From YouTube: Check out a recap of a few Facebook live videos and other footage from my visit.
The Taste of Chicago was on my bucket list for years. In the past I booked and cancelled flights while waiting on others to go with me. One year I even had tickets to Erykah Badu’s concert at Taste of Chicago but could not find anyone to go. Normally, I would say forget it and take a solo trip but the cost of rooms and rentals during taste of Chicago are outrageous. I finally had a chance to attend. I booked my flight for using points from my Southwest 50K offer and I booked a Hilton hotel 7 months in advance for using the Hilton Gold MVP discount.
Here is a taste (pun intended) of what to expect during Chicago’s biggest event.
Grant Park 337 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601
1st or 2nd Wednesday-Sunday in July
Admission into the festival is free but you have to pay for a certain amount of tickets. The booths can be expensive depending on the item. I remember a turkey leg or funnel cake could cost you up 10-15 tickets. It seemed high but once outside of the festival I saw the same funnel cake for $10+tax. Food and beverage tickets are sold in strips of 12 tickets for $8.50 (includes $2.50 charge for Taste amenities). In general Chicago is expensive especially during the summer.
Uber Pool is your best bet with rides to and from both airports and around the city. You can also rent a bike while at Navy Pier or take a free trolley from the Michigan Ave Area to the Navy Pier. Your first
#Uber ride is FREE (up to $20) with code ‘i9y7z’. Enjoy! Download the app!
Where To Stay
Airbnb’s are just as expensive as hotels during Taste. The sooner you book the better. Check out the 10 closest hotels to the Taste or claim Get $40 off your first Airbnb stay of $75 or more! I stayed at Hilton’s LondonHouse Chicago which is close to Grant Park and located near the RiverWalk and enjoyed my stay and the rooftop restaurant and bar! The staff was very helpful and it is a newer hotel.
During the week, the lines for the vendors were not long during the week (possibly due to rain) but during the weekend expect a long line to get in and at the vendors. Bring your patience and enjoy!
Once inside Grant Park besides the Food Vendors there are a lot of things to experience at Taste. There are food trucks, Celebrity Chef Three Course Dining Options, Pop Up Restaurants and Cooking Demonstrations. The sponsors also offer unique options. For example Southwest Airlines had porch, a place to cool down, charge your phones and take cool photo booth pictures. In the past there has been free rock climbing and zip-lining. Check out all the events the sponsors have to offer.
Music and Arts
The city really comes alive during the summer and especially during Taste. There is a concert series called the Petrillo Shell Concert series. Tickets go on sale in April/May preceding Taste. You can purchase up to 10 tickets for premium seating or view from Butler Field for free. The Bud Light stage at the Taste is dedicated to up and coming artists in Chicago. Click to view the lineup!
I had a chance to experience events outside of the Taste of Chicago. The city really comes alive in the summer. Events worth checking out that coincide with Taste of Chicago are:
Cost: Free entry, additional cost for vendors
740 East 56th Place Chicago, Illinois 60637
Chicago was founded by a Haitian pioneer, Jean Baptise Pointe DuSable. There is a statue located in downtown. There is also a museum in Chicago that has several events throughout the year with various exhibits. Prices range from $3 children (ages 6-11) to $10 for adults. As of January 2017 they have free entry on Tuesdays. Click here to learn about the latest events and exhibits. The Museum has an annual Arts and Crafts festival that usually falls on the Saturday and Sunday during the Taste. You have a chance to see the Smithsonian affiliate for free. On the outside of the Museum there is a stage for music, dancing and several vendors for food, arts and crafts.
Grant Park, Spirit of the Music Garden
This is a weekly event that takes place all summer long. It is an outdoor dance party at Grant Park.
Other Things to Check out in the Chicago
Deep Dish Pizza
Sounds simple but don’t try the Deep Dish at the Taste of Chicago. It’s not the same experience. Try Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria and Giordano’s. Those are the tourist faves. I have tried both. Some of the locals have mentioned, Gino’s East, Pizanos and Nancy’s Pizza. I ended up just having Lou Malnati’s delivered due to the wait time and being tired from walking all day.
Magnificent Mile is known for Luxury shopping on North Michigan Ave but I was able to find good deals at TJ Maxx and my favorite Japanese store Uniqlo. There are several shops, restaurants and a Water Tower Place mall filled with 100 stores. Once inside of Water Tower place I discovered more shopping, A Dr. Seuss store, Garrett’s popcorn location and Foodlife. Foodlife is basically a high quality, fresh food buffet filled with 14 restaurants where you get to pick and choose and pay by the pound. It was very good! Also located on North Michigan Avenue is the John Hancock building which offers a 360 Tilt experience and observation deck of the city.
Located in Downtown Chicago this lovely scenic area is available for a stroll or to take a river cruise. There are several cruise options available. If you are staying in a hotel, check with your concierge as they may have discounts available for cruises and other attractions in the area.
600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
The Navy Pier offers more opportunities for dining, local stores and souvenir shops and entertainment options for the family. In the summer there is live music, fireworks and cruise options.
Cloud Gate aka The Bean
AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park
A short distance from Grant Park (Taste location) is The Bean or Cloud Gate which everyone comes to get a unique photo. Good luck getting a personal reflective photo during Taste.
233 S Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL 60606
SkyDeck is another opportunity to view the city. Located at the top in the former Sears Tower building there is a lot to do in this facility. Check out the full article on WHTW on this experience.
A lot of locals advised me that Taste is not what it used to be but as my first experience I enjoyed it because there is so much to do in Chicago. I could see myself returning to the Taste of Chicago. Have you been? If so what did you enjoy? If not, why do you want to or not want to visit? Comment below!
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