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What’s new and happening in Chicago

Chicago welcomed over 57.6 million visitors in 2018, a growth of 4.3% over the previous year, resulting in a new tourism record. In 2019, Chicago will continue to wow visitors with its world-class theater, innovative culinary and mixology adventures, state-of-the-art hotels, premiere exhibits and more. This winter in Chicago, experience the Year of Chicago Theatre, toast to the nation’s craft beer capital, dine in the home of the James Beard Foundation Awards and experience one of the city’s many new hotels. Check out what’s new and happening in Winter/Spring 2019 below, and visit www.ChooseChicago.com for more information. Accommodation 21c Museum Hotel Chicago, set to open in Fall 2019, is a combination 297-room boutique hotel, multi-venue contemporary art museum and independently branded, chef-driven restaurant in downtown Chicago. Building on the founders’ mission to bring contemporary art to the public through innovative exhibitions and programing that integrates art into daily life, 21c Museum Hotel Chicago will feature over 10,000 sq. ft. of exhibition, meeting and event space showcasing rotating curated exhibitions, interactive site-specific art installations and a roster of cultural programming based on collaborations with local and national arts organizations. Welcoming local residents and visitors alike, the museum will be open free of charge to the public, 365 days a year. The property will also feature a unique, chef-driven food and beverage concept, full service spa, business center and fitness center. A contemporary, vibrant hotel, the newly redesigned DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Chicago – Magnificent Mile mesmerizes guests from the moment they enter the open-concept lobby. Renovations began in July 2018 and will be completed by the end of Q1 2019. Venture to reimagined guestrooms or walk a few steps to Michigan Avenue shopping and the sights of Navy Pier. Stop by for a handcrafted cocktail or local bites in the upscale lobby bar and restaurant, Hot House, and savor on scrumptious grab and go items at Made Market, coming Winter 2019. Chicago’s Essex Inn, which first opened in 1961, will reopen in Spring 2019 after a $240 million restoration as Hotel Essex Chicago, a luxury lifestyle hotel. With a classic name that denotes a definitive homage to traditional ideas of quality service and hospitality, Hotel Essex puts its own modern spin on these conventions. As part of a unique, mixed-use complex in Chicago’s eclectic South Loop neighborhood, the hotel captures the spirit and diversity of this burgeoning community like no one else. With its superb Michigan Avenue location and the energetic vibe created by its singular nightlife venue S|X, Hotel Essex brings a revitalized sophistication to the South Loop that is all its own. Scheduled to open in 2021, the 58-story Equinox will have 165 hotel rooms and 370 residential units in the West Loop. It will include an on-site fitness club and parking for 150 vehicles accessible via Court Place. With an excellent location in the heart of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, the new Home2 Suites by Hilton Chicago River North is the ideal home base for any business or leisure trip. This all-suite extended stay hotel will also have a fitness center, laundry facilities and Oasis lounge with a 24-hour business services area and 24-hour market. The hotel is slated to open April 2019. The Hoxton, Chicago will be located in the city’s West Loop/Fulton Market area, a dynamic neighborhood that is home to the city’s exciting food and drink scene. Set in a newly built property on a site once occupied by an auto mechanic and meatpacker, The Hoxton, Chicago will be the brand’s seventh property and the third hotel in the United States. The 182 bedrooms, designed by Ennismore Design Studio, draw reference from the area’s industrial past with concrete ceilings and warehouse-style windows, while mid-century furniture gives a homely vibe, alongside custom-designed rugs and locally-sourced artwork. The lively communal areas will offer comfortable seating and a welcoming open-door policy, with food and drink available all day. The hotel is slated to open Spring 2019. Hyatt Hotels is working on a new hotel in the West Loop set to open in 2020 across the street from the new McDonald’s headquarters. The 53-story office tower is currently under construction and will have 220 guest rooms, two levels of parking, a fourth floor sky lobby, a guest amenity level and ground floor retail space. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is transforming Chicago’s old Cook County Hospital into a dual-branded Hyatt House Hotel/Hyatt Place, accompanied by medical office space and retail. The 14-story, 167,000-sq.-ft., 200-room development will be the first hotel in the Fulton Market district to cater to extended-stay corporate travelers. Amenities will include an indoor pool, green roof, fitness center, bar and lounge. The hotels are slated to open in 2019 and 2020. The Reserve Hotel, a member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, is a 234-room luxury hotel occupying the top five floors of a historic landmark building. The Reserve Hotel began construction in late 2018, and is expected to open in late 2020. With its location in a historic office building in the heart of Chicago’s financial district and next door to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the design, finish and artwork throughout The Reserve Hotel will reflect the building’s history and the story of the LaSalle Street financial district. Tapestry Collection by Hilton welcomed its first property in Illinois on November 19, 2018 with the opening of The Rose Hotel Chicago O’Hare, Tapestry Collection by Hilton. The newly-built hotel is operated by Chicago-based Janko Hospitality. Designed by The Gettys Group, The Rose Hotel is a 165-room property that incorporates fine art-inspired elements, coupled with a contemporary design and unique features. The lobby encompasses a zebra wall that is 44 ft. long and over 11 ft. high, as well as two abstract wallcoverings featuring the Chicago skyline leading to eight, modern meeting and event spaces, each named after roses, totaling 6,000 sq. ft. of functional, flexible space. Attractions and tours The first-ever Brick Safari is coming to Brookfield Zoo in Summer 2019. Beginning May 11, 2019 and continuing through September 29, 2019, more than 40 life-size animal sculptures will be swimming, stampeding and flying into Brookfield Zoo. Gaze upon wildlife sculptures created from millions of individual LEGO bricks. These never-before-seen-in-North-America LEGO brick sculptures will amaze kids, those young at heart and Adult Fans of LEGO. Walk past lions, tigers and bears, and you might even spot an elephant with his trunk held high or a silverback gorilla watching the crowd. Chica-GO is offering a new off-the-beaten-path tour: Chica-GO Chocolate Walk with A Belgian. Who knows their chocolate better than the Belgians? Leentje De Leeuw was born and raised in Belgium, but moved to Chicago in 2014 and has been hosting walking tours in the city since 2015. The Chica-Go Chocolate Walk with a Belgian launched in January 2019 and includes a behind-the-scenes visit to the atelier of a Belgian chocolatier, chocolate history and, of course, many samples. These private tours require a minimum of four people. Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic masterpiece, the Frederick C. Robie House, re-emerges fully restored Spring 2019. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust’s historic $3 million interior restoration reveals Wright’s original 1910 vision. Considered one of the 20th century’s most significant buildings, Robie House is the consummate expression of Wright’s Prairie style of architecture and a showcase of his groundbreaking architectural philosophy. Conceived as an integral whole, where site and structure, interior and exterior, furniture, ornament and architecture come together, the residence is the most forward-looking of Wright’s Prairie homes. The restored spaces brilliantly reflect Wright’s concept of a dwelling place as a work of art. Discover Chicago’s hidden treasures with free, immersive self-guided tours that bring the stories of Chicago’s vibrant neighborhoods to life through your mobile phone. Clustered around Milwaukee Avenue are a collection of craft breweries that are taking the brewing scene by storm. Choose Chicago’s new Milwaukee Avenue Brews adventure takes you on a wild journey through this unique and wondrous world with stops at five of these noteworthy breweries. This free adventure and hundreds of others, including the Best Kept Secrets of Wicker Park adventure, Explore Andersonville and Footsteps of Obama adventure, are powered by VAMONDE, the mobile network for cultural discovery. The Year of Chicago Theatre is going digital thanks to free, self-guided tours on VAMONDE created by the city’s theaters and the hotels and hostels in close proximity to these attractions. Learn the fascinating stories of tiny storefront venues to glamorous playhouses bigger than those on Broadway as you explore at your own pace and schedule. Dive into the rich history of the 128-year-old National Historic Landmark that is the Auditorium Theatre, or learn about stunning design, architecture and legendary performers in the new Lyric Opera House adventure. The House Theatre’s “Curse of Peg Leg Sullivan” adventure is a traveling puzzle game about the untold story of Peg Leg Sullivan, the man who accidentally put a curse on Chicago in 1871. Food and drink Chicago Restaurant Week returns for two weeks offering dining deals from hundreds of celebrated restaurants all across the city January 25 – February 7, 2019. This year’s Chicago Restaurant Week will be the largest ever, with nearly 400 local restaurants participating, including over 100 first-time participants and 45 suburban restaurants. The 12th annual culinary celebration features special prix fixe menus starting at $24 for brunch and lunch, and $36 and/or $48 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax and gratuity). Kick off Chicago Restaurant Week at First Bites Bash on January 24, 2019, and sample savory and sweet food tastings from more than 70 of Chicago’s most celebrated chefs and restaurants at the Field Museum. Joe Flamm, Executive Chef of Chicago’s Michelin-starred Spiaggia and Café Spiaggia and winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Season 15, will serve as Host Chef of this year’s event. He’ll be joined by Host Mixologist Jarmel Doss, assistant bar director of The Aviary and winner of the first Chicago STARS Mixology competition. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and James Beard Foundation CEO Clare Reichenbach announced on December 10, 2018 that Chicago will continue to host the James Beard Foundation Awards, an annual event honoring the best of the best in the food and restaurant industry, for an additional six years. The James Beard Foundation Awards successfully made the move to Chicago in 2015, with the support of the city, Choose Chicago and the Illinois Restaurant Association, amongst other city and state supporters. Previously slated to complete its run in 2021, the announcement ensures that the James Beard Foundation Awards will call Chicago home each year through 2027. Aster Hall, a food hall with 16 stalls by Hogsalt Hospitality, opened November 27, 2018 on the 5th and 6th floors in the 900 North Michigan Shops. Offering a diverse range of food and beverage offerings across sixteen unique vendors, guests can find local food favorites, international cuisines, classic cocktails, curated wines, artisan coffee and refreshing juices. The one-of-a-kind culinary experience that is Barton G. The Restaurant will open a location in Chicago’s River North neighborhood in early 2019. The 12,000-sq.-ft. Hubbard Street location is the third of the luxurious, innovative and cutting-edge eatery, joining its sister hot spots in Miami Beach and Los Angeles. Occupying the first two floors of the former Sullivan’s Steakhouse in one of Chicago’s hottest districts, Barton G. The Restaurant Chicago promises to dazzle guests with its food, service and design. On November 15, 2018, Rick Bayless opened Bar Sótano, an agave-focused, late night cocktail bar with a full menu of Mexican small plates in the basement, or sótano, of Frontera Grill. The cocktail menu is punctuated by uniquely crafted mezcal and tequila drinks, all developed by Frontera Spirits Director Lanie Bayless and Bar Manager Roger Landes. Chef Rishi Manoj Kumar, a veteran of Topolobampo, developed a menu of modern Mexican bar food that includes charcutería, sweet-and-spicy Yucatán fried chicken, Ensenada mussels cooked with garlic and Baja wine, fresh and broiled oysters and a cooked-to-order arroz. After nearly a decade in business, Big Star, Chicago’s beloved bourbon and beer-focused, taco-slinging, honky-tonk hangout got into the brunch game on December 9, 2018. Launching exclusively at Big Star Wrigleyville, the brand-new, full-service brunch menu, created by Executive Chef/Partner Paul Kahan and Brand Chef de Cuisine Julie Warpinski, takes cues from the bold flavors of authentic Mexican street food by offering up breakfast carnitas, griddled masa cakes and a full menu of boozy brunch cocktails. Old Town is about to get a little sweeter as DineAmic’s BomboBar will open a second location in Spring 2019. Following four years of success in the West Loop, one of Chicago’s most popular doughnut and sandwich destinations will expand to the heart of Old Town. Taking over the former Buzz Bait Taqueria space, the 1,500-sq.-ft. eatery will bring BomboBar’s famous Bomboloni, BomboBurgers, over-the-top Hotter Chocolates and gelato to the neighborhood. Stephanie Izard announced that her fourth Chicago restaurant, Cabra, will bring her take on Peruvian cuisine to the bustling Fulton Market District. Located on the rooftop of The Hoxton, Chicago, the restaurant will be just a couple of blocks away from her current establishments, Girl & the Goat, Little Goat and Duck Duck Goat. Cabra, which, fittingly, means “goat” in Spanish, will open in Spring 2019. Izard will open Cabra in partnership with Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz of BOKA Restaurant Group. Galley Group, the team behind innovative food hall and restaurant accelerator concepts in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit, will open its fifth location as a food hall in Chicago’s Fulton Market in April 2019. The food hall model will provide five chefs the opportunity to launch a new concept in a low-risk environment, as Galley Group provides everything from overhead equipment to front of house staff and marketing support. The space includes five fully built out kitchens, communal seating, a 30-seat bar that will feature an innovative cocktail program and curated craft beer lineup, a full coffee and wine bar and an event space. Galit, a contemporary Israeli restaurant, is set to open in Lincoln Park in 2019. Zach Engel, who won the James Beard Foundation Rising Chef award last year, plans to open Galit near the Biograph Theater. Engel specializes in modern Israeli food. The new restaurant’s menu will reflect Engel’s Jewish-American heritage, as well as General Manager and Partner Andrés Clavero’s Cuban-Palestinian heritage. The Franco’s Restaurant Group of family-owned restaurants will open Il Culaccino, a 225-seat, fine Italian dining restaurant in Chicago’s McCormick Square neighborhood in Spring 2019. Anchored in the Arrive Lex Tower, Il Culaccino is the first upscale Italian, full-service restaurant in the McCormick Square entertainment district. It’s conveniently located steps away from Wintrust Arena, and a short walk from McCormick Place, Chicago’s premier convention and exhibition center. Jian, the first JianBing House in Chicago, opened inside the Chicago French Market in December 2018. Jian Bing is made in the same fashion as a thin pancake but filled with homemade savory traditional Chinese ingredients. Jian Bing is one of the most popular Chinese street foods. The team behind two Michelin-starred Oriole opened Kumiko, a bar in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, led by Partners Julia Momose and Noah and Cara Sandoval, on December 26, 2018. Embracing a philosophy similar to Oriole, Kumiko offers a thoughtful experience filled with a deep appreciation and understanding for craftsmanship, as seen through the cocktails and dishes curated with purpose by Momose and Chef Sandoval. The drink menu has 11 to 15 cocktails and features spirit-free options as well. As a part of the cocktail program, Kumiko also offers an omakase-style tasting menu at the bar that blends Julia and Noah’s creativity together. Brian Galati and Chireal Jordan, co-owners of Machine Hospitality Group, are opening Machine, engineered dining and drink, in February 2019. The restaurant will be located in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood with seasoned chef Trevor Hoyte at the helm of the kitchen. Chef Hoyte’s thoughtfully curated menu will offer dishes that are seasonally inspired and flavor-forward with a Midwestern familiarity. Aneka Saxon, who joined the Machine team from Chicago’s award-winning bar, The Violet Hour, will run the cocktail program. Machine will also offer a floral component: The Florist at Machine. An array of flowers will be available for purchase and Machine’s in-house floral specialist will not only build beautiful arrangements for guests, but also help them to design their own. Machine looks forward to surprising and delighting guests at every turn, from their innovative cocktail program and eclectic dining menu to interior design that promises to be unlike anything patrons have seen before. Parlor Pizza Bar opened its third location in Chicago’s River North neighborhood on December 14, 2018. Like its sister restaurants in West Loop and Wicker Park, the pizzeria features many fan-favorite pies, locally-focused craft beers and innovative cocktails. The restaurant features a custom “Bear Champ” mural by local artist JC Rivera and an expansive 2,500-sq.-ft. outdoor patio space with two sidewalk cafés to debut Spring 2019. The River North location features two menu exclusives: the “Al Pas-THOR” pizza and the “Gimme S’More” TACOlato. The restaurant also includes a separate take-out area complete with the restaurant’s popular Dessert Dealer, which serves TACOlatos, ice cream creations, cupcakes and other sweet treats. Parson’s Chicken and Fish opened a second location in Lincoln Park on December 18, 2018. The new location features an open kitchen, 110 table seats, 30 bar seats, bleacher space for drinking, ping pong tables and a patio space ready for spring. All of Chef Hunter Moore’s much-loved fried and fresh offerings are available at the new location, as well as Beverage Director Charlie Schott’s slushies, cocktails, beer and wine. Designed by Land and Sea Dept., Parson’s Lincoln Park space features a soaring vaulted ceiling and skylights throughout, bringing tons of natural light and patio vibes inside, plus huge planters and garage doors that will be open once warm weather hits. Ramen-san opened in Streeterville on December 4, 2018, dishing out its signature ramen, express lunch and new menu additions. The third downtown location of the ramen shop from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ R.J., Jerrod and Molly Melman brings the “San” vibe and energy to the neighborhood. The menu imports classics from the River North and Fulton Market locations, like the 12-hour pork tonkotsu, Imperial vegetable broth and spicy Szechuan wings, while adding new features like a pork katsu sandwich available all day. Diners can sip on ice-cold Asahi beer, rare Japanese whiskeys and house-made shrub sodas that can be spiked with Nikka Gin. Charlie Davis and Katie Morgan, the duo behind Right Bee Cider, are opening a taproom in Spring 2019 in Hermosa. Boy meets girl. Boy makes cider to woo girl. What started as a romantic gesture grew into Chicago’s first cidery, owned and operated by a local husband and wife team. WellDone Hospitality, the group behind the Chicago Loop mainstay, Cochon Volant Brasserie, opened their newest French-inspired brasserie and bar, Taureaux Tavern on October 31, 2018. Located within the historic One Financial Place Plaza, Taureaux Tavern continues the culinary resurgence of Chicago’s Loop neighborhood through their elevated, yet inviting, cuisine and atmosphere. The over 7,000-sq.-ft. space boasts 288 seats inside and out, including 72 seats on the Pergola-covered patio. Time Out Market Chicago is set to open in the second half of 2019 in Fulton Market, bringing the best of the city together under one roof: its best food, drinks and cultural experiences, based on editorial curation. Across nearly 50,000 sq. ft. and three floors, there will be 16 of the city’s most acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs, three bars, a demonstration kitchen, an event venue, a retail area and a rooftop. The food and cultural market will offer handpicked goods showcasing the city’s outstanding talent, all in one unique space. Museums, exhibits and festivals The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) announced the 2019 dates of its marquee festivals, events and exhibitions. 2019 has been designated the “Year of Chicago Theatre” and throughout the year, many City of Chicago programs and festivals will include a theatre component to highlight the diverse theatre companies and professionals that call Chicago home. The city will also continue to celebrate and showcase its musical legacy and history for residents and visitors. Local and national artists will shine a spotlight on Chicago’s impact on the past, present and future of global music at the Chicago House Music Festival, the Chicago Gospel Music Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival and the Chicago Jazz Festival. In the Chicago Cultural Center, the exhibition Bronzeville Echoes: Faces and Places of Chicago’s African American Music visually explores the legacy of Chicago’s African American music scene from Ragtime to the contemporary genres of house and hip hop through the unexpected stories of legendary musicians and places where they performed. Annually, DCASE presents 2,000 free-admission cultural programs for an audience of well over 25 million residents and visitors. Dawoud Bey: Night Coming Tenderly, Black will run at the Art Institute of Chicago January 11 – April 14, 2019. The exhibit is the first museum showing of the series by Dawoud Bey in which the veteran portraitist turns from living people to ghosts and their pathways. This series of black-and-white photographs reimagine sites along the last stages of the Underground Railroad. The Art Institute of Chicago presents Super/Natural: Textiles of the Andes February 23 – June 23, 2019. This exhibition features over 60 textiles along with a small selection of ceramics from the museum’s collection that together explore the ways select Andean cultures developed distinct textile technologies and approaches to design. While emphasizing the unique aspects of each culture and highlighting Andean artistic diversity, the exhibition also invites comparisons across cultures and time periods. As the birthplace of modern blues, The Chicago Blues Experience, opening in 2020, will celebrate pioneering artists and generations of musicians who have been influenced by blues and continue to carry on its traditions. Situated near Millennium Park, it will be filled with history-driven interactive displays, tributes to local legends and Chicago blues memorabilia, as well as a performance lounge and restaurant. The Field Museum unveiled the triumphant, and permanent, return of SUE, the largest, most complete T. rex skeleton in the world, on December 21, 2018. SUE’s back and better than ever in a suite all to themselves. Now located in the Griffin Halls of Evolving Planet, SUE’s world is an immersive experience for visitors of all ages. Check out fossils of other dinosaurs and animals from the Cretaceous period, and see how scientists believed SUE walked and stalked prey. Hamilton: The Exhibition will premiere in Chicago on April 6, 2019. Created by Hamilton musical creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and producer Jeffrey Seller, this 360-degree, immersive exhibit is designed to take visitors deeper into the life and times of Alexander Hamilton, while at the same time chronicling the American Revolution and the creation of the United States of America. The exhibit will feature an audio tour narrated by Miranda. With a dynamic, interactive mix of in-depth scenography, lighting, sound, multimedia and music, Hamilton: The Exhibition will give visitors an experiential journey from Hamilton’s childhood in St. Croix to his untimely death in Weehawken, New Jersey. The exhibit will open on Northerly Island in a specially-constructed free-standing structure the size of a football field. Following its Chicago premiere, the exhibition will travel to select U.S. cities. Opening at the Illinois Holocaust Museum on February 10, 2019, the exhibition Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865 illustrates the pain and injustice of the American domestic slave trade. The exhibition illuminates just how widespread the practice of slavery was in American life, as well as its impact on enslaved families across the country. Through interactive displays, Purchased Lives allows visitors to engage directly with the historical record by tracking the shipment of more than 70,000 people to New Orleans. It showcases more than 75 original artifacts, including period paintings and first-person accounts from slave narratives and oral histories. The exhibit also includes a collection of “Lost Friends” ads placed after the Civil War by newly freed people attempting to locate family members specifically in Illinois. Prisoner of Love will be on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art January 26 – October 27, 2019. The new video phenomenon Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death, by acclaimed artist and filmmaker Arthur Jafa, is a multilayered seven-minute montage of the black experience in America. The video tells a story of trauma and transcendence in a flurry of footage, from historic speeches by Martin Luther King and Barack Obama, to clips of cultural icons Beyoncé and Notorious B.I.G., the video flashes through concerts, home movies, news footage, music videos and sports matches, all set to the music of Kanye West’s Ultralight Beam. This filmic journey is the centerpiece of the exhibition, which includes a rotating body of work from the MCA Collection that complements Jafa’s video and captures some of the same intense emotions about life in America today. The Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago (MoCP) will present Stateless: Views of Global Migration January 24 – March 31, 2019, featuring photographs, video and multimedia installations by Bissane Al Charif, Leila Alaoui, Shimon Attie, Fidencio Fifield-Perez, Daniel Castro Garcia, Tomas van Houtryve, Omar Imam and Hiwa K. While global migration has existed for tens of thousands of years, we are currently facing an unprecedentedly vast movement of people across borders, which has left 10 million people stateless. Stateless: Views of Global Migration seeks to humanize this stark data, providing an alternative visual landscape to the imagery typically associated with the current wave of global migration. Through the individual lenses of eight contemporary artists, this exhibition lays bare the contradictions inherent to the crisis, finding beauty and strength in the face of collective trauma. Organized by the MoCP’s executive director Natasha Egan, Stateless: Views of Global Migration addresses the individual stories that define this global human crisis. This year at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) brings an exciting look into the new technologies that will radically alter our lives: what we wear. Clothing is being dramatically reinvented to serve the ways in which we live, work, play and even communicate. Opening March 21, 2019, MSI’s newest exhibit, Wired to Wear, will explore the many ways fashion and technology are combining to create new opportunities for every person to be and do more than they dreamed possible. The exhibit will run through Spring 2020. Experience a day at The Beach Chicago, on display in Navy Pier’s historic Aon Grand Ballroom January 19 – February 3, 2019, presented by Navy Pier and EXPO Chicago and supported by The Chicago Free For All Fund at The Chicago Community Trust, the Navy Pier Associate Board and Hilton Worldwide. Created by New York- based designers Snarkitecture, The Beach Chicago is a free and immersive art installation, which consists of a large, open room filled with more than a million antimicrobial and recyclable plastic balls, along with deck chairs, lifeguard chairs, umbrellas and signage that mimic the sensation of a day at the beach. Fittingly, The Beach Chicago also includes a pier hovering over the ‘sea’ of balls from which onlookers can watch and revel in the installation below. The Obama Presidential Center is expected to open in 2021 in historic Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago. It will include three buildings—a museum, forum and library—that will form a campus surrounding a public plaza. The Center is estimated to support nearly 5,000 new, local jobs during its construction and more than 2,500 permanent jobs once the Center opens. The Center will attract up to 760,000 annual visitors, and in its first ten years, is expected to have a total economic impact of $3.1 billion. Performing arts Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) Commissioner Mark Kelly, League of Chicago Theatres Executive Director Deb Clapp, and other civic, arts and theatre leaders announced 2019 as the Year of Chicago Theatre. This citywide, year-long focus on theatre is the first of its kind in the U.S. The initiative will include theatre performances – including improv, dance, opera, puppetry and more – and special events for the public at hundreds of cultural venues, theaters, parks and neighborhood locations throughout the city. Its mission is to make 2019 a year in which the city of Chicago emphasizes the prominence of its expansive and innovative theatre industry. “It’s Showtime, Chicago,” a kickoff event for the Year of Chicago Theatre, will take place on February 11, 2019 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Coinciding with Chicago Theatre Week, the free admission, building-wide celebration invites everyone, from the curious to seasoned theatre-goers, for an inspiring and surprising look at the “fearless soul” of the city – Chicago’s theatre community. Chicago Theatre Week, an annual celebration of the rich tradition of theatre-going in Chicago during which visitors and residents can access value-priced tickets, will take place February 7 – 17, 2019. Heading into its seventh year, Chicago Theatre Week is a celebration of the stories we share and spans a week and two full weekends. As a program of the League of Chicago Theatres, over 100 theatre productions are expected to participate in neighborhoods throughout the city and suburbs offering tickets for $15 or $30 (or less). Celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah January 19 – 20, 2019 at the Auditorium Theatre. Warm up the winter with celebrated soloists Rodrick Dixon, Alfreda Burke and Karen Marie Richardson — joined by famed Detroit pianist Alvin Waddles and over 100 Chicago musicians and singers — as they put a blues, jazz, gospel and rock twist on Handel’s classic oratorio. Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of creating a “beloved community” as people from all across the city and beyond come together under one roof to be a part of this uplifting experience. Two acclaimed contemporary dance companies, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Havana, Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company, join forces for the first time at the Auditorium Theatre. In addition to a collaborative work danced by both companies, Malpaso performs a world-premiere piece created by Chicago choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams, while Hubbard Street performs a work by Malpaso artistic director Osnel Delgado. Don’t miss these forward-thinking dance pioneers when they hit the Auditorium Theatre’s historic stage March 2 – 3, 2019. The world-renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater celebrates its 60th anniversary and its 50th anniversary performing at the Auditorium Theatre March 6 – 10, 2019. The legendary multi-cultural company brings its first ever two-act ballet, Rennie Harris’ Lazarus, to the Auditorium for its Midwest premiere. Each performance ends with company founder Alvin Ailey’s signature work Revelations, keeping with Chicago tradition Broadway In Chicago announced their plans to honor the late James M. Nederlander, the legendary Broadway theatre owner and producer, patriarch of Broadway and champion of Chicago’s Downtown Theatre District, by renaming the Oriental Theatre as the James M. Nederlander Theatre. As founder of Broadway In Chicago, it is appropriate for the name James M. Nederlander to grace the marquee of Chicago’s iconic theatre. The new marquee and signage will be unveiled as the Nederlander Theatre, on February 12, 2019, with the opening of Dear Evan Hansen. Dear Evan Hansen, which is set to run at Broadway in Chicago’s Oriental Theatre February 12 – March 10, 2019, is the deeply personal and profoundly contemporary musical about life and the way we live it. Dear Evan Hansen features a book by Tony Award winner Steven Levenson, a score by Grammy, Tony and Academy Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, The Greatest Showman) and direction by four-time Tony Award nominee Michael Greif (Rent, Next to Normal). Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) presents Hamlet April 17 – June 9, 2019 at CST’s Courtyard Theater. Four-time Tony Award nominee and Law and Order: SVU alum Raúl Esparza takes on the iconic title role in this highly anticipated production staged by Artistic Director Barbara Gaines. Internationally renowned for her populist and dynamic interpretations of Shakespeare, Gaines returns for the first time in more than twenty years to this enduring masterpiece that weighs the cost of betrayal, passion and revenge. Salonen Conducts Strauss & Bartók runs at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra March 28 – April 2, 2019. Renowned conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen will lead Strauss’ wondrous Also sprach Zarathustra. The mesmerizing Bluebeard’s Castle, Bartók’s only opera, is performed by John Relyea and Michelle DeYoung, two of the finest interpreters of the roles of Bluebeard and his ill-fated wife Judith. First organized in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, Curious Theatre Branch and Prop Thtr’s Rhinoceros Theatre Festival, the longest-running multi-arts fringe festival in Chicago, will run January 12 – February 24, 2019 at Prop Thtr. Each year programs are individually curated by a rotating selection committee composed of Curious and Prop artistic leaders, led by Beau O’Reilly. The Factory Theater presents May The Road Rise Up February 15 – March 30, 2019. On the eve of his grandfather’s birthday, Michael Murphy steps off the bus into his hometown with only the clothes on his back and his guitar. A happy reunion with family and friends threatens to collapse under the weight of his long-buried guilt and the plague of the past on his family. Filament Theatre’s hit immersive play experience for families, FORTS: Build Your Own Adventure, returns January 5 –March 10, 2019. Conceived by Filament Theatre artistic director Julie Ritchey, FORTS: Build Your Own Adventure welcomes families to build, imagine and play together in an interactive playspace. The Gift Theatre’s 2019 season will include a revival of John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning drama Doubt: A Parable directed by Ensemble Member John Gawlik and featuring Ensemble Members Jennifer Glasse, Maryann Thebus and Michael Patrick Thornton (February 27 – March 31, 2019) and the Chicago premiere of Hansol Jung’s Wolf Play, directed by guest artist Jess McLeod (October 18 – November 24, 2019). Doubt: A Parable, presented as part of Steppenwolf’s LookOut Series, will be performed at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Wolf Play will be presented at The Gift’s home in Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood. Idle Muse Theatre Company’s Best for Winter, adapted from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale will run at The Edge Theater March 23 – April 20, 2019. The Ensemble of Idle Muse Theatre Company explores Shakespeare’s classical fantasy with an impossible ending, the story of human beings living in a world broken by the unforgivable acts of a man in power. As the centerpiece of its 2018-19 season, The Joffrey Ballet announced the world premiere of Yuri Possokhov’s historic reimagining of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, Anna Karenina, considered the greatest literature ever written. This majestic full-length work is presented in a first-time collaboration between The Joffrey Ballet and the renowned Australian Ballet to be performed in Chicago at the Auditorium Theatre with only 10 performances February 13 – 24, 2019. Lifeline Theatre’s 2019 season includes We Found A Hat (January 12, 2019 – February 17, 2019), the story of two tortoises who find each other and become the best of friends, and The Man Who Was Thursday, an absorbing adaptation of the 1908 satire by G. K. Chesterton (February 15 – April 7, 2019). Celebrating the breadth of Chicago’s enduring storytelling and live lit scene, Fillet of Solo Festival will also bring 12 storytelling collectives and seven solo performers together at Lifeline Theatre for a three-week, multi-venue selection of powerful personal stories January 18 – February 2, 2019. MPAACT’s 2nd show of the 2018/19 season, SWAMP BABY, will have its world premiere on January 18, 2019. Armand Aubigny, once a wealthy plantation owner, attempts to reclaim his upper-class birthright by presenting the green skinned Swamp Baby at the 1904 World’s Fair. Swamp Baby learns the secret of her unique appearance and uses her knowledge to trap Armand forever in the world of the freak. The show will run through March 3, 2019. Porchlight Music Theatre presents A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder January 25 – March 10, 2019. Jeff Award-winner and audience favorite Matt Crowle portrays eight different characters in this 2014 Tony Award-winning Best Musical. It’s the uproarious story of Monty Navarro, an heir to a family fortune who sets out to jump the line of succession by eliminating the eight pesky relatives who stand in his way. Teatro ZinZanni announced the premiere of Love, Chaos & Dinner, the critically-acclaimed show combining the best of cirque, cabaret, spectacle, live music, comedy and fine dining. Presented by Randolph Entertainment, performances are scheduled to begin on April 5, 2019 at a brand new location in the center of the Chicago Theatre District. The Spiegeltent ZaZou, a Belgian mirror tent filled with historic touches, will be located on the 14th floor in the Cambria Hotel Loop-Theatre District. The previously forgotten space was discovered in 2017 during the renovation of the hotel when dropped ceilings were removed revealing the original grand space within the 1926 historic building. Broadway In Chicago will handle the sales and marketing for Teatro ZinZanni. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman James Cappleman, Jam Productions and Farpoint Development announced Chicago’s historic Uptown Theatre will be restored and reopened as the crown jewel of a revitalized Uptown entertainment district. The 93-year-old landmark building, vacant for more than 35 years, will be used for a variety of live performances and special events. The $75 million project will comprehensively restore the Spanish Revival-style building as a modern entertainment venue. Restored decorative finishes, new seats and a reconfigured first floor will increase total capacity from approximately 4,100-5,800 people. The Windy City Playhouse is expanding and opened a new venue on Motor Row in the South Loop on January 2, 2019. The new venue is home to the playhouse’s award-winning play, Southern Gothic. Southern Gothic gives audiences the opportunity to be a “fly on the wall” at a cocktail party in Ashford, Georgia in the 1960s where four couples gather together to celebrate a birthday. As the evening progresses, tensions rise and longtime relationships are tested as the characters soon realize that even the best of friends keep the darkest of secrets. Southern Gothic runs January 2 – March 6, 2019. The beloved comedy Noises Off is moving into Windy City Playhouse’s flagship venue January 16 – March 30, 2019. Windy City Playhouse is putting a unique spin on the side-splitting production set behind-the-scenes as a ragtag touring company rehearses and performs a bawdy farce. Noises Off typically features a revolving stage that rotates to show audiences the front and back of a theater. For the Windy City Playhouse production, to mix things up and get guests closer to the humor onstage (and off), the audience will move. For Acts I and III, they will be seated in assigned seats but during Act II, the audience will be brought backstage to observe all the antics and comedy that make this piece so special. Sports and recreation The 2019 Squash World Championships will take place in Chicago for the first time February 23 – March 2, 2019 inside Union Station’s Great Hall. The championship offers a $1 million prize purse, squash’s biggest prize money event. All of the sport’s top 64 men and 64 women from all over the world will compete for the title of World Champion. The temporary arena will seat about 600 people and Chicago will host the tournament every other year through 2027. The 2019 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament will be held in Chicago for the 10th time March 13 – 17, 2019, returning to the United Center for the first time since 2015. All 14 teams will advance to the tournament, with two first-round games slated for Wednesday, March 13. The top four teams will receive first- and second-round byes and advance to the quarterfinals on Friday, March 15. CBS Sports will provide coverage of the semifinals and championship game for the 22nd season. For the first time, Wintrust Arena will host the Women’s March Madness Regional for NCAA 2019 Division I Women’s Basketball on March 30 and April 1, 2019. This game will determine the best in women’s basketball that will advance to the Final Four. From June 7 – 9, 2019, the Bears will hold the ultimate gathering of fans, players and alumni at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center to celebrate their 100th Anniversary. The entire 2019 team and coaching staff, along with Bears Hall of Famers and alumni are scheduled to attend. The weekend will feature autograph sessions, photo opportunities, panels, memorabilia and merchandise sales, interactive games, kids activities, a walk-though Bears history zone and more. Bears100 Celebration Weekend is sponsored by Hyundai. The 312 RiverRun will connect the surrounding Irving Park, North Center, Avondale and Albany Park neighborhoods to three parks with one path for approximately two miles. Once completed, 312 RiverRun will transform the riverfront neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side into one of the city’s largest recreational hubs that provides residents with an unobstructed network of parks and recreational amenities. It will extend across 95 acres with facilities and programming for every athletic activity supported by the Chicago Park District. The project kicked off with the groundbreaking Riverview Bridge, which is anticipated to be completed in Summer 2019. A second project, the Irving Park Rd. Bridge and Multi-Use Path, due to be completed in Summer 2020, will extend a pedestrian and bike path under Irving Park Rd. and link California Park to Horner Park north. Completion of the Riverview Bridge and the Irving Park Rd. Bridge project will establish the full 312 RiverRun, providing a continuous path from Belmont to Montrose. Transportation The Amtrak-funded $22 million project to renovate Amtrak Chicago’s Union Station Great Hall will be completed in January 2019. With work conducted by Berglund Construction, architect Goettsch Partners devised a creative solution to maintain usage of the Great Hall by using a suspended working deck for most of the last 12 months. The Great Hall has been painted in its original colors, made brighter by a restored skylight and improved lighting accenting the historic space that has been Chicago’s front door since 1925. A new website, ChicagoUnionStation.com, to improve station wayfinding and to book events will feature images of the renovated station when it debuts next month. In October 2018, Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined the City of Chicago’s partners in the redevelopment of Chicago’s historic Union Station to highlight the next phase of work in the project, the addition of a new entrance on Clinton Street that will open the west side of the Amtrak-owned station’s Headhouse for development as a food court and retail space. BMO Financial Group will break ground a 1.5-million-sq.-ft., 50-story office tower on Amtrak land south of the station in 2019, with opening expected in 2020. At its base, a 1.5-acre public park will conceal a 400-stall garage. The project is estimated to be worth $900 million and is expected to create 5,100 construction jobs and 480 permanent jobs. The project includes the renovation of floors 4-8 of the Head House and a 9th-story addition for two hotels comprised of 400 keys combined. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced the city’s eight-year plan to expand O’Hare International Airport, the largest and most expensive revamp in the airport’s history. This announcement marks the first major capital improvements to O’Hare’s terminals in more than 25 years. A new Terminal Area Plan for O’Hare will completely redevelop the terminals and concourses, with Terminal 5 to undergo an upgrade and expansion, Terminal 2 to be largely demolished and rebuilt to include a new international arrivals facility and renovations made to Terminals 1 and 3. These changes will expand gate capacity and set in motion a wide range of other improvements to significantly enhance airline performance and the overall passenger experience. Through a new capital program valued at more than $8.5 billion, O’Hare’s facilities will receive a major upgrade. With construction to begin in 2019, the transformation is expected to be completed in 2026. The Chicago Department of Aviation is overseeing major modernization not only at O’Hare International Airport but at Midway International Airport as well. At Midway International Airport, a nearly $400 million modernization program is underway to improve travel to and from the airport including a larger security checkpoint for faster screening; more dining and shopping options; and an expanded garage for convenient parking next to the terminal. These modernizations are set to be completed by Summer 2020 and will improve the customer experience and meet growing demand for air travel through Chicago. O’Hare International Airport has a number of new domestic and international air services. Air New Zealand announced a new nonstop flight between Chicago and Auckland starting on November 30, 2018. Once launched, it will become the longest nonstop international flight out of O’Hare International Airport to any international destination. O’Hare is also introducing new air services including: San Jose, Costa Rica via United Airlines (January 2019) Austin, TX via Spirit Airlines (February 2019) Key West, FL via American Airlines (February 2019) Walton Beach via American Airlines (March 2019) Panama City, Panama via American Airlines (March 2019) Pensacola, FL via American Airlines (March 2019) Allentown, PA via American Airlines (April 2019) Austin, TX via Frontier Airlines (April 2019) Hilton Head, SC via United Airlines (April 2019) Raleigh-Durham, NC via Delta Air Lines (April 2019) State College, PA via American Airlines (April 2019) Athens, Greece via American Airlines (May 2019) Erie, PA via American Airlines (May 2019) Milan, Italy via Air Italy (May 2019) Durango, CO via United Airlines and American Airlines (June 2019) Eugene, OR via United Airlines (June 2019) Walton Beach, FL via United Airlines (June 2019) Grand Junction, CO via United Airlines (June 2019) Halifax, Canada via United Airlines (June 2019) Kalispell, MT via American Airlines (June 2019) Lisbon, Portugal via TAP Air Portugal (June 2019) Manchester, NH via American Airlines (June 2019) Panama City, FL via United Airlines (June 2019) Quebec City, Canada via American Airlines (June 2019) Redmond, OR via United Airlines (June 2019) Boston, MA via Delta Air Lines (September 2019) Midway International Airport also has new domestic and international flights including: San Juan via Southwest Airlines (June 2019, increase to daily service)

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. Ol’ blue eyes had a soft spot for Chicago crooning:

    This is my kind of town, Chicago is
    My kind of town, Chicago is
    My kind of people too
    People who smile at you

    Expect he’d like the new look Chicago too.

    1. Maybe Sinatra did love Chicago. Then again he also had a huge hit with “New York, New York.”

      He probably loved any city that would give him a hit and yet more record sales.

      I bet he was disappointed that Tony Bennet got there first on the west coast with “I left my heart in San Francisco.”.

  2. One great picture but where are the rest?

    Picture paints a thousand words and all that.

    Always been more of a pictures man. Not good with words.

  3. Can’t wait for 2020 and the opening of the Blues Experience. I’ve always been a big fan of the Blues and this sounds phenomenal. I bet there will be some great performances in the lounge.

    A friend of mine went to Nashville to do a drive round the area and hear some music. He got talking to people and as he had his guitar with him he got invited to join in a few gigs too. As he had such a blast he changed his flight and stayed an extra two weeks.

    This new look Chicago’s going to keep people staying on too.

    1. I’m really looking forward to this too. Maybe we can have a preview and a reminder nearer the time on ALTB. It would be great to be there for the opening …

  4. OK – you can stop now. The case for Chicago is absolutely overwhelming. I’m bowled over by the sheer weight of evidence.

    I’ve done Boston, LA, New York and San Francisco but from this piece it looks as if Chicago can compete with the other big boys.

    Good to see that the airport’s developing too. If it takes more than fifty minutes from wheels touching down to putting your bag in a taxi then a city’s going to lose a lot of business.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Took me over 2 hours to get through Delhi airport. Won’t be going back!
      First impressions of a country count.

      If Chicago O’Hare can get you through quicker than JFK then it could get an edge over NYC.

  5. I always like the restaurant week concept as they encourage chefs to experiment and show off. Also, the specials they put together are usually very good value.

    Looking at the bigger picture it all seems to be happening in Chicago especially with all of these new hotel openings.

    I never knew that Chicago had so much going on. Maybe the city needs to raise its profile. I think the California TV ads have been successful. Is it time for Chicago to do something similar?

  6. There’s almost too much here to take in at once. Suddenly Chicago’s made it onto my “Must Visit list” though there are a lot of places on that list. Would be good as the year goes on to have some posts on Chicago. Possibly some reviews of the hotels as they open? Perhaps we can have a preview of restaurant week a few months in advance so that we can book the time off work and the flights?

  7. After reading this I get the impression that Chicago is packed with culture. It’s certainly got a thriving arts scene.

    I always try and travel to a place where you can have three or four good nights out in a week. It looks to me as if there are enough concerts and theatre performances to keep me going. I like it when restaurants do pre-theatre menus too. They get you well fed and raring to go for a night at the theatre.

    1. I am a firm believer in the idea that you can judge a city’s health by taking its cultural temperature. The more that’s going on, and the more diverse the offerings, the healthier a place is. Also, I like to see that a city’s people can be a little introspective and take a look at themselves. If they are happy to have some satire going on to then in my book they are in pretty robust health. Applying those criteria to Chicago it looks in great shape to me.

  8. These self guided tours are a great use of technology. In the bad old days you used to be in a group being herded around. If you were at the back you could hardly hear anything. Although most guides are brilliant I once had a guy who made two factual errors in the first minute at which point I gave up. The other thing I like is that you can go at your own pace. If something interests you then you can stop and delve into it further. Full marks to Chicago for making them free too.

  9. Yes, definitely a must visit American City. But just not right now!

    With a polar vortex overhead, thick snow on the sidewalks and the Mayor giving advice to stay inside I think I’ll wait a bit. Don’t want to risk frostbite when the temperatures are dropping to around minus 20.

  10. All these to happen this year? Massive and grand innovation may it be accommodation, food and even culture. I can’t think of how lively Chicago will be this 2019. With all these amazing things to watch out for, I can’t even imagine the life-threatening cold I’ve heard over the news this week. I wish I can visit the soonest!

  11. How long’s the Big Freeze going to last for? Construction firms work on tight schedules nowadays. It’s going to take Chicago a while to get back to normal working life. I just hope that all these openings scheduled for 2019 are not pushed back too far.

  12. With so many things to do and so many places to go, there’s no doubt that Chicago will be breaking another tourism record in the next years. Hoping that tourists wouldn’t mind the crowded streets and endless traffic that awaits them. Although, you wouldn’t notice this when you’re enjoying the stay.

  13. I get the impression that there’s enough on offer to keep the kids happy too. I think they’d love the Brick Safari and the return of the world’s biggest T-Rex skeleton. The chocolate tour should be a winner too, although you may have to steer some kids away from some of the more experimental tastes – like chilli!

    Usually kids like live sporting events too, even if they’re not into the sport they like the idea of burgers, French fries, hot dogs and fizzy drinks.

  14. What a cool city. My brother lived here for a while and was constantly talking about how cultural and exciting Chicago was but I didn’t really understand what he meant until I read this. Now I’m itching for a US holiday!

  15. Wow; thanks for sharing the details about Chicago as it is very helpful for the travelers all around the world because before going to any place people are in need of knowing the exact scenario their, keep posting and updating about places for the travelers.

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