as kathryn noted earlier this week, it’s required for all literary bloggers to reference AWP this week. tin house did a field guide for the people you’ll likely see there. so i guess this is more like a field guide for stuff to do. if you’re in/around chicago this week for reasons totally unrelated to the conference, but really do like reading stuff, i highly recommend heading down to the hilton chicago (720 s. michigan ave.) on saturday, when entrance to the bookfair is free (for non-AWP folks: the bookfair is like a convention hall that gets transformed into the world’s largest independent book store for a few days). if you’re in/around chicago this week precisely for AWP, and looking for things to do outside the conference, allow me to make a few suggestions:
pick up a copy of the free weekly, available at most news boxes and inside the front doors of many eateries & shops. or visit their new website, which just launched yesterday. either way, this is the best place to go for things to do, eat, see, hear, etc.
if the bookfair isn’t enough (a ridiculous idea, i know, but roll with me here), we’ve got some pretty bad ass book shops in this town. my favorites are myopic books (the best used book store i’ve ever seen—it’s huge) and quimby’s (a smaller, but excellently curated indie shop). if you’re up for a south side adventure, you will absolutely, absolutely be rewarded for your effort in heading down to the seminary co-op, 57th street books, and powell’s chicago (all within walking distance of each other). for more specialized interests, i recommend the somewhat self-explanatory shops of women & children first up on the far north side and centuries & sleuths out west in forest park. the chicago tribune has also done a fine job of profiling our many book shops/libraries with their “book places” series. i’d be remiss to not also mention unabridged, the book cellar, and barbara’s.
green mill, 4802 n. broadway ave.
always an excellent showcase for jazz, but if you’ve stuck around from the conference until sunday night, you can also see slampapi (i.e., marc smith) host the original poetry slam. marc smith is a truly a local treasure, so try to catch that guy if you can while you’re in town.
chicago cultural center, 78 e. washington st.
just a few steps from the palmer house hilton, this is an extraordinary building, known for it’s commitment to showcasing the city’s history and current arts scene as well as for it’s architecture and tiffany dome.
poetry foundation, 61 w. superior
their new digs are really quite incredible. not just for the architecture, but also because of their super impressive library. check out any of the free events they’re hosting this week, or just swing by and wander around on saturday.
826 chi & the boring store, 1331 n. milwaukee ave.
this is chicago’s piece of dave eggers’ 826 empire (the creative writing/tutoring program for youth). there are some cool events benefiting the center this week, but i also urge you to check out the awesome supply store for spies (yes, like undercover agents wearing fake mustaches kind of spies) that serves as the entrance. even if you don’t get to visit the shop, make sure you visit the boring store website: notasecretagentstore.com.
both the harold washington library (which sits conveniently between the palmer house & hilton chicago hotels at 400 s. state st.) and the newberry library (60 w. walton st.) are pretty impressive to behold, both for the buildings themselves, and the cool stuff they hold inside.
(the original) billy goat tavern, 420 n. michigan ave.
in the past few years, there’s been an obsession in this town with fancy pants cheeseburgers, which usually will run you about $15. if you’re looking for simple, old school, and cheap cheeseburgers, though, there are none finer than those served up by the goat. but don’t be fooled into going to one of the shittier locations, like at navy pier. the original is a little harder to find, but well worth it (it’s technically at the address above, but really it’s underneath that address—you gotta take some stairs beneath street level near the tribune tower or wrigley building). go at night if you can, when it’s more likely to be populated by the old newspaper dudes that frequent the place. i will give you this warning, though: a former co-worker of mine once met me there for lunch but had to leave because it smelled too much like cheeseburgers. the place does kinda smell like cheeseburgers. glorious, glorious cheeseburgers.
millennium park, 201 e. randolph
don’t skip this because you think it’s a tourist trap. i mean, it kinda is, but it also really isn’t. what it is: the best public gathering space i’ve ever seen anywhere on earth. yeah, there are tourists there, and couples skating in the outdoor ice rink, and everyone & their mother taking photos in front of the “the bean.” but that last bit is kinda the point: it’s for everyone. and their mothers. chicago is a highly segregated city, but this may be the one place where everyone comes. that alone is impressive enough, but so is the frank gehry-designed bandshell & trellis and the beautiful bridges which connect this park to the new modern wing of the art institute and our beloved lakefront. it’s so freakin’ close to the palmer house, you’d be a chump to miss it.