Binge Watch This! – Modern Love on (Amazon) Prime Video

Modern Love debuted 15 years ago in the New York Times in October of 2004.  It began as a column of essays about love, loss and relationships in general.  To date, there are over 750 columns in their archives.  If you are interested in reading some of these, the NYT has compiled  “a collection of 25 of the most read, most shared and most memorable Modern Love essays”.

The Modern Love podcast debuted in January 2016.  Each week one essay is read by an actor or actress.  For the purpose of this blog, I downloaded two episodes.  The first, by the fabulous Catherine O’Hara.  The second, by the adorable John C. Reilly.  Side note:  if you are not watching Schitt’s Creek, you are denying yourself Ms. O’Hara at her absolute best.  I’m not sure if Modern Love tries to pair the actor/actress with the right story, but I found both of these to be that much more enjoyable when I pictured that person as the main character in the story.

Modern Love debuted on Prime Video in October 2019.  It consists of eight 30-minute episodes based on actual essays submitted.  Not all of these short stories are hits, but I had a few favorite episodes from the eight:

#3 – Take Me as I Am, Whoever I Am.  This is a pretty powerful episode about a woman (Anne Hathaway) who is struggling with the dating scene as a single woman with a bipolar disorder.  I am not a fan of Anne Hathaway, however, she is fantastic in this role.

#4 – Rallying to Keep the Game Alive.  This episode is my blog in a nutshell.  A couple on the verge of becoming empty-nesters, they realize they have spent so many years focusing on their children, they forgot to focus on their marriage.  Based on an essay submitted by Anne Leary (wife of actor Dennis Leary), this couple discovered that finding activities to do as a couple is key to keeping the relationship on track (or getting it back on track).  This episode could be considered a cautionary tale of where you could end up if you continue to put your marriage on the back burner.  Whether you are almost empty-nesters, parents of younger children, or just the two of you – sharing experiences that you both enjoy will only serve to strengthen your bond in the long run.

#7 – Hers Was a World of One.  Only because it starred the hot priest (Andrew Scott) from Fleabag season 2.  Also, on Amazon Prime.  Also, amazing.  It just won a bunch of Emmys.  For a reason.

If you still can’t get enough Modern Love after watching the Prime episodes, you can read all of the essays and tiny love stories here, you can purchase the book, and you can follow Modern Love on Facebook.

Check out the official trailer below (courtesy of YouTube) and enjoy these feel-good stories together!

Road Trip: China Lights

(Not from Chicago? Other light displays can be found in these states)

China Lights is a large-scale lantern display that has to be seen to be appreciated. My pictures will not do it justice.  But just to give you an idea of how cool it is:

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Lantern festivals can be traced back more than 2000 years to the Han Dynasty. Traditionally, this festival took place on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese calendar. People prayed for good health and good fortune by lighting lanterns and shooting fireworks in the sky.

This festival takes place on the grounds of the Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners, WI. It consists of almost 40 displays constructed with bright colors and illuminated with LED lighting.  Right now, the botanical garden is open from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. The China Lights festival then opens from 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm (closed Mondays). I would definitely recommend getting there after the sun sets to experience the full effect of the light display.

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Tickets are $20 per person (less for children and seniors). I found a deal on Groupon that gets you admission plus the mobile guide (a self-guided mobile tour app – $5.00) for only $19.00. I purchased our tickets this way but never figured out how to access the mobile guide. You don’t need the guide to navigate your way through the festival so I wouldn’t pay extra for it if I were you. You can also pre-purchase parking online as well. For $10, you get a spot in a lot right next to the entrance for China Lights. There is also complimentary (free) parking and shuttle service, but I was not up to the challenge of finding those lots in an area I was not familiar with.

The displays were much larger and more colorful than I expected.

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There was also a description of that display’s significance to China’s history at many of the stops.  Maybe this is where the mobile guide would have been useful . . .

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Some of the displays had changing colors and some of them had moving parts (watch the flowers).

Stage performances, highlighting Asian culture and art, took place as well. We caught two different acrobatic acts.

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It was a chilly night for us, but this was definitely worth the trip.  If you can make it there before it closes next week, I highly recommend this.  If not, I will keep you posted on its return next year!

The 25 Year Switch on Pinterest

The 25 Year Switch is now on Pinterest! I have created the page to allow for easier access to previous blog posts. This will also make it easier for you to find date night activities or to find a post about a specific activity.  In addition to the link above, there is also a Pinterest button on the homepage of my website:

Home page button





There are a variety of boards for you to find the perfect outing. Clicking on any “pin” will link you to my blog post. In there, you can read about the activity and find links to get current dates/times as well as ticket information.

Link to the blog

First, let’s talk about the “month” boards. This option will have links to the activities that only occur on a single date in that month. For example, in the photo below, you can see the board for October. I have a link in October for the Bacon and Beer Festival. This was a one-day event that occurs every year.  These will be helpful if you need to plan ahead.


I will have a board for the seasons as well as a “Limited Time” board. This one will be ever changing as I add and delete activities that are only happening for a short time. Like Jack’s Pumpkin Pop-up, which is open from October 3 – November 3.

Limited Time

You also might notice that some of my blog posts appear in more than one board. That is because some activities fall into more than one category.  The Chicago Blackhawks Training Camp Festival is a sporting event, however, it also takes place on a single day in September.  I think this will make it easier for you to find what you are looking for.

Multiple Categories


There is a glitch in the Pinterest app if you are accessing it from your phone. Right now, if there are only two “pins” in a category, it shows the same picture twice even though they are different. Currently, in the Heritage Corridor Ale Trail board, I have a blog post about Miskatonic Brewery and another blog post about the three breweries we visited down in Starved Rock County. But the app shows the photo for Miskatonic twice. Once you click on the whole board, you will see two different blog post options. Hopefully, this kink will work itself out once I add more posts about the Ale Trail.

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Follow me on Pinterest and, hopefully, this will be an easy-to-use tool for when you inevitable ask each other “What should we do this weekend?”!

Heritage Corridor Ale Trail – Back Door Lounge, Lodi Tap House, and Tangled Roots Brewing Company

This blog is a companion piece to my blog about hiking in Matthiessen State Park.  All three of these breweries are part of the Heritage Corridor Ale Trail passport so we figured, as long as we were down in Starved Rock County, we might as well hit all three of them.

Our first stop upon exiting the park was Back Door Lounge at Starved Rock Lodge and Conference Center.  Unlike other breweries on the Ale Trail, Back Door Lounge does not brew its own beer on site.  They do offer a Starved Rock Signature Ale, produced by Leinenkugal Breweries, and a selection from Tangled Roots Brewing.

It’s small, but there is a great outdoor patio area that is shared with the Lodge.  We chose to sit outside since it was a beautiful day.  The Veranda is set on top of a bluff overlooking the Illinois River.  So, the views were incredible too.  Unfortunately, sitting on the veranda did not give us access to the menu of the brews on tap.  And we didn’t know that until we were leaving, so make sure you order from inside before you sit outside.

Additionally, you can order food from the Lodge to eat in the Lounge or on the Veranda. There is also live music on Friday and Saturday nights, year-round, with the bands playing on the Veranda in the summer months.

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The second stop took us to downtown Utica and Loti Tap House.  This is another small location, but the beer selection was impressive.  In these situations, I prefer to order a flight so that I can taste as many new beers as possible.  As with Back Door Lounge, they do not brew on site but offer a variety from other brewing companies.

The beer selection is ever changing and from this menu I chose the Strawberry Milkshake IPA, the Sour Berliner Weiss, the Watermelon Saison, the Blonde Ale with Strawberries, and the Cream Ale.  I do not care for IPAs at all, however, the Strawberry Milkshake was my favorite.

Loti Tap House has a decent menu and we opted to eat lunch here.  If you are using the Heritage Corridor Ale Trail app and checking in at each location, Lodi Tap House has a 10% off food bonus.

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Back on the road and heading home, we took one last detour into Ottawa, IL to visit Tangled Roots Brewing Company.  We only entered the Tap Room because we had already eaten and wanted to sit at one of the tables outside near the street.  Connected to the Tap Room is the brewery and a full-service restaurant called the Lone Buffalo.  If you are using the Heritage Corridor Ale Trail app, they offer a $3 pint with purchase of an entrée bonus.

You can take a tour of the brewery on Fridays at 4PM or Saturdays at 3PM.  Their beer selection also changes with the season.  Opting once again for a flight, I chose to sample the Kit Kupfer Amber Ale, the Vermillion River Weiss, the Matthiessen English Mild, and the River Raptor Pale Ale.  My favorite, to my surprise, was the Matthiessen.  Dark beers are not my thing, and I definitely could not drink a whole pint of this one, but it was incredibly flavorful.

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So take a day trip, do some hiking, stop at one of these establishments for food, and definitely drink some beer.  It really does hit the spot after a long hike!

Hiking in Matthiessen State Park

Full disclosure: some of my photos are from a previous hike because the waterfalls were much fuller than the hike we did recently.

If you live in Illinois, you have probably heard of Starved Rock State Park.  Matthiessen State Park is just south of Starved Rock.  It is a smaller park with a shorter hike, but it is one of my favorites because of the waterfalls.  For the best possible waterfalls, I would recommend taking this hike between April and June.

Matthiessen State Park is located in Oglesby, IL.  For me, living in the western suburbs, it was a little over an hour’s drive.  If your drive is longer, there are plenty of options for camping as well as lodging (if camping is not your thing).  Camping is never my thing, just saying.

The hiking in Matthiessen is split into two levels: and Upper Dell and a Lower Dell.  The Upper Dells has gravel surfaced hiking trails that look down into the canyons.

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The hike in the Lower Dells is well-marked but a bit more rustic.  If you head down into the lower dells, and I highly recommend you do, be prepared for the stairways.  There are various sections of the lower dells and you will get a workout taking each of those steps.

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Once you get down into the lower dells, the views are incredible.  Beautiful rock formations, bluffs, and deep canyons.

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You will find, along your hike, carvings into the sandstone.  Mostly names.  While I do not agree with defacing nature in such a way, I do have to chuckle a little when I see something like this:

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One of my favorite things to look for when I hike are exposed root systems.  I don’t know why but I find this creepy and cool at the same time.  It looks like a den of snakes (creepy) but I am amazed at the beauty of nature itself.  Seriously, how is this tree still standing with all of its roots above ground?

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The main attraction at this state park are the waterfalls.  Catching them at their peak in the spring (or after multiple days of rainfall) will also require you to wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet and/or muddy.

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I would imagine this hike would also be really pretty in late September through October to see the changing colors on the trees.  While you are down there, check out the restaurants and brew pubs in downtown Utica.  A beer tastes really good after a long hike!

AVP Volleyball Championship Gold Series

Volleyball is one of my favorite sports to watch and play.  I’ve never played competitively, just recreationally.  I look forward to this event in the Olympics as well.  When you think of beach volleyball, you (or at least I) picture the sandy beaches and year-round accommodating temperatures of California.  But every year, on Labor Day weekend, the pros come to Chicago for a weekend tournament.  And the public is invited to join in on the fun.  And the best part is – it’s free!

The AVP tournament takes place right along the lake at Oak Street Beach.  Aside from watching top tier players, you also have the sound of the waves crashing behind you and the architecture along Lake Shore Drive as your backdrop.  What more could you ask for?

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The first and second round of play took place on Friday.  Games started as early as 8:00 AM.  We were able to fit this in on Saturday afternoon when they had whittled the match-ups down to the quarterfinals.  The nice thing about this tournament is that, once a match is finished playing, the stands start to thin out until the next one starts.  So, there was never a problem finding a spot to sit.

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There were additional options for upgraded seating, but they were pricey.

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Another great thing about this tournament is the ability to bring in your own snacks and water.  Which we did not do because we did not know.  Next year we will be prepared because they also didn’t have much in the way of food/drinks to purchase.  The one bar we found did not allow you to leave the area with a drink.  What they did have, however, were many sponsor tents handing out free samples or selling their products at a significant discount.

The first match we watched was in the women’s bracket.  Emily Day and Betsi Flint won this one and eventually ended up in the Championship game on Sunday.  April Ross and Alix Klineman won the second match we watched which also put them in the final game on Sunday.  Ross is an Olympic Silver (2012) and Bronze (2016) medalist in beach volleyball.  These were the top 2 seeded teams in the tournament and Ross/Klineman eventually won the Championship.



The final match we watched was in the men’s bracket.  This game was a little more exciting because the number 1 seed (Budinger/Patterson) was taking on the (underdog) number 20 seed (Lotman/Partain) in the quarterfinal round.  The Lotman/Partain pairing was interesting because Miles Partain is only 17 years old.  His partner is 33.  They have only played a handful of times together, yet, they held their own through the entire match.  They lost both games by just the 2-point margin but Budinger and Patterson had to work (hard) for those wins.


There are AVP tournaments year-round, all over the US.  But if you happen to live in Chicago, find your way down to Oak Street Beach on the next Labor Day weekend!

Be A Tourist In Your Own City – Architecture Boat Tour (Wendella Boats)

One of our favorite things to do with friends who come in for a visit, is to take them into the city for an architecture boat tour.  It is a combination of being on the water, catching some rays and great views, and soaking up a little history of our big city.  There are many companies to choose from and different types of tours to fit your needs.  I chose Wendella Boats based on recommendations from friends, specifically for the Lake & River Tour.

Wendella offers 3 types of tours and 10 different cruises.  The tours vary in length (45, 75, or 90 minutes) and subject.  You can take a condensed river, full river, or lake and river combo tour.  The cruises also vary in length and activity.  Get romantic on a sunset cruise, catch the Wednesday and/or Saturday light show on the fireworks cruise, or sample some libations on the wine and cheese or whiskey tasting cruises.  They even have special event cruises for St. Patrick’s Day and the 4th of July.  I would imagine those book up quickly.

Prices are different for each type of boat ride you are taking.  The Lake & River Tour costs $39.00 and they offer multiple dates/times to choose from.  Sorry, I couldn’t find any discount codes that worked.  However, they offer discounts for college students, Military personnel, Chicago First Responders, and Veterans and Reservists (all with a valid ID).

The boat itself is large and there is plenty of seating to choose from.  I have sat in the front, back, and along the sides (I told you we take a lot of friends on this adventure!).  You can hear the tour guide from every angle, so you don’t have to worry about being first in line to board.

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The tour guides are very knowledgeable, not only about the architecture, but also about the history of the river and the city of Chicago.  You begin your trip by heading down the river, away from the lake.  I am not as knowledgeable as the tour guides, so I will simply share with you some of my favorite buildings and/or details on the façade.

This first picture is looking back up the river after we passed the Merchandise Mart:

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This photo is of the decorative masks that are part of the façade of the Civic Opera House (home to the Lyric Opera):

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The story behind the top of the Carbide and Carbon building is that it was meant to look like the top of a champagne bottle:

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The new sleek, shiny style architecture doesn’t really do it for me.  I love the look of the classic older buildings.  Like the Wrigley Building:

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And of course, it wouldn’t be a Chicago architecture tour without the iconic Sears Tower:

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At this point, the boat turns around and heads back up the river and covers buildings with better views from that direction.  At the end of the river, the boat enters the Chicago Harbor Lock.  The lock was originally built as a component in reversing the flow of the river back in the 1930s.  Now, its main function is to prevent the river from flooding.  Once in the lock, the boat sits idle while the water level rises up to Lake Michigan.  You have to go through this process again, in reverse, on your way back.

Once on the lake, the tour takes you around Navy Pier and then a short distance north of that.  The views, on a good day, are spectacular.

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Then the boat turns around and takes you south.  Not far enough to hit the museums, but you still get a clear view of the campus and the south end of the city.

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Tours are offered year-round (weather permitting) if you would prefer to pass on the city in the summer heat.  I don’t know if you can bring food on the boat, but they do offer a full-service bar with snacks you can purchase.  They also offer a climate-controlled lounge on the main level in case of rain or cooler temps.

So next time you have friends visiting from out of town, or you just want to have a “staycation” in the city, make some time for one of these boat tours.  You might even learn something new about the city!

Road Trip – Waterfall Tour

Waterfalls.  I love the sound of the water rushing over the rocks.  I love the power of the current as it sweeps everything in its path and takes it for a ride.  You don’t see many waterfalls here in Illinois, so that is why I had to take a road trip to find some decent ones.

I have a friend, my best friend actually, who has a house on Green Bay in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  One of the top things to do In Marinette County is a waterfall tour.  If you go to the county’s website, they have a list of each location along with a link to the Google Map to get you there.  The waterfalls are laid out so that you hit them all.


Now, you probably don’t want to drive 4 hours out of your way to see some waterfalls in Michigan unless you live there.  You might be surprised to find there is probably a waterfall tour somewhere near you if you are up for a full day of driving and hiking.  All I did was Google “waterfall tour in Illinois” and I found an “Ultimate Illinois Waterfall Road Trip”.   This one is more of a one-way day trip.  But you could crash at a bed and breakfast and then find a different road trip for the ride home.  The website Only In Your State maps out a bunch of these for you.  Taco tour?  Best Tiki Bars?  Best thrift stores?  Best fall foliage?

Anyway, back to the waterfall tour in the UP.  There were 12 stops on the map and we hit 9 of them.  We left their house at 10:30 am and didn’t return until 8:30 that night!  Some waterfalls required a hike to get there.  None were too far.  You could usually hear the rush of the water as soon as you stepped out of your car.  Some of the hikes were a little more rugged than the others but they do have signs.

Some tips:

  1. pack a snack.  You don’t know how remote some of these hikes are and restaurants might not be readily available.
  2. Same goes for gas stations so start with a full tank.  Bug spray was necessary on some of the hikes.
  3. Most (not all) of these stops had port-a-pottys.  So it is safe to drink lots of water.
  4. Don’t try to do this in flip-flops.  Seriously.

Here are some of my favorite falls:

12 Foot falls

Long Slide Falls

Strong Falls

I could sit here and watch and listen to this all day . . .

If waterfalls aren’t your thing, find a road trip that suits your interests. Chances are someone has already mapped it out for you.  Spending quality time on a road trip with your SO can be fun!

Water Lantern Festival

(Not from Chicago?   This event takes place in other cities in Illinois as well as other states)

Mark your calendars for next year – this is an activity I will definitely do again.

The Water Lantern Festival is an uplifting experience where family, friends, and strangers come together to celebrate.  What did we celebrate?  Everything.  Life, love, loss, goals, successes.  Wherever you are in life right now.

We attended the Chicago event, which took place at the lagoon in Lincoln Park Zoo.  Funny story, it was originally planned for Humbolt Park but had to be changed due to the alligator invasion (aka “Chance the Snapper”).  If you would like to avoid going into the city, this experience took place in some suburbs as well:

Illinois locations

If you are not from Illinois, there are events all over the continental United States, as well as Internationally.

The launch itself didn’t start until 9:00 pm but gates opened up to attendees at 5:30 pm.  The first thing we did was check in.  With your admission, you received a sling bag.  Inside was a lantern kit and a sharpie.

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The next step was to pick our spot to relax at while we waited for the launch.  Bringing a blanket and chairs is highly recommended.  You could wheel in your own cooler with food and drinks too.  Since this was our first time and did not know what to expect, we brought none of this.  Big mistake.  Luckily for us, they had some fantastic food trucks available for this (always) hungry girl.  We also got there early enough to snag a spot on a short concrete wall around this lagoon.

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There was plenty of time then to decorate and set up your lantern.  As I mentioned above, there were many different themes.  Mine was a nod to my blog and its theme of spending time together doing activities.  “Enjoy experiences, not things”.  My SO’s lantern was dedicated to loss.  He has, unfortunately, experienced significant loss in the past and honored those loved ones.  A young couple near us was celebrating their love with their names, significant dates, and LOTS of hearts.  Whatever you are going through is worth celebrating or honoring.

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A half hour before the launch they invited people to come up to a stage and share their stories.  Young girls, easily under 10, speaking out about bullying and being true to who you are.  People talking about following your passion.  Cancer survivors.  Such uplifting and emotional stories.

The launch started at 9:00 pm.  You could put your lantern in the water right away or take your time.  Float time lasted until 10:30 pm.  While everyone was setting their lanterns into the lagoon, inspirational music played on the speakers.  “Hallelujah” by Rufus Wainwright.  “Over the Rainbow” by israel kamakawiwo’ole.  If you are not familiar with these two versions, I will leave them at the end for your listening pleasure.  You can thank me later.

We were not able to stay all the way until the end (because mosquitos LOVE me), but the sight of the lanterns drifting in the water was just so pretty.  All carrying messages of hope, healing, happiness, and peace.  And this was only maybe half of them:

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Set a reminder to look into this festival near you next year.  The proceeds benefit multiple charities and you and your SO will have a date night to remember!

Videos below courtesy of YouTube

A Girl’s Gotta Eat – The Taste of Chicago

The very first Taste of Chicago kicked off on July 4, 1980 on a blocked off section of Michigan Avenue.  Organizers anticipated 100,000 attendees but over 250,000 showed up.  The event moved to Grant Park the following year and became one of the world’s largest food festivals.  Additional changes were made in 2012 when organizers shortened the event from 10 days down to 5.  It also moved the event dates away from the July 4th weekend.

This year’s event runs from July 11-15 in Grant Park.  Wednesday – Friday hours are 11:00 am – 9:00 pm and then Saturday – Sunday hours are 10:00 am – 9:00 pm.  Admission is FREE but then you have to purchase tickets for food and beverages.  A strip of 14 tickets will run you $10.  You can purchase these online prior to the event (and pick them up at will call I am assuming), however, you are limited to only 2 strips per purchase this way.  And you will be hit with an additional $3.00 amenities surcharge.  Per strip.  And let me tell you, 14 tickets will not get you very far.  Here is what you should expect to spend, according to their website:

Plan Your Purchase:
“Taste of” Food Portions: 5-6 tickets
Full Food Portions:10-12 tickets
Soda/Water: 7-8 tickets
Beer: 11-14 tickets
Wine/Cocktails: 10-14 tickets

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This year over 80 eateries will be participating.  Some of these will be restaurants that are set up for all 5 days.  Some will be food trucks.  And some will be pop-ups that will only be there for one or two nights.  The Taste’s website has a great list of who will be there and what they will be serving.  It also tells you who will be in the rotating pop-up stands on each night.

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Beverages were available in all forms as well.  Goose Island, CH Distillery, and Stella Rosa all had their own tented lounge areas, but you could get other beer, wine, and cocktails at bar stands scattered throughout the festival.


Apparently, there is entertainment as well.  I was only there for the food.  Music and cooking demonstrations are taking place all day.  You can see the full schedule here.

But let’s talk about the food.  Like the food truck festivals, this event is better with a group so you can try a variety of foods.  There were many Chicago staples there such as Lou Malnati’s pizza and the Billy Goat Tavern.  We are big fans of trying new things so here are some of the things we tasted:

Jerk Chicken with red beans and rice from Vee Vee’s African Restaurant:

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Mango Beef Salad from Arun’s:

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Snake Bites from Chicago’s Dog House:

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Five Spice Szechuan chicken from Lao Sze Chuan

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Cheddar Bacon Bun from Buscia’s Bacon Buns

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Italian Beef & Giardiniera Grilled Cheese from Doom Street Eats

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And then we finished strong with dessert.  The first was a Funnel Cake Sundae from Churro Factory – Xurro:

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And then some of us opted for something a little lighter with a scoop of Mango Ice Cream from Star of Siam:

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Parking is always an issue downtown, but you can get a discount at the millennium garages if you pre-purchase them online.

So, plan a day downtown during the fest and pop in and out for lunch, dinner, and dessert.  There is so much to choose from!