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GUIDE TO PLANNING A FALL MEETING IN CHICAGO

If you're planning a fall event in Chicago, let Choose Chicago help with venue suggestions, theme ideas, catering services and seasonal activities for participants.

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It's that time of year again, the autumn conference and fundraising season has arrived, and Chicago has everything to help you create a unique and successful experience for your attendees. Here is a guide to traditional and contemporary venues, dynamic food and drink ideas, and décor that captures the essence of fall in Chicago.

Venue Ideas:

Sports facilities offer a fun, collaborative environment for meetings and events, especially during the exciting football and basketball seasons. Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears, and the surrounding parkland provide wonderful views of the city and lakefront, as well as world-class service and amenities. You can rent one of the many versatile indoor spaces, or take the party outside onto the field itself. The United Center, which hosts the Bulls and Blackhawks, is also a multipurpose venue that can host events of all sizes. Spaces such as the NHL Room, NBA Room and Ketel One Club offer traditional sports motifs that will give your attendees a taste of Chicago's strong sports history and spirit.

Theater and art are major staples of fall in Chicago. You can pick from a wide range of facilities that capture the glitz and glamor of stage entertainment, such as The Civic Opera House, a 1920s theatre that features one of the largest stages in Chicago, as well as private dining rooms and a grand foyer. The Bank of America Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre and Oriental Theatre, also offer spectacular architecture and designs that are sure to impress your clients and their guests. For an art-centric event, try The Art Institute of Chicago. Its sophisticated Modern Wing features the highly sought-after Griffin Court and Pritzker Garden, two spaces that allow your guests to stay in the elegant entranceway or experience the crisp fall weather at their leisure. You can also select the Museum of Contemporary Art for a large, eclectic event, or Lillstreet Art Center for a more intimate reception.

Chicago welcomed a number of new venues in recent months, just in time to host your fall event. Tanta opened in River North in August, serving up Latin American fare in its main dining room, an upstairs private area and lounge, and a rooftop space with garden walls (currently seasonal). Parliament and the Kensington, another River North addition that opened in August, offer two unique spaces for your event. Parliament, the lounge, can fit over 650 guests and features polished gold fixtures, which really make it feel like autumn.  For those warmer fall days and evenings, the rooftop Kensington provides guests with lush greenery and great views of the city. The Langham Hotel recently reopened after a large renovation, and now features 15,000 square feet of event space and an upscale Mediterranean restaurant, Travelle.  Other new or recently renovated venues in Chicago include the Aloft Chicago City CenterHyatt Regency McCormick Place and Fairfield Inn & Suites Chicago Downtown/River North.

Food and Beverages:

Chicago is known for its world-class dining scene and classic dishes, so be sure to incorporate some local favorites at your fall event. Many of the Chicago catering companies are happy to create custom menus and dishes to fit your themes. If you select a sports venue, take the party to the next level with mini Chicago-style hotdogs or traditional Italian beef sandwiches. Chicago-style pizza is always a winner at events, and Lou Malnati's offers some of the best in town. Pair these with some of the regions craft beers from Goose Island Brewery.

Latin flavors are everywhere this fall, so why not embrace this delectable cuisine with some tacos from de cero - HELLO TACOS, which offers a wide variety of specialty items made from scratch, as well as house-made salsas and guacamole.  A spiced chai or apple cider cocktail would go nicely with the ethnic fare.

And don't forget dessert. In the fall, pie is a must-have at any event. Serve up some classic varieties, such as apple and pumpkin, or change things up with sweet potato and rhubarb from Hoosier Mama Pie Company. Cheesecake is another popular Chicago dessert, and Eli's Cheesecake has been proudly serving the sweet treat in Chicago since 1980.

Décor/Themes:

Fall presents a number of potential themes and décor ideas. A simple way to embody the season is by selecting colors like red, orange and gold, and incorporating lots of decorative foliage, such as leaves, vines and garlands. For something a little more sophisticated, go for deeper colors, like purple and burgundy, contrasted with silver or gold accents.

Halloween allows for some imaginative touches, such as cauldrons, pumpkins, and glittery cobwebs. Table centerpieces could be made from different components of the holiday, like witch hats and coffins. This theme also lets you have some fun with lighting schemes and special effects; and attendees could be encouraged to dress up for a masquerade-style event.

Activities:

Guest participation is a big part of any meeting or fundraiser and it is important to get attendees involved with the event and each other. Develop interactive games and activities, such as pie-making courses or other cooking demonstrations that will give your guests a hands-on experience.  Create videos or shows for them to watch while they dine, or set up small booths or workshops around the space so they can enjoy a variety of different happenings throughout the night.

The fun does not have to be limited to the day- or evening-of event. Attendees can take part in some popular activities around the city. Guests can catch a hit show at any of Broadway In Chicago's award-winning theaters; take a nice walk or Segway tour along the lake or through downtown; or visit one of the seasonal exhibits at Chicago's world-class museums. Encourage your guests to check out the diversity of the Chicago by venturing to one of its 77 dynamic neighborhoods, each of which hosts fall festivals and offers seasonal food and drinks for all to enjoy. 

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