Art Institute of Chicago: After Dark

Chicago has many great museums to check out any time of the day, but if you want to really enjoy the museums and take in some great food, music, and people watching while you are there, then you should check out the various after hours events happening all over Chicago. A few weeks ago, I attended an After Dark event at the Art Institute of Chicago. Being that I am a big fan of the museum and my best friend happens to be on the Young Associates Board at the Art Institute, I often take part in many of the activities this museum has to offer. This specific After Dark event though was my favorite so far, because it featured in exhibit on Studio Gang Architects. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with Jeanne Gang on some past projects at my previous job, and I was ecstatic to hear the museum was featuring an exhibit on her. I was even more excited when I saw a model of one of the projects I worked on with her in the museum! (Did I mention my old company also designed the Modern Wing at the Art Institute?) Enough about me. Jeanne is a successful female architect and graduated from my alma mater, so as you can imagine, I’ve looked up to her throughout my education and career. For those of you who are unfamiliar with her work and want to see some really cool modern architecture, drive down Lake Shore Drive and take a look at one of her most famous pieces of work, Aqua.

Each After Dark event features a different exhibit and gives you access in to the museum after hours with special tours of their featured exhibit. So, even though you may have missed the Studio Gang After Dark event, check out the next one. General admission is typically $25, and that includes complimentary appetizers, live music, admission in to the museum, and cash bar. There is typically a decent amount of food that is delicious, so don’t come too full like we did. They often have live performance art that brings a nice element of surprise throughout your night. You never know what fun things they will do! Wondering what to wear there? Well, let’s just say, anything goes. It’s an art museum. People typically get pretty dressed up (sport coat, but no tuxedos) and often use this as an opportunity to really express their own style. I wore a sweater dress and boots since I knew I’d be standing a lot, but I tried to get creative by wearing zig zag patterned tights and jewelry by my favorite Chicago designer.

Want to check out a similar event at a different museum? Check out the First Fridays events at the MCA. Tickets range between $10-$18 depending on when you buy and/or if you are a member, but it has a similar set up as the After Dark Event at the Art Institute. You’ll find all types of people at both events, so it’s great for mingling or people watching.

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Models of Studio Gang Architect’s Projects in the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago

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Performance Art at the After Dark Event at the Art Institute of Chicago

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Sweater Dress: Laundry by Shelli Segal on Zappos (old, but can now find on ebay); Boots: Steve Madden (old); Belt: Mint Julep Boutique on Southport; Earrings and Necklace: K-Amato Sample Sale (recent); Zig Zag Tights

Dress Code: Smart Casual / Business Casual

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Chicago Christmas Traditions & Winter Activities

Although this blog started after the holidays and Christmas has quickly come and gone, winter seems to have just started in Chicago. The weather has been unusually mild this winter despite the weather forecasters’ predictions last summer. With the weather just getting colder and the holidays still on my mind, here are a few Chicago winter must-do activities that everyone should check out: (I go every year and they are budget friendly!)

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights: They are free! Great place to take the kids to see Santa as well. Grab some pizza beforehand down the street at Rocco Ranalli’s (It’s family friendly and delicious!)

-Ice Skate at Millennium Park: Avoid lines and having to spend money by bringing your own ice skates (Check out the other free ice skating rinks around Chicago as well!)

Christkindlmarket in the Daley Plaza: It gets super crowded, but is a must see activity in Chicago. Grab a nice German beverage served in a souvenir mug shaped like a boot and check out the beautiful ornaments and Christmas tree.

CTA Holiday Train: This is more geared towards families, but if you currently have little ones at home, check out the schedule and catch a ride with Santa and his elves on the CTA Holiday Train.

Walnut Room & Holiday Windows at Macy’s on State Street: Check out the holiday windows at the old Marshall Field’s, now Macy’s, on State Street. Afterwards, grab a bite to eat at the Walnut Room inside and enjoy the view of the beautiful Great Tree. (It’s 45 feet tall!) This is one of Chicago’s oldest holiday traditions.

Snow Shoe at Northerly Island: Located on Chicago’s great peninsula (a.k.a. Northerly Island), many Chicagoans are unaware of this cool and interesting activity. Check the weather beforehand, and get there early since snow shoe’s are given out on a first come first serve basis.

-Check out hilarious holidays plays at various theaters around Chicago. My past favorites include “The Santaland Diaries” at what is now called Theater Wit in Lakeivew or “It’s A Wonderful Santaland Miracle Nut Cracking Christmas Story” at Stage 773 next door. If you are looking for something a little less humorous and a little more traditional, check out “A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theatre. Always check Hottix or Goldstar for good deals.

Dress Code: Casual

(Note for Walnut Room: Don’t get me wrong, the Walnut Room is a classy place that I tend to dress a little nicer for, but during the holiday’s, the beautiful space is filled many casual tourists that are there just to check out the tree. Dress however makes you comfortable and they won’t turn you away.)

A Few Casual Holiday Outfits:

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Wool Plaid Vest: Nordstrom; Angora Sweater with Lace: Zara; White Long Sleeve T-Shirt: Gap; Skinny Jeans: Limited (sold out); Gold Wedge Sneakers: Target; Kensington Gold Ring: Gorjana

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Christmas Day

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Christmas Eve Outfit: Top: Francesca’s (old); Vest: Loft (old); Dot Print Pants: Loft; Booties: Old Navy (Same boots in animal print); Necklace & Earrings: K-Amato (sample sale); Watch: Michael Kors; Link Gold Bracelet: Wanderlust + Co

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Family Christmas Party: Bow Sweater: Loft (No longer available on-line); Floral Skinny Pants: New York and Company (sold out); Boots: Nine West (old); Leg Warmers: Nordstrom (Same in different color); Watch: Michael Kors; Earrings: K-Amato (Sample Sale); Bracelets: Light Wood Skull Bracelet by Bijouterie and Black Leather Stud Wrap Bracelet by Wanderlust + Co

Salvage One & Chef Battle Royale

When it comes to cool and unique event spaces, Salvage One tops my list. If you haven’t heard of this place, it’s a 60,000 square foot store on four floors that is filled with tons of architectural elements that are unique and one of a kind. Don’t believe me? Check out this ceramic sculpture of a Thwomp from Super Mario Brothers that we happened to come across there for a couple hundred dollars. (Don’t worry, there is also every kind of door knob, lighting fixture, and chair you can imagine there as well.)

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Ceramic statue of a Thwomp from Super Mario Brothers at Salvage One

Not only can you buy custom and unique furniture here, but you can also rent out the space for events. I was lucky enough to attend WBEZ‘s Chef Battle Royale back in October, which not only takes place in one of the coolest spaces in Chicago, but is also one of the best foodie and budget friendly events I have attended. For $15 a person (or $10 if you are a student) you get to taste foods from five different chefs representing five different ethnicities from five different neighborhoods. At the end of the night you get to vote and help choose which neighborhood and food is the best. If that still doesn’t sway you to take part in this event next year, there is also unlimited free beer from Goose Island. Keep your eye out for this popular budget friendly event next time it rolls around, and be sure not to miss it!

Whether you attend an event like Chef Battle Royale or are lucky enough to be invited to a wedding at Salavage One, be sure to head over to West Town and check this space out.

Dress Code: This varies depending on the event, but most people at Chef Battle Royale were dressed in Business Casual attire. Most women wore dresses and boots like I did below.

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Dress: Everly, last year (Mint Julep); Belt: The Red Dress Boutique; Boots: Asma by Shoedazzle, no longer available (similiar without the wedge); Watch: Michael Kors; Bracelet: Forever 21 (store only); Earrings: Vintage; Necklace: Sample Sale in NYC; Handbag: Guess, old; Gray Tights: Old Navy, old