Sure, there are beautiful museums and beaches to enjoy in Chicago. But there are also a whole lot of things to do to let out our punk, dirty humor or scandalous sides. These are things to do with friends from back home, friends you’ve just made or, for those lucky few, the cool parents.
Too Much Light Makes the Babies Go Blind: The Neofuturists put on a show that’s a little zany, a little strange but always lots of fun. This interactive show changes every night, has a rotating cast and features 30 plays in 60 minutes. It’s improv-comedy for the ADD set or anyone who just wants to try something different.
Belmont area: Just south of Wrigley Field, this street features fun shopping — try Ragstock, Hollywood Mirror and Strange Cargo a little ways north on Clark Street. Great ethnic restaurants provide a fun backdrop to the punkier half of Chicago. Close by are prime music venues Metro and Schuba’s.
Wicker Park: Home to boys in tights pants and girls in “complicated” haircuts, Wicker Park is filled with hipsters who are cooler than you. But its vintage shops, upscale designer boutiques and delicious food choices make it worthy of a visit. It’s also the home to rock clubs like the Empty Bottle, Double Door and Subterranean if up-and-coming, underground music is your thing. It’s a hassle to get to (Damen on the Blue Line, transfer at the Loop from the Red or Purple Express line), but there’s plenty of nightlife there — so why not make it a day?
Jazz clubs: Chicago is a jazz mecca, so why not take the night easy, enjoy a Shirley Temple and listen to some great jazz. Though many are 21+ (unless accompanied by a parent) — such as the acclaimed Kingston Mines — if the club offers a matinee show, it’s much more likely that they’ll let the 18 to 20 set in. Be sure to call or e-mail beforehand. A list of some fabulous clubs can be found here. The Chicago Cultural Center also offers all-ages events.
Dancing: Most quality dance clubs in Chicago are 21 and up. So, to not endorse the use of fake IDs for the incoming freshmen, I’ve left all those off. I’m sure there are swinging teen institutions, but a dancefloor with scantily clad high school girls is certainly not my idea of fun, and is a little too close to illegal for me to be promoting that anywhere. But if flirtation is a necessary part of seduction, then salsa dancing is step number one to a great night. If you feel the need to break out the dancing shoes, El Cielo has Friday and Saturday salsa and meringue nights.
Rocky Horror Picture Show – It’s Halloween, all year around. The Music Box Theater has midnight showings every first Friday and Saturday of the month. Dress up for optimal fun, but be warned: faint-of-heart first timers need not apply.
Quimby’s: We’re Northwestern so no “what to do” list is complete without an independent bookstore. Not only does it have a huge selection of comics, zines and other books not found at Borders and Barnes & Noble, Quimby’s also brings in great poets for readings. And there are never ever open-mic readings, so worry not, those fearful of slam poetry.
Dessert: Nothing tops off a day of shopping, sight-seeing or even studying like chocolate, Italian ice or a great cup of coffee. Sugar on Kinzie has gotten a lot of hype — with a price tag to match — and is the place to see and be seen. Cocktail dress is very necessary in order to indulge in their edible plates, as is arriving before 9 p.m. if you’re under 21. There are a lot of more casual places just to unwind with friends. Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea and Julius Mienl offer fantastic coffee with light snacks late into the night — until 10 p.m. on weekdays, 11 p.m. or midnight, respectively, on Friday and Saturday. No adventure to Pilsen is complete without a visit to Café Jumping Bean. Mario’s Italian Lemonade and Margie’s Candies offer fantastic homemade desserts at a reasonable price — though Mario’s is only open May through September 15.