It's cold right now. It was cold yesterday. Tomorrow it's going to be even colder!! You know when it's not cold? Spring. Let's put aside right now, and focus on Spring.
To get your mind ready for better days, we put together the best Spring to-do list ever, but instead of "Take out the garbage", which you should probably do before Spring anyway, it's got stuff like, "Have a cosplay lightsaber war", and "Pray to the Metal Gods on Dark Lord Day", and "Survive on bacon & beer for entire weeks at a time".
Here's our checklist of the 12 things you need to get ready to do in Chicago this Spring (assuming we don't all freeze and die before then)…
What: Watch the Sweet 16 on a 16x8ft screen
When: March 27th-30th
Where: American Junkie
Catch the NCAA tournament on the biggest TV in the Midwest -- a 16x8ft 1080i LED screen on the second floor sunroof loft of this patriot pourhouse. Down any of the 26 beers on draft, along with the requisite chicken nachos, BBQ wings, and crisp phyllo shrimp.
What: Brush elbows with SNL veterans at the Chicago Improv Festival
When: March 31st-April 6th
Where: The Second City
Many of today's comedic actors have passed through the improv proving grounds of Chicago. And every year, the world's largest improv festival brings a few surprise comedians back to the epicenter. Maybe Bill Murray will show up... you can never really rule him out on anything.
What: Pledge your baseball allegiance to the White Sox or Cubs
When: March 31st (White Sox); April 4th (Cubs)
Where: US Cellular Field/ Wrigley Field
Make your choice in the North Side-South Side sporting rivalry: see the White Sox and the ancient Konerkosaurus take on the Twins, or catch the "rebuilding for three years from now" Cubbies.
What: Run free with the Wookiees at Chicago’s Comic Con: C2E2
When: April 25th-27th
Where: McCormick Place
Whether you’re looking to mingle with sexy zombies or convince Stan Lee you’d make a great body-double for Captain America in the Avengers sequel (OhMyGod you totally would!!), indulge your inner nerdly desires at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.
What: Stock up on nitrates at Baconfest Chicago
When: April 25th-26th
Where: UIC Forum
The ultimate bacon paradise will feature chefs from more than 150 restaurants (including Chris Pandel from The Bristol) cooking more than 5,000lbs of bacon. FIVE. THOUSAND. POUNDS. OF. BACON.
What: Down tacos at Rick Bayless’s new restaurant
The Top Chef Master’s new Mexican restaurant will model itself after quick-service cafe XOCO in River North with a few tweaks: a larger space with an outdoor patio, table service, and a bar stocked with local craft beer.
What: Slay demons with beer and metal at Dark Lord Day
When: April 27th
Where: Three Floyds Brewing in Munster, IN
Beer geek brethren converge at Three Floyds for the one day a year you can purchase their legendary Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. The gathering is also a chance to sample rare brews while thrashing to the likes of Lair of the Minotaur, Sweet Cobra, and Pig Destroyer.
What: Kick off Craft Beer Week
Where: Garfield Park Conservatory
Start off a hopped-up week with 45+ local brewpubs and restaurants providing small plates and infinity 3oz samples at a West Side parkscape.
What: Fill a growler with fresh Lagunitas beer
Where: Lagunitas Brewery and Taproom in Douglas Park
The pale ale powerhouse from California is venturing into the Midwest with a full brewery and mezzanine taproom, opening in a former steel mill space where you can get a fresh taste of a Little Sumpin' Sumpin'.
What: Put back one of 90 tequilas on Cinco de Mayo
When: May 5th
Where: Masa Azul
The extensive tequila list runs from blancos to single-barrel extra anejos, and includes a selection of mezcal and lesser-known sotol, aka the NEXT mezcal.
What: Kayak the Chicago River
Where: Kayak Chicago
Pretend you're Tao Berman (he's a famous kayaker, apparently), and motor your way under every bridge that outlines the Loop, enjoying the now-actually-pretty-clean water after we reversed the flow from Lake Michigan down to St. Louis (they're still pretty upset).
What: Root for the US to destroy Ghana in the World Cup
When: June 16th
Where: The Globe Pub
Time to gather around for the one time every four years Americans pretend to like soccer! Spend it with some truly knowledgable hooligans at The Globe and pray the US can assert its First World dominance (because we're not beating Germany or Portugal).
Sean Cooley is Thrillist's Chicago Editor and he once drank 64 beers on a cross-country flight. Follow him @SeanCooley.
1. American Junkie15 W Illinois St, Chicago
2. Masa Azul2901 W Diversey Ave, Chicago
3. Wrigley Field1060 W Addison St, Chicago
4. The Globe Pub1934 W Irving Park Rd, Chicago
5. Kayak Chicago1220 W LeMoyne Ave, Chicago
6. The Second City1616 N Wells St, Chicago
7. Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo2301 S Lake Shore Drive , Chicago
8. XOCO449 N Clark, Chicago
9. Baconfest Chicago725 W Roosevelt Rd, Chicago
10. 3 Floyds Brewpub9750 Indiana Pkwy, Munster
11. Craft Beer Week300 N Central Park Ave, Chicago
American Junkie is a 320-seat, two-floor industrial restaurant and bar, sporting American flags carved everywhere. The food's as American as the decor, with Chef Kendal Duque (Sepia, City Tavern) running the kitchen and turning out awesome meatiness like pork & apple pizza, bison burgers, and shaved prime rib. The dinner menu is worthy of a sit-down trip, but if you're just looking to have a beer and munchies while watching a game, there might be no better place in Chicago. American Junkie claims to have the largest TV in the Midwest -- a 16x8ft 1080i LED behemoth, located on the second floor sunroom -- making it the perfect place to go in springtime to catch March Madness, or in summer to watch the Cubs and White Sox. With 26 beers on tap and a killer bar menu (think grilled octopus, 30-minute wings, and shrimp ceviche), American Junkie has everything you need to distract you from the score of the Cubs game.
For a tequila experience you won't forget, head to Masa Azul. This 50-seat spot serves up nearly 90 different types of tequila varieties. It's not just drinks either, Masa Azul offers great tacos, ceviche, and guac! You know what goes great with Cinco de Mayo? Honestly, any of Azul's nearly 100 tequilas. Narrowing down the list would just be foolish.
Wrigley Field: you definitely heard of it, likely been there, and probably didn't know (alert: trivia) that this 100-year-old stadium was built on grounds once occupied by a seminary. These days, there's less theology on site, more Cubs baseball. That, plus footlong bison hot dogs and chicken + waffle stix served with maple bacon dippin’ sauce. On April 2nd, join the "Party of the Century" celebrating Wrigley Field turning the big 1-0-0, when the Cubs take on the Arizona Diamondbacks.
This Chicago sports bar's known for being a soccer-lover's institution, and they also run a shuttle service to and from Chicago Fire games. This Spring, you won't need to take a bus to get loud rooting for team USA to get revenge on Ghana in the World Cup.
Why walk the crowded streets of Chicago when you can breeze down Lake Michigan in a pint-sized boat they're calling a kayak? Truth: With four locations throughout the city, Kayak Chicago will hook you up with a certified instructor to provide lessons as well as guided tours including an architectural circuit of downtown Chi, plus sunset and super-romantical night paddles. With the weather warming up, it's time to get out of your funky apartment and into a badass boat. Nature: it's great.
If you've ever laughed, chances are you've laughed at someone that came out of The Second City. Alumni of this prestigious comedy school include John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and Tina Fey, among many, many others. If you want a career in comedy, train there. If you want a fun night out, catch one of their improv sketch comedy shows (for example: A Clown Car Named Desire), performed just about every night of the week.
Trade shows set up regular residence at McCormick Place, including staples like concept car heaven the Chicago Auto Show. But this Spring you can really run free with the Wookies at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2), April 25th-27th.
Conveniently next door to Top Chef master Rick Bayless' upscale Mexican joints Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, XOCO (derived from Mexican slang for "little sister") is a quick-service cafe with communal tables and a central wood burning oven. The aromas of Bayless' take on classic made-to-order south of the border street fare is sure to draw crowds from all over.
Conventions and trade shows call this University Forum boss when they hit Chicago. With 75,000 square feet of space including a massive, 99-foot-tall exposed steel column that protrudes through the roof, this place is hard to miss at any distance. And forget seeing, you'll be able to smell the nitrates at Baconfest Chicago April 25th + 26th.
What do you get when you combine a 15 barrel brewhouse -- aka 465 gallons -- with three bonafide fermentation tanks? If you guessed beer, you didn't guess wrong. If you guessed a whole lot of beer, also not wrong. This former office spaced turned craft beer refuge offers seasonal brews, special small batch projects, and the occasional guest beer. Got plans on April 27th? You do now: eat, drink exclusive Floyds one-off creations, and jam to live metal at Dark Lord Day, happening on-site beginning at 10a.
Besides thousands of plants, Garfield Park Conservatory offers composting 101, beekeeping classes, and a gift shop with handcrafted, gourmet honey gathered from those all-work, no play, conservatory-bred bees. And Craft Beer Week is going down right here at the Conservatory May 16th-26th (yeah, the math does seem a little odd on that and no, we don't mind at all). Get there for $4 tastings of rare beers offered by over 250+ participating venues.