South Loop, the ultimate vacation spot
07/25/2012 10:00 PM
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately with my newly-retired South Loop friend Anita. We’ve been going on lots of summer sojourns morning, noon and night. Eating, shopping, concerts, movies, plays and yoga, to name a few. And when we get back to the heart of the South Loop at Roosevelt and Michigan where we both go our separate ways — she to her high-rise apartment in Museum Park and me to my single-family home in Dearborn Park — we often prepare for the next outing a bit later. We tell each other we need a shower, a change of clothes, a snack, whatever, and we set a time to meet back up on the same corner to go do whatever it is we’re going to do next. Deja vu, I kept thinking. What does this scenario remind me of?
I finally figured it out: It reminds me of being on vacation — at home in the South Loop. We are acting like two people who are at a summer destination travel spot even though we sleep in our beds and don’t have to worry about who will take the mail, feed the pets or watch the house. Her place may as well be a luxury hotel on a well-known beach somewhere, and my single-family house may as well be a cottage in Michigan or Wisconsin.
Whatever summer travel destination you like, if you live in the South Loop, you have it. And it costs nothing: no hotel, rental car, summer cottage share, plane, train or tour bus ride needed. You can run back to your accommodation, change clothes (like Anita and I do) and go off again to relax somewhere and have some fun.
Most of the summer South Loop fun is free, or what you would spend anyway. We’ve got the sun, the water, the green space, the music, the outdoor eating. Put on your Bermuda shorts, neighbors, for a little stay-cation in the ’hood. You can still put your head on your own pillow and your body under your own blanket, and brush your teeth in your own sink. Who can ask for anything more?
No one in the South Loop is more than a few minutes’ walk to the 12th Street beach, for starters. You know those ads for summer cottages that say “short walk to the beach.” Well, whether you live in the Prairie District or Printers Row, or anywhere in between, that fact is a given. And is there a more beautiful walk to any beach in the world? Traversing Solidarity Drive, if you are coming from my house at Roosevelt and State, for instance, the skyline view can’t be beat in any city known for any beach. Go ahead and try to think of one. You can’t. Furthermore, the beach is clean, with a fairly new beach house and is adjacent to two magnificent yacht harbors and the ever-natural nature haven, Northerly Island.
It’s also a hop and a skip from three world class museums (the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium) that hordes of people come here to see on their own summer vacations — during which they must get someone to take the mail, feed the pets and watch the house.
You want the kind of summer nightlife that one can only get on those small vacation town public squares adorned with trellises and flowers and twinkling lights? Have you tried a summer dance nights in that beautiful Grant Park garden at Harrison and Michigan? And if you want the most famous trellis in the world, walk just a mile from home and sit under the entwined stainless steel sound system at Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park. (OK, no flower, but who needs them when you have the Lurie Garden a few steps away, with a man-made stream running through it?)
And speaking of walking, yes we can walk everywhere on our homemade vacations in the South Loop, it’s true. But let’s say you’re tired? Or feeling lazy? Or you sprain your ankle? Or there’s a bit of drizzle? We have the equivalent piece of transportation from the most famous vacation spot in the world! Yes, we do, and it’s called the CTA Orange and/or Green Line, picking up passengers at Roosevelt and Wabash for that trip to the Loop proper. I’ve said for years it’s exactly like being on Disney World’s Monorail.
Don’t think I am being exhaustive regarding how you can be on vacation at home in the South Loop. There are as many ways as there are residents. So you, dear readers, can think up your own way. Sit outside at your favorite restaurant and watch your fellow “vacationers” stroll by. Visit one of the quirky little museums we have on our streets like the old Chess Records building on South Michigan Avenue. Believe me, if you were a visitor to Chicago and into 50s/60s music, you’d go. Walk west on Roosevelt and visit the University of Illinois and the remnants of Maxwell Street.
Or go to Lou Malnati’s on South State. That’s what tourists do. And that’s why you can’t get in there most nights.
And by the way, when your vacation is over, there’s a blessing in store for you. You don’t have to go home. You already are home.