See great American museums from very old to new and historic to live

 

T-Rex Susie and other dinosaurs reside at the Field Museum. (J Jacobs photo)
T-Rex Susie and other dinosaurs reside at the Field Museum. (J Jacobs photo)

Settle in for an unusual video that takes viewers from the Charleston Museum founded in 1773 to when Chicago’s Field Museum obtained Sue in 1990.

Thanks to “Riches Rivals and Radicals: 100 Years of Museums in America”  a part of the Great Museums film series, you can travel from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “live” museum to the 2004 Smithsonian Museum of The American Indian with stopovers at the National Museum of Air and Space, The Isabella Stewart Gardener in Boston, the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio and the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

Add in NYC’s Met and MOMA, Pittsburgh’s  Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Boston’s Children’s Museum, Michigan’s Greenfield Village, Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, the US Memorial Holocaust Museum in D.C., New York’s Botanical Garden, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the National Zoo to see the breadth of the definition of museum and how museum architecture has changed.

It’s all on You Tube, so, refill the morning beverage cup, get comfortable, and visit youtube/watch/feature.

 

 

The Wright trip for stage and scenery

Peck's Farm Market is a definite stop when visiting Spring Green in Wisconsin. (J Jacobs photo)
Peck’s Farm Market is a definite stop when visiting Spring Green in Wisconsin. (J Jacobs photo)

A fall vacation that is not the same-old, same-old awaits 189 miles (about 3 hrs., 20 min.) northwest of Chicago in Spring Green, WI.

Water bottles, check. pillow ( I like mine), check. Phone, cords and bathing suit, check. Well, there is a lap pool at The House on the Rock Resort, my weekend retreat.

On the agenda is see a show at American Players Theatre which everyone calls APT,  tour Wright’s Taliesin, explore the hilly countryside and stop at Peck’s Farm Market East on the way home for yummy, fresh corn. The town is surrounded by farmland so visitors will be treated to true farm-to-table products that are not just a nod to today’s popular menu phrases. Continue reading “The Wright trip for stage and scenery”

Take a Palm Springs escape back in time

Frank Sinatra House, Palm Springs (Jake Holt photo)
Frank Sinatra House, Palm Springs (Jake Holt photo)

 

It’s not too late to get tickets for An Afternoon of Jazz at the Modernist Loretta Young Estate  or a architectural Bus Tour of Palm Springs neighborhoods where such stars as Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack took refuge from Hollywood or hob nob with VIPs at Palm Springs Modern Committee Annual Gala Benefit  at the Lawrence Welk Estate or see designer Christopher Kennedy’s renovation of the  Modernism Week Featured Home: La Vie en Rose  a 1958 home in posh Vista Las Palmas that backs up to the San Jacinto mountains.

You get the gist of this escape. It’s a trip back to mid last century architecture and homes of famous people who wanted to be within a director’s calling distance of LA studios or not too far from Las Vegas stages.

A mere 119 miles southeast of Los Angeles and about 230 miles from Las Vegas, Palm Springs, CA sits on the always sunny (more than 350 days) western edge of Coachella Valley in the Colorado Desert. The events just mentions are a few of the dozens of tours and activities taking place in and around Palm Springs during the town’s annual Modernism Week, Feb. 14-24, 2019.

The bonus is two, really good shows in the Palm Springs Convention Center. Feb. 15-18, 2019. One is the high-end, Art Palm Springs. The other is a dealers’ Modernism exhibit. Feb. 15-18.

The week, actually 10 days, celebrates the area’s reputation for having more mid-last century homes than anywhere else in the world. Here, old homes are not torn down but are instead, preserved for people who appreciate mid-1900s designs. Indeed, the National Trust for Historic Preservation put the area on its America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations architecture list in 2006.

Modernism Week happens twice a year, October and February. The fall event is small but the February one runs out of tickets to some of the popular tours and lectures. Check Tickets to see what is left and snap them up before you go.

 

Bus tour of Palm Springs (David A. Lee photo)
Bus tour of Palm Springs (David A. Lee photo)

 

Do a bus tour

Definitely get tickets for the Premier Double Decker Architectural Bus Tour. Taking  about 2.5 hours, the bus drives around Mid-Century Modern neighborhoods, and past Desert Spanish estates.

Knowledgeable guides tell stories about the stars and are likely to explain that the Palm Springs area was chosen because of what was then the studios’ “two-hour rule.” Actors had to be available within a couple of hour’s driving time for film and photo shoot calls..

It’s where tour guides have been known to say, “There is Frank Sinatra’s home, Twin Palms. When he was ready to party he hoisted a Jack Daniels flag between the palms.”

Mid-century architecture is so valued that the much photographed  gas station at the foot of the area’s Tram, is on the tour as a re-purposed Visitors Center.

Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Barack Obama have gotten away from cameras here but it is also a resort and golf area for folks who like its year-round summery weather.

 

Go to the Convention Center shows

At the Modernism Show, wander around the booths of dealers who specialize in 20th century design movements to see furniture and accessories similar to what your parents or grandparents cherished that are now back in style.

At the Art Palm Springs show check out the post war and contemporary art works.

 

Shop, Visit Galleries, Relax

There is so much to do during Modernism Week, that you should schedule in down-time. Stay awhile to explore the area, shop the boutiques and art galleries. One of the best galleries is Heather James in neighboring Palm Desert. Oh, and get in some golf and spa time. The Greater Palm SpringsVisitors Bureau has lots of ideas.

 

 

 

First in series that updates “downtown” Chicago hotels

 

Chicago is high on the list of travelers destinations. (Photos by J Jacobs)
Chicago is high on the list of travelers destinations. (Photo by J Jacobs)

As a Chicago-based  travel writer I’m constantly receiving notices of new hotels going up, remodeling taking place at older, established hotels and changes being made regarding check-in conveniences, a TV’s room information and hotel  restaurant options.

They range from comparatively inexpensive to high end, large, convention-sized lobbies and meeting rooms to boutique size with small lobbies and little meeting space. And from casual, pick up and go breakfast bars to open-kitchen designed trendy-food emporiums.

There are about 25 ot choose from just in the Loop, another 13 hotels on and near the Mag Mile (Northern Michigan Avenue from the Chicago River to Oak Street (Oak is also considered the Gold  Coast). Another 25 hotels are in the River North Area just west of Michigan Avenue.

All of that means Chicago visitors have an abundance of choices.  Some travelers may consider that good news. Others might find it overwhelming. Fortunately, Choose Chicago, the city’s tourism website the hotel category is broken down by area type and other options.

But travelers should be aware that even when supposedly speaking the same language, hotel and room descriptions translate differently to listeners and speakers.

Having unpacked in all sorts of accommodations in the US and abroad, I have found that words such as roomy, with a view and convenient to sights and shopping, may mean one thing to a traveler and something different to hotel managers and public relations or sales agents.

I found out that a view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris or Lake Michigan in Chicago meant if you walked out onto the balcony and craned the neck you probably could glimpse the famed structure or crammed into a corner of the room and stood on tiptoe you could get a glimpse of Lake Michigan.

The big question is – are new and remodeled hotels meeting the needs and wants of business and vacation visitors today? The first quarter of the 21st century saw big changes in electronic communications and food and exercise trends.

Please give input in the comment area or send an email to jjtravelsmart@gmail.comof what you look for in a hotel. Email addresses will not be shared. Comments will be helpful when looking at other Chicago hotels.

The hotel series will look at new and updated downtown Chicago hotels starting with Aloft Chicago Mag Mile and  Hotel Julian,  two boutique hotels that opened in October 2018.

 

Aloft Chicago Mag Mile and Hotel Julian

If looking for a new boutique hotel that is near some of downtown Chicago’s sights you will find two excellent options in Aloft Chicago Mag Mile and Hotel Julian.

I liked them both for different reasons but what surprised me when visiting them when they opened was room size. They both were what people in real estate use when describing small houses – cozy.

Compared to some hotel rooms I’ve stayed at in good European hotels, the rooms probably could be described as spacious but Americans might describe them as efficient. The room sizes and accompanying narrow desk and closet space are following a trend I’ve noticed in other recently redeveloped Chicago buildings turned into hotels such as the London House.

What the two hotels lack in room size, and size is merely a judgment call, they make up in good vibes and good location.

 

Aloft Chicago Mag Mile

Aloft Chicago Mag Mile goes for modern art decor (Aloft photo)
Aloft Chicago Mag Mile goes for modern art decor (Aloft photo)

The hotel sits where the Museum of contemporary Art resided before it moved a few blocks north. It does not overlook Michigan Avenue in spite of its title but it is a few blocks east so is within easy walking distance of the Water Tower Place (indoor shopping mall), the John Hancock Building’s 360 Observation Floor, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Navy Pier (Includes Chicago Shakespeare Theater), Lookingglass Theatre and the Dreihaus Museum.

Restaurants of all cuisines and price points are also nearby.

For” time-out” from running around, the hotel has a pool, an airy fitness center that has two Peloton Bikes, a lobby where board games are set out ready to use and a bar where people in the neighborhood stop by.

Meet Corgan, a robot "bowtler" at Aloft Chicago Mag Mile. (Photo by J Jacobs)
Meet Corgan, a robot “bowtler” at Aloft
Chicago Mag Mile. (Photo by J Jacobs)

Its restaurant, Re:Fuel, is basically a pick-up and go type, self-serve food bar available 24-7 and WI-FI is free throughout the hotel. A hotel guest looked comfortable working on his lap top in the food bar area.

The vibe here is fun. Corrigan, a robot “bowtler” instead of a butler, mingles with lobby guests, tells jokes and when programed at the desk, delivers items to rooms upon request. there is also music on Friday and Saturday.

Visitors who appreciate modern art and good design that incorporates light and bright colors in halls, nooks, rugs and in room and lobby spaces will find this hotel to be a comfortable home while in the city. Aloft Chicago Mag Mile is  at 243 E. Ontario St., Chicago, IL 600611

 

 

 

 

Hotel Julian

Hotel Julian room. (Hotel Julian photo)
Hotel Julian room. (Hotel Julian photo)

The hotel has moved into and risen in the historic Atlantic Bank Building on the west side Michigan Avenue just north of Millennium Park.

Designed by famed architect Benjamin Marshall and completed in 1916, it had just 12 of its originally planned 17 floors built.

Now, the Oxford Capital Group that recently redid the London House building as a hotel at Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, has beautifully redone the terra cotta clad structure and added five floors with floor to ceiling windows.

Confined by the building original bones, public and private spaces are narrow but from the gourmet “About Last Knife” dining space to the contemporary-designed rooms the descriptive word could be “sleek.” High ceilings make the rooms look and feel larger than they are. The fitness room is small but has a Peloton Bike.

Some rooms at Hotel Julian have a partial view of Millennium Park. (J Jacobs photo)
Some rooms at Hotel Julian have a partial view of Millennium Park. (J Jacobs photo)

A side benefit of adapting needs to space is that instead of an ironing board rooms have steamers. In our family this means not having to hang clothes in the bathroom and turning the shower to hot.

Positioned in the market as a luxury hotel, it has Frette linen and robes and Panpuri bath products designed for the hotel.

Named for the patron saint of travelers, Hotel Julian is well situated for visitors who want to see the Art Institute of Chicago or Cloud Gate (The Bean) and activities in Millennium Park while in town.

It is also near the Theatre District’s shows at Goodman TheatreChicago Theatre and the Broadway in Chicago productions at the Ford Oriental Theatre, all a few  blocks  west of the hotel.

Hotel Julian is at 168 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Illinois 60601

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five things to do in Chicago for Spring Break

Here are some ideas of where to go and what to do whether visiting Chicago from out of town or planning to take advantage of the city if living in its metropolitan area.

 

Take an architecture tour

Chicago is known for its architecture – whether it’s the fabulous Louis  A. Sullivan Auditorium Theatre at Congress Parkway west of Michigan Avenue, the Rookery designed by Danial Burnham and John Root, with a grand atrium redesigned by  Frank Lloyd Wright on LaSalle Street or the Aqua Tower, an undulating multi use building designed by Jeanne Gang and her Gang Studios on North Columbus  Drive that includes the Radisson Blu hotel.

The Architecture Foundation does excellent art deco and other walking tours and has a good boat tour on the Chicago River. There are also other good architecture boat tours such as those done by Wendella.

The Marina Twin Towers on the Chicago River are on architecture boat tours and the Chicago Film Tour. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
The Marina Twin Towers on the Chicago River are on architecture boat tours and the Chicago Film Tour. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

 

See movie and TV filming sites

Chicago is a popular movie and TV location site. A really great way to see the city is to take the Chicago Film Tour.

More than 80 movie and TV shows have been filmed in Chicago including The Dark Knight, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Sting, Spiderman, The Fugitive and North by Northwest so the tour goes from Wrigleyville on the Northside to China Town south of the loop and lots of places in between.

It takes close to two hours but while on the bus you also get movie shots on a TV monitor and background information from very knowledgeable guides.

 

Combine  Millennium Park with a lunch break

You’d never guess that any eyesore once used by the Illinois Central Railroad could be turned into the gorgeous 24 plus- acre park of gardens, walkways, remarkable sculptures, fountains, art work and public concert spaces that is Millennium Park.

The park stretches along Michigan Avenue from Randolph Street on the North to Monroe Parkway on the South. But what first catches the eye is the interesting stainless steel ribbon-like top of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion designed by Frank Gehry.  Its lawn is covered by an artistic sound grid.

Stroll the park to see the Lurie Gardens, the sculptures by Chaikaia Booker in the Boeing galleries section of the park (up now through April 2018, the 50-foot high towers of the Crown Fountain desiged by Jaume Plensa (the towers have changing faces of Chicago residents and the tower spits water into a wading area and the park’s famed Cloud Gate, better known as The Bean.

A 66-foot long elliptical sculpture by Anish Kapoor, The Bean is where visitors go to take selfies. Chicago’s clouds and skyline are beautifully reflected on the Bean’s polished stainless steel surface.

The Bean is a popular selfie site in Millennium Park. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
The Bean is a popular selfie site in Millennium Park. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Leave the park by way of the Nichols Bridgeway, a long pedestrian bridge going from the park up to the Renzo Piano restaurant and the Bluhm Family Terrace in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing. The restaurant, named for the architect Renzo Piano who designed the Modern Wing and the Bridgeway, is a terrific lunch spot with a view of the city. But you need a reservation.

If you haven’t snagged one go out onto the Terrace to snap photos and go back down to the park where you might be able to get a table at the Park Grill below the Bean.

 

Enjoy Chicago’s music scene

If you like blues, jazz or folk, find out who is at The House of Blues, Andy’s, Green Mill or The Hideout. For classical programs check Orchestra Hall, the Civic Opera House and the Harris Theatre. Also look up the Pritzker Pavillion in Millennium Park, host of the Blues Fest, for free concerts.

 

Indulge in a short but wonderful “staycation”

Lots of hotels downtown Chicago have a workout room however few have the space for a good-sized pool and a great spa. Stay and book a spa treatment at the upscale, Oriental influenced Peninsula Hotel overlooking Chicago’s Magnifenct (shopping) Mile on North Michigan Avenue and swim in its half-Olymic length pool. You can also order drinks and lunch there.

Or  stay at The Langham, a five star hotel on the Chicago River with British roots. Aside from a fine lap pool and spa, the hotel is known for its traditional tea, good services and spacious rooms. Located in a former Mies van der Rohe skyscraper on Wabash Avenue, the hotel is also well situated for downtown and Magnificent Mile exploration. When reserving ask about the room’s views.

 

Chicago really is a terrific destination even for a few days. Enjoy!

 

 

A Day in Chicago

 

Third in series on bucket-list towns where there is so much to see that that it is easy to miss some really good places. The series, begun with A Day in LA and continued with A Day in DC, highlights two attractions and includes a foodie stop plus an alternative attraction.

 

Combine art and architecture

Your start and end spots are Michigan Avenue from Monroe to Randolph Streets.

Modern Wing of Art Institute of Chicago Monroe Street entrance. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Modern Wing of Art Institute of Chicago Monroe Street entrance. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Of course you know that the Art Institute of Chicago has the finest French Impressionist collection outside of Paris.

But you might not know that as of December 2016 with the addition of the ‘New Contemporay’ it also has on exhibit an outstanding collection of contemporary art by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Robert Raushenberg and Takahi Murakami and other influential artists plus important photographs by Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince.

Comparable to that at the new Broad Museum in LA, the “New Contemporary” collection is on a long-term loan from philanthropists Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson. See it in the Art Institute’s Modern Wing.

However, the museum doesn’t open until 10:30 a.m. You don’t need to enter with the mass waiting for it to open. So think petit déjeuner at Toni Patisserie at 65 E. Washington Street, a couple of blocks north of the museum.

 

‘The People’s Palace’

You are now perfectly placed to go across the street to “The People’s Palace” as the Chicago Cultural Center was sometimes called. Its south door at 78 E. Washington Street, is across from the Patisserie and is a perfect place to start the day after your croissant and latte.

Pull out the smart phone. The outside of the building is somewhat ponderous but inside is one amazing sight after another starting with the awesome mosaics that line the entryway’s Carrara marble staircase and walls.

Designed by the renowned architecture firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, Boston in a Beaux Arts style in 1897 it reflected the taste of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. The building housed the Chicago Public Library so look for literary and historical faces and saying in the mosaics.

Mosaics line stairway and walls in Chicago Culture Center known as the 'People's Palace' Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Mosaics line stairway and walls in Chicago Culture Center known as the ‘People’s Palace’
Photo by Jodie Jacobs

If you entered from Washington Street you might notice Roman style arches.If you walk through to the Randolph Street entrance you will see Greek influence and Doric columns.

On the National Register of Historic Places, its upstairs is filled with beautiful spaces. Look up when you reach the third floor on the Washington Street side. You are in the gorgeous Preston Bradley Hall capped by reportedly the world’s largest Tiffany Favrile glass dome. Surrounded by fish scales, the dome’s center has the signs of the zodiac.

Walk around the room to your left (west side) to get to the impressive Grand Army of the Republic Rotunda and its stained-glass dome. Go into the decorative GAR Memorial Hall.

Chicagoans come to the building for literary readings, dance and music programs, lectures, expos and concerts and to admire GAR rooms and Preston Bradley Hall.

They also come to see the ever changing art exhibits. So, take time to stroll to see what’s being shown around the building. Featured art shows are typically on the fourth floor and sometimes in the Chicago Room on Level Two. The main floor has exhibition space running along both the east and west sides of the building.

 

The ‘Modern Wing’

When ready to check out the Art Institute’s Modern Wing cross Michigan Avenue and walk south to the museum’s Monroe Street entrance. Designed by award-winning architect Renzo Piano, the wing opened in 2009 to mainly house modern European painting and sculpture and contemporary art collections. Tip: don’t try to do all of the Art Institute in one trip. The museum has nearly one million square feet.

At the Monroe Street Modern Wing entrance, you walk into the two-story, sky-lit Griffin Court.

The elevator up to Levels Two and Three take you to the museum’s 20th and 21st century collections. To see what’s on exhibit regarding architecture, go up to the café overlooking the Court. The room off the back is devoted to architecture.

 

Lunch break

When ready for sustenance, take an elevator from the short corridor on the west side off Griffin Court up to Terzo Piano, an upscale Italian restaurant guided by famed Chef Tony Mantuano. Reservations are highly recommended because lunch, from 11 to 3 p.m. fills fast (312-443-8650).

'Cloud Gate' better known as 'The Bean' in Millennium Park. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
‘Cloud Gate’ better known as ‘The Bean’ in Millennium Park. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Even if you don’t snag a reservation go out onto the Bluhm Family Terrace outside the restaurant for a spectacular photo op. You can capture Chicago’s skyline, Millennium Park and Lake Michigan in your lens. Plus there usually are some sculptures on the Terrace.

From there take Piano’s unusual Nichols Bridgeway pedestrian walk over Monroe Street down to Millennium Park. About halfway down turn around and take a photo of the Modern Wing.

If you’re still looking for a lunch spot see if a table is available in Millennium Park’s Park Grill. It is street level (behind the ice rink in winter) at 11 N. Michigan Ave.

You’ll want to end near there anyway because “The Bean,” Anish Kapoor’s stainless steel “Cloud Gate,” is directly above the Park Grill. You have to take a selfie at The Bean and a photo of Chicago’s reflected skyline on it. Everyone does.

 

Downtown show venues range from lavish to old-world casual

If you are merely in and out of the city for a quick visit, try to get tickets to a show downtown. At the least, you will see a grand, historic venue.

Chicago doesn’t promote that it is a great theater town with about 200 stage companies in its metropolitan area. But if you are merely in and out of the city for a quick visit, try to get tickets to a show downtown. At the least, you will see a grand, historic venue.

However, production companies know that Chicago audiences are sophisticated theater-goers with high expectations so you are likely to see an exceptional performance.

Don’t worry if you don’t have time to go to several shows. You can admire their venue’s architecture and, in some cases, over-the-top décor. Many Chicago’s stages are in glorious marble, gold, exotic “palaces.”

Theater venues is the fourth category in the downtown Chicago walks series that includes, art, architecture, restaurants and shopping. Some theaters conduct tours but even if a theater is closed, box offices are often open so at least you can peak into some lobbies.

Combine any of the following five theaters with restaurant suggestions or the art and architecture walks.

The French Baroque style Chicago Theatre arguably became the prototy[e for movie palaces

If in the south end of the Loop for art or architecture definitely stop by the Auditorium Theatre at 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago, IL 60605 adjacent to Michigan Avenue. Extending around the corner onto Michigan Avenue, the building has been home to Roosevelt University for more than half a century.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark, the building was designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan. When completed in 1889, it was the city’s tallest building. Notice its arches. They are Sullivan hallmarks.

Try to schedule a tour ahead of time. Built as an opera house, its auditorium is gorgeous. Home to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, it has wonderful acoustics.

When walking in the central Loop area west of the Art Institute of Chicago, peer into the Bank of America Theatre in the Majestic Building.

Sitting just west of State Street at 18 W. Monroe St., Chicago, IL 60603, the building and its playhouse, the Majestic Theatre, date to 1906. A vaudeville playhouse, the theatre featured such entertainers as Harry Houdini, Al Jolson and Fanny Brice.

Closed during the Great Depression, it reopened in 1945 as the Sam Shubert Theatre. It was the place to go to see such post war musicals as “South Pacific” and “Guys and Dolls.” Later, it was the LaSalle Bank Theatre. Bank of America acquired the LaSalle and renamed the venue in 2008. The theatre is popular for pre-Broadway premieres from The Good-by Girl in 1993 to “Kinky Boots” in 2012 and hosts Broadway in Chicago productions.

To do a theater walk, start at the Cadillac Palace, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago.  60601.

Inside, large mirrors, crystal chandeliers and violet and white marble will have you believing you have moved through space to the palaces of France.

Built during the extravagant mid-1920s, the Palace Theatre (later the Cadillac Palace) was an Orpheum Circuit vaudeville playhouse. During its many lives, the venue was a movie house, banquet hall, rock venue and playhouse called the Bismark Theatre.

Renovated in 1999, it became the Cadillac Palace, hosting pre-Broadway openings of “The Producers and “Mamma Mia” and also other hit shows.

Walk east on Randolph past the impressive glass James Thompson Center, then north a block to the internationally renowned Goodman Theatre at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60601.

When the Goodman Theatre moved from its Art Institute of Chicago space to Dearborne Street it kept the historic facades of former landmark theatres but redid the inside as comfortable and casual.
When the Goodman Theatre moved from its Art Institute of Chicago space to Dearborn Street, it kept the historic facades of former landmark theatres but redid the inside as comfortable and casual.

Housed in a north wing of the Art Institute of Chicago built for the Goodman in the 1920s and opened in 1925, the theatre moved to its Dearborn location in 2000. It is on the former site and incorporates the former landmark facades of the Selwyn and Harris Theaters.

Totally unlike the ornate 1920s theater palaces, its main stage, the Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre, is a comfortable, casual space with side balconies somewhat old-world reminiscent of the Globe Theatre.

Artistic Director Robert Falls has staged and overseen several world premieres and notable productions. Among them is “The Iceman Cometh” starring Brian Dennehy. The Goodman’s annual presentation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” has become a Chicago area family tradition.

Return to Randolph Street, to walk east to the Oriental Theatre, 24 W Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601.

This is the site of the Iroquois Theater, whose deadly 1903 fire led to improved theater safety standards across the country. Designed by George and Cornelius Rapp and opened by Balaban and Katz as a movie palace in 1926, the theater’s Far East carvings, color and decor has visitors oohing and aahing before the show starts.

Closed due to disrepair in 1981, the theater underwent restoration and was renamed the Ford Center for the Performing Arts in 1997. It reopened in 1998 with the premiere of “Ragtime.”

The Oriental is just west of State Street so make the last stop the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St. Chicago, IL 60601.

Built in 1921 for $4 million, it is arguably the Balaban and Katz venue that made the statement: movie theater lobbies and auditoriums should look like palaces. The Rapps designed this theater in French Baroque style. Make a reservation for a tour to stand on the stage and go back stage.

Great entertainers have performed on Chicago’s downtown stages. World premieres and memorable performances have taken place there. So be sure to put Chicago theaters on the to-do list.

Chicago architecture is worth seeing up close and personal

To really see most of downtown Chicago’s exceptional architecture examples, you should walk.

The Art Institute's Modern Wing's "flying carper" roof is an impressive sight from Millennium Park or the wing's east courtyard.
The Art Institute's Modern Wing's "flying carper" roof is an impressive sight from Millennium Park or the wing's east courtyard.

Architecture students and aficionados travel to Chicago to see its famed and ground-breaking buildings. Tourists quite often take Chicago’s architecture boat rides offered by the Architecture Foundation and other boat companies that ply the Chicago River. By the way, all the boat tours are good and have knowledgeable guides. However, to really see most of downtown Chicago’s exceptional architecture examples, you should walk.

Architecture is second in a five part series on walking destinations in Chicago that includes art, theater, shopping and restaurants. Combine them for a day in the city.

You can begin your walk anywhere downtown to gaze up or into the lobby of an architecturally important building. But because Millennium Park is a destination point for tourists, we’ll start there.

Near Millennium Park

To the south, across Monroe Drive is the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing.

From Millennium Park walk the Nichols Bridgeway over Monroe Drive to the Modern Wing’s upper level.  You have a great view of the building’s “flying carpet” roof, a computer-regulated system of blades that appropriately screen the light for art.

You’ll end up next to the Bluhm Family Terrace where you get a birds eye view and photo op of Chicago’s skyline. The Bridgeway and the Modern Wing were designed by Pritzker Prize winner Renzo Piano and opened in May 2009.

Go down a level to Café Moderno for latte, tea and a view of Griffin Court, the Modern Wing’s impressive hall.

On Griffin’s main level, walk through the double glass doors into a transition area from old to new and go left. You will pas Chagall’s “America” windows and down a few steps to see Adler & Sullivan’s Stock Exchange Trading  (1883-1896) Room. The firm of Vinci & Kenny reconstructed it for its Art Institute location 1970-77.

Frank Ghery's Pritker Pavilion lattice of pipes extend over the seats
Frank Ghery's Pritker Pavilion lattice of pipes extend over the seats

Back in Millennium Park it’s hard to miss Frank Ghery’s sculpturally-topped Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the park’s outdoor concert venue. Dedicated in July 2004, its trellis of steel pipes contains a sound system extending over the seats and concert lawn.

In Millennium Park, look north on Columbus Drive to see a building whose outside appears to ripple. It is the Leed-certified Radison Blu Aqua, a hotel designed by Jeanne Gang and her innovative, Chicago-based Studio Gang firm. Completed in 2010, its balconies create the contemporary ripple design but also shade the rooms without blocking their views.

Near the Chicago River

Walk west from the hotel to see the green, art deco-styled Carbide and Carbon Building at 230 N. Michigan Ave., home to the Hard Rock Hotel.  Built by the Burnham Brothers in 1929. The building has art deco layered setbacks and sides. Stop in front to admire its decorated entry.  The brothers are Daniel Hudson Burnham, Jr and Hubert Burnham, sons of Chicago architect and city planner Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912).

Carbide and Carbon Building on Michigan Avenue just south of the river is a fine example of art deco
Carbide and Carbon Building on Michigan Avenue just south of the river is a fine example of art deco

Chicago has so many art deco buildings that if you want to concentrate just on that style take the Chicago Architecture Foundation Art Deco walking tour.

Wacker Drive and the Chicago River are a few steps north. Look or go across to The Langham, Chicago on Wabash Avenue. You might not expect London’s longtime (1865) upscale hotel to occupy such a no-nonsense structure. The hotel’s lobby and dining spaces on the second floor are gorgeously elegant but the building, itself, is significant. The Langham Chicago opened in 2013 in the first 13 floors of a 52-story, 1972 building that Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe designed for IBM.

Across the road west from The Langham are two round towers you might have seen in the movies. They are Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina City. At 65-stories they were the world’s highest residential structures when built in 1964 as Goldberg’s urban mixed-use model. Their corncob-style gave each apartment a private view.

Designed on a platform as a city-within-a- city, the complex’s current commercial use includes the House of Blues, a hotel, restaurants, cleaners, realty, and convenience store, parking garages and marina.

Marina City's twin towers and House of Blues sits across Mies van der Rhoe's former IBM building that houses The Langham Hotel. Trump's hotel and tower is across from The Langham.
Marina City's twin towers and House of Blues sits across Mies van der Rhoe's former IBM building that houses The Langham Hotel. Trump's hotel and tower is across from The Langham.

In and near the Loop

Chicago’s Loop refers to buildings within the “L” tracks that circle some of the downtown. But building near the tracks are also considered in the Loop.

From the river start back south on Dearborn Street to the James R. Thompson Center at Randolph Street. Although occupants complain it is hard to cool and heat, the wrapped-in-glass building stands out instead of blending with its neighbors.

Designed by Helmut Jahn and his Murphy & Jahn firm it was completed in 1985 as a State of Illinois building. Later renamed the Thompson Center for Governor James Thompson, the structure has a 160 foot rotunda surrounded by 16 stories of government and commercial offices with a food court on its lower level.

Go inside to gaze up, then take an escalator up a level to the Illinois Art Museum and Artisans Shop that feature Illinois artists.

Back outside, walk west to LaSalle St. to admire the art deco, waterfall front and sculpture decoration of the State of Illinois Building. Located at 160 N. LaSalle St, it  was designed by the Burnham Brothers, completed in 1924 and renovated by the Holabird and Root in 1992.

The Rookery in LaSalle Street's financial district is among Chicago's architectural gems.
The Rookery in LaSalle Street's financial district is among Chicago's architectural gems.

Stay on LaSalle and walk south to see The Rookery. Designed by Burnham and Root and completed in 1988, the building’s lobby, 209 LaSalle St., was redesigned by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905. Snap photos of its staircase. Everyone does.

The Rookery is in the financial district which is a good vantage point to admire the Chicago Board of Trade. A commanding art deco icon at the end of LaSalle Street the CBOT building is at 141 W. Jackson Blvd.

Designed by Holabird & Root, the 1930 skyscraper’s tiered set-backs and decoration have made it an art deco icon with Chicago and national landmark status.

A three-story high statue of Ceres holding a sheaf of wheat and bag of corn sits atop its copper, pyramid-shaped roof.. By the way, wheat sheaves are often used in art deco decoration.

Speaking of iconic buildings, head east to Michigan Avenue, then south to Congress Parkway to visit the Auditorium Theatre.

The Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan designed 1899 stone structure was built as an opera house and hotel with Sullivan’s distinctive arches. Known also for its excellent acoustics, the theater is a concert and show venue that is also home to the Joffrey ballet.

With all that walking you are entitled to splurge at lunch or dinner so watch for restaurants next in the series and combine them with art or architecture.

Photos (C) Jodie Jacobs

Five top things to do now in Chicago

Chicago simply does not stay still long enough to make any experience old or boring.

It doesn’t matter if you have visited Chicago or are now thinking of putting the city on your summer vacation list. Chicago simply does not stay still long enough to make any experience old or boring.

A tourist notes the "Bean" arch and reflections
A tourist notes the "Bean" arch and reflections

Millennium Park, home to the city’s famed “Cloud Gate” (“The Bean”) and Jay Pritzker Pavilion, keeps adding and changing sculptures and concerts.

The Art Institute of Chicago, connected to Millennium Park by the Sky Bridge over Monroe, moves from one block buster exhibition to the next. The theater scene, home of 200 live stage companies including Goodman and Steppenwolf Theatres and Broadway productions, keep turning out Jeff and Tony award winners.

Just as important, new restaurants pop up weekly and new and remodeled hotels cater to today’s plugged-in generation and suburbanites who want to take advantage of Chicago’s downtown attractions.

With so much going on, planning a weekend can either be fun or a challenge. Here are five top Chicago destinations that can be centerpieces of a great vacation minus the confusing what-to-do part.

Look for Marc Chagall's windows at the east end of the Art Institute of Chicago
Look for Marc Chagall's windows at the east end of the Art Institute of Chicago
  1. You don’t have to know anything about art to find something fascinating at the Art Institute of Chicago.  The world-class museum happens to be showcasing French Impressionism from the Musee d’Orsay, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and its own collection now through Sept. 29, 2013. However, adults and youngsters ooh and ah at the miniature furniture and interiors in the Thorne Rooms and Medieval arms and armor.
  2. If you make it to Chicago before Aug. 18 you can still catch Goodman’s beautiful production of “The Jungle Book.”  Another hot 2013 ticket is the “Book of Mormon.” At the Bank of America Theater through Oct. 06, 2013. This is  the writers’ and director’s recently revised production which many critics think is even better than the original.
  3. Visitors often talk about and recommend the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s river boat tour. However if the price or times don’t match your pocket book or schedule you’ll do fine with the other boat companies’ architecture tours.  If you don’t mind walking you’ll like the Architecture Foundation’s tours that go inside buildings.

    If you can't ID these Chicago landmarks now you will be able to after you take the Film Tour or an architecture boat ride.
    If you can't ID these Chicago landmarks now you will be able to after you take the Film Tour or an architecture boat ride.
  4. Movie and television producers love Chicago. To see where some of the 80 movies set in Chicago were shot such as “Dark Knight” and “Blues Brothers” take the Chicago Film Tour. The guides are knowledgeable. You see parts of Chicago that even locals have not visited. And you see clips on the bus while traveling.
  5. You’ve heard of China Town, which is fun and interesting. But other Chicago neighborhoods also have their own character and unique restaurants. You can learn more about the city and explore some of its culinary scene with Chicago Tours and Sidewalk Tours.

Enjoy Chicago!

Photos (C) by Jodie Jacobs

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