Chicago Travel: The Chicago Institute of Art

If you find yourself in Chicago, you have to stop in at the Chicago Institute of Art. It’s part of the Chicago City Pass, so it’s a deal that can’t be beat. It consistently ranks as one of the top Chicago tourist destinations with its display of modern American art, as well as collections dating back to the Byzantine period. It’s within walking distance of Millenium Park, which is another must-see for every Chicago tourist. It’s also within walking distance of the Chicago Architecture Foundation, so it’s convenient if you plan to spend a day doing museum tours. The café located inside the Institute is very nice compared to the Field Museum or the Shedd Aquarium; they have a limited selection of wine and desserts, as well as typical lunch fare.

The oxidized bronze lions and the classical Roman architecture make the museum stand out from blocks away. I walked to the Institute after my walking tour of the Art Deco skyscrapers, and it was incredibly easy for me to find. Consumed with the thought I might get turned away for being so casually dressed (I wore jean shorts), but I was happy to find that there was no dress code policy at the Institute. I used my Chicago City Pass to get through the line, which easily saved me an hour’s wait since I went on both a Saturday and during lunch hours. I recommend arriving as early as possible if you don’t get the City Pass; if you don’t want to get stuck waiting for tickets – and don’t forget to bring cash.

There are three floors in the museum, all filled with thousands of pieces of pottery, paintings, and sculptures that come from all over the world. After you purchase tickets you can immediately go into the gift shop, or you can delve into the museum’s collections. The first collection I came upon was the Asian/Hindu sculptures and carvings. I recognized so many of the faces, but seeing the real deal moved me in a way little else has. I could imagine the artist at work, sweating and bleeding in the pursuit of reverence.

From there, I wanted to see the Ancient and Byzantine sculptures and American art first, since I had limited time before I needed to get to the airport. I couldn’t stop staring into the many faces of Antinous, Hercules and Sophocles; I tried to imagine the broken sculptures as a whole, being chiseled by the ancient artisans of the day. The detail in the broken faces and limbs are still pristine, after centuries of travel and exposure to the elements. Their preservation is a testament to both the timeless beauty in the work and the Institute’s conservation practices.

I was pleasantly surprised finding multiple works of Diego Rivera on display, Georgia O’Keefe and the infamous Nighthawks painting. I spent the most time in this part of the museum, fascinated by the brush strokes of the masters. The Art Institute gave me a deeper appreciation for art as a benchmark of history and means of expression.

The next time you’re in Chicago, make time to stop in at the Art Institute. Even if art isn’t your thing, the sheer talent and mastery behind the works will captivate and inspire you.


Things To Do In Vegas: Visit Container Park

Container Park is part of the Downtown Project, an effort to give downtown Las Vegas a much-needed face-lift. The open-air shopping and restaurant plaza offers food, dining and entertainment options appropriate for the entire family throughout the entire year. Container Park is easily accessible on foot if you’re staying in the downtown area but if you’re coming from the Strip (or any other part of the city), but if you’re driving to Container Park, take the 95-South to Las Vegas Boulevard. You’ll find the Park at the corner of Fremont and 7th Street.

Photo from

Container Park offers a variety of dining options. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you can stop in Jinju Chocolates, Sasasweets Chillspot, or Las Vegas Kettle Corn. Pinches Tacos or Cheffini’s are great places if you want something quick after making your rounds at the neighboring bars. If you’re with family, you can dine at Big Ern’s BBQ while your children stay busy at the playground in the Park.

Besides its dining and drink options, Container Park has a number of retail stores on site. Art Box provides local artisans a place to display their works, from jewelry to home furnishings. Kappa Toys and Uptown Children’s Boutique sells children’s clothes and toys, and Trikke Las Vegas offers tours of the city on their “trikkes”, an updated, stand-up version of the classic tricycle.

You can even get married at Container Park.

Parking is an issue when it comes to Container Park. There are a number of parking lots available in the area, with various rates per hour. The availability of these parking lots will depend on what is going on downtown, or the time of day. You can find free spaces to park at surrounding motels, but I would advise against that depending on the time of day due to safety concerns.

Container Park isn’t one of the top ten things to see in Las Vegas, but it’s a fun experience. In Container Park, you get a glimpse of where old school and new Las Vegas intersect. You’ll also support local artists, designers and vendors, which (I think) is great to do any city.



Chicago Eats: Five Restaurants to Try in Chicago

Chicago is known for many things, including The Cubs, architecture, the mob and food. Everywhere you look on the downtown streets of Chicago, you can find a variety of food options to choose from. To help narrow down your choices during your next Chicago trip, below are five of the most popular places to eat at:

Tapas Valencia

Tapas Valencia is a Spanish-style restaurant located near the Southside of Chicago. With its bright décor and items like on the menu from paella to grilled chicken breast, Tapas offers an interesting and unique dining experience. The average cost per person varies from 20-40 dollars per plate, but those prices include soup, an entrée and a dessert option.

Potbelly Sandwich Shop

Potbelly is a chain restaurant and perhaps the most inexpensive on this list. The menu is simple; it includes sandwiches, salads, oatmeal, smoothies and chili. If you’ve been to one before it’s not going to be much different, but if you’ve never experienced a Potbelly Sandwich it’s certainly worth checking out. You can find multiple locations throughout the city, including the downtown area.

Andy’s Jazz Club

Andy’s Jazz Club is easy to miss if you don’t know where to find it.  Located off State Street and Hubbard, Andy’s Jazz Club has a long and respected reputation. The prices at Andy’s are decent, but it’s important to note that there are time limits on seating during the weekends. They give you two hours to enjoy your meal, but after that, they ask that you move to the bar area to make room for additional guests. The menu, standard American fare, is simple, delicious and affordable.

Girl & The Goat

Girl & The Goat is a place to go if you want to celebrate. The stylish, romantic atmosphere makes a perfect setting for a wedding reception, graduation dinner or an anniversary night with your beloved. The menu is a melange of American, Asian and Latin American flavor. One of their famous dishes is the Oven Roasted Pig Face. The meat does not come on a skull, rest assured; it comes on a plate with an egg on top. Other featured items include roasted cauliflower, goat empanadas and braised beef tongue.

Reservations are highly recommended.

The Purple Pig

The Purple Pig is always packed, much like Girl & The Goat. They are one of the places on this list that don’t accept reservations, so if you get there be prepared to wait (if it’s busy). Their pork items are their specialties, of course, but the menu also includes turkey confit, lobster and stuffed olives. Their family-style menu is unique to this establishment and includes their dessert items. The Purple Pig comes highly recommended by most Chicago locals, not only for its flavor but its service as well.

Places to Stay in Vegas: The South Point Hotel & Casino

The South Point, located at the very most southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, is for the most part, a local’s hotel. You can see this reflected in the prices of practically everything in the hotel, from the slot machines to the restaurants to the room prices. It’s a great alternative if you’re coming to Vegas and don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a hotel room, especially since it’s just a few miles down the street from Mandalay Bay and the rest of the Strip.

The Showroom at the South Point offers surprisingly diverse entertainment throughout the week, and for very decent prices. The average price for entertainment on the Strip ranges in the hundreds of dollars, from Cirque du Soleil shows to comedy headliners. While you’ll find no resident Cirque du Soleil shows at the Southpoint, I’ve seen comedians Christopher Titus and Rob Schneider play there and the ticket prices range from 30.00 to 50.00 dollars. Resident performers of The Showroom include the Spazmatics, a popular 80s cover band, every Saturday night. I’ve never been a fan of cover bands but they are oddly entertaining and the drink prices are far better than at any nightclub or bar on the Strip.  If you find yourself near or in the South Point at night, you can always catch ‘The Dirty’. The Dirty at 12:30 is a free show that takes place every night at…12:30, of course. The caliber of entertainers differs from night to night, but you can’t beat the price for a few laughs.

South Point view from pool

From The South Point’s website.

If you find yourself needing a budget-friendly hotel that’s close to the Strip, The South Point is going to be your best bet. The food is decent, the room prices are hard to beat and they offer a wide selection of entertainment. If you’ve ever been to the South Point, let me know what your experience was like in the comments.

Upcoming performers this month include Jerry Lewis, Crystal Gale and Zowie Bowie.