The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

What once began as simple tree decorations fifty years ago to signal the start of the holiday season has since developed into something truly spectacular! The 2018 Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank, begins at 4 pm on Friday, November 16,. While the MM Lights Festival events and activities will only take place for the opening ceremonies on the 16th and 17th, the lights will remain up for everyone to enjoy throughout the holiday season! It’s a beloved Chicago tradition, and 2018 marks its twenty-seventh anniversary.

This year’s Lights Festival opening weekend is set to start with a bang. Not only will the lights go up, but the weekend will feature family-friendly activities, a tree-lighting parade down Michigan Avenue, some fantastic holiday shopping options from participating stores, and even a Fireworks Spectacular show over the Chicago River.

On Friday, November 16, the Lights Festival Lane will have fun activities for the whole family from 4 pm – 8 pm, including live music and even a visit from Santa Claus, himself. If you can’t make it on Friday, however, don’t fret! Saturday is sure to be a magical day full of holiday activities and live performances from artists like Cody Simpson, DCapella, and Cailee Rae, just to name a few. The Meet and Greet wristbands for these performers are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. More information can be found on the day of at the BMO Harris Bank Helper Tent.

Alongside the holiday activities, the Lights Festival Lane will also be offering sample treats from classic Chicago establishments like Garrett Popcorn, Frango, The Eli’s Cheesecake Company, and lots more. There will be pop-up shops across the Magnificent Mile, with lots of activities and merchandise available for purchase. Chicago’s Christmas music station, 93.9 LITE-FM, will also have a tent where they’ll be broadcasting live throughout the event.   

Whatever you decide,  make sure to secure a spot for the tree-lighting parade on Saturday evening, when Grand Marshals Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse light one million lights along their path. The procession will also feature floats, balloons, musical performances, and beloved Chicago mascots like Hubert the Lion and Benny the Bull. The parade starts at 5:30 pm, concluding with a breathtaking fireworks show just before 7:00 pm!

The parade will be broadcast live on ABC7 starting at 6:00 pm. Can’t make the event or want to relive the magic? The broadcast will be syndicated across more than 90% of the United States throughout the holiday season, so be sure to check your local listings!

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Halloween in Chicago

Halloween is a fun night for all, no matter what age, and Halloween in Chicago is no exception! From bar-hopping to kid-friendly activities, Gold Coast doesn’t hold back.

Some of the city’s most notable bars take part in sponsoring elaborate costume contests, like Butch McGuire’s, She-nannigans House of Beer, Bootleggers, and more. All of these locations include rewards for participating in costume contests, along with live music and radio broadcasts from local stations. In past years, the bar crawl has culminated at The Original Mother’s, where the festivities started at midnight. This is the crown jewel of the evening, and the final destination for any bar crawlers looking to close out Halloween with a bang.

50 years ago this month, The Original Mothers first opened its doors, and has been welcoming locals and visitors alike to Division Street ever since. The bar is excited to host its 38th Annual Halloween Tour, which will take place on Saturday, October 27th. Although the events change every year, Brian Phillips, one of 101 WKQX’s on-air personalities, broadcasted live from the dance floor one year, and there’s always a performer or group to provide live music all night into the early morning. For anyone who loves getting into the Halloween spirit by dressing up and reliving their childhood, just know that people take their costumes very seriously here! The top prize is usually around $1000, and second and third place are around $500 and $250, respectively.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more family-oriented event, you can always stop by Gold Coast’s annual “Ghouly Park” event. Experience Goudy Park, at Astor and Goethe, as it becomes a Halloween paradise, compliments of the Gold Coast Neighbors Association. From 4-7pm on October 31, 2018, there will be all kinds of entertainment roaming the park, from music to stilt walkers, magicians, and puppeteers, and, of course trick-or-treating. Kids of all ages can find something fun to do, and it’s a safe and enjoyable way to make sure it’s an unforgettable Halloween for everyone.

If neither of those activities suit your style, or if you’re looking to venture a little farther out of the neighborhood, there are always a number of renowned ghost tours that take you all over the city, both walking and via bus. There’s even one that goes through all of the known locations of the country’s first recorded serial killer, H. H. Holmes. Other tours even come with ghost-hunting equipment, so you can properly record any paranormal encounters throughout your evening.

However you decide to spend the holiday, make sure to reserve your spot ahead of time if it’s a ticketed event!

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Chicago Shows Filmed on Location

Pop culture enthusiasts everywhere know that there are plenty of movies and television shows set in Chicago. It’s a large metropolitan area with lots of history, culture, and noteworthy architecture, which makes it the perfect filming location for so many series like Empire, Shameless, and Dick Wolf’s Chicago franchise. It makes sense that so many productions would flock to this area—there’s even a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events working to increase the number of productions hosted in the city of Chicago.

This year alone has seen ten shows set to film or already filmed in the city, a record number that has no plans to slow down. Here are a few of the shows that have chosen to film in Chicago, and some of the integral locations they use:

Empire (Fox)

Although set in New York, the hit series takes advantage of its diverse look and overall affordability. For those who haven’t had a chance to catch an episode of the hit show, Empire tells the story of Empire Record CEO Lucious Lyon and all of the drama that ensues from the personal relationships within the company. If you look closely on filming days, you’ll see New York Police Department cars on the street, especially in neighborhoods near the Waldorf Astoria.

Chicago Fire (NBC)

Chicago Fire, as you may have guessed, trails the members of the Chicago Fire Department and the challenges they face both in their personal lives and professional ones. Lincoln Park has proved to be a particularly attractive filming spot for Chicago Fire in years past, taking over entire blocks on occasion. Sometimes, the film crews even made their way into ordinary homes in the area, instead of sticking to exterior shots, but the most

Chicago PD (NBC)

As part of the Chicago franchise, Chicago PD features Chicago’s finest and the cases they work, as well as their lives outside of the precinct. One of their popular filming spots include the precinct at 2601- 2609 W. 16th Street (which is part of studio property, so visitors aren’t permitted), but you can usually stick around to watch them film.

Some other popular shows that film in Chicago include the remainder of the Chicago franchise, Chicago Med and Chicago Justice, The Chi, and of course, Shameless. And, if 2018’s success has been any indication, there will be more productions than ever, and you can check out the specific locations each day.

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3 Historical Gems in Gold Coast, Part 2

The Newberry Library
If you like history and you like books, the Newberry Library is the place to be. The Newberry Library has operated as an independent research library since 1887, and has since collected an extensive array of rare books, maps, manuscripts, and even music from the past six centuries. Because of their vast resources, the library frequently offers free exhibitions, speaker events, and genealogy orientations, among other popular programs.

Thanks to the generous donations of Walter L. Newberry, it was his funds that allowed the library to establish itself as a lead research and reference institution. Ever since its conception, the caretakers of the establishment have always been looking for ways to improve the library, both in structure and in its contents. Even now, the Newberry is always incorporating new ideas in order to remain accessible for each generation.

For much of this year, for example, the library has been undergoing renovations to accommodate additional displays, including the only copy in Chicago of a First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, and a first edition of Alice in Wonderland, among others. The overall goals of this renovation are to make the library more friendly and welcoming from the moment you walk in the door.

Washington Square Park
Chicago’s Washington Square Park came to being in 1842, thanks to James Fitch, Orasmua Bushnell, and Charles Butler of the American Land Company. Though the park offers no structured programming, it’s a beautiful spot tucked away in the Near North Community with trees, picket fencing, a gorgeous Victorian fountain, and stunning flower arrangements. In the summer, Washington Square Park even has pianos for anyone to play on! It’s a popular wedding ceremony venue and even registered as a historic Chicago landmark. Washington Square Park may be small, but it’s actually part of one of the best-kept secrets in all of Chicago.

As early as the 1830s when Chicago was still setting up its governing body, the parks system has played an important role. The city claimed “Urbs in horto” as its motto, which means “City in a Garden,” which is to say that parks were very near and dear to the hearts of Chicago citizens. Many now-famous architects and landscape designers have left their mark on these grounds

One particularly unique element to Washington Square Park is its nickname, now more than one hundred years old: Bughouse Square. As mansions were converted into flophouses and a more diverse population surrounded the park, it gained its new name. And, like Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park in London, Washington or “Bughouse” Square became a refuge for anyone who had something to say. Today, Washington Square still serves as beacon for free speech, and hosts debates to maintain the spirit of the tradition’s originators.

This blog is part two of a two-part series. Go back and read the first part featuring the Old Chicago Water Tower!

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3 Historical Gems in Gold Coast, Part 1

Gold Coast offers a quiet but stately home both to affluent young families and established professionals alike since 1882, but that doesn’t mean the neighborhood is lacking in fun things to do! The Gold Coast neighborhood in Chicago is bursting with history, from its architecture to its cultural contributions, even to the physical objects that have made its way through the years.

The neighborhood itself really came to life shortly after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, serving as the home to businessmen such as Potter Palmer (Palmer House), the Chicago Tribune founder Joseph Medill, and even Robert Todd Lincoln. Here are just a few of the most notable landmarks that have played an integral part of Gold Coast’s history, and why it serves as such an attractive neighborhood to so many families even today:

The Old Chicago Water Tower
Built in 1869, the Old Chicago Water Tower is currently the second oldest water tower in the United States, after the Louisville Water Tower in Louisville, Kentucky. Although the city of Chicago rests near Lake Michigan, a critical source for freshwater, the water quality prior to the building of the Old Chicago Water Tower was poor, having been drawn from the Chicago River, which also served as Chicago’s sewer. As such, the water was bad-tasting and disease-ridden.

To fix this, engineer Ellis S. Chesbrough planned a water supply tunnel that would span about two miles, and after the tunnel’s completion in 1867, the lake water would be pumped back to the lake via a pumping station. The pumping station originally produced pressure surges in the water, so a standpipe system (the Old Chicago Water Tower) was added two years later to reduce its effects.

Today, Chicago no longer needs the services of its old water tower, and is able to support all of its residents’ water needs. But, rather than knocking it down, the city of Chicago elected to keep the building standing, as it gives a peek into the history of the city. The tower even hosts a gallery showcasing the work of local photographers and artists. It serves as a visual reminder to the resilient attitude of Chicago as a city, as one of the few buildings that survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

The current City Gallery’s exhibition is Stand Up for Landmarks! Protests, Posters, and Pictures, which devotes itself to the story of public activism, outreach efforts, and legislation of protecting landmarks throughout Chicago.

This blog is part one of a two-part series. Check back for the second post featuring the Newberry Library and Washington Square Park!

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Women Breaking Barriers in Male-Dominated Industries, Part 2

Although many fields are still considered male-dominated, like technology, construction, and sports, women are still moving up the ranks and making their presence known in these industries. They’re making names for themselves, and if you haven’t heard of them yet, you will soon. Here are a few more powerful ladies that everyone should know:

Self-Made CEO

Safra Catz wears a number of hats, and has done so throughout her career. Currently, Catz is the Chief Executive Officer of Oracle Corporation, one of the leading companies in cloud computing software, where she also resides as a member of their Board of Directors. Catz comes with an impressive resume: she served as Oracle’s President and Chief Financial Officer before assuming her position as CEO. She rose up the ranks, starting out as a Senior Vice President for the company in April 1999, almost twenty years ago.

While she tirelessly worked to climb the corporate ladder, Catz also managed to find the time to serve on the Board of Directors at HSBC Holdings for seven years, and now sits as one of the directors at The Walt Disney Company. Safra Catz makes every moment count and remains as eager as always for whatever new challenges await her.

The “First Foot Soldier of the Year”

Angelica Ross, president of Miss Ross, Inc. and founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, is at the forefront of the movement for trans and racial equality. As a transgender woman of color, Angelica Ross dedicates her life to helping people in marginalized communities “lift themselves out of poverty” by providing them with necessary technical training. She’s had the opportunity to share her mission with leaders in the business and education communities, and even with the President of the United States.

Each day, Miss Ross seeks to educate leaders on creating positive organizational changes that open up opportunities for trans people and people of color to truly thrive.

Shaping the World from the Playground Onwards

Hopscotch, an app that teaches kids ages eight through twelve how to code, is the brainchild of Samantha John and her co-founder, Jocelyn Leavitt. In their first week alone of releasing the app, Hopscotch was downloaded twenty thousand times, and that was more than five years ago.

John is grateful for the opportunity to do her part in shaping the future and empowering children and their capabilities by teaching them how to code. As an educator and developer, Samantha John does not take this duty lightly – these children will one day be leaders themselves, after all.

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Outdoor Living Spaces

One of the popular trends in home-building at the moment is transforming an outdoor area into an extension of a home’s living space. This trend is not that surprising: more and more Americans turn to the great outdoors as a way to relieve stress from their everyday lives. With nature comes many therapeutic benefits, and it makes sense that people would want to incorporate that into their homes. Some surveys report that as many as 70% of U.S. homes now have outdoor living spaces.

If you’re looking to improve your home value, or simply need a respite from your daily grind, here are a few things to keep in mind when renovating:

Building Permits

Depending on your neighborhood, there are building codes to consider when creating an outdoor room. If applicable, one’s Home Owners Association might have specific restrictions to adhere to, on top of that. To save yourself any potential headaches down the line after you’ve begun to optimize your outdoor space, check out zoning regulations and your HOA guidelines—the last thing you want is a notice saying that your privacy screens are too tall, too short, or too close to your neighbor’s property.

Elemental Protection

It’s great being able to eat dinner outside on a temperate summer evening, but it’s a lot harder to do that when nothing is in place to protect you from a sudden thunderstorm. Consider your local climate: if it’s frequently hot and sunny, for instance, you may benefit from building a shaded area where you can relax without fear of sunburn. Similarly, if it rains often, consider adding an awning to keep the weather at bay. Regardless, a covering allows for more frequent enjoyment of the space, protecting you from situations that may otherwise force you to retreat inside. After all, an outdoor living space is wonderful, but it’s even better when you can enjoy it in all the elements.

A Heat Source

Not only will a fireplace or fire pit offer you more time to enjoy your outdoor living space, it also offers a beautiful focal point to tie the space together. With a source of heat, the party doesn’t need to stop once the sun or temperature drops! Of course, you’ll need to consider the electrical work needed to install a new outdoor heat source and to keep it running. But, if that means you’ll be able to spend more time out enjoying your new patio, it’ll definitely be worth it.

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