Hometown Pride: Chicago's LGBTQ Leaders on Their Favorite Summer Activities

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We asked leaders in Chicago’s LGBTQ community about their favorite things to do during the summer—and loved their insider tips and neighborhood know-how.

One mentioned the 48th annual Chicago Pride Parade (June 25, 2017). Most could barely contain themselves to just five picks.

Andrew Volkoff

Artistic director at About Face Theatre, which is dedicated to offering plays and artistic events that explore and celebrate LGBTQ dreams and challenges.
  1. Free Millennium Park Summer Concert Series. Andrew loves sitting beneath the stunning Jay Pritzker Pavilion, admiring the skyline and listening to free concerts on Monday and Thursday evenings through August. And Andrew’s not the only one—thousands of people bring picnic blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy an easygoing night out on the lawn. This year’s lineup includes a Juneteenth show (June 19), a celebration marking the day African-American slaves were emancipated.
  2. Street fairs. Particularly, Pride Fest (June 17–18, 2017), the PrideNorth Festival in Roger Park’s Glenwood Arts District (also held June 17–18), and the Northalsted Street Market (August 12–13, 2017). “It’s all about visibility, right? What we have been reminded of lately is that the [LGTBQ] situation has changed,” Andrew says. At these festivals, “you’re surrounded by people who want to hug you, kiss you. It’s so affirming, year after year.”
  3. Biking along the lakefront. Andrew likes to grab a bike from Wheel Fun Rentals at Foster Beach, hydrate (sort of) with a cup of coffee, and set out along the lakefront trail. The rentals cover everything from a kids’ trailer to a double-seat surrey.
  4. People-watching at Navy Pier. Chicago’s biggest tourist attraction welcomes more than 9 million people each year to its array of attractions, including IMAX movies, tour boats, and the iconic Ferris Wheel. But for a local like Andrew, he’s happy just hanging out and taking in the scene. “Get yourself a pretzel and a soda or beer, and it’s a cheap night out,” he says.
  5. Restaurants and bars. Edgewater Cafe in Berger Park has a summer menu of apps, salads, and sandwiches—and a great view overlooking Lake Michigan (Andrew loves the tiki torches). Marty’s Martini Bar also has a cozy patio and the best martinis in town. Andrew calls the rooftop bar at Down on Halsted “ridiculous!” 

Liz Garibay

Owner and operator of History on Tap, which shares Chicago’s history during beer-centered tours that include tastings of local and Midwest breweries. She also is a member of the Board of Directors for the Chicago Brewseum, which is set to open in 2019.
  1. Walking around Lincoln Park. Liz loves admiring the architecture of the homes and walking down the leafy streets. Behind the Chicago History Museum, you can see Lincoln Park (“the actual park,” she says). Spanning 1,200 acres in the heart of Chicago, the park includes a statue of Abraham Lincoln, walking paths, a beautiful view of the skyline, and a rather curious sight—a solitary grave. When workers removed graves from what used to be the Chicago City Cemetery, the Couch Mausoleum was the only stone that stayed behind. Ever the history buff, Liz loves seeing these remnants of the past. If you’re new in town, you can explore the neighborhood through a free Chicago Greeter tour. (Just be sure to register more than 10 days in advance.)
  2. Wrigley Field. “I’m a huge Cubs fan, so sitting in the ballpark is pretty up there (on my list). I take people from out of town,” says Liz, who grew up in Old Town. “It’s a happy place. It’s a really happy place. Especially now.”
  3. Her own tours. Not that she's here to self-promote, but History on Tap is fun for Liz, too. A special offering this year, “The Dead Brewers Society,” takes place at Chicago’s storied Graceland Cemetery, where many of Chicago’s most prominent citizens were buried—including a few people of interest. “There’s a lot of dead brewers in there!” Liz says. The tours also include beer tastings. “Beer always makes everything better.”
  4. Street fairs. “Going to a street fair—that’s very Chicago,” Liz says. Neighborhood festivals occur seemingly every weekend throughout the summer and fall; see the City of Chicago website for a full schedule.
  5. Eating, drinking, and dancing. For dinner, Liz loves the outdoor space at Orso’s Italian Restaurant in Old Town, where window boxes teeming with greens overlook the tables. The inside decor feels like an old-world Italian ristorante—Liz calls it a mash-up of Victorian and 1940s glam Hollywood. After a meal, Liz heads to Danny’s Tavern. Located on a residential strip of Bucktown, it feels like a house party from the moment you arrive. Friendly, down-to-earth bartenders (no so-called "mixologists" here) sling cheap drinks and chat freely with guests in the unassuming, multi-room space. “They have live DJs, literally, in the living room!” Liz says. Adding to the authenticity, those DJs spin vinyl.

Zoe Schor

Former executive chef at Ada Street and now the chef/owner of Splitrail Chicago, which will open this summer and serve Midwest farm-to-table cuisine.
  1. Green City Market. Zoe goes to a lot of farmers markets in Chicago, but this big, sustainable food market on the south end of Lincoln Park is her favorite. “Getting your hands on the produce you’re going to work with is priceless,” Zoe says. Held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the market is more than just a place for the public to go pick out fresh, healthy food—it’s like a matchmaking site that partners farmers with chefs. Many of the vendors, including Nichols Farm and Orchard in Marengo, IL, will deliver their high-quality produce directly to the restaurant.
  2. Going out on the lake. It’s the only place to get the best skyline view of Chicago. As a bonus, the poor cell service forces you to unplug and focus on the moment. Zoe goes out on her dad’s sailboat, but you can easily hop aboard one of the many cruise boats departing daily from Navy Pier. “In a city that’s in the middle of the country, to have a big lake like that is amazing,” Zoe says.
  3. The back patio at Sportsman’s Club. This bar in Ukrainian Village serves inventive cocktails, as well as craft beer and wine. “It’s kind of tucked away and hidden,” Zoe says. “They have different local chefs come and barbecue on the patio.” The summer barbecue series runs between June through mid-September—Zoe will take her turn at the grill in July!
  4. The Back Lot Bash. Women flock to this festival for sick live music, smart stand-up comedy, and celebration of gay pride. For 2017, Back Lot Bash includes a Girls Night Out on June 16; a new Whiskey, Wine and Women Tasting event on June 23; and a Pride street festival on June 24–25. This event in Andersonville is more manageable than the huge crowds of the Chicago Pride Parade.
  5. Parson’s Chicken and Fish. Hot sauce spices many of the entrees at this affordable farm-to-table spot in Logan Square, and you shouldn’t leave without trying the pie of the day courtesy of nearby Bang Bang Pie. To Zoe, the frozen cocktails are perfect for summer, especially the original Negroni slushy made with Letherbee gin, Luxardo bitter, sweet vermouth, and citrus.

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