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Best place for kids to have fun with science

Goods & Services, Lincoln Park, South Loop No Comments »

Kids Science Labs

Kids Science Labs is an amazing resource for parents wanting their children to learn about science in a stimulating and creative environment, with classes after school, weekends and during the day for homeschoolers. The staff is second to none and the topics themselves are well organized, giving students enough time to examine scientific concepts in a number of ways.  My boys have come out of class rapping about elasticity, discussing friction, displacement, environmental science, and how a volcano erupts.  Whether the Lincoln Park or South Loop location, the classrooms are beautiful, sunny and airy places to learn. They also have WiFi for parents, and the Lincoln Park location is next to Whole Foods, which makes shopping easy while the kids are in class. The South Loop location is near a historic landmark area and beautiful park with a cafe on the first floor.  We have experienced the weekly classes, as well as the camps, at both locations, all well worth it. Driving to KSL, I often hear: “I cannot wait to find out what I will learn today!”

1500 N. Kingsbury, 312.846.1426 and 1801 S. Indiana, 312.225.4747,

—Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart, president, KOVAL Distillery (Big Heat)

Best of Chicago 2015

Best place for bird watching

Audience Choice, Lincoln Park, Sports & Recreation No Comments »

Lincoln Park

In the city proper, Lincoln Park wins hands-down. That includes the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary (including the Magic Hedge), the Bill Jarvis Bird Sanctuary, North Pond, and South Pond (which is now called “Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo). Wooded Island in Jackson Park is also phenomenal and, like North Pond, has organized bird walks almost every week. Calumet Park on the far South Side, and the two new city parks at the old steel plant property (87th and Lake Shore Drive) are great, but under-birded. And LaBagh Woods at Foster and Cicero on the city’s Northwest Side can be really good, especially in the spring. And the big “central parks”—Douglas, Columbus and Humboldt—are good during migration.

Audience Choice: Montrose Point, Northerly Island

Best of Chicago 2014

Best place to get ready for a night out

Goods & Services, Lincoln Park No Comments »

Sure, we have a couple blow-dry bars in town, but nowhere that you can get your hair and makeup done by seasoned pros. The blowouts and updos are on par with any salon in town and ask for the signature Skinny Dip lipgloss for a luscious pout. The new Lincoln Park finishing salon is run by two friendly sisters who moved from LA to bring summerland glamour to Chicago. Come in your cocktail dress and step out ready to rock the red carpet.
2803 North Sheffield, (773)880-9180,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best place to lose yourself

Food & Drink, Lincoln Park No Comments »

The Bourgeois Pig Café
The experience of the Bourgeois Pig in Lincoln Park is always a surprise; in the food’s pretentious deliciousness, the old-wood atmosphere, or the sheer size of the building(s?) it lives in. You can hide away in any of a dozen subdivided nooks in the upper floors, which should never be able to fit into that amount of space, or mingle downstairs with the culturally hip of the neighborhood, who should never be allowed to have such revealing personal conversations as loud as they do. Or you can street watch from the patio. Be forewarned: it lives up to its name, in as good a way as is possible.
738 West Fullerton, (773)883-5282,

Best of Chicago 2013

Best public restroom

City Life, Lincoln Park No Comments »

DePaul Art Museum
It must have been a curator’s job to conceive the space. There’s no other explanation for the design of this state-of-the-art, eco-friendly, completely private yet free to the public toilet that can make the average visitor more comfortable than they are in their own home. Beauty is the highest ideal in art, and the bathrooms at the DePaul Art Museum are a true homage to the finer points of the craft.

Best of Chicago 2013

Best place to play chess

Audience Choice, Lincoln Park, Sports & Recreation No Comments »

Chess Pavilion, North Avenue Beach
A unique Chicago spot just south of North Avenue Beach, the Lincoln Park Chess Pavilion contains dozens of chessboards laid into concrete benches. Instead of playing with strangers on the computer, BYO chess pieces and enjoy the lakefront atmosphere. For all the non-chess-players out there, the pavilion serves as a great people and boat-watching spot during warm summer days.
East of North Lake Shore Drive at East North Avenue

AUDIENCE CHOICE: North Avenue Beach Chess Pavilion

Best of Chicago 2013

Best country bar to belt Zac Brown Band without shame

Culture & Nightlife, Lincoln Park No Comments »

Joe’s Bar
This venue might as well be the country capital of the city. Graced by the likes of Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Chris Cagle, Corey Smith and Chris Young, Joe’s Bar on Weed Street is the place to see country acts perform, not to mention the likes of Snoop Dogg from time to time. What’s more American than country music? Football. The 20,000 square foot space has more than 110 plasma TVs and high-definition projector screens synced to fourteen satellites to show every game at the same time. But if your ideal Friday night is anything like the one Zac Brown Band has in mind, then Joe’s Bar is the place to wear a pair of jeans that fit just right and grab a cold beer with your friends.

Joe’s Bar, 940 West Weed, (312)337-3486,

Best of Chicago 2012

Best view of the skyline you never expect

City Life, Lincoln Park No Comments »

The North Avenue Bridge is not especially appealing to pedestrians, especially after dark. Walking westward at night, you’ll find your pace picking up as warehouses and solitude become the foreboding norm. But smack dab in the middle of that bridge—surprise!—turn to your southward side and you’ll discover a gorgeous vantage of the city, free of lake and beach; only manmade ingenuity so worthy of pause. There are, of course, plenteous picturesque views of the skyline all over the place, but none whose surrounding bleakness so meaningfully contrasts with that shining city on a great lake.

The North Avenue Bridge, 1200 West North Avenue

Best of Chicago 2012

Best place to fly your freakiest flag

Culture & Nightlife, Lincoln Park No Comments »

Yes, we’re sure that, at that bar, you do dance like you’re in your own living room, with just a few of your close friends; unabashed, without embarrassment. But at Neo, when we go to Neo, we’re all dancing like we’re in our showers. And no one’s home, no one at all. It’s the kind of dancing you see from Buffalo Bill, in “Silence of the Lambs,” when he’s fondling his ambiguous genitalia, blasting Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses.” Yes, they play that song there, all the time, basically every Thursday night, which is New Wave night. One time, our friend made out with a girl, aggressively, during that song. No, he didn’t know her. No, neither of them were drunk. No, they didn’t speak after that night. No, it was not obscene, it was actually one of the more pure and beautiful things we’ve experienced in years, this making out. They were “dorks,” just two dorks, used to being dorks and used to feeling like they can only express themselves and their love for the weird retro things they somehow, truly—truly and deeply—very much love; they were used to being only able to express these things in the shower. No, our friend does not make out with strangers anywhere else, nowhere else, ever, in the whole world—to our knowledge, this is the one-and-only time this has happened. Same for her, if we had to guess. Nearby there were two grown-ass men; one was overweight and bald. Read the rest of this entry »

Best Berlin-style sour beer

Food & Drink, Lakeview, Lincoln Park No Comments »

Goose Island
Goose Island brewmaster Jared Rouben has crafted the best sour beers this side of Berlin. That’s where the centuries-old flavor originated when medieval brewers experimented with wild yeasts. But Rouben likes the taste of sour brews, which he says plays nicely with just about any food, so he takes the necessary, costly steps to craft them. The beer must be aged in wood barrels, and the yeast, because it can easily contaminate other yeasts, requires special handling. Goose Island’s “Juliet,” is a Belgian-style sour ale aged with blackberries in Cabernet barrels. Prosit!

Goose Island Brewpub, 1800 North Clybourn, (312)915-0071; 3535 North Clark, (773)832-9040,

Best of Chicago 2012