Now, undoubtedly you turn to this page for all your travel needs – even the non-Chicago ones, perhaps, simply because you enjoy both the wealth of useful information and the professional tone of this column. In fact, you’ve undoubtedly spent the last month’s hiatus in a dither over travel decisions. Worst of all, perhaps you’ve actually just stayed home.
Unfortunately, the hiatus must endure a bit longer, because Cinderella is not going to perform itself. (For more on this debacle, check out www.dotheblogging.wordpress.com). Ergo (yep, that just happened, Merry Early Christmas to you), Examiner would like to present some lesser-known-but-cool Chicago travel guides you can turn to in the meantime. Just don’t get too thrown by their actual usefulness.
Herb Lester’s Hello Chicago
This “guide” is actually a fold-out map with all things quirky rather than quintessential. (Or perhaps the quirky is quintessential.) Are you more inclined to skip Navy Pier for the 1893 World’s Fair…or what’s left of it? Willing to forego Joe Schmo Chicago’s HoDo (ahem…Hot Dog; sorry, the consonants just didn’t fit with the trend) for a frankfurter paired with duck fat fries? Find out where at www.herblester.com. And if you still need convincing, here are two more reasons to check it out: 1) The company is British (so Chicago isn’t their home stomping ground, but they’ve got the quirky-cute in their DNA) and 2) Oprah loves it (see November issue of O magazine).
Design*Sponge, Chicago City Guide
If your Chi-town trip is even partially style-focused, this is your go-to guide. The best part is, it is a website (not a book), so the insider information is free! (Which is good, because you’ll need your pennies to buy what they’re sellin’.) This is the perfect fashionista or even culturati guide, because while any YSL-clad socialite with an iPhone can find the designer stores on Michigan Avenue, Jessica Herman (who updated the guide most recently), points you not only to lesser-known boutiques, but to shops selling everything from records to French antiques to home goods throughout all Chicago neighborhoods. So you can get your runway on…even in Wicker Park (go on, tick off the hipsters with your trendiness). Best of all, she includes a variety of great places to eat or drink, and ends the guide (just in case you’ve never heard of Travel Zoo) with the most popular attractions in the city.
Weird Chicago, Weird Chicago
Recently, The Guardian put out a list of best alternative travel guides. Worthy of a mention? Weird Chicago, the group that offers eponymously-themed tours (thus relieving you of the effort of translating guidebook suggestions into an schedule for yourself). However, they have published a book of the same name, filled with stories and histories of Chicago craziness, from mob bosses to loonies. You know, if you ever want to build an itinerary around insanity. (If you count Stephen King among your top authors or view Richard Castle as your alter-ego, this is the one for you. Order the book on Amazon or check out their website at www.weirdchicago.com.)
Insight Guides, Chicago Select
A pocket-sized travel guide that tells you where all the “oh-my-gosh-I-just-stumbled-upon-the-coolest-little-hole-in-the-wall" shop/museum/café/bar/restaurants are. (Which is kind of like cheating, when you think about it.) Sometimes they’re not actually holes-in-the-wall…but you probably gathered that. Read Donna Dailey’s Suite 101 article to get a better picture.
So go ahead, check out some guides to the real Windy City. And don't worry, this column will be back in a distressingly personal manner starting November 8th!
And you can take that countdown calendar off your wall. Honestly, it's kind of embarrassing.