After a tough day on the convention floor, you may be tempted to plan your evening around a foot massage and a pay-per-view movie in your hotel room. What, in a city like Chicago? Come on—hit the shower, grab some friends and get moving. No idea what you want to do? We've asked some adventurous CIROBE regulars to share their favorite must-see Chicago experiences.
Gene Paquette, CIROBE v-p: "As everyone knows, Chicago is a great music town. For a down-home blues experience, visit Lee's Unleaded Blues [773-493-3477, 7401 S. Chicago Ave.], which has a full-scale revue every weekend. For jazz lovers, I'd recommend the Velvet Lounge [312-791-9050, 212 1/2 S. Illinois Ave.], owned by veteran free-jazz pioneer Fred Anderson. Chicago also has a thriving alternative country scene; one of its homes is the Hideout [773-227-4433, 1354 W. Wabansia], a hole-in-the-wall, old-style Chicago tavern hidden away in an industrial neighborhood."
Mary Magers, manager, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis, Minn.: "I always go to Nacional 27 [312-664-2727, 325 W. Huron St.] to see the salsa dancers. Even if you don't salsa or meringue, it's fun to sit back with a mojito or margarita, have some ceviche and people-watch. Another favorite is taking a cab to a bar or restaurant a few miles from the Hilton and then convincing my companions to walk back to the hotel along Michigan Avenue. I love the sights and sounds and revisiting my favorite buildings. And even if you've had a few cocktails, as long as you determine which direction the Lake is, you don't have to worry about getting lost."
Brad Jonas, CIROBE cofounder: "The great new thing for anyone visiting Chicago has to be Millennium Park, on Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Monroe [www.millenniumpark.org]. You can't miss seeing architect Frank Gehry's music pavilion and pedestrian bridge and the fountain designed by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa with its two 50-foot-high glass-block towers."
Marshall Smith, co-owner, Key West Island Books, Key West, Fla.: "I never miss a chance to visit the Art Institute [312-443-3600, 111 S. Michigan Ave.] and take in Monet's Haystacks and the collection of Joseph Cornell boxes. It's a miraculous place."
Roberta Rubin, owner, The Book Stall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, Ill.: "I can't say enough about Chicago's incredible theater scene and our symphony orchestra. During CIROBE, the world premiere of a new Arthur Miller play, Finishing the Picture, will be at the Goodman Theatre [312-443-3800, 170 N. Dearborn St.; www.goodman-theatre.org]; Ronald Harwood's The Dresser will be at the Steppenwolf [312-335-1650, 1650 N. Halsted St.; www.steppenwolf.org]; and The Merry Wives of Windsor is at the Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier [312-595-5600, 800 E. Grand Ave.; www.chicagoshakes.com]. At Orchestra Hall, the Chicago Symphony [312-294-3333, 220 S. Michigan Ave.] will be performing Schoenberg and Schubert."
Stephen Ash, managing director, Grange Books, U.K.: "Blues clubs, especially Kingston Mines [773-477-4646, 2548 N. Halsted St.]. I've heard a guitarist who could play like there was no tomorrow and a girl singer (who was as big as a stick insect) whose voice seemed to come from the other side of the world. Brilliant stuff. I've often left the club at 3 a.m. and been ready for work at 7 a.m., tired but happy."
Jonathan Haupt, assistant marketing manager, Southern Illinois University Press: "Last year, I made my first visit to Greek Town [www.chicagogreektown.com]—with no less a personage than acclaimed Chicago novelist Harry Mark Petrakis as my guide. Now, any visit to Chicago will be incomplete without a return to that Halsted Street neighborhood and its numerous excellent restaurants. I'd also suggest a trip to the new Barbara's Bookstore [312-413-2665, 1218 S. Halsted St.], where they're still telling tales about the Clinton signing!"
Tamara Stock, director of wholesale operations, Daedalus Books: "I'll take someone who's never been to Chicago before (preferably someone from abroad) to the observatory at the top of the John Hancock building [888-875-8439, 875 N. Michigan Ave.]. On a clear night, it never fails to make a great impression."
Stina Forsell, owner, Maximus Books: "My pug, Maximus, who is the mascot and true boss of the operation, wouldn't dream of missing CIROBE. In the morning, before the show starts, Max and I love to walk in Grant Park and along the lake. And this year, I'll be taking my British colleagues back to Timothy O'Toole's Pub [312-642-0700, 622 N. Fairbanks Ct.] for a rematch—the last game of darts we played, I won!"
Mike Galvin, inventory asset manager, Time Warner Books: "Shopping at all the used CD stores and the Virgin Megastore [312-645-9300, 540 N. Michigan Ave.]—even though we have one here in Boston, Chicago's is bigger and has a much better selection of hard-to-find imported CDs. Nadine LeBlanc, our assistant inventory asset manager, spends her free time looking around downtown for a place to rent a surfboard so she can try catching a few waves on Lake Michigan."