NFT Chicago South Loop / South Michigan Ave

South Loop / South Michigan Ave

Built atop the rubble of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Grant Park is now affectionately known as Chicago's front yard. Ring the doorbell for a spectacular view, no matter where you turn: the skyline to the north, Lake Michigan to the east, Museum Campus to the south or the gardens of the park itself.

Chicago's front yard boasts gardens, recreation courts and fields, and the Shedd Aquarium. Dancers gather at the Spirit of Music Garden for the outdoor Summer Dance series, and the skyrocketing water display known as Buckingham Fountain, which occurs every hour on the hour until 11 p.m., April through October.


This Neighborhood Featured in...
The Cheapskate's Guide to Chicago

By Dana Kaye
Dana Kaye sure said it straight when she declaimed: "You don’t have to be gay to enjoy all the drink specials on Halsted." But you do have to be on a budget. Chicago is no city for the thrifty, but Dana Kaye is not one for following the rules. Take heed as she stealthily discloses the secrets to getting by with no money.

Dancing Under the Stars

By Jennifer Campbell
You know you want to. Yield to your inner jitterbugging, foxtrotting cakewalker.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Kristen Orser
Photo:  Kristen Orser

Museum of Contemporary Photography
Beyond the Backyard sounds like a sci-fi movie or a title for a "what I did on my summer vacation" essay. It's an exhibit portraying (somewhat ridiculing) an American obsession with backyards. Bill Owens shows people rolling out fake lawns--emphasizing the persistent problem of appearance. Greg Stimac's series, Mowing the Lawn, the repetition of mowing exaggerates the weirdness of this everyday activity. The photography is stripped down, almost mundane. This starkness shows how strange it is that women sunbathe in backyards, potbellied families have backyard BBQ's, and Americans are immersed in backyard culture. Effort is reserved for the front yard, keeping the backyard a private, familial place where intimacy is uncanny because it is relegated to the not-as-perfect place. These photographers are not inventing the strangeness, they are just documenting it.

Posted By:  Josannah Birman
Photo:  Josannah Birman

The normally bustling Loop seems more like an abandoned town in the wild West on frigid Sunday mornings. Walking down Michigan Avenue is eerily deserted and dormant except for Yolk's bright sign. Inside, the massive blue, yellow, and steel restaurant is packed and pulsating with energy. Booths serve as towering barriers perfect for a city that values personal space. For those who enjoy a side of macabre art with their eggs, there is an excellent view of Agora, Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Grant Park installation featuring 106 headless figures. The service is friendly and efficient but not overbearing. Well-stocked California omelettes are an avocado lover’s dream but the consistency is a little strange. Unless you are fond of chowing on raw potatoes, play it safe and ask for them well-done. Prime rib and eggs get carnivores excited about breakfast again. While the prices are reasonable for the location, some people may not want to drop $25 for two on a morning meal. In Chicago, where finding an extraordinary breakfast is about as easy as finding your soul mate, I'd call Yolk for a second date.

Posted By:  Mark F. Armstrong

Buckingham Fountain
Philanthropist Kate Buckingham forked over quite a few dead presidents to honor her late brother Clarence. Opened in 1927, the fountain is situated in a handsomely landscaped garden in beaux-arts characterized by shady groves east toward Lake Michigan. It’s architectural planner Edward H. Bennett was responsible for the Michigan Ave Bridge and Wacker Drive and designed the fountain, with strictly artistic styling by Marcel Loyau, to represent Lake Michigan and the four states that touch it—Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan. The sculptured bronze fish, sea horses representing the lake’s states, and reeds that, about the Georgia pink marble fountain, have taken on a sea-green patina with age, suggest Latona Basin in Louis XIV’s gardens at Versailles and those scenes of the dance dream sequence from MGM’s American in Paris. In fall, spring, and summer, it’s not unusual to catch students from the nearby Art Institute of Chicago executing charcoal drawings of the fountain and the skyscrapers reaching above the trees behind it. Many are familiar with Buckingham’s capacities to shoot streams of water 159 feet in the air every hour and how bewitching the fountain can be at night when frosted with multicolored lighting. For Chicagoans, it’s a greatly appreciated nearly 80-year-old symbol of our city as a world center of beauty and culture that’s as fresh and exciting as that May day in 1927 when Kate Buckingham dedicated the fountain.

Posted By:  Kelly Pucci
Photo:  Kelly Pucci

The Spertus Shop
At this time of year, the gift shop at the Spertus Institute bursts with Hanukkah gifts. Traditional porcelain and silver menorahs costing hundreds of dollars are displayed next to fanciful styles like a shoe menorah, an ice cube menorah, and a wooden children’s menorah painted in primary colors. For $20 you can get an Ultra Happy Hanukkah Body Wash Gift Set complete with lotion for soothing hands callused by too much dreidle spinning and body wash guaranteed to eliminate greasy latke residue. I took a pass on the $10 Moses action figure (“He can part the Red Sea, free his people from slavery, and receive commandments directly from God—all in the comfort of your own home”) and bought some $2 holographic eyeglasses that transform twinkling Christmas lights into rainbow stars of David.

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