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Chicago Like a Local Blog

Unique perspectives on the city from the people who live here.

Author: Max Grinnell

Max Grinnell is an urbanologist, writer, and public speaker who has written three books about Chicago. His work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the Rough Guides, Frommer's and he's been a guest numerous times on National Public Radio to talk about all things urban. As a graduate of the University of Chicago, he has a particular fondness for Hyde Park. You can keep up with Max and his musings via Twitter (@theurbanologist) and his website: www.theurbanologist.com 

The design competition for the Chicago Tribune Tower was one of the most celebrated international architectural competitions of the 20th century. On June 10, 1922, the Chicago Tribune announced that they entries would be welcome from anywhere in the world. The prize? $50,000. Over the coming months, they received over 260 entries. In the end, the winning entry was a formidable design proffered by John Mead Howells and Raymond Hood.

If you’ve been to Millennium Park, you’ve probably looked up at the stunning fountains at the northeast corner of Monroe Street and Michigan Avenue. They are, of course, the wonderful Crown Fountain designed and executed by the Catalan artist Jaume Plensa. Since their installation in 2004, millions of people have played in the water that surrounds the fountains in the summer and enjoyed watching a rotating cast of Chicagoans projected on the screens that add a bit of whimsy to these amazing pieces of art.

As one walks south on Michigan Avenue from Congress Parkway, a gleaming image emerges on the west side of the street. Beyond the glass facade of the Spertus Museum of Judaica and the buildings of Columbia College, there it is: the Blackstone Hotel, a beacon of good taste and luxury since the day it opened its doors in in 1910.

Located on North Clark Street in River North, the Aloft Chicago City Center is a dazzlingly recent addition to Chicago’s hotel landscape. It’s been open since 2013 and it’s been well received by folks across the hotel industry and from visitors coming into town for conferences, family gatherings and leisurely visits to wander around Michigan Avenue and beyond.

Chicago’s public art continues to receive accolades from all corners and even a short walk through the Loop will reveal masterpieces by Louise Nevelson, Pablo Picasso, and Jean Dubuffet. Fortunately, 2017 also happens to be the official Year of Public Art in the city so there are a number of new and compelling installations around the city.

It’s always a fun and exciting idea to spend a night or two in the Loop. During the day, you can appreciate the cadence of folks on their way to work or the casual attitude of strolling tourists, architectural enthusiasts and others who might just be taking their time to appreciate Chicago’s details. One of the best places to set up your home base for exploration is the J. W. Marriott Chicago on West Adams Street. Here's a profile of this architecturally-significant Chicago hotel below.

Folks around Chicago and the world are excited about the ongoing celebration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work as they continue to honor the 150th anniversary of his birth. You may already be in the know if you’re an architecture fan, but even if you're not, the Pedal Oak Park bike tour being offered this summer is a great opportunity to celebrate the architectural master and check out some of his famous places, all from the seat of your cruiser bicycle.

If you haven’t heard, 2017 is the Year of Public Art in Chicago, and there are hundreds of fascinating exhibits, talks, public programs, walks and more going on until the end of the year in neighborhoods around the city, from the far Northwest Side to Hegewisch. Not surprisingly, the Chicago Cultural Center is the nerve center of many programs, including several rotating exhibits, public conversations and other events for locals and visitors.

Hey, did you know it's the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright's birth? Did you also know the Chicago suburb of Oak Park is home to the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings worldwide?

It's an exciting time to celebrate this architectural genius with a wide range of programs sponsored by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. One of the most compelling events will be the Wright Plus 150 Architectural House Walk in Oak Park on Saturday, May 20, 2017 from 9am-5pm.

Sir Richard Branson came to Chicago in a big way and Virgin Hotels Chicago is another delightful reminder of his golden touch. (Quick note: he also appears in the introduction on the TV in each room, so he does make an “appearance” to each guest, in a matter of speaking.) In the past few years, the debut hotel brand has garnered buzz from a variety of outlets. It makes a perfect place to camp out for a brief trip to check out all that Chicago has to offer.

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