Best sculpture in a garden

Daphne Garden on Northerly Island
Originally placed on Michigan and Roosevelt, three of artist Dessa Kirk’s elegant Daphne Garden sculptures enhance and are enhanced by their rustic surroundings on Northerly Island. Passing between these metallic, soaring Daphnes is inspiring, whether they’re surrounded by blossoming flowers or mounds of snow.

Best of Chicago 2012

Best place to see tattoos, piercings, dreads and sweet rides

The Cycle Messenger World Championships
This summer hundreds of bike couriers from around the globe converged on Chicago, proving that, despite the growth of digital media, their profession is alive and well. It was a long, alcohol-fueled week, including on-street “alleycat” races, a film night, track racing and the Messenger Prom, with cyclists dolled up in slinky dresses and pastel tuxes. The main competition was a checkpoint race in a vast parking lot by Soldier Field, simulating a day of delivery work. With its difficulties, dangers and low pay, why do couriers still love their jobs? “You’re outside, you’re getting exercise, and it’s a rush,” explained Jérôme Demuth from Paris. “Plus it’s good fucking work.”

Best of Chicago 2012

Best place to run in Chicago

Northerly Island
Former Mayor Daley may have caught a lot of heat in March 2003 when he had Meigs Field torn up in the middle of the night, but runners, bikers and nature-lovers alike aren’t complaining as they enjoy the almost two miles of isolated paths surrounded by prairie grasses that now traverse the island. Even on crowded summer weekends (such as during The Air and Water Show), those seeking it can still find tranquility along with a striking view of the Chicago skyline.

Best of Chicago 2012

Best race other than the Marathon

Terrapin 5K and Music Festival
The Thursday before Lollapalooza weekend, this 5K by RAM Racing takes place south of Soldier Field and offers much more than just a smoothly organized course. Capping registrations at 4,000 (and selling out) the post-race party has all the makings of a mini-music festival (including a lineup of six bands performing on two stages) with just the right-size crowd. Tickets for a quesadilla, a donut and a Magic Hat beer are included on the race bibs and the shirt is stylish enough to wear on a day-to-day basis. It’s a solid evening race with a party thrown in for good measure.

Audience choice: TIE Hot Chocolate,; Shamrock Shuffle,

Best of Chicago 2012

Best thing about Northerly Island

Urban serenity
It’s been seven years since Mayor Daley snatched Northerly Island back from the politicians and other fatcats who’d been using it as their personal downtown airport and returned this cornerstone of Daniel Burnham’s vision for the lakefront to the people of Chicago. However, the city has not had the money to redevelop the ninety-one acre peninsula just south of Museum Campus, which is actually just fine by us. In this interim, it’s become an oasis in the bustling metropolis, where wildflowers and birds outnumber the mostly runners and bicyclers who traverse its paths. The absence of “attractions” and its distance from most tourist meccas and parking lots means it’s never overrun with people or noise. (Except of course, for the Charter One Pavilion on show nights at its northern end.) A blueprint has just been announced for park development, with a vision that expands on its existing charms, but funding in this economy is far from imminent. No complaints here though; we’re perfectly content to enjoy our secluded spot, one with an attraction that cannot be replicated anywhere: breathtaking views of the city’s skyline, lakefront and the lake itself.

Audience choice:
Music/Concerts at Charter One Pavilion

Others that were mentioned a few times, amused us or seemed especially weird: “Walking through the prairie grass and feeling like you’re a million miles away, only to turn around and see the skyline in front of you.”; “That it’s shaped like a penis sticking out of Chicago”

Best of Chicago 2010