Chicago Food Truck Festival

(Not from Chicago?  Don’t want to have to drive into the city?  Google “Food Truck festivals near me”)

Mark your calendars for next year.  The Chicago Food Truck Festival only comes around once a year.  It usually takes place the weekend after Father’s Day and is a two-day festival of food (and some drinks).  This is the second time I have attended, and much has changed from two years ago.

First, let’s start with the good stuff.  Well, it’s all good when food is involved, but one of the best things about this food truck event is the fact that the tickets are FREE.  Free, people.  Free.  When you “purchase” them, it automatically gets you entrance for both days, however, you can only use them for one of the days, not both.  Which is great, because then you can wait to see what the weather will be like.

Another goodie is the free parking.  In Chicago.  How often does that gem pop up?  Granted, we got there right when it opened at 11:00 am, so I cannot vouch for any available spots in those lots any time after that.  But is does exist at some point.

The location was also different this year than it was two years ago.  And, it changed at the last minute this year because they had more trucks sign up.  Which was another bonus from two years ago.  More dining options (see list of vendors below):

Food Truck List collage

I suggested we do a lap first and see what was available and then start digging in.  That didn’t last long.  Too many enticing smells.  We started with a truck called The Fat Shallot.  Their selection sounded interesting.

Fat Shallot collage

We ordered the Truffle BLT and the Spicy Sesame Fries.  Pro Tip:  go with one or more couples.  This way you can order lots of different foods and only have a bite or two.  You also won’t fill up after the first truck.

Fat Shallot 2

Our second stop was the Pierogi Wagon.  Being the good polish girl that I am, I had to get the 6 for $8.95 and do a mix and match with two of each flavor.  We also got a side of sour cream and chopped bacon.  Yum!

Pierogi Wagon collage

The next stop on this culinary tour was the Happy Lobster truck.  I liked their Happy Lobster Roll so much the first time I tried it two years ago that I had to have another one this year.

Happy Lobster collage

Stop number four was at the Taste of International.  This was more of a food stand than a truck, but who am I to tell them they can’t be there?  I am not a fan of curry, but our friends are and wanted to try the curry chicken.  They were cooking it up right there in front of you and I will say it did smell delicious.

Taste of International Curry

Stop number five almost caused a complete break in our couples’ friendship that day.  First, the husband of the couple wanted to stop at a hot dog truck (Hot Dog Fiend).  Pretty basic when you have 40+ new things to try.  Granted, they offered some great combinations to at least make the hot dog interesting.

Hot Dog Fiend collage

But then . . . he did this:

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Ketchup!  Just.  Ketchup.  He’s lucky we have been friends for almost 20 years, or this could have ended a lot differently.

Final stop, and one very full stomach later, was dessert.  Stations by Decadent Flavor offered up mini donuts with sugar/spice toppings.  My SO and I got the small bag with half pumpkin spice (him) and half salted caramel (me).  So good.

Decadent Flavor collage

As I mentioned previously, there were over 40 food trucks/sponsor tents there that day.  There is no way we could hit all of them.  As much as we wanted to.

Beverage options were also available.  There was a beer/sangria/water tent right when you walked in.  You had to buy tickets for these.  You could pre-purchase these online before you go.  A VIP upgrade was available that included early admission and drink tickets.  There was also a pretty cool looking old-fashioned soda pop truck.

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And then there was this:

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A cored pineapple with the insides pureed like a slushie.  Topped with a skewer of gummies and fruit roll-ups.  With a generous sprinkling of Nerds candies.  And yes, alcoholic versions were available.

Some tables/chairs were available, but the event organizers recommend bringing your own.  You should also bring your appetite.  Happy Eating!

Cirque du Soleil VOLTA

(Not from Chicago?  Find a show near you or coming soon.)

Blogger’s note: Action photos are not easy to capture so, apologies for some of the burry images.

I really enjoy Cirque du Soleil.  So does my SO.  We saw our first show in Orlando years ago and were blown away by the theatrics, beauty, and unbelievable acrobatic talent of its performers.  There are many different versions of this show and VOLTA is here in Chicago right now.  It has set up its big top in Soldier Field’s South parking lot and is here until July 6.

Cirque du Soleil means “Circus of the Sun” or “Sun Circus”.  The Canadian company is also the largest theatrical producer in the world.  Each show is combination of different circus styles from around the world.  There are currently 20 different productions (permanent and touring) all over the world right now.  Las Vegas alone has 7 permanent ones to choose from!  As a matter of fact, my all-time favorite one, “O” is based there in the Bellagio Hotel.

“Volta is the title of Cirque du Soleil’s big top show which is themed around extreme sports. The show’s storyline is about a game show contestant named Waz, who has lost touch with himself; he starts a personal quest to find his true self by going through his memories, after discovering a group of free spirits who encourage him during this process.” – Wikipedia

The extreme sports portion was just two segments involving BMX bikes.  Super cool stunts and tricks.  One of the acts was a rider doing spins and tricks on his bike while another performer danced around him.  It was honestly pretty beautiful.  The other segment had five riders performing stunts and tricks on a half-pipe.  Watching them land after doing spins and flips was edge-of-your-seat fun.

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Besides the extreme sports, there was the usual mix of acrobatics, both floor and aerial, dance and music.

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One of my favorite acts of the night was the trampoline acrobatics.  When they first brought the structure out, I got excited because I had seen something similar in another production.  Then, they revealed it to have trampolines on both sides.  Brilliant.

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Another pleasant aspect of the shows is the fitness level of the acrobats.  The guys are super ripped and the women have toned dancer bodies.  Sadly, I was only able to get this one picture.

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Tickets start at $70.00 (the site says $49 but that is for kids 2-12).  I was able to find discounted tickets on Goldstar for $35.00 (plus fees, but you would be paying those from their site as well).  This is a small venue so even the seats in the back or off to the side (we were both) were still pretty good.  It is a circular stage, so the performers work all angles and the stage rotates.

The show is only here for another two weeks so get your tickets soon!

Jazzin’ at the Shedd

On Wednesdays in the summer, the Shedd Aquarium hosts an event called “Jazzin’ at the Shedd” and it is just what it sounds like.  A jazz band performs while you explore the many levels of the aquarium.  When the weather cooperates, these bands play outside on the terrace.  Thanks to the rain that never ends in 2019, we had to experience the music indoors.

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The John G. Shedd Aquarium opened its doors to the public on May 30, 1930.  It operates as an aquarium and museum of aquatic life.  It provides educational services to the public and conducts scientific research to further support and protect marine wildlife.  It is hard to find someone who has lived in Chicago (or its suburbs) and has not visited the Shedd Aquarium at some point in their lives.  Along with the Planetarium and the Field Museum, the Aquarium is part of what is now known as the “museum campus”.

From 5:00 – 10:00 pm on these select dates, the museum is closed to the public for this private event.  For the price of admission ($20 for Chicago residents, $25 for Non-residents, Free to Members), guests have access to the full aquarium as well as the live music playing that night.  The Jazzin’ season will run through August and a list of performers can be found here.

With this being a special event, and a weeknight, the aquarium was not crowded.  At all.  We were able to get right up to the glass at each exhibit without waiting.

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The five-hour admission is more of an “open house” format.  Come late, leave early.  Whatever works with your schedule.  A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Food and drinks are served, however, they are an additional cost to the night.

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  • Some exhibits close early. We decided to eat at a restaurant instead of the event.  Due to our late arrival, we missed the chance to visit the Oceanarium (it closed at 7:45 pm).
  • Another bonus that comes with admission is that you can view the Wednesday night Navy Pier fireworks from the terrace. For an additional $20, you can even reserve a spot on a Shoreline cruise to get you even closer to the display.

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I have made many trips here with my kids that it was nice to explore the marine life on my own.  Additionally, there were very few children present that night.  This is not advertised as an “adults only” event but only a handful of couples brought their kids.  Not that I have anything against kids, but aren’t “date nights” and excuse to get away from your own for a few hours?

Sometimes date-nights can be on a weeknight.  Break up your week with a little Jazz and an ocean of fish!

Art on the Mart

PRO TIP:  If you don’t read any further than this, take my advice and BRING HEADPHONES (more on that later).

Art on the Mart is a permanent public art experience along the Riverwalk in Chicago.  Lights and pictures are projected onto the entire south side of the Merchandise Mart.  Introduced in September of 2018, the art installation is presented by the City of Chicago and the League of Chicago Theaters.

theMART (formerly the Merchandise Mart), located in the River North neighborhood between Wells and Orleans streets, is the world’s largest commercial building and design center.  It spans two whole city blocks and is 25 stories tall.  theMART has been an icon in Chicago’s architectural city since it was built in the 1930s.

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On May 13, 2019, Art on the Mart expanded its projections to seven days a week for the summer.  Projections begin about 15 minutes after sunset.  Approximate sunset times are listed on their website calendar.  This summer program will run through September 29, 2019.

I would recommend getting there at least a half hour early.  There really isn’t “seating” available, except on the edges of some landscape ledges.

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Before the show starts, there is a projection instructing you to visit the website for audio.  They do not play this publicly, so if you don’t have headphones with you, you are out of luck.  Trying to play it through the speaker on your phone didn’t work that well.  Some of the light projections are set to music and some of the projections were performances from theater performers, visual artists and puppeteers.

The display is visible for 2 hours.  I’m not sure if it repeats at some point.  We didn’t stay that long.  If you are feeling adventurous, we saw a good number of kayakers enjoying the visual display on the river during that night.

If you are in the city, this is definitely worth fitting into your agenda.  This is also a FREE activity so that is always a bonus.  Just make sure you have headphones.