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Summertime Chi: 5 hot spots to visit

Today’s column from the Kankakee Daily Journal and The (Ottawa, Ill.) Times

Summertime Chi: 5 hot spots to visit

The WISCH LIST

June 26, 2010

This past Monday marked the official start of summer, a date that I’ve always found ironic because all it truly means is that the days start getting shorter.

You just looked down to see if your glass is half empty, didn’t you?

Don’t worry, I’m going to fill it back up.

Regardless of calendar technicalities, Chicago is still summer’s favorite city. And to mark the season, I thought I’d share with you five suggested events – one for each of the next five weekends – you can check out this summer in the City of Big Shoulders (and, lately, Big Thunderstorms).

July 3-4: Taste of Chicago

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Taste of Chicago – which began on Friday and runs through July 4 in Grant Park – is nothing new.

But what is new is that the Taste will now culminate in a late-night fireworks show on July 4, rather than the traditional July 3 display.

Because of high costs and overcrowding, the city has scrapped its big July 3 fireworks show in favor of a three smaller simultaneous displays on the July 4, launching from Monroe Harbor (as usual), Montrose Harbor (North Side) and 63rd Street Beach (South Side).

Truth is, Chicago’s 3rd of July event a nightmare for many Taste patrons: Far too much congestion and far too few cell signals. This new plan will probably make the festival more enjoyable for everyone.

My tip: Download the new Taste of Chicago iPhone app. Its detailed map, menus and music lineups are impressive.

July 9-10: Old St. Pat’s Block Party

For the past 26 years in the West Loop, Old St. Pat’s Church – Chicago’s oldest public building – has been hosting what’s billed as the World’s Largest Block Party.

It’s also known as the city’s largest singles party, annually drawing more than 25,000 revelers to Madison and Des Plaines streets.

Each night’s event lasts from 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. with this year’s music headliners Barenaked Ladies (July 9) and Spoon (July 10). Tickets – which include five drinks and cost $40 or $70 for a two-night pass – can be purchased through www.worldslargestblockparty.com. Attendees must be 21 years old and proceeds support the mission and outreach activities of Old St. Pat’s.

My tip: Buy your ticket online beforehand – and early. The event usually sells out.

July 17-18: Sheffield Garden Walk

If flowers and foliage is your thing, then the Sheffield Garden Walk is probably your festival.

Spend noon to 5:30 p.m. on each day exploring more than 90 urban gardens in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood and then hang around until 10 p.m. for music, food and drink.

The festival’s entrance is at Webster and Sheffield avenues and the $6 donation ($10 after 3 p.m.) helping to provide support for neighborhood schools, local institutions and community projects. For more information, visit www.sheffieldgardenwalk.com.

My tip: Bring the whole family. The event’s Kids Corner offers plenty to keep your children entertained.

July 23: Jammin’ at the Zoo

A few weeks ago, I ran a 10K race through Lincoln Park Zoo and as a flock of flamingoes stared at me while I jogged past, I was reminded of just how cool the zoo is. And it’s even cooler when you add music.

Now in its 17th season, Jammin’ at the Zoo opens its gates at Cannon Drive and Fullerton Avenue at 6 p.m. for a concert featuring Lovehammers (7:15 p.m.) and Collective Soul (8:55 p.m.). The show is held on the zoo’s south lawn under and costs $23 for adults and $12 for children. For more information, visit www.lpzoo.org/eve_jammin.php.

My tip: Lawn seating is first-come, first-serve. So plan ahead.

July 31-Aug. 1: Summer on Southport

Chicagoans know it. But I’ve long said that for many outsiders, Southport Avenue – located just five blocks west of Wrigley Field – is one of the most underappreciated streets in the city. It features offers a more low-key alternative to the customary Wrigleyville madness with its array of bars, restaurants and boutique shops.

The Summer on Southport festival, held at Southport and Waveland avenues, is a good opportunity to experience a great street from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. A $5 donation is requested. For more information, visit www.southportneighbors.com.

My tip: For a taste of the French Quarter, wwing by Blue Bayou (3734 N. Southport), my favorite New Orleans-themed restaurant in Chicago.