Wrigley Field Chicago

Summer means baseball and even though it is not quite as exciting as football or hockey, you don’t have to care who wins to have a great time at a game. Since it is a little (lot) slower than other sports there are lots more opportunities to hang out with the ones you are with. In Chicago, baseball means either the Cubs or the White Sox, but only one team gives you the full Chicago experience.

The Place: Wrigley Field, 1060 West Addison Street Chicago, IL

Wrigley, home of the Chicago Cubs, is a great place for a summer afternoon. What the Cubs lack in MLB success, is made up for by Wrigley’s perfect Chicago experience and corked bat scandals. It may be the one sporting arena left on earth that does not feel like a Times Square of advertisements. On a sunny afternoon or a clear night, it radiates classic Chicago summer in all of its perfection. Even the rainy days are fun and the cooler nights a just an excuse to snuggle up with beer and pizza.

You cannot go to Wrigley and not get a Chicago Style Hot Dog. They are the real deal. They have their own stands separate from the concession stands. So that you are prepared to look like a real Chicagoan, here is a crash course in the Chicago dog: It starts with a poppyseed bun, then the hot dog and grilled onions. Next you add yellow mustard, tomato wedges, bright green sweet pickle relish, celery salt and pickled sport peppers. Even though there is ketchup available, it is NOT part of a real Chicago dog. When you make it back to your seat, wait for the Old Style beer man to come around! The two together are worth the wait. It is the laid back version of the perfect wine pairing on a tasting menu.

A game at Wrigley is one of those things you can do with a big group, but it also makes a really great date. It is less work and more fun than a picnic in the park. Any awkward moments can be disguised by watching the game, or pretending to watch at least. And if you don’t know the first thing about baseball no worries. Just cheer when the other people in blue cheer and ask the person you are with some questions so (s)he (probably he) feels like an expert. Either way, it probably won’t matter what is going on. I have not been to a Cubs game where they have won since the glory days of Sammy Sosa. And as it turned out, he was cheating anyway. If you are trying to sit a little closer to your date, but haven’t found the right moment, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the 7th is your chance to put your arms around the people around you and then maybe forget to take your arm away when the song is over.

Some things to consider: Don’t drive to the game. You will pay a lot for parking and it invites the potential for drunk driving. Take a cab or the El. The Addison red line stop is less than a block from Wrigley. And if you don’t have to think about a car, Wrigley is a really fun place to go out in after a Cubs game. Cubby Bear across the street is also a classic and fun place to grab a drink before the game. The words in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” are root, root, root for the CUBBIES. And there is NO KETCHUP on a Chicago dog.

For tickets: http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=chc&sv=1

Go Cubbies!


The Second City Chicago

Laughter is the best medicine or they say. Here you can turn a stressful week into a carefree weekend or an average day into a cool night. Impress some out-of-towners or a hot date with this one, because these comedians end up in places like SNL. Tina Fey anyone?

The Place: Second City Chicago; 1616 North Wells Street Chicago, IL

They run two stages, a main stage and a smaller stage and generally have 2-3 shows running at any given time. You can go any day of the week and shows are generally at 8pm and 11pm, but check the schedule for variations and exceptions. The shows include sketch comedy and improv with cabaret style seating. So, get ready to cozy up to some new friends or use it as an excuse to sit unnecessarily close to your date. The drinks and bar/snack food are really good and include things like soft pretzels and cheese fries. Make sure to take a look at their special drinks and margaritas if you are drinking (and you should). This is not a substitute for dinner though. Adobo Grill next door is amazing and has kick ass margaritas and guacamole made at your table. It’s an easy and wise stop to make before Second City, especially if you are trying to make a night out of the whole thing.

Back to Second City: The jokes are generally tasteful although heavy on the Chicago humor. So if you bring people who aren’t from Chicago, make sure to laugh extra hard at the Chicago jokes so your guests will know when to laugh too. Also, this is not the place to bring your right winged, gap-toothed cousin. He won’t think it’s funny.

It’s a good place for a casual date. Maybe even a first date if you are sure the other person is relatively liberal: not that much talking besides intermission, but you and your date will still feel like you had a good time with each other…even though you didn’t actually interact that much. Laughing is good for the soul either way and these shows will definitely make you laugh! Going with a group of friends is also good! However, I would recommend going with a smallish group. If you do the large group thing go with people you can count on to be there at the agreed upon time. It is cabaret style seating so you sit with the people you go with, which is good because everyone can get their own ticket and still sit together.

Some things to consider: Try to get there early. It is nice to sit, relax and order a drink before the show starts. If you sit in the front, you may have to interact with the actors. This could include anything from going onstage to giving them small pieces of information about yourself for them to use to make jokes at your expense. Think of yourself as inspiring the show! It is all in good fun. And if worst comes to worst and you end up in the front just lie to your friends and tell them they pick from the middle of the audience not the front, which is what I and it worked to calm them until the actors started talking to them during the second act. Last thing, at certain times during the year they try out material for new shows they are working on. They call it “staying for the third act.” I would not recommend staying. It can get kind of long after the later shows and since it is a work in progress it is usually less funny than the rest of the show. All in all Second City is a fun night and makes you seem like you are “in the know” when it comes to a fun night out in Chicago or at the very least you get to seem like a relatively creative date planner!

For more information: http://www.secondcity.com/

Happy Smiling!

Bottle and Bottega Chicago

This is not your average painting class. As far as I could tell there were no wounded artists or Monets. Just regular people looking to get together with friends, drink some wine and paint a picture.

The Place: Bottle and Bottega, 2900 N Lincoln Chicago, IL

They host 3 hour BYOB painting classes perfect for something relaxing and fun after work or class. The first hour is essentially the painting pregame. It’s time to drink the wine you brought and maybe meet some new people. They provide light appetizers, but they say you are welcome to bring your own food or order in. If you feel apprehensive about your artistic ability, just bring an extra bottle of sparkling confidence and drink up! After the first hour it is time to put your glass next to your canvas and break out the smocks (which they provide). An instructor will take you through the steps of painting the picture of the day, but they are big on letting you paint whatever you want. If you don’t like the painting of the day, they have books of other paintings to choose from. Don’t be shy! The owners are super nice and accommodating!

The best part is that there is structure if you want it, but the freedom to explore your inner artist. You will spend some time listening to the people around you comment on how bad theirs look and how good everyone else’s is -kind of like your third grade art class. Don’t worry, someone will tell you your painting is good and if you are not feeling so hot about it, it always looks better the next day when you aren’t comparing it to the original, the instructor’s, or the people’s around you. Two hours is also the perfect amount of time to leisurely finish your painting, talk to your friends and finish your wine.

I’ve only ever gone with one or two girlfriends but they host group parties and couples events as well -not that you can’t go with your significant other on a regular day. But if your significant other (read: macho boyfriend) feels awkward about going, maybe start him off with a couples only class. This would definitely be a fun date!

Some things to consider: Be prepared to be carded if you look marginally 21. My friends and I were carded at their free anniversary event last night, which included a wine tasting. I don’t recall being carded the first time I went to an open class where we brought our own wine, but you have to be 21 to buy wine anyway…I wouldn’t recommend wearing your favorite party dress even though there are smocks and acrylic paint, especially if you are planning on drinking heavily or are particularly clumsy. Just in case…Make reservations online early if you want to go on a weekend or to a special event, but I really think this is a way better midweek activity -something to get you past hump day.

For more information: http://bottleandbottega.com/

Happy Painting!