Category: River North

Summer in Chi Town: Don’t Miss Out on These Experiences!

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By , June 3, 2015 11:00 am

With brutally cold winters that seem to last a little longer each year, Chicago is a city that lives for its beautiful summer season. So now that summer is here (finally!) why not try something new to soak up the sun and make the most of it?

Chicago Jet Boat Experience

One of the best ways to see Chicago is from the water, so kick back and feel the wind in your hair on a Chicago Jet Boat Experience. This is a half-hour tour that combines an adventurous ride with the beautiful view of Lake Michigan and the sprawling Chicago skyline. The boat leaves from Navy Pier, and the captain will tell you all about the city’s landmarks, architecture, and hot spots. Jet boats run daily between 11 am and 7 pm, May through October.

Photo credit: acuestareig via Flickr

Photo credit: acuestareig via Flickr

Introduction to Kayaking

To get a little more active on the water, take our Introduction to Kayaking class with the experienced guides of Kayak Chicago. This is a beginner-friendly class that’ll teach you everything you need to know about paddling, boat types, proper gear, safety techniques, and rescue strategies. This expereince lasts about four hours and runs on Saturdays and Sundays from June through September.

Sailing 101 Chicago

Another great water activity to try in Chicago is sailing! Our Sailing 101 Chicago class is beginner-friendly, yet challenging and comprehensive. To complete the course, you’ll need to take four sessions, and each lesson last four hours. So this is a great experience for locals living in the city! Sessions run daily between April and September.

Chicago Shopping Tour: Bucktown and Wicker Park

If you’re more in the mood for a little retail therapy, why not let a shopping expert help you focus and guide you through the city’s trendiest shopping district? Our Chicago Shopping Tour: Bucktown and Wicker Park experience will take you to unique boutiques and introduce you to fashion trends and the creations of top designers. You’ll meet your guide and fellow shoppers at a cafe and then head out to receive VIP treatment and the guidance of a personal shopping stylist. The experience lasts about two hours and starts at 1:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Devil’s Lake Day Rock Climb

If you’re willing to venture outside of the city to explore the surrounding area a bit, check out our Devil’s Lake Day Rock Climb experience in southern Wisconsin. This is an ideal climbing destination for beginner climbers, and experienced guides will provide you with all the gear you need. The day begins around 9:00 am and runs until about 4:00 pm. There are more than 2,000 climbing routes here along the picturesque cliffs that overlook Devil’s Lake – perfect for taking a summertime dip after a day of climbing!

Photo credit: stewie811 via Flickr

Photo credit: stewie811 via Flickr

These are a few of the other summer-centric attractions that are must-dos in the city of Chicago:

  • Lollapalooza
  • Cubs game at Wrigley Field
  • Sox game at US Cellular Field
  • North Avenue Beach
  • Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Chicago Air & Water Show
  • Navy Pier Fireworks

For a list of Chicago’s exciting 2015 festivals, take a look at TimeOut’s 2015 Summer Festival Guide and browse through FunSherpa’s Chicago experiences to find one that’ll make your summer unforgettable!

30,000 Ducks Follow Up

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By , July 31, 2009 10:42 am

It is not that often that you get to see thousands of ducks getting dumped into the Chicago River (since the Congressional Water Quality Act), so we wanted to share some photos of the rubber duck invasion. Check them out and see why tons of people gathered around the Congress and Michigan Ave bridges!

Say goodbye rubber duckies...

Say goodbye rubber duckies...

An overcast summer duck race

An overcast summer duck race

“Vintage is timeless”

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By , July 17, 2009 8:00 am
The Zisook sisters trying out their ware

The Zisook sisters trying out their ware

Sisters Ashley and Allison Zisook sat down to answer some questions about the vintage market: a green movement in its own right, recycling fashions, patterns, and styles. Ashley and Allison were introduced to the world of fashion early on by their mother and grandmother, and have now turned a passion into a career path. Vintage shopping can be hit-or-miss, but Sofia Vintage is all about boutique-style shopping: Ashley is ready to help you, dress you, or even find a specific vintage item for you!

F: Since you moved back to Chicago to be near family and then started a business with your sister inspired by your mother and grandmother’s dress sense, family is obviously very important to you. Tell me about growing up in your household and what led to this career path–

Ashley: My mom used to take us to our Nana’s house, and all four of us – me, my sister, Nana, and my mom – would play with her jewelry, go though her drawers, try on her clothes…

I remember Nana once took us to 900 N. Michigan Ave. Our shopping sprees weren’t focused on the materialistic aspect of fashion, more just being together and bonding.

Allison: My mom always brought us down to Chicago to get our clothes,, so we were always exposed to the city at an early age.

Ashley: Also, retail is pretty much in our blood – my mom’s father is Morrie Mages; he owned Morrie Mages Sporting Goods, which was the first sporting goods department store.

Allison: He was a big name in the retail industry at the time.

F: When did you develop your own personal style(s)?

Ashley: I went through a lot of different styles. I think I was trying to find my own style, but didn’t really get it until I grew up a bit more. So I dabbled: one day I was a hippie and the next day I was a raver and the next day I was a goth.

Allison: I think I did that too… But I came out of it more quickly than you did.

Ashley: And then it developed into a very eclectic mix of the new and the old. I always wanted to dress differently, and I knew that if I found something at a vintage store, no one else would have it.

F: How do you separate the family aspect in resolving business (or fashion) disagreements with your sister?

Ashley: We both know that we have very different fashion styles. I might love her outfit but wouldn’t wear it, or vice versa. And right from the beginning, we set our guidelines: business is business and family is family. Say we didn’t agree on what to put on the mannequin: at the family dinner, that’s not even on our minds anymore. Besides being sisters, we’re also best friends.

Allison: We had a discussion the first week about how we were going to separate business from family.

F: You two reunited recently to create Sofia Vintage. What had each of you done before this venture, and how have your individual skills combined to make this a successful business?

Allison: I was a teacher in Chicago Public Schools, so I’m more organized and more responsible with paying the bills and that kind of thing.

Ashley: She’s more business. I worked for Rockit Ranch Productions in Chicago doing all the special events and marketing; then I moved to LA and was managing DJs; and then I went to the Fashion Institute of Design.

My marketing and special events skills have helped me in this industry. I was in charge of all the VIP relations when celebrities came to town, so I’m used to dealing with important people. We had Joe Perry and Steven Tyler from Aerosmith come into the store!

F: Is vintage as popular with men as it is with women?

Ashley: It’s harder to find men’s vintage clothing. Most of the stores that do have men’s vintage clothing feature racks of Hawaiian shirts. We thought the men’s market was untapped–

We grew up in Chicago, and all of our guy friends from high school would always come to Allison and I for fashion advice. My friend would say, “Here’s some money – go buy me my wardrobe for the spring.” We both experienced that, so we thought, “Why not have cool clothing for the guys?”

Two of my friends came yesterday after work, sat on the couch, and said, “Alright, just bring us racks.” Guys like it because we are very chill, showing them what would look good on them and guiding them.  Aerosmith told us we had some of the best guys’ vintage they’ve ever seen!

F: Where do you go to collect the vintage pieces you sell in your store?

Cool stuff from the Sofia vintage store

Cool stuff from the Sofia vintage store

Ashley: Flea markets, auctions, and sometimes people bring us clothing. In the past 2-3 months, I’ve been to LA, New York, and Kentucky. I take random road trips through ho-dunk towns. It’s a mixture of what I stumble upon and what stumbles upon me.

F: What did they teach you in FIDM: Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising?

Ashley: I had a color and painting class, where I learned about the colors that go together, the textures that go together, the combinations, what looks good, what doesn’t look good… We had History of Fashion, as well as Mannequin and Set Design building. I really liked that class: we had to build models of a fashion show, small models of the runway and then models of the models! We designed our own tote-bags: I made mine out of a faux chinchilla.

F: Would you consider designing in the future?

Ashley: I think I’m better at styling. I like dressing people; I like that person-to-person connection. With designing, that human interchange – “Oh, this looks good on you!” – is lost.

F: You have a beautiful photo gallery online featuring outfits of vintage clothing you put together. How easy is it to make outfits mixing and matching vintage clothing from various decades?

Ashley: It’s really easy for me. I get a feel for the person I’m working with – what they want, what they reflect, who they are on the inside. I don’t dress everyone in head-to-toe vintage; it’s mostly mixing the new with the old, like a gorgeous vintage gown with crazy new shoes, or jeans with a vintage t-shirt and a blazer. So I do like mixing the new and the old, but I decide based on the person and where they’re wearing it to. In the pictures in the online photo gallery, almost everything was vintage.

F: Have you considered putting together vintage fashion shows?

Ashley: Yeah, we actually had one at Underground last June 18. Clothes looks so much different on the rack!

F: Is vintage always in vogue, or is it a recent fad? In the 70s, for example, was vintage as popular as it is now?

Ashley: Vintage is timeless. Is an item in a runway show today vintage 30 years later? Probably not, because that item was probably inspired by an item from the 1930s or 1940s. Marc Jacobs had these cardigans [points to sequined, beaded cardigans with shoulder pads and designs] on top of every single item in his line for New York Fashion Week.

Allison: Also, we’ve met a lot of people who have been in the vintage industry for a while, and they said that a lot of the designers call them for pieces for inspiration, which I never knew before.

Ashley: We did a pop-up shop in Soho; a lot of designers are there. You could tell who was sent by the designers and who was looking to buy for themselves. The people sent by the designers knew exactly what they were looking for, and would quickly flick through a rack looking for interesting patterns.

The green movement is about recycling – vintage is just recycling fashion. And then there’s the celebrity aspect of it. “What are you wearing?” gets asked a lot on the red carpet.

“Vintage this, vintage that,” I think that’s made it really popular as well.

Behind the Chicago silverscreen with John Brinkman

By , July 13, 2009 8:03 am

30-JohnBrinkmanJohn Brinkman is a self-proclaimed history buff. His brainchild – Chicago Film Tours – presents a fascinating take on Chicago. Littered with interesting facts, like the story behind Oz Park and the origin of those little Oscar statuettes, the Chicago Film Tour fills in the gaps for Chicago natives and gives visitors a run-down on Chicago’s place in the film industry. From the Uptown neighborhood to Lower Wacker Drive, the tour bus navigates the streets of Chicago with movie clips to supplement the scenery. John Brinkman talks about the film scene in Chicago and what inspired his popular tour.

F: On your website, it says you grew up in a community that produced recognizable names in the film industry…

Yes, I grew up in Franklin Village, Michigan with Sam Raimi –the director of the Spiderman series, as well as the recent Drag Me To Hell. Sam moved in before the 4th grade and I went all through high school with him. Another good friend is Josh Becker, who does independent movies. Actor Bruce Campbell was also a classmate.

F: What made you decide to turn your love of movies into a business? What had you previously done?

I was an executive for an auto-parts supplier, and you’ve seen what’s happened to the automotive industry! General Motors, Toyota – those were all my biggest customers. For the past year or so, I’ve been looking for something to do. I almost opened up a coffee kiosk in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I wanted to do something that was different, something fun.

My Dad and I went on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, Austria, years ago and had a memorable experience. While thinking about my next career, my daughter suggested moving to Chicago and starting a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off tour. So I was talking to my buddy Josh, and Josh goes, “Well, do you know anything about the Chicago film industry?” And – just off the top of his head – he starts rattling off about Colonel Selig and Broncho Billy Anderson. So I said, “OK, maybe there’s something here!” I check to see if there’s a film tour, and there isn’t. So I started putting it together with my daughter; we took her car and started mapping it out.

I liked doing all the research for the tour; I thought that part was fun. Everyone says, “Oh you’re living your dream!” Having a film tour isn’t my dream, but it’s a lot better than selling ball-bearings, the way I look at it. It’s original.

F: So what would you say sets Chicago apart in the history of the film industry?

The infancy of it as well as the longevity. The center of the film industry began with Edison in New York. Chicago had the World’s Fair and the Columbia Exposition right around the time nickelodeons were invented. In 1896 Selig did his first movie, and 1893 was the Columbia Exposition. 80 years later you had the John Hughes era and recently, Dark Knight and other blockbusters

F: Your site and the tour have a lot of fun movie facts. Where do you get all your movie facts? What are some of your favorite facts?

My director friend Josh had a lot of information, and I also used IMDB. Once I decided on the movies I wanted, I focused on the obscure facts, like the fact that Vince Vaughn’s father played Jennifer Aniston’s dad in the movie The Break-Up, or the fact that Alan Ruck was 29 years old when he played Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

I like the building facts as well. I like the weird little things like John Barleycorn’s used to be a Chinese Laundry in the back. Wrigley Field wasn’t built for the Cubs; the Cubs moved in two years later.

F: As the proprietor of Chicago Film Tours, you must have a very curated Top Ten movie list. What are some of your favorite movies?

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Stalag 17 are terrific. Groundhog Day, which was filmed up in Woodstock, is a Top 10. Great Escape is probably one of my favorites. I tend to like comedies, war movies and dramas.

F: Have you seen many movies while they’re being filmed in Chicago?

I went to the Chicago Film Office here and introduced myself to them. One of the things I try to do is to find out what’s filming here so that when people take my tour, I can be up-to-date on what’s filming in town. I went to the red carpet event for Public Enemies, and I got a picture of Johnny Depp.

The only thing filming right now is Nightmare on Elm St., and that’s mostly up in the northern suburbs.

F: It seems like the same places are repeatedly used in movies…

Those have the flavor of the era. My buddy Josh explained all this to me. Look at it from a location scout’s point of view. You want to use existing buildings that are around. If I have to change the facade, put up an awning, or if I have to take away Starbucks or Subway – fine, as long as the architecture is there.

F: The Dark Knight seems to be one of the more popular movies linked to Chicago. In your opinion, what are some of the parallels between the fictional Gotham City and the real Chicago?

I live up by Division and Clark. It’s weird to see people my age sleeping on the sidewalk, then walk four blocks over to the old Playboy Mansion. When you look at the Narrows, that’s a parallel. Gotham City is obviously a fictional city, but it’s known for skyscrapers and lots of activity. I think that’s Chicago personified: Chicago is a vibrant city.

F: If you were directing a movie set here in Chicago, what kind of movie would it be? Plot? Cast? Genre?

Actually one of the things I’ve done is outline a screenplay! It’s like Sex in the City but for guys. It would be humorous and telling; it would be a slice-of-life story. I would probably not have a lot of locations; it would be set in some guy’s backyard with the city as a backdrop.

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