It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Halloween is finally over and stores all across the city are preparing for the
holidays. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been listening to Christmas music
since July and you are ready to start celebrating. However, chances are you
fall among the majority who are just starting to embrace the start of the
festivities. Regardless, Chicago is getting everyone excited with all of its
yearly holiday traditions. If you’ve decided to spend November and December in
the city, here are some of my favorite things to do to get you in the Christmas
CTA Holiday Train
Anyone who lives in Chicago, is familiar with
the beloved CTA trains. Starting around the end of November, a few of the trains
will be fully decked out with holiday decorations. When I first moved to the
city, I was so happy to hear that this was something that they did. It’s so
exciting when you’re waiting for the train and the one that comes is decorated
with lights and streamers. If you want to make sure that you get the chance to
ride one, they always post the schedule on the CTA website near the end of
November- so be on the lookout for that!
You can’t talk about Christmas in Chicago
without mentioning the Christkindlmarket. This little market transforms the
Daley Plaza into a European village with booths full of different food and
drinks for you to try. With new vendors every year, there’s always more to
explore. The booths range from food to handmade ornaments and little trinkets
you can give as gifts. Depending on the day you go, there might be live music
and more entertainment so be sure to check the online calendar. I always
recommend getting the hot chocolate in the souvenir mug, it’s a staple for
every holiday season.
Ice Skating at Millennium Park
This is by far my favorite thing about Christmas
in the city. Every year around November, they put up an ice rink in front of
our beloved Cloud Gate sculpture (more commonly known as “The Bean”) and open
it up to the public. Admission is free, but if you need to rent skates that’s
an option as well. There’s a big Christmas tree in the plaza and everyone is in
a wonderful mood. If you get the opportunity to go, I would absolutely
recommend you do so.
Song of the Week: All I Want For Christmas Is You- Mariah Carey :)
When I decided to move to Chicago for college, the weather was the last thing on my mind. I grew up in Wisconsin so temperatures below zero were something I was very familiar with. However, once I experienced my first winter in Chicago I quickly realized that I was not prepared at all. Last year, winter started in October and it lasted well into late April. I went home for winter break and came back equipped with my warmest sweaters as a way to beat the cold. I had to learn how to endure windy city winters the hard way, but in case you’d rather be prepared, here are some essential items to keep you warm all winter long.
A Wind Resistant Coat
Do your research on this one! Last October, I had a normal parka as my winter coat but after discovering the Chicago wind, I wished I had a coat that could protect me from it. Investing in a good winter coat something I can’t stress enough. If you’re tight on money, this is a good thing to put on your Christmas wish list.
I like to joke that Steve Jobs is my style icon because I’m always in a turtleneck. I have a handful of black turtlenecks in my closet that I like to layer underneath everything and it makes a world of a difference.
The Blanket Scarf
Imagine this: it’s 8 am and you have class in 30 minutes, but the sky outside your window is gray and you’re so comfortable underneath your mountain of blankets. Now imagine how happy you’d be if you could take a blanket to class with you. This, my friends, is the beauty of the blanket scarf. I am guilty of wrapping it around me like a blanket during class and let me just say that my quality of life has drastically improved since this discovery.
Just like the wind resistant coat, investing in a quality pair of boots is also key. Here in Chicago, walking is a big way to get around so you want to make sure that your feet are warm. I bought a pair of long Hunter Boots and use them as both rain and winter boots all year.
Song of the Week: Emmylou- Vance Joy :)
A lot of young people in this country don’t realize the privilege is sitting right in front of them. Unfortunately, there is a lot of apathy surrounding elections and voting, especially among the younger generations. With every passing election, voter turnout is lowering when now is the time that people need their voices to be heard. Most of the time, we think to ourselves that our vote isn’t going to change anything. However, your voice and your vote does matter! More often than not, candidates end up winning by a handful of votes- one of which could be yours. I turned eighteen right after the election in 2016 and I’ve spent the past couple of years learning about how important it is to vote. If voting is something you’re still unsure of, here are some reasons why you might want to reconsider.
It’s Our Generation
I’ll admit that in high school I was really uninterested in politics because they seemed to be happening in a world far away from mine. However, I could not have been more wrong. Young adults are just starting to live their lives and are probably more impacted by policies surrounding education, taxes, and healthcare. It’s important to know where you stand on these issues so that you can elect someone who will let you have a say in these laws.
Fight For What You Believe In
I know I am extremely passionate about the environment and am always looking for new ways to be more eco-friendly. Unfortunately, the biggest changes have to come from laws and policies for us to see any drastic improvement. When the time comes to elect a new representative, I always do research and find someone who cares just as much about going green. After finding an issue that I was really passionate about, I found myself wanting to get more involved with politics, and I encourage you to do the same.
Vote Because You Can
There are so many people right now in countries across the world fighting for a right that people in America often take for granted. It is such a gift to be able to participate in law-making and electing representatives. Don’t let your voice be silenced and exercise your rights. Becoming an adult also means becoming more informed and involved with the world around you.
Song of the Week: Simplify- Young the Giant :)
Even though this is my second year living in Chicago, I still haven’t visited a lot of the major attractions that drive tourists to our city. My love for history and learning has led me to visit all the museums, but for some reason, I never got around to going to the Shedd Aquarium. One of my roommates talks very highly of the aquarium and mentioned that this month, Illinois residents get free admission. With no plans on Sunday, we decided to make the trip to the Museum Campus so I could finally say I’ve been to the Shedd.
As we got off the train and got closer to the aquarium, we found ourselves trapped behind groups of Segways and strollers. It was a beautiful day, so naturally, several families had also planned trips to see the pretty sea life. Once we beat the crowds and were welcomed inside with lovely air conditioning, no time was wasted and we began to walk around the different exhibits. There’s something really special about being able to see such a variety of species interact with one another in their habitats. When we were in the shark exhibit, I couldn’t help but marvel at how graceful and calm they looked. In the past, I’ve always feared them, but now I just appreciate how incredible of an animal they are.
Another thing I really appreciated about the Shedd, was its determination to educate the public. Throughout the building, there were sculptures of different sea animals made entirely out of plastic. This encourages people to think twice about how their daily choices are affecting animals on the other side of the planet. Humans are tactile creatures with an amazing propensity for compassion. However, that compassion is often not founded from textbooks or television shows. Most people find it difficult to care about a species halfway around the world or to worry about the destruction of land they have never stepped foot on. Aquariums facilitate a connection between those who may never leave their country, or even their home state and the animals. I left the aquarium with a higher appreciation for ocean life, and made a promise to be mindful of every creature that lives on Earth.
If you get the chance to visit, the Shedd is a beautiful place to spend the afternoon. And I know for a fact that the beluga whales will be very happy to see you!
Song of the Week: Swallowed In The Sea- Coldplay :)
As someone who is incredibly keen on learning new things, going to museums is something I adore. With different exhibits surrounding a time period, idea, or area of study, it is evident that the primary goal of museums is to educate and engage its community. The environment that they cultivate provides an effortless yet effective way of learning. During the time I’ve lived here, something I have found myself feeling extremely grateful for is the wide array of museums to visit. And not only that but the fact that many of the museums are FREE to visit. Whether you’re interested in art, different cultures or science, I can guarantee that Chicago has a museum for you. In case you have no idea where to look, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best museums that I’ve encountered.
Song of the Week: This Beautiful Life- Colony House
- The Art Institute of Chicago. Notorious for the lion statues that guard the entrance and the beautiful garden on the side of the building, this museum is a must-see for any Chicago resident. Being home to my favorite painting, “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper, it’s only fair to say that this museum has a special place in my heart. A lot of their exhibits display well-known paintings including work by Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso. As a DePaul student, you get free admission year-round; which to me is the best gift anyone could ever give me.
- The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. I’ve noticed the letters “MCA” near the Water Tower on Michigan Avenue, but it wasn’t until my roommate told me about this museum that we actually went and visited. I’m a big fan of art (especially modern art) and I loved the variety of pieces that they showcased. This museum is free to Illinois residents every Tuesday (which includes students!!)
- The DePaul Art Museum. I’m embarrassed to say that it took me until this past Sunday to finally explore the museum on campus. This beautiful building is located right next to the Fullerton stop and right in front of the Wish Field. With 4-6 different exhibits being rotated annually, there is always something new to admire. :)
College is going to be a completely new experience. You’ll get to meet different people, move into a room with someone you may not know and make decisions independent of your parents. This is one of the most exciting yet trying times of your life. It’s very easy to get comfortable in our own worlds; which is why it’s important to remember that there is something to learn from every person you interact with. In dedicating time to hear about different experiences from others, there is the opportunity for individual growth.
I would say that my college experience here at DePaul has been unique to that of any other schools. With a campus in Lincoln Park and the Loop, I’ve had the chance to learn both inside and outside of the classroom. Chicago is home to 2.7 million beautiful people and living here has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of them. Building relationships and networking is a crucial skill to have as a young professional, and what better place to practice that than a big city school?
Not only have I had the chance to befriend people here at DePaul, but also at other universities in the Chicago area. This past year alone, I’ve met some incredible people from Loyola, Northwestern, and UIC. In doing so, my college experience has incorporated the different cultures from various universities. I love how accessible everything is via transit and how easy it is to go visit the different campuses.
There is something incredible about merging school cultures and getting to show other students around the best parts of campus. Some of my favorite people come from halfway across the country and I wouldn’t have met them had it not been for college. I carry a little piece of every person I’ve encountered with me, and I can’t wait to keep learning from new people. :)
Song of the Week: Real Peach- Henry Jamison
This weekend, a good friend of mine came to visit from Washington D.C. She had been to Chicago before but not for an extended amount of time. Aside from the main tourist attractions like Millennium Park and Maggie Daley, I got to show her around the pockets of the city that she hadn’t explored yet. It’s interesting to think that you could go from being a complete stranger to a city and then turn it into your home in a short amount of time. Only having lived here for six months, I’ve accumulated a long list of places to show people when they visit.
After spending the day downtown, we made our way to Old Town for a comedy show at The Second City
. The venue is massive, containing stages ranging in size to cater to any show they put on. We were seated in an intimate room where the comedians were only a few feet in front of the audience. Well known for its diverse set of shows and history, this comedy club is definitely one I would go back to. It incorporated stand up and musical comedy as well as ending the show with a live band performance. I had only been to one comedy show before but this one is easily high on my list of favorite experiences I’ve had while living in Chicago.
If you’re ever in town with no idea what to do, I would highly recommend checking out Second City. I left laughing harder than I had in a while and looking for another opportunity to go back and watch another show.
Song of the Week: Stay Alive-José González
There is something absolutely magical about going to a concert. You’re in a room full of strangers, bonded only by mutual love for the artist and their work, but within seconds you are connected. Being amidst excellence and pure talent makes you incredibly grateful to get to be a part of that experience. I love watching people pour every fiber of their being into their work and have that passion radiate through the speakers. It’s inspiring, encouraging and such a vital feeling of empowerment to indulge in. You get to experience the fullness of the art because the artist is right in front of you, carefully cultivating every moment that you will treasure in your memory every time you hear that song.
Chicago’s music scene is steeped in culture. Whether you enjoy classical, jazz or the latest hit on the radio, there are venues and artists here for everyone. The music scene was definitely a bonus when I moved here. I adore going to concerts; they’re one of the best experiences you can have. This past weekend a few friends and I had the opportunity to go see Florist and WHY? live at Lincoln Hall. Just a few blocks away from campus, Lincoln Hall is one of my favorite venues with live performances almost every day.
Both bands put on such a wonderful show, and due to the intimate nature of the venue, we were right by the stage. Afterward, I went to the bathroom and ran into the lead singer for Florist, Emily, and chatted with her for a few minutes. She told me about her journey as an artist and how being on tour has been unlike anything she’s ever experienced. Her energy was so calming and she was genuinely grateful for our support. It’s moments like these that make me so grateful to live in the city. If you’re ever curious to see what concerts are happening around you, check out chicago.ohmyrockness.com, they also let you know about free shows too!
Song of the Week: Cool and Refreshing-Florist
Contrary to popular opinion, Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. Despite all of the consumerism and overall panic that surrounds the holiday, to me, it’s always been one of the best times of the year. Valentine’s Day is a whole day that we dedicate to celebrating all kinds of love: love for your family, your friends, your partner and most importantly, yourself. It’s a day to look around and realize how many people appreciate and support you. Even though it’s one of the most dreaded holidays, I for one, am a huge fan of having another excuse to thank the people I care about. This year, I made my roommate pancakes to show her how much I appreciate her. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite random acts of kindness that
you can use to spread some love next time February 14th rolls around.
- Text someone good morning and send them warm thoughts
- Write positive sticky notes and leave them around your room or apartment as friendly reminders
- Pay for someone’s CTA commute (someone did this for me and it was the sweetest gesture)
- Send some flowers to friends that you haven’t seen in a while
- Smile at a stranger on public transit, just because
- Pay for the person behind you at Starbucks
- Leave a generous tip and a thank you note at for the server at your next meal
- Write and mail a letter to a family member or close friend
- Practice gratitude by allowing yourself a few moments in your day to reflect on all of the wonderful things you have in your life
I hope that everyone had a lovely Valentine’s Day, and I challenge you to spread love any way you can next February! :)
Song of the Week: Loving Is Easy- Rex Orange County
The only downside to living in the Midwest is that the winter seems to drag on way longer than they should. Visits from the sun are less frequent and the sky seems to have forgotten that there are colors besides white and gray. I’m the type of person that needs to be surrounded by natural color in order to be productive. That’s why this weekend I decided to make the trip down to the Garfield Park Conservatory and take a morning yoga class.
Popular for its stunning displays of diverse greenery, the Garfield Park Conservatory is the perfect place to escape the winter for an afternoon. Always free and open daily, this beautiful Chicagoan gem is about 45 minutes from campus right off the green line.
The conservatory has different activities that vary every month, and this past weekend a few friends and I decided to grab our mats and check out the yoga class that they offered. Accompanied by a hundred excited strangers of all ages, the room was packed and full of positive energy. I’ve done yoga in several different places, but this class was undeniably the best experience out of all of them. Decorated with a beautiful fountain in the middle, and surrounded by a diverse population of trees the ambiance of the room was perfect for a relaxing yoga practice. We enjoyed ourselves, to say the least.
There’s always something going
on at the conservatory. This yoga class runs every second and fourth Saturday of the month from 9-10 am. If you need a little pick me up, I would absolutely recommend you try it out. If yoga isn’t really your thing, I’m looking for someone to try the beekeeping class with me! :)
Song of the Week: Cool It Child- Hazlett
I’m stopping by to share some college student realness: you will spend many hours and many dollars at coffee shops. If you’re thinking “but I don’t really like coffee”, well, you will soon learn to like it out of necessity or succumb to peer pressure. As soon as midterms roll around, I always find myself consuming copious amounts of coffee in order to function properly. Chicago is pretty incredible and has a lot of places that you can try until you find a favorite. I’m fortunate enough to have a roommate that loves coffee and tea as much as I do and is very willing to try new places. Going out to coffee shops is a good way to surround yourself with a new environment and explore the city a bit more. To get you started, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites around campus.
Bourgeois Pig- Located a just a block past the School of Music, this is the most convenient place to visit. My favorite thing about this coffee shop is the cozy environment and the fact that most of the items on their menu have literary names. Not to mention, DePaul students get a 10% discount when you show your ID!
Colectivo Coffee- This coffee shop has a special place in my heart because the company started near my hometown in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Known for their funky vibes and iconic skull cups, this is where I go when I’m feeling homesick and want a really good cup of coffee. It’s a bit further of a walk but absolutely worth it. Their outdoor patio is gorgeous, so I’d recommend visiting when it’s warmer out.
Hero Coffee- This is a coffee shop to visit when it’s warm outside because their seating is located in the alley in front of the cafe. It’s a very popularly photographed place but it took me half an hour to find the first time I went. It’s hidden across the street from the Barnes & Nobles on campus and is definitely worth a visit.
Song of the Week: Shake It Out- Florence and the Machine