Here is a little-known secret: there is nothing to do in Chicago in the winter. Clarification: nothing to do between January second and oh, say, the middle of March to the end of April, depending on how beneficent Mother Nature is that year. After you’ve ice skated at Millennium Park, pretty much the only thing left to do is drink. Or eat chocolate. And that’s only because there are two holidays in the intervening months that celebrate those exact undertakings (though let’s be honest, if those two actions are holiday specific, then I’m celebrating something every damn day). Really, the only thing to do during those dark days is get out last year’s Snuggie, GrubHub all your meals, and marathon True Detective. Maybe mix in an Oscar contender here and there when you’re feeling sophisticated.
But now, the weather is finally turning, so it’s time to put on actual clothes, throw away all your takeout containers, and tear your eyes away from Matthew McConaughey – I know; it’s hard. But don’t worry: the month of April has plenty of reasons for you to begin warming up for the marathon that will be a Chicago summer. Here are some of the craziest April holidays, and how you can celebrate them in the Windy City.
National Bacon Month: BaconFest, April 25th and 26th. To hear it from any red-blooded, football-and-beer-loving, American male between the ages of twenty and forty (and let’s face it, what subject isn’t that demographic an expert on?), bacon is the best thing since sex. (Okay, almost.) So how to celebrate an entire month dedicated to it? With BaconFest, of course. Saturday is already sold out, but you can still get in on the Friday action here. You can even be charitable whilst playing Russian roulette with your arteries. Check out all the restaurants serving amazing bacon dishes, of which they send a portion of the profits to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. What tastes better than a Good Samaritan maple-bacon vanilla milkshake? Nothing, probably.
How to do it: Check out the BaconFest website.
P.S. Not going to be in Chicago until after April? Never fear. Paddy Long’s on Diversey is a self-proclaimed “beer and bacon pub,” serving, among other things, beer-battered bacon and a tasty concoction called “bacon grenades” – all year long.
National Humor Month: Chicago Improv Festival, March 31st-6th. Chicago is always arguably the top city in the U.S. to head to for some guaranteed laughs, but while anyone can see a Second City show at anytime, only you can undertake a marathon of comedy. Every sort of improv imaginable – short form, long form, musical – will be performed at theaters all over the city, so wherever you’re staying, chances are there’s a show in the area for you to catch. Feeling adventurous? Then sign up for one of the workshops, hosted by some of the biggest names in the improv business.
And to think Jenny from Accounting was bragging about seeing Wicked when she was here.
How to do it: Head to www.chicagoimprovfestival.org
Go For Broke Day: April 5th. Oh, so many delicious interpretations of this holiday. Pick your poison and take one of each flavor (Sprinkles, Glazed and Infused, and Black Dog Gelato). Splash out at the most expensive and creative restaurant in the city (Alinea). Re-create Ferris Beuller’s Day Off and The Blues Brothers. For the former, all you need is a Ferrari and a parade; for the latter – well, Chicago is lousy with aspiring musicians (although Aretha Franklin might be tough to get a hold of). Go on a helicopter tour of the city. Visit all the attractions in one day. Get creative!
How to do it: See above. (Also, load up on espresso.)
How not to do it: Do not propose on the JumboTron at a Cubs/Hawks game. Seriously, just don’t.
The release of Divergent: March 21st. Okay, it’s not exactly crazy and it isn’t a holiday and it isn’t in April, but how cool will it be to see the city you’re visiting reimagined in dystopian glory? See the now-bustling Merchandise Mart repurposed as a faction headquarters, a Dauntless army marching through the streets of the Loop, gutsy kids jumping on and off the ceaseless trains in a darker, spookier Chicago than the one you find yourself strolling through. (Just don’t try and climb the Ferris wheel. Not only will it probably get you arrested; it will also likely be moving and loaded with small kids. So, trickier climbing.)
How to do it: Check out www.amctheatres.com for show times; to do your own walking tour of the locations, check out your guidebook – the addresses for all the major attractions will be in there.
So come on, and ring in the spring Chicago-style.
Just make sure to leave the Snuggie at home.