I am from abroad and I also want to have fun

Jul 1, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: 4thofjuly

Photo by Smithsonian Institution Archives

Are you living abroad in the U.S.? Is this your first Fourth of July in Chicago? Are you prepared to enjoy the celebrations but you do not know where to go or what to do? Here you will find some tips to enjoy the day as true Chicagoan!

The first thing you should know is why the Fourth of July is so important for U.S. citizens. It is Independence Day, when the US stopped being ruled by England. Since the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 (“America’s birthday,” they say) all the states decided to launch huge celebrations to commemorate this patriotic day.

This year, the majority of the 311.7 million U.S. population would be involved in this celebration. So, if you come from abroad I guess the first shock will be seeing so many people on the streets.

Apart from the initial shock, and taking into account that there is not only a unique way of celebrating, here are some tips you may follow to enjoy the day.

  1. Start the day with an American brunch, pancakes for example, so you will start feeling part of the community. Yes, you can!
  2. If the weather is good you can go to any of the beaches in Chicago or go to any of the neighborhoods that will be launching block parties. This means no cars on the streets and people dancing, playing music and having barbeques. Pilsen and Heart of Chicago are some of the main core areas for this.
  3. It may be a good idea if you could join a host family for that day. At the International Office of Northwestern University they offer this possibility.
  4. Buying a patriotic item is a must! From t-shirts to snickers, flags, nail polish ore even food with the colors of the US flag. Just involve in the patriotic feeling.
  5. Join a barbeque and try the Chicago hot dog (no ketchup on it) or give a try to hamburgers, corn, steaks, potato salad, watermelon, etc.
  6. If you want to drink some alcohol, and you are allowed to do so, try the local beers. Goose Island 312 may be a good start. If you do not like alcoholic beverages, treat yourself to a fresh lemonade.
  7. Do not forget about the sweet part! Have a cupcake or a pie, most of them will be customized in red, blue, white and stars.
  8. When the night comes, go by the lake and get ready to enjoy the Fireworks at the Navy Pier. Also you have the choice of buying tickets to see them from a boat in Lake Michigan.
  9. Remember that public transportation will be crazy that day so try to leave with enough time.
  10. And do not forget to bring your camera. This is a unique celebration that you will not be able to experience at your home country.

The show’s not over! City cancelled most fireworks, but suburbs offer alternatives

Jul 1, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: 4thofjuly

This year, Navy Pier is the only site for July 4 fireworks in the city. Chicago is certainly known for its dazzling fireworks shows, but if you’re looking for a venue that is less crowded or more kid-friendly, don’t count out the suburbs!


Arlington Park

Enjoy a day of horse racing, music and fireworks at the Arlington Park racetrack in Arlington Heights. According to the Arlington Park website, the fireworks display will last over 30 minutes. The first 20,000 attendees will receive 3-D fireworks glasses and the first 1,000 kids get a free firecracker popsicle.



Take your family to Gillson Park in Wilmette on Sunday July 3rd for games, rides, entertainment and a TasteFest beginning at 4 p.m. The Grand Fireworks show starts at 9:30 p.m.


Lisle’s Eyes to the Skies festival will end with fireworks displays July 1-3 in Lisle Community Park. According to the festival website, because Monday is a work/school night, the Eyes to the Skies Committee decided that the finale will be done on July 3 instead of the 4 so kids and parents could relax and enjoy the show.


Navy Pier

Because of the Chicago’s budget cuts, Navy Pier is now the exclusive site for fireworks in the city. You can catch fireworks shows on Saturday July 2 at 10:15 p.m. and Monday July 4 at 9 p.m. There will be no fireworks on July 3.

Navy Pier is also offering fireworks displays all summer on Wednesdays and Saturdays through September. For a full listing of dates and times, click here.

Photo by bayasaa


Fireworks will be launched from Clark Street Beach at 9:15 p.m. and can be viewed from any part of the lakefront east of downtown Evanston. Grab some chairs and tune into 90.5 FM to hear accompanying music along with the fireworks display.


Catch the 3-D Fireworks Fest in Skokie at Niles West High School at 5701 Oakton Street. The 3-D fireworks glasses will be distributed to the first 10,000 visitors.

Morton Grove

Morton Grove’s fireworks show will begin at 9:30 p.m. in Harrer Park, at 6250 Dempster St, Morton Grove, IL 60053 at Fernald Avenue.


Itasca is known for hosting one of the largest fireworks displays outside of the Chicago. Hamilton Lakes Office Campus at I290 & Thorndale Ave. The show will begin between 9:45 and 10 p.m. Fireworks are set to last about 25 minutes.


The city of Naperville’s Independence Day fireworks extravaganza begins at 9:30 p.m. in Knoch Park as part of its annual Ribfest celebration. Entry into the park could end early due to capacity, so get there early!


Libertyville’s July 4 celebration will be held at Butler Lake Park. The event starts at 7:00 p.m. Fireworks start at dusk around 9:30 p.m.

Tinley Park

Take your family and friends to Tinley Park’s free Fourth of July celebration featuring live music, children’s games and activities, food tent, beer tent, bingo, and fireworks.


For a detailed list of July 4 events in the suburbs listed by county, visit

Fireworks laws and safety in Chicago

Jul 1, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: 4thofjuly

Lots of people like to celebrate U.S. independence with fireworks. But for residents of Chicago and the rest of Illinois, that sort of explosive patriotism is against the law. According to state and city legislation, only smoke bombs, party poppers and other novelty items that contain very low levels of or no explosive material are available to the general public. The city also forbids sparklers in the name of public safety, according to Chicago Police Department Commander Eugene Roy.

Fireworks can go off unintentionally from heat, friction or a stray spark, Roy said. They can cause severe burns and other injuries, which is why the law leaves them up to the professionals. The Illinois Fireworks Use Act states that only licensed pyrotechnic operators who obtain permits can put on public fireworks displays.

If you’re not a professional and decide to put on a show anyway, the consequences could be costly. Anyone caught with illegal fireworks in Chicago faces a fine of $200 to $500. Additionally, possessing a firework with more than one-fourth of an ounce of an explosive mixture in it qualifies as a felony, Roy said. Getting caught with less explosive fireworks can count as a misdemeanor.

So, to make sure your Fourth of July festivities don’t land you in jail, here’s a chart to help you figure out whether it’s ok to use a firework or novelty item in Chicago:

For people who shirk fireworks laws, the consequences can include not only fines and felony charges but hospital visits. From June 23 to July 20, 2010, state hospitals treated 135 people for fireworks-related injuries, the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal reports. Firecrackers were the most common culprit, and 45 percent of the injuries were burns.

To find out more about the potential dangers of fireworks, check out the 2010 Summary of Fireworks Injuries in Illinois and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission 2010 Fireworks Annual Report.

The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal recommends that the state’s residents stay safe by attending professional displays if they want to see fireworks, according to

Getting down outside of downtown

Jul 1, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: 4thofjuly

Looking for things to do on the Fourth? Find your suburb on this interactive map  to help you plan your weekend.

Red, white and blue recipes

Jul 1, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: 4thofjuly

Getting the grill ready for Fourth of July weekend? The Loopster searched for the best red, white and blue recipes to give your BBQ a patriotic punch. Select the food to get some real, tasty American recipes.

Annual college events: A taste of tradition

Jun 3, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Uncategorized

Insider info: Get the scoop on your school

Jun 3, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: College

The information packet produced by a college’s admissions office provides newcomers with a narrow view of student life. Here’s where to go to find insider information that is not included in a college’s promo pack.
Although most admitted students may not have an idea of whom their professors will be until fall, it’s never too early to start gleaning information about a school’s roster. At users can search, not only by a professor’s name, but by school to get the lowdown on who’s who in each department. Ratings are available for all the expected criteria, such as quality, ease, helpfulness and clarity, but the site also includes a “hotness” category, in case that piece of information is necessary for the decision-making process.

With a motto like “college students and experts tell you what the colleges won’t,” Unigo is bound to give the goods. Users register via Facebook to comment and write reviews, so those who peruse the site can be sure they’re reading comments from real students. Visitors can compare schools, discuss with others, watch video dorm tours, and have access to all of the normal stats and rankings for a school. Unigo also churns out helpful 140-character-or-less information tidbits via Twitter every day.

What Will They Learn?
Visit this site for a meta-critique of what the college experience will teach you. The What Will They Learn? staff have summarized the general degree requirements of major colleges and universities and graded each on the quality of the general education offered.  At the least, visitors can entertain themselves with the D and F awarded to Harvard and Yale respectively. At the most, they may gain some perspective on the value of a bachelor’s degree these days.

College/university newspaper
There’s a kid on every campus waiting to break the next expose on faculty and student misbehavior, campus crimes and loads of other things that will never appear in the college administration newsletter. On a more positive note, the paper can give the daily scoop on campus events, academic achievements by students and professors, and much more.

Facebook & Twitter
There used to be a time when Facebook was an exclusive club for college students, and it’s still a great resource to get insider information from students currently in attendance at a college or university. Joining one of the class groups (there’s bound to be more than one), and stalking group and event pages can lead to invaluable information on a school’s social scene. Admitted students are welcome to follow people and groups related to their chosen college on Twitter, but it’s also important to look outside a school’s circle on Twitter for other great resources such as @CampusGrotto, @TheCollegeGuide, @collegeprowler and @Unigo.

Check out the embedded document below for more tips on preparing for college from the U.S. Department of Education.

Excerpt from the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid, Student Aid Awareness and Applicant Services Funding Education Beyond High School: The Guide to Federal Student Aid. 2010–11, Washington, D.C., 2010

Featured image by mkoukoullis licensed under Creative Commons

Eat & tour near Chicago’s universities

Jun 3, 2011 by     Comments Off    Posted under: College, Food, Uncategorized

After half a dozen campus tours, you’ll be left with a heavy pile of information packets, an empty stomach and the desire to put your mind on something else. Lucky for you, just a short walk off campus you can find good eats and neat sites. Mark these spots down: You’ll be going there every time your friends and family visit you for the next four (or five…) years.

1032 W. Sheridan Road
Photo by flickr user Monster Pete

Tour: Madonna della Strada Chapel, 6525 N. Sheridan Road

What did you expect? You’re at a Catholic University, so you should see the pièce de résistance even if you aren’t a regular church-goer. Built in 1938, this concrete masterpiece rises from the ground in all its art deco glory. The architecture carries inside with bright and airy modernism. Recently renovated, it features a 70-rank pipe organ.
For more information: Loyola University Chapel
Photo by flickr user Zol87

Heartland CafeEat: Heartland Cafe, 7000 N. Glenwood Avenue

It was named one of Time Out Chicago’s “Essential Restaurants in Chicago,” but what exactly is “good wholesome food for the mind and body”? It’s a cafe that hosts political events, jazz concerts and even a radio show. In Rogers Park, the cafe is also connected to the Red Line Tap, which has an open mic night every Thursday and was named one of the Top 100 bars by Chicago magazine. Try a buffalo burger and don’t forget to stop in the general store on the way out.
For more information:
Photo by flickr user renee_mcgurk


Eat: Thai Grill,1040 W. Granville Avenue

For a cheap Thai fix, this is the place. Just a short walk to the south of campus (or a one-stop ride on the red line to Granville), Thai Grill is exactly what it says: Pad Thai and noodles. Nothing fancy, just the staples. They also have a full vegetarian menu to offer.
For more information:
Photo courtesy of Thai Grill

633 Clark Street, Evanston
Photo by flickr user Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar

Tour: Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston

The Block features fine art exhibitions, an outdoor sculpture gallery, even a cinema. Tours are available and there are frequently lectures and workshops to better make sense of the art world. Summer exhibitions include “I Myself Have Seen It: Photography and Kiki Smith,” with more than 200 photographs used by Smith as the foundation for her contemporary works, and “Social Mobility,” an interactive installation by Chicago artists’ collaborative Temporary Services.
For more information: Block Museum
Photo courtesy of the Block Museum

Rollin' 2 GoEat: Rollin’ to Go, 910 Noyes Street, Evanston

Sometimes you’re not looking for something special – you just want a quick sandwich next to your L stop. Welcome to this sandwich joint under the tracks, where the food is cheap and delicious. Try the Verde, on fresh tomato focaccia bread. This is the place where actual Northwestern students go for lunch, so get in the habit now. It’s an especially good location if you’re majoring in engineering, whose classrooms are just down the street.
For more information:
Photo by Tricia L. on Yelp


Eat: Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop, 825 Church Street, Evanston

Cajun and creole … even at breakfast. If you like a little kick to jumpstart your day – morning, noon or night – this is the place. Crawdads, peel-and-eat BBQ shrimp and catfish might have you stuffed to the gills (cheesy pun intended), but leave room for warm peach cobbler. President Obama even gave his vote to Dixie Kitchen on WTTW’s “Check, Please!” (“The prices are right and the portions are good,” he said.) When the Dixie Kitchen in Obama’s home neighborhood, Hyde Park, marks its last day this weekend, the Evanston location becomes the last bastion for Chicagoans lookin’ for a fixin’.
For more information:
Photo by flickr user Eric Guo

1 E. Jackson, Chicago
Photo by flickr user Tony.L.Wong

Tour: Lincoln Park Zoo, Lincoln Park

So you think you’re too old for zoos? What if we told you that this zoo was 1) walking distance from campus and 2) free? Lions, ZEBRAS and bears, oh my!
For more information:
Photo by flickr user cortneymartin82

Eat: Bacino’s of Lincoln Park, 2204 N. Lincoln Avenue

This place may look like your straightforward pizza shop, but the food is far from usual. Aside from the pizza (Chicago-style stuffed and thin crust), they have Italian food you’d find at a restaurant with white table cloths. If you’re not in the mood for pizza, try the poached pear and gorgonzola salad or the homemade lasagna.
For more information: Bacino’s Website
Photo courtesy of Bacino’s

Bourgeois PigEat: Bourgeois Pig Cafe, 738 W. Fullerton Ave.

This place’s mission is to “overwhelm your senses” and it succeeds. It looks like a mix between a coffee shop, book store and your grandmother’s kitchen. Known for its literary themed sandwiches – The Hobbit (a triple-decker BLT) and The Old Man and the Sea (tuna dill), for example – they also have second-to-none salads like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with cranberries, walnuts and goat cheese. Rachel Ray once visited. ‘Nuff said.
For more information:
Photo by flickr user _nickd

5801 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago
Photo by flickr user Androfire

Tour: Museum of Science and Industry, South Lake Shore Drive

You’re going to college, so we know you love learning. This museum has something for everyone – anatomy (the “Body Worlds” exhibit displaying cadavers-turned-art), aviation (full size airplanes) and meteorology (the tornado alley may be particularly relevant to provide some insight into what happened in Joplin, Mo. this spring). With a student ID you can become a member for $55 and visit as many times as you want.
For more information: Museum of Science and Industry
Photo by flickr user hibino

Eat: Medici on 57th, 1327 E. 57th St.

Voted one of Chicago’s best burgers, this place has the look of a classy restaurant but with reasonable prices. With one-of-a-kind pizzas (apples on top!) and hearty weekend brunches, you won’t leave hungry. They’re also known for their bakery and unusual assortment of breads and rolls, so get some to go, too. According to Fodor’s “Chicago Travel Guide,” though, the allure is to become part of history as one of the “generations of University of Chicago students who’ve carved their names into the tables.”
For more information:
Photo courtesy of Medici on 57th

Edwardo'sEat: Edwardo’s Natural Pizza of Hyde Park, 1321 E. 57th St.

Any restaurant review would be remiss to avoid getting into the fray: Who has the best pizza in Chicago? If you ask the students, Edwardo’s, which has several locations, will make the list. That’s partly because the price is a little lower than its counterparts, and we can all agree college students are stingy by necessity. Known for their deep dish spinach pizza, you won’t go wrong with any of their pies.
For more information:
Photo by Greg D. of Yelp


600 S. Michigan Ave.
Photo by flickr user John Picken

Tour: Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park
At Grant Park, this is the iconic symbol of Chicago, seen in TV and movies and a definite must-visit for anyone new to the city. According to Chicago Traveler, it uses 1.5 million gallons, with 14,000 gallons circulating through each minute, pushed by 134 jets. It’s no wonder that Rahm Emanuel chose this to be the backdrop of his inauguration.
For more information: Chicago Traveler
Photo by flickr user David Paul Ohmer

BerghoffEat: The Berghoff, 17 West Adams

One of the many firsts to come out of the World’s Columbian Exposition, this restaurant is a keeper, and a staple among the downtown professional crowd (in other words: the people you hope to be someday). While it offers a lunch buffet of fresh carved meats, the dinner menu filled with German staples and inventive takes on classics (try mascarpone mac and cheese) is the true treat. Dinner can get a little steep, so save this trip for when you have Mom and Dad to foot the bill.
For more information:
Photo by flickr user Señor Codo