State of IllinoisIllinois Bars Nightlife and Entertainment.
Illinois. The 21st state to be admitted to the Union in 1818, Illinois is often described as a ‘mini America’ within the US, such is the diversity of its population and economy, ranging from Chicago in the northeast to huge agricultural tracts in the west and centre to coal mining, petroleum and timber production in the south. Named after the Native American tribe of the same name, Illinois is located in the heartland of the US and, thanks to incredible industrial, agricultural and business development over the centuries has become the most populated state at around 13m. Illinois’ residents have a heritage that includes immigrant farmers from Germany and Sweden, industrial workers from southern and Eastern Europe, an awful lot of Irish, and African – Americans from the south who became responsible for one of Chicago’s greatest contributions to the music world: jazz and blues.
Also known as the Prairie State, Illinois’ famous residents include Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S Grant, Ernest Hemingway, Ronald Reagan and John Deere, who’s steel plough invention made Illinois farmland some of the most productive in the world.
For visitors, Illinois offers culture with numerous world renowned museums such as the Field Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Art Institute of Chicago; an amazing state park system and protected areas, including the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor; and over 15 professional sports teams including the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bears and the Chicago Bulls. Other attractions include Nauvoo, where Mormonism began; Cahokia, the state’s oldest city; the Anderson Japanese Gardens; Lincoln Park Zoo; and of course the start of the ‘Mother Road’ – Route 66 – in Chicago.
Illinois – highlighted in redChicago is easily Illinois’ largest city (and the third biggest in the US), although the capital is actually Springfield. Almost a quarter of the state’s population lives in Chicago and over 65% in the Chicago metro area. Other major cities include Aurora, Rockford, Naperville, Joliet, Springfield and Peoria.
Chicago, otherwise known as the Windy City, is where most visitors to Illinois are likely to be headed. Chicago was founded in the 1833 along the Chicago River, an important link in the Great Lakes to Mississippi transport route. Its population expanded rapidly until it suffered the Great Fire of 1871, but the new Chicago that rose from the ashes became one of the most culturally, architecturally and educationally modern in the US today with plenty to see and do. Yes, on the way, its residents have had to live within a city rife with corruption as ‘the mob’ controlled much of Chicago; but today’s environment is much less turbulent. Visitors to Chicago today will find it generally hospitable and friendly…’My Kind of T own’ as immortalised by Frank Sinatra.
Nightlife in the city is wide and varied and, as you might expect, offers some of the best live jazz and blues you’ll find anywhere. North Side or South Side, there’s a rich choice of pubs, clubs, bars and dining experiences – Chicago is a true melting pot of international and ‘home-grown’ culinary choices. With plenty of neighbourhoods to choose from, here we can only hope to give a small taste of what to expect – check out www.chicagonightlife.com for what’s going on while you’re there.
You don’t have to venture far from enjoying a game at Wrigley Field to find a plethora of pubs and sports bars. Popular spots include Jimbo’s Restaurant and Lounge on the corner of 33rd Street, where beer is only served in cans and bottles which may, or may not appeal; Murphy’s Bleachers on N Sheffield Ave, simply stuffed with sports memorabilia; the Irish Oak Restaurant & Pub; and the Full Shilling pub.
Flag of IllinoisFor fab views of the Chicago skyline head to Everest on S La Salle St or the 96th floor of the Hancock Building’s Signature Lounge on N Michigan Ave. A bit expensive, but a great place to start the evening before heading off to a dance club – and boy are there plenty to choose from in Chicago. Crobar on N Kingsbury Ave has been around for years but remains popular with its huge dance floor ; others include Green Dolphin Street, a 1940s style nightclub and restaurant with live jazz on N Ashland Ave; Smart Bar (below the Metro rock club on N Clark St), an established clubbing spot open til 5am at the weekend; Ghostbar on W Randolph St; Funky Buddha Lounge, a seductive club offering all styles of music from soul to hip hop, on W Grand Ave; Le Passage on Oak Place, a club for the rich and beautiful with a rather fancy French restaurant to boot; and Transit on W Lake St, with a big Oval dance floor and various VIP areas.
For many though, the attraction of Chicago is jazz and blues, and if that’s what you’re here for the places you can’t miss are Blue Chicago at Ohio on N Clark St; The Green Mill Jazz Club/Cocktail Lounge on N Broadway St; Buddy Guy’s Legends on S Wabash Ave; Checkerboard Lounge on S Harper St; Kingston Mines on N Halsted St; Andy’s Jazz Club on E Hubbard St and the legendary B.L.U.E.S on N Halsted St. The Underground Wonder Bar on E Walton St was founded by Lonie Walker and focuses mainly on jazz and blues but other styles of music are played as well. And…you can bring in takeaway food. House of Blues on N Dearborn St is actually today more about rock and pop rather than Blues, so don’t go expecting something you might not find. Sunday is gospel day here with a different Chicago choir each week, along with a Southern inspired buffet. It’s a popular venue and advance ticket purchases are advised. Other notable live music venues include the Elbo Room on N Lincoln Ave (from rock to reggae); and Hot House on E Balbo Dr (folk, rock, jazz etc).
There seems to be an Irish pub on just about every corner . The Abbey Pub & Restaurant on W Grace St is a bit different, featuring live music every night and a fabulous menu; or there’s Celtic Crossings on N Clark St with Guinness and plenty of other beers on tap; Timothy O’Toole’s on N Fairbanks Ct, Emmit’s Irish Pub on N Milwaukee Ave or Fado Irish Pub on W Grand Ave. They’re all brilliant.
And if you’re in need of a good laugh, it has to be Second City on N Wells St , where Bill Murray , John Belushi, and Mike Meyers all started their careers
Seal of IllinoisOutside Chicago, nightlife is – not surprisingly – lower key, but there’s still plenty going on in the larger cities. Rockford is a young, trendy, artistic town with the largest waterpark in Illinois, some super parks and plenty of attractions including the Rockford Speedway for NASCAR fans. Nightlife is not bad either. Over 21s head to Elixur with its massive multi level dance floor and some of the best DJs you’ll find. The Krypto Music Lounge is another hot venue with light rock, folk and jazz. If you’re here on Labor Day weekend, checkout the On the Waterfront music festival – Illinois’ largest, which takes place over three days. The downtown River District offers a number of bars, clubs and restaurants. Locally brewed beer is a speciality here.
Capital Springfield’s main attraction is its link with President Abraham Lincoln, who kicked off his political life here. Visitors head for the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices State Historic Site, the Old State Capital Building and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Where do they head at night? Well, the youngster make their way downtown to Club Karma is one of the ‘in’ night clubs, while Jazz Central Station and Underground City Tavern on East Adams St offers a variety of live music. In fact one thing Springfield isn’t short of is live music. Head down to Old State Capitol Plaza for numerous options including Robbie’s Restaurant (jazz), Catch 22, Marly’s Pub, and Fusion; E Monroe St for MoJo’s , Firehouse, and Bread Stretchers; E Washington St for Brewhaus and PTs Salla d’Ballo.
Peoria is a pleasant place to find yourself. Situated on the Illinois River, this is a friendly city in which to spend a few hours – enjoying theviews, the shops, the parks. Its downtown area has been renovated, especially on Water Street, and you’ll now find a good choice of restaurants and bars here like Roxy’s, the Rhythm Kitchen Music Cafe, Martinis on Water Street and Old Chicago.
You may not have heard of Bloomington, but every year from June to August it hosts the Illinois Shakespeare Festival – acknowledged as one of the best festivals of its type in the USA – with around 40 performances and attracting over 12,000 people . It’s not the only reason for visiting Bloomington (there’s also the Upper Limits Rock Climbing Gym), but you’re not that likely to make a point of stopping here otherwise. Still, if you are in town, take the opportunity to visit the Illinois Brewing Company at N Center which offers an excellent selection of beers as well as hearty meals and snacks. Maguire’s Pub in the same area, is another popular drinking spot, as is Fat Jack’s and Daddio’s, both on N Main St.
On January 1, 2008 the Smoke Free Illinois Act came into play which bans smoking in virtually all public places including bars, restaurants and casinos.