cicero, right outside of Chicago. Mexican and Latin-American cuisine, grocery and bakeries are all over the town.
A bus ride away is Hawthorne Works Race Course, the oldest continually-run family-owned racetrack in North America. In 2009 the Horseplayers Association of North America introduced a rating system for 65 Thoroughbred racetracks in the nation. Of the top Ten, Hawthorne was ranked #8.
Located in the Hawthorne Race Course is the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.  The honorees include high-school athletes, high-school coaches, college athletes from as far away as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Notre Dame, as well as professional and Olympic athletes associated with Chicago. Their sports include everything from baseball, basketball, football, and hockey to bowling, fishing, golf, and horse racing.




KEDZIE: The Kedzie stop of the Pink Line is located in La Villita (Little Village, in English), part of South Lawndale and a vibrant, lively Mexican neighborhood that makes it feel like you're stepping out of Chicago and right into Mexico! The neighborhood is called "Mexico of the Midwest" by many of its residents. Little Village celebrates Mexican Independence Day every September with a parade down 26th Street. It's the largest Hispanic parade in Chicago. The 26th Street Mexican Independence Parade attracts thousands of spectators each year who flock to the neighborhood to show support and pride for their heritage.
Tons of restaurants, bakeries and groceries line 26th street, and music and color decorate the buildings and sidewalk vendors. 

CALIFORNIA: The California stop of the Pink Line drops you off in the outskirts of Little Village and The Heart of Italy. Just north of the station is Douglas Park, a huge, gorgeous park that has baseball and basketball fields, fieldhouses, golf facilities, paths and walkways and playgrounds. It even has a grand ball room, tennis courts,a football stadium, a water-park kids area, and a computer lab. The Park has monthly meals free to park-goers to encourage family meal time, and holds classes in dance, fitness, sports, art and theater for ages young and old.

WESTERN: Check out the beautiful art decorating this stop on the Pink Line. 

DAMEN: Just a block and a half from the Damen stop of the Pink Line is St. Matthew Lutheran Church, which holds a soup kitchen for the poor and needy in the area.
North of the station is the National Museum of Mexican Art in Harrison Park. Besides the beautiful exhibits,  the museum offers cultural, bilingual, arts-based programs, resources, events, and learning experiences to all ages.

18TH: From the Pink Line 18th street station, you can walk through Harrison Park, which is home to playgrounds, tennis courts, an indoor pool, baseball and football/soccer fields and the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, or, the National Museum of Mexican Art.
A couple blocks north is St. Adalbert's, fashioned in the Italian-Renaissance style. St. Adalbert has served generations of Polish immigrants and their American-born children; at its peak, parish membership numbered 4,000 families with more than 2,000 children enrolled in the school. Today the church is an anchor for the Mexican immigrants that have made the Pilsen area their home.
Check out the stop's beautiful Mexican designs when you get off and on the platform.

POLK:  This stop is smack dab in the middle of the medical district of Chicago- this is where you find the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, Rush University Medical Center, University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine, University of Illinois Chicago Medical Center and Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. Besides that, across the highway is Malcom X College, the United Center (where Chicago's Black Hawks play) and the Mexican Consulate.

ASHLAND: Transfer to the west-bound Green Line at the Ashland stop of the Pink Line, in Chicago's Near West Side. Ashland is the closest "El" station to the United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls NBA team and the Chicago Blackhawks NHL team. It is also directly adjacent to Union Park, venue for the Intonation Music Festival and the Pitchfork Music Festival.

MORGAN: The Pink and Green Lines' NEW STOP, coming soon this year! Stay tuned- so many new places are opening in this area to accommodate the stop.

CLINTON: Almost in the Loop, Clinton station on the Pink (and Green) line is right next to Oglivie Transportation Center that connects the city to its suburbs. Restaurants, boutiques and shops are overflowing from the city into this area. Starting your Loop experience from this stop will guarantee that you wont miss anything between here and the lake!

As you ride the Pink Line, remember CTA safety and Chicago safety. Some of the the neighborhoods the Pink line drops you off in are not the best, so if in doubt, never go alone.

Don't forget to check out the beautiful station art off of many of the Pink Line stops, such as 18th street, Damen, California and Western. Look around while you ride! The things you see out of the windows while you go will give you ideas of where you want to go next! Keep an eye behind you as well, as the skyline is very visible as you go and can be very beautiful during clear evenings, just as the sun is going down.

Lastly, let me know where you go and what you find! If you live off of the Pink Line, let me know of some places I should visit, eat at, walk through, check out and review. I love trying new things!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Brown Line Adventure

When I've asked people "What's your favorite line on the "El"?" most of them have answered the Brown Line! I have to admit- there's a TON to do off of this line. However, because its in the Northside, it typically tends to be a bit more expensive than other places in Chicago (other than the Loop).

The Brown Line runs most of the time (however, NOT 24-hours like the Blue or Red Line- be sure to keep tabs on the time if you're trying to get home on the "El" and out and about at night.) It services the Northside of Chicago- between Albany Park and the Chicago Loop. It's the third busiest rail line, and is the only train to operate counter-clockwise around the Loop. Its average daily ridership is 108,530 and travels a span of 11.4 miles.

During rush hour, the Brown Line grows to eight cars, which caused many of the Brown Line stations to have to be renovated to accommodate the change.

I am separating the Loop stops and the stops distinctive to the Brown Line in two different posts, so stay tuned!

MERCHANDISE MART: The Merchandise Mart station is located on the outskirts of the Loop and services the Merchandise Mart. Previously owned by the Marshall Field family, the Mart centralized Chicago's wholesale goods business by consolidating vendors and trade under a single roof. A retail shopping area, called The Shops at the Mart, includes apparel shops, beauty services, bookstores and newsstands, financial services, telecommunication services, travel services, specialty food and wine stores, photo services, a dry cleaner, shoe shine stand, and a food court. A United States Postal Service office is located on the first floor and a FedEx location is located on the second floor. Several radio and t.v. stations broadcast from the Mart, including WENR, WMAQ, and used to be home to radio programs such as Captain Midnight, Birr Tillstrom's Kukla, Fran and Ollie, and hard rock and alternative rock programs.
A couple blocks away is Blue Chicago, a blues club that is jumping, hopping, skipping and everything in between. Cover charge is $8 Sunday through Thursday, and $10 on Friday and Saturday. Sample some of their live music on Blues Chicago.

CHICAGO: The Chicago stop of the Brown Line is home to many schools and close to shopping areas and restaurants. Moody Bible Institute, Le Cordon Bleu, and Loyola University Chicago are all within walking distance of this stop. A couple blocks away the Marwen Foundation holds free art classes to kids, grades 6-12, who can't afford it on their own.
Demolition of Cabrini-Green homes
Until recently, just west of the Brown Line stop was Cabrini-Green, a poverty-stricken, gang reigned area that centered around the apartment buildings of public housing. The high crime and brokenness of the area called for government to find a solution. The demolition of the public housing began in 1995 and finished recently in mid-to-late 2011.This lead to thousands of displaced residents, many of whom you can see homeless on the streets of Chicago. Every Saturday afternoon, Chicago-ians and college students, some from Moody Bible Institute, DePaul and Loyola, as well as Wheaton, in the suburbs, and even as far as Indiana, come to the Loop to minister and hang out with them, serving lunch and bible study. More information at

SEDGWICK: The Sedgwick stop of the Brown Line drops you off in the Chicago Old Town and Near North Side community areas. Restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, galleries and beautiful architecture surrounds this station. St. Michael's in Old Town, one of the oldest cathedrals in Chicago, resides here- the original wooden church built in 1852, and the brick church built in 1866. When the Chicago fire of 1971 destroyed the city, only the church walls were standing. In 2002, the church celebrated their 150th year. The interior is beautiful and its architecture is magnificent.
A couple blocks away is home to the famous, first on-going improvisational theater troupe in the U.S, The Second City. The Second City opened its doors on a snowy Chicago night in December of 1959. No one could have guessed that this small cabaret theatre would become the most influential and prolific comedy theatre in the world.
Down North Ave, you will pass the historic Moody Church, and come to the Chicago History Museum and North Avenue Beach in Lincoln park.
The homes around this area are beautiful and very expensive.

ARMITAGE: This station drops you off onto Armitage in Lincoln Park, lined with shops and cafes. A bus ride in one direction is St. Mary of the Angels, one of the largest parishes in Chicago (and one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever seen), and in the other direction is the completely free Lincoln Park Zoo. 

FULLERTON:  Fullerton station is home to DePaul University, the Children's Memorial Hospital, and if you're up to a little walking or a bus ride, the totally free Lincoln Park Zoo!  



BELMONT: Belmont station is the Red, Brown and Purple Line stop that services Lakeview and Boystown. This area is full of shops, cafes and colorful, trendy nightlife.

SOUTHPORT: Serving the Lakeview area, the Southport station is just a bit away from Wrigleyville and the Wrigley Stadium.

PAULINA: The Paulina stop of the Brown Line drops you off in Roscoe Village, where people have been living since the 18th century, when the area was inhabited by the Fox Indians. Today the area is home to over 6200 residents. As soon as you get off the train you will be able to see the many shops, cafes, restaurants and salons in this area. Any type of food you crave or fancy can be found off this stop.

Ocean by Bryan Boomershine,abstract, acrylic on canvas
ADDISON: The Addison stop of the Brown Line is surrounded by residential homes and apartment buildings. Bryan Boomershine's Art Gallery and Fire Arts Center of Chicago are both art-centered galleries just a few blocks away from this station. The Fire Arts Center of Chicago holds classes as a non-for-profit school for sculptors. You can learn the arts of furniture design, forging and foundry classes, figure study, metal working and sculpture, and stone work.
Griffin Theatre Company, a non-for-profit professional theatre company, is also located off of this stop. Through artistic collaboration the Griffin Theatre Company produces literary adaptations, original work and classic plays. Throughout the year, Griffin Theatre holds and hosts classes and workshops to the public. For only $30 a month for students, you can enjoy unlimited access at Griffin Theatre, and adds a free guest ticket after three months and then another one every six months after that. (General admission is $24, so if you are planning on attending more times than just once a month, purchasing a membership is the smartest way to do that.)

IRVING PARK: The Irving Park stop of the Brown Line is located in Irving Park and surrounded by shops and cafes. Timber Lanes is a cozy bowling alley with only half-a-dozen lanes. Rates start from 2.50-3.00 a game or $20 an hour per lane. Shoe rental is $3. (Fits the three C's for a great date! Cozy, Cute and Cheap!)
Across the street is Crepes-A-Latte Cafe, a sweet, quirky cafe that makes gorgeous, delicious crepes and coffee.
Cafe 28, just down the block, is a family-owned restaurant serving Mexican-Cuban cuisine. Live music twice a week and tasty dishes make this vibrant cafe a must-taste.

MONTROSE: Montrose station is located in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago, known for its courtyard-style residential buildings. Lincoln Square and Ravenswood combine the Old World charm of German village architecture and plenty of German food with hip, urban boutiques, retailers and shops. Ravenswood is one of Chicago's first planned neighborhoods with Victorian and Prairie School homes, brick row houses and extra-wide lots.
A couple blocks away is famous Spacca Napoli Pizzeria, a beautiful, authentic Italian Pizzeria, with a stone oven and Italian-born-and-bred dough-mixer and chefs.

DAMEN: Damen station of the Brown Line is just blocks away from Amy's Candy Bar, a new candy shop filled to the brim with colorful, handmade candies, caramels and pastries.

WESTERN: Western stop of the Brown Line is the city's connection to Lincoln Square, Little India (just a bus ride away) and the Lincoln Square Farmers Market. (Chicago has more than 70 vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, plants and flowers to neighborhoods around the city.) Lincoln Square is known for it's Old German population, architecture and culture. The Conrad Sulzer Regional Library utilizes a German neo-classical style inspired by the prominent German-American local culture and the German-American architect Ludwig Meis van der Rohe. The current building was designed in 1985 by the architectural firm of Hammond Beeby and Babka, now known as Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge, Inc. The same firm also designed the Harold Washington Library. Sulzer houses custom made furniture in a German mythological theme.

ROCKWELL: Rockwell is first of the last few stops of the Brown Line, all street level. The residential architecture is beautiful and exquisite, as the transition from city to suburban culture is apparent. Surrounding the station are several shops called the Rockwell Street Neighborhood Shops. Among them is Beans & Bagels, a quaint little cafe that serves delicious, gourmet sandwiches and healthy fresh-squeezed juices, yummy warm bagel-and-cream-cheese combinations, and fresh hot coffee.

FRANSISCO: Besides being in a beautiful, cozy neighborhood, the Fransisco stop is just a few steps from a little cafe called First Slice, where the seemingly small space is apart of a huge campaign against hunger in Chicago. After purchasing a yummy, healthy meal for yourself, the money is used to give a similar meal to a homeless and needy person somewhere in Chicago. 

KEDZIE: The Kedzie station services the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago, where the majority of residents are of Latin-American descent and of Mexico and Guatamala. Substantial numbers are also from the Philippines, India, Korea, Cambodia, Somalia, the Former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia), Romania, Pakistan and the Middle East (especially Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon). Over 40 different languages are spoken in its public schools.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Blue Line Adventure

The Blue Line consists of a 19.5 miles long line which extends through Chicago's Loop from O'Hare International Airport at the far northwest end of the city, through downtown as the Milwaukee-Dearborn subway, and across the West Side to its southwest end at Forest Park. It is the CTA's second busiest rail line. The route's full length is 34.6 miles, with a total of 33 stations, and about 176,400 people riding it daily during the work week! It runs 7-days-a-week and 24-hours-a-day and barrels through Chicago in an hour and a half.

Starting in the Southwest end (Forest Park Branch):

FOREST PARK: The Forest Park stop of the Blue Line drops you off at the outskirts of Chicago. Somewhat in walking distance is the Forest Park Library, the Forest Park Community Center, the beautiful and historical Concordia Cemetery, and the actual park called Forest Park.

HARLEM: The Harlem station sits on the borders of Forest Park and Oak Park. The Ferrara Pan Candy Company (the maker of our old original favorites, like Atomic Fireballs, Original Boston Baked Beans, LemonHeads and Red Hots is right off of this stop on the Blue Line! Although I don't know yet if there is a way you can arrange for an actual tour (stay tuned, more information in later posts!), you can go on a virtual tour of the factory by going to

OAK PARK: Just south of the Blue Line Oak Park station is the Oak Park Conservatory, a free indoor park where 20,000 bedded plants are grown and can be seen year-round. The Conservatory holds many kid-orientated and family-centered events during the year (March's KidFest is March 4th this year- 2012- from Noon to 4pm), and has exhibits for both kids and adults to enjoy.

AUSTIN: A couple blocks north of this station is the historic Columbus Park, which was named a National Historic Landmark in 2003. A small lagoon and golf course can be found on its northeastern corner, as well as birding areas, fishing areas, playgrounds and baseball/softball diamonds. More information and tips about Chicago's extensive park districts in later posts! :)



Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica
KEDZIE-HOMAN: The Kedzie/Homan stop on the Blue Line is surrounded by parks (just a couple blocks away and north west is Garfield Park, which is filled with beautiful architecture, gardens, walking paths and wildlife) and homes. Just a short walk away is a beautiful Roman Catholic Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, designed in the Italian Renaissance architectural style in the late 1800's and early 1900s. More information on the beautiful Chicago cathedral and church architecture in later posts.


ILLINOIS MEDICAL DISTRICT: This stop is smack dab in the middle of the medical district of Chicago- this is where you find the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, Rush University Medical Center, University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine, University of Illinois Chicago Medical Center and Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. Besides that, across the highway is Malcom X College, the United Center (where Chicago's Black Hawks play) and the Mexican Consulate.

RACINE: Racine station connects us to the far west side of University of Illinois Chicago's campus, and just a little bit further south, Little Italy. In Little Italy, you can visit to the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, enjoy a frozen lemonade from Mario's Italian Lemonade, a Italian beef sandwich at Al's No. 1 Italian Beef, walk around Conte di Savoia Italian grocer and deli, buy some pasta and cannoli at Scafuri's bakery, and stroll in Arrigo (Peanut) Park to see the statue of Columbus.

UIC-HALSTED: This station allows you to see the rest of UIC's vast campus and Greektown- a neighborhood acclaimed for its nightlife with its many bars and restaurants.

CLINTON: Besides the many train and bus stations surrounding this station, the Clinton stop of the Blue Line is also home to the Old Chicago Main Post Office, a retired old building that has been filmed in many Chicago-based movies such as Batman Begins, The Dark Night, and Transformers; Dark of the Moon.

LASALLE: Close Up 2 is a jazz club in the south Loop area, just a block away from the LaSalle station of the Blue Line, where smooth and contemporary jazz is played by a live jazz band, and as of now, there's no cover! Go to‎/calendars/February2012.html to see this month's and next month's shows!

(Milwaukee-Dearborn Subway)

Alexander Calder's 'Flamingo'
JACKSON: Home of the Kluczynki Federal Building, American artist Alexander Calder's famous 'Flamingo' sculpture sitting in front of it, the Jackson stop of the Blue Line is surrounded by the glass and steel of Chicago's federal buildings. Transferring free to the Red Line is possible at this station through an underground tunnel connecting both Red and Blue station platforms.

MONROE: The Inland Steel Building is one of the city;s defining commercial high-rises of the post World War II era of modern architecture, being the first skyscraper to be built in the Chicago Loop following the Great Depression. It was designated a Chicago landmark in 1998.
Daley Plaza, Home of Chicago's Picasso

WASHINGTON: The Washington stop of the Blue Line is apart of the Chicago's Pedway system, connecting the Richard J. Daley Center and Plaza to Millennium Station and other buildings within the Loop. You can find the magnificent Picasso sculpture, an untitled work of art that is known for it's jungle-gym type characteristics. Many days you will find its visitors climbing on and sliding down its slanted, slide-like base.

 CLARK/LAKE: Clark and Lake is the easiest spot to transfer from the Blue Line to all of the elevated trains (except the Red line). Outside of this stop, the James. R. Thompson Center, Richard J. Daley Center and Plaza and Chicago City Hall is just a block a way. It is overall the busiest stop on the 'El', serving over 17,500 passengers a day.

Northwest (O'Hare Branch):

GRAND: The Grand station serves the Fulton River District of
Chicago, and you can find restaurants, nightlife, bars and lounges, and some shopping. The Blue Line begins its trek up Milwaukee Avenue starting at Grand, and will continue until the Logan Square stop.

CHICAGO: The Chicago stop is the gateway to West Town in a vibrant corner filled with restaurants and pubs. You can get a better look at the feel of this particular stop at, where a local artist talks about his inspiration of his art that hangs in the station's lobby, and the cultural and historical significance of the neighborhood it serves. St. John Cantius is the beautiful dark cathedral that can be seen from the steps of this station. Its latin-liturgy, beautiful sacred art, and architectural richness is breath-taking.

DIVISION: The Division station lets you off at the Polonia Triangle (aka the Polish Triangle), the Milwaukee, Ashland and Division intersection on the borders of Wicker Park and West Town. Polonia Triangle was considered to be the center of Chicago's Polish Downtown, the city's oldest and most prominent Polish settlement. The former "Polish Broadway" down Division street is growing to be an increasingly thriving business district, full of nightclubs, restaurants and cafes. This artistic community is home to the famous Chopin Theatre, an American for-profit cultural organization, where in 1990 it was restored and is now vibrant with life.

DAMEN: Damen stop lets you off right into the hustle-and-bustle of Wicker Park. Down the street is Myopic Bookstore, one of Chicago's oldest and largest used book store with three floors of books and over 80,000 titles. Semi-weekly you can watch local poets recite and read (usually on Saturday), and The Myopic Improvised/Experimental Music series on mondays is a treat for any eccentric music enthusiast to enjoy. Just further down the street you'll find Reckless Records, a quirky record store that occasionally hosts live performances and has really affordable prices. Scattered all around are tasty restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs, shops and resale stores. A high concentration of vintage-centered clothing and furniture shops can be found in this area, and the back-to-the-future, 90's themed Wormhole Cafe is a neighborhood favorite. The activity on this corner makes it one of the hardest intersections to pass through during rush hour and lunch-time, and the attractions around this stop brings eccentric, quirky foot traffic.

90 Miles Cuban Cafe's Jabarito sandwich with fried yucca- YUM!
WESTERN: Western station drops you off in the corners of Bucktown and Logan Square. A couple blocks away is 90 Miles Cuban Cafe (My personal favorite restaurant) where Latin music, cuisine, movies and dancing can be found- like a piece of Cuba in the middle of Chicago! Vintage antiques and a beautiful patio ambiance makes this the best restaurant for a romantic date.
A couple blocks in the opposite direction is Margie's Candies, a 'legendary' half candy store, half ice cream parlor, with over fifty varieties of sundaes. The shop's decor has remained unchanged since it was founded in 1921. Some of its trademark features are its multiple original Tiffany lamps, a marble soda fountain, and old-fashioned booths with miniature jukeboxes.

CALIFORNIA: The California Stop on the OHare branch of the Blue Line is located in the tip of Little Puerto Rico. Underneath the tracks is a quaint little 50-cent bakery that smells gorgeous and filled to the gills with yummy pastries that you can buy for only 50 cents! Just a walk down Milwaukee is Congress Theater, a beautiful historic theater used to host some of the biggest names in music.

LOGAN SQUARE: Logan Square station is just blocks away from the Illinois Centennial Monument, whose architect, Henry Bacon, also designed the Lincoln Memorial. The community and square was named for General John A. Logan, who served in the Civil War and later in Congress. The Blue Line goes underground again for a couple of stops as it continues its trek towards O'Hare International Airport.



IRVING PARK: The Irving Park stop of the Blue Line services the residential areas of Irving Park, and the many historical buildings within this neighborhood, some dating as far back as 1870s. Independence Park is just a couple blocks away and is filled with beautiful walkways and playgrounds and during the summer many neighborhood events like 'Movies in the Park' and fireworks make it the community focal point in Old Irving Park. This area is an architectural wonder as vintage homes of many types are being restored. The Villa District is a Chicago historic landmark district that contains over 120 homes, and during the summer and fall months, guided walking tours of the neighborhood that present the history, architecture and special features of this Chicago Landmark District are held and conducted by neighborhood residents that are trained by Chicago Architecture Foundation docents.

MONTROSE: In the neighborhood of Mayfair, Montrose station of the Blue Line drops you off near Six Corners, which is a long walk or a short bus ride away. Six Corners is located at the intersection of Irving Park Rd, Cicero Ave and Milwaukee Ave, and is largest commercial center in Chicago outside of the Loop.

JEFFERSON PARK: In the 1860s, Jefferson Park was called "the Gateway to Chicago" because of the many truck farms throughout the area, where farmers would truck their produce into Jefferson Park to sell their produce to the locals, and travel through the neighborhood, up and down Milwaukee Avenue to other parts of the city. About a quarter of its residents are of Polish decent, and in the center of Jefferson Park is Chicago's own Polish Cultural Center.
Another Jefferson Park attraction is Gateway Theatre. Gateway Theatre is the sole-surviving atmospheric-style theatre in the Chicago area. When it opened in 1930, it was said to be "the most acoustically perfect theater in the world". Now it is the chief venue for Polish Cinema in Chicago. Films, musical concerts, plays, athletic competitions, seminars, dance recitals, children's plays, choir competitions, the annual Polish Film Festival of America, and Candidates' Nights are just some of the many programs presented in the theater.


CUMBERLAND: Just a couple blocks away from the Cumberland stop is the Catherine Chevalier Woods, a good way to take a break from the city and enter the serenity of the forest. Among the trees you can find beautiful unpaved walkways through the wild life.

ROSEMONT: Rosemont station is the first and only stop of the Pace Bus #284 Six Flags Great America Express, where it begins in Schaumburg and continues on to the amusement park. The Pace Bus #222 Allstate Arena Express also stops at this station, and continues on to the arena, where the Chicago Rush, the Arena Football League, DePaul University's men's basketball team, the Chicago Wolves, the AHL, and the Chicago Sky, of the WNBA practice and play.

O'HARE: If you've never entered O'Hare International Airport from the O'Hare Blue Line station, or entered the Blue Line from O'Hare, its an experience every new Chicago-ian should venture to take. The architecture of this particular station and its set up in relation to the airport is particularly interesting.

 Whether you are traveling to O'Hare, Forest Park, or anywhere in between, I would encourage you to look out the windows as you travel and note the location and the look of the skyline from that particular area. Especially on your way out to Forest Park on a clear night or evening, the brightening skyline and Sears/Willis tower is directly behind you and gradually getting smaller- so breath-taking! :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Red Line Adventure

About 950,000 people ride the CTA's bus system, and 600,000 use the train system every day. That's 1.6 million people daily! So where are all of these wonderful places these wonderful people are going (and are any of them free)?

The Red Line is the North-to-South, 24-hours-a-day connection from Howard, into downtown, and out again, all the way down to 95th and Dan Ryan. Although there are many varying opinions on the Red Line, everyone seems to agree that it is a life-saver in the middle of the night when the Green and Brown lines are out for a nap, and convenient on game day, as its Sox-35th and Addison stops are home to the White Sox and the Chicago Cub's stadiums.

There are tons to do both up and down the Red Line. Because it is a straight, vertical line running up and down the lakeside, it's the easiest to understand. Free transfer locations to every other CTA line along this track is also a plus.

Starting farthest North:

HOWARD: The Howard stop of the CTA Red Line connects Chicago's downtown with the Yellow Line and Skokie, and allows a free transfer between Red, Purple and Yellow lines. Unfortunately, I have not explored the Howard stop of the Red Line very thoroughly. I've taken it to transfer to the Yellow Line (which I would definitely recommend, the Yellow Line, or the Skokie Swift, is a really beautiful track- especially in the autumn- and completely free! More on the Yellow Line in later posts...)

JARVIS: The Jarvis stop of the Red Line lets you off in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Rogers Park is one of the most culturally and economically diverse neighborhoods in Chicago and the nation. Its Lake Michigan beach is beautiful and it's full of parks and buildings.

MORSE: Still in Rogers Park, the Morse stop of the Red Line is surrounded by parks and residential homes. The historic Heartland Cafe is down the street from the stop, where healthy, mostly vegetarian cuisine and live music is found all year round. Critics claim this little piece of Chicago is one of the most essential restaurants in the city. All sorts of music between jazz and rock can be heard and local artists hang their work on the walls. Although not exactly free, if you have some extra cash, you should check this place out!

 LOYOLA: Named for the nearby University it services, this stop is always very busy. There are tons to do on the Loyola Campus in Rogers Park/Edgewater.



BRYN MAWR: Bryn Mawr is Welsh and translates to English as "Large Hill". This stop is the city's connection to the Bryn Mawr Historic District, where beautiful old fashioned green lanterns and lamp posts in the style of the 1920s and 30s line the streets. This district is home to many sites and buildings significant to Chicago's rich history.


ARGYLE: The Argyle stop of the Red Line is home to many commercial and residential areas, and particularly known for its high concentration of Vietnamese restaurants, bakeries and shops; as well as Chinese, Cambodian, Laotian and Thai businesses. This area is sometimes called Little Saigon, or New Chinatown.

LAWRENCE: Lawrence station is located in the historic Uptown entertainment district, where people go to  the Aragon Ballroom (Frank Sinatra frequented this venue), the Green Mill Jazz Club (which was once owned by "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn, the right-hand man to Al Capone), the Riviera Theater (people once flocked to this jazz theater because it would have live jazz performances that accompanied the movies), and the Uptown Theatre (still the largest theater in Chicago, seating up to 4,500 people, this building is closed and a deteriorating piece of history. Its beautiful and ornate exterior still remains a tourist attraction today, and in 2008, it was purchased with the hope of restoring it to its former glory).

WILSON: Letting you off smack dab in the middle of Uptown, the Wilson stop of the Red Line seems to be one of the most "rugged" (old and rusty) looking stops on the line.


ADDISON: Go Cubs! Every game day, the Addison station services hundreds of Cub's fans to and from the excitement. The history of Wrigleyville is inextricably linked to Wrigley Field, built in the early 1900s. Although shopping around Wrigley Field is scarce unless it bears the "C" for Cub's logo, a couple blocks away is the Brown Elephant, an enormous resale shop whose proceeds benefit the Howard Brown Health Center for individuals with AIDS.


FULLERTON: Fullerton station is home to DePaul University, the Children's Memorial Hospital, and if you're up to a little walking or a bus ride, the totally free Lincoln Park Zoo!

NORTH/CLYBOURNE: The beautiful North/Clybourne Red line stop was refurbished by Apple for no more than $3,897,000. Besides the huge Apple store directly behind the station, shopping, bars and nightclubs surround the stop. If you are traveling from Howard into downtown, the ride between Fullerton and North/Clybourne takes a dip underground and begins it's short bit as one of Chicago's two downtown subways. (Either way you're traveling, the Red Line's speed makes this a fun trip, whether you are rushing into or out of the underground tunnels- especially on a sunny day! Let there be light!) Hop on a bus or enjoy a little walk and this stop also services the North Shore beach, Chicago's most popular Lake Michigan beach!

CLARK/DIVISION: Clark and Division is a hustle-and-bustle intersection where you can find a lot of the city's nightlife. Just a quick walk and a couple blocks away is the beautiful and popular Oak Street Beach, where Chicago-ians from all over congregate to enjoy Lake Michigan and the sun! The residential neighborhoods in this area are architecturally beautiful and well worth the walk- this is the best way to dry off from a morning at the beach! This stop is also a good walk from the Lincoln Park Zoo.

CHICAGO: Chicago Avenue station of the Red Line connects you to Chicago's Magnificent Mile, where shopping and sightseeing come together as one of the city's main tourist attractions. This is where window shopping starts! It's hard to find free stuff around Gold Coast and River North, but most days Hershey's and Ghirardelli Chocolate gives out free samples, and Argo Tea provides free samples of their tea and cafe items. Nearby is Water Tower Place (always bustling with shoppers and tourists), Loyola University Chicago and their Loyola University Museum of Art, and Moody Bible Institute. Also, the John Hancock Center and Observatory is just north of the Magnificent Mile.

GRAND: The Grand Avenue stop serves Navy Pier and Merchandise Mart.

LAKE: The Lake station is a transfer point from the Red Line to the other CTA trains, and continues the State Street Subway. The stop is also a connection to Millennium Station and the Blue Line by way of the Chicago Pedway system- a collection of underground tunnels between several different inner-Loop businesses and locations. During the day, you can find street performers playing music and doing acts on the station platform for money.

WASHINGTON: As of 2009, Washington/State is no longer a stop on the Red Line (sad face). It is still accessible, however, from the Lake St station and the Monroe station (because they are all one platform).

MONROE: Monroe continues the State Street Shopping experience and connects the train to a ton of buses, like the #2 Hyde Park Express, #6 Jackson Park Express and the #10 Museum of Science and Industry (which will also get you walking distance to the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum). Walkable from the Monroe stop is the free Millennium Park with it's popular tourist attractions (The Bean, The Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the Buckingham Fountain, etc), Grant Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, and so much more!

The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is one of my favorite places to go- enjoy free concerts and rehearsals while surrounded by the music in this cool bandshell which is more of a work of art than a building.

JACKSON: This stop is surrounded by the historic Chicago City Hall, the Richard J. Daley Center, various other government buildings, the Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, and the city's theater district along Randolph Street. This station also has a free underground tunnel connecting the Red and Blue Lines and is connected to the Chicago Pedway system. A few blocks west is the Sears/Willis Tower, and directly south of the stop is the Harold Washington Library, a beautiful historic building that is architecturally magnificent.

HARRISON: Harrison lets you off into the South Loop area, where you can find the Harold Washington Library, the Chicago Stock Exchange and night life activity.

ROOSEVELT: This station is the closest "El" station to the Museum campus and Soldier Field.

CERMAK-CHINATOWN: Chinatown is just a small ways away from this Red Line stop! The buildings and shops make it feel like you're stepping right into China (well, kind of.). Bulk noodles are cheap and yummy, and sea food is fresh at any of the markets!

SOX-35TH: Yay, Sox! The Chicago Sox's Cellular Field baseball stadium is located here- and on game day, people come from far and near to watch the White Sox play.


GARFIELD: Going to the Museum of Science and Industry or the University of Chicago by way of the Red Line lets you off at the Garfield station. Also, for a little bus ride or walk, you can get to the beautiful Hyde Park neighborhood in minutes. Hyde Park is full of museums, historical buildings and landmarks, and churches. In September, the free Hyde Park Jazz Festival draws hundreds of music-loving Chicago-ians to enjoy all the different sounds of jazz.


The stops that have little to no information are ones I am not very familiar with. Stay tuned, because I will visit them and return with information!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Free Things to do in Chicago???

Whether you are just visiting or a native Chicago-ian, Chicago has a lot to offer it's residents... I think???

I've lived in Chicago for a little over a year now, and I am frustrated. Currently unemployed, I don't have much to spend my time on. Looking for employment in the early winter, directly after all of the seasonal hiring and during the slowest time for business, getting a good job right now is pretty hard. So besides sending applications and resumes to businesses, I've done close to nothing productive or interactive with my time.

The reason being is that I'm broke and can't afford to do things like go to concerts, shows, the movies, or drive to IKEA or the zoo... things to do in Chicago that usually make me smile. SO I ask myself, instead of sitting around doing nothing in my living room, what are the free things to do in Chicago?

So, obviously transportation is an expense that isn't apart of this equation. When I say "free things to do in Chicago", I mean  "get there (using the El, a bus, or other) and THEN it's free".

The cheapest way to get around this Windy City is to bike. Once you pay for the bike and whatever maintenance it requires to continue working, as well as a good lock, biking is free! It's a no-cost way to get some exercise AND see Chicago's many attractions and events. Although it might take some time, biking is one of me and my husband's favorite ways to get around the city (especially in good weather!).

The next cheapest way and perhaps the easiest to get around Chicago is public transportation. Purchasing a one-day, three-day, weekly or monthly pass will get you unlimited rides in the 24 hour- 30 day span of time, and let me tell you, they pay for themselves fairly quickly. A one-day "Fun Pass" is $5.75, while only three rides on the El or a bus is $6.75. After two rides using the one-day, your transit card has paid for itself. However, if you are only planning on taking two rides on the El or the bus, a "round trip" per day, don't spend your money on a pass. Compared to the $5.75, only two rides (one there and one back) on public transit will only cost you $4.50 ($2.25 each way).

Last but not least, of course, is a cab or a car. Most people living in the city refrain from using their cars because of the hassle of finding and paying for parking, driving during rush-hour, and paying for expensive gas. When your looking for free things to do in Chicago while still using your car as the main method of transportation, try and find free parking- unfortunately most of the time it will be some distance from your event. Using a cab is expensive but convenient- and if you have party of three or four going to the same, splitting the tab might be cheaper than driving separately. Always remember to allow for the time that it will take for the cab to get to your location into your calculations of arrival. The further you get from downtown, the more scarce cabs are, and the more likely it is that you have to call the cab company to send you a cab rather than hailing one on the corner of your street.

In next couple of months, I will explore how to learn, discover and have fun in Chicago on a tiny or non-existent budget. I will get off the couch and into the streets, looking earnestly for all of the free things to do in Chicago! There has to be more things we can do as Chicago-ians that don't cost oodles of money!

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