Chicago Makes Being Green Fashionable, but Not Spendy

Posted March 9, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Chicago With several plans in the works, including an eco-bridge, that will make the city greener, Chicago is well on its way to becoming a top environmentally friendly destination, but without the high prices. Come shop for goods made from recycled materials and grab a slice of organic pizza before saving green by going green at a eco-friendly boutique hotel.

Grasshopper 510
: If the words repurpose, recyclable, vintage, organic, sustainable, reclaimed, and all-natural speak to your greener side, then this eco-boutique is right up your alley. The name—inspired by the prosperity and wisdom of a grasshopper, as well as the color measurement of green—conjures a sense of appreciation for the natural world. Here, you will find an array of environmentally-friendly items spanning a slew of categories, such as home decor, baby necessities, jewelry, and beauty essentials. Prices vary by product.

: Don't be fooled by the name. There's more to this pizza joint than just its crust. As the first certified organic restaurant in the Midwest, Crust adheres to a strict policy of no antibiotics, no growth hormones, and no genetic engineering in any of its products. Come enjoy a flatbread pizza fresh from the wood-burning oven. Pizzas such as the wild herb and cheese start at $12.

Allerton Hotel
: After serving guests for 85 years, the Allerton Hotel recognizes the importance of preservation in all areas of life, and has become one of the city's leading green places to stay. The property started a "green team" to maintain its environmental initiatives, including using only energy-efficient lighting and equipment, as well as biodegradable and recyclable products. Plus, the hotel rewards guests who help in its cause by offering a 10 percent discount if guests forego housekeeping services during their stay. Rooms start at $80 per night during the low season.

To search for flights and compare prices to Chicago, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Jim Jurica)

Shop your Heart Out in Chicago's Wicker Park

Posted August 14, 2009 by Kate Hamman

IL-Chicago-Habit-DEF Chicago's Magnificent Mile may be a shopping mecca, but the Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhood provides a more relaxed atmosphere for browsing designer boutiques. You can spend all day wandering among the many clothing stores, but be sure to stop for a little sweet relief at an artistic bistro. And after a full day of splurging, you can rest at one of Chicago's longest-running B&B's.

Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhood shopping: Shopaholics rejoice when they stumble upon this area, overflowing with designer boutiques. Some of the best places to feed your addiction are Habit, where 75 independent and emerging designers share their creative threads; Veruca Salt Fancy, which features designer labels; and Clothes Minded, where the staff will help you put together the "it" outfit for a night on the town. Since so many stores are within walking distance, comparison shopping is easy and can pay off.

HotChocolate: Shopping can be exhausting, which is exactly why God created cozy bistros to rest your weary soles. HotChocolate breaks the mold, with sweet pick-me-ups and savory lunch dishes such as its decadent cheddar melt for $8. And you can revel in the day's spending with one-of-a-kind treats, including warm brioche donuts with hot fudge, strawberry and rhubarb poppy-seed shortcake streusel, and five types of hot chocolate.

The House of Two Urns Bed and Breakfast: For a long day of shopping, the House of Two Urns B&B prescribes a good night's sleep and a hearty meal. The inn has treated guests for more than 16 years, and is decorated from floor-to-ceiling with eclectic and fun art pieces, including an entire wall of antique cameras. Originally built as a neighborhood Polish bakery, the 1912 brownstone still delights guests with the sweet scents of baked goods come breakfast time. Rates start at $79 per night, depending on the season.

To search for flights and compare prices to Chicago, please use our price-comparison tool.

United Breaks Guitars in Chicago, Creates Fame for Musician

Posted July 23, 2009 by Nicki Krawczyk

Blurb_broken_guitar_20080814-vi People deal with frustration in all kinds of ways. I knew a girl in high school who used to cry. I tend to shake my fists, punch inanimate objects and, occasionally, growl. (It’s not pretty but I’m not perfect.) Dave Carroll, facing endless unsatisfactory phone calls and poor customer service, writes songs.

You see, according to Dave, United Airlines breaks guitars. Specifically, United Airlines broke his guitar. The crux of the story is that during a stopover in Chicago while he was on his way to Nebraska, baggage handlers allegedly threw his $3,500 guitar and broke it. (I say “allegedly” although no one really seems to be disputing this point. I just can’t afford a lawsuit.) Attempting to receive some kind of compensation for this, Dave repeatedly made contact with United and was repeatedly told that United was not responsible for the damage.

Cut to Dave, with a new guitar and a new song, “United Breaks Guitars”. Viewed more than 3.6 million times, this catchy little act of vengeance has become an internet sensation and certainly a thorn in the side of United Airlines.

More than this being a story about revenge, though, I think this is a story about creative problem solving. Though Dave may never have received his desired monetary compensation, he’s achieved a level of fame that he would, most likely, have never achieved without this song. And, much as I may be prone to futile seething, this is probably a good lesson for all of us. Channeling our frustration into other outlets than oh, say, punching and growling, might just be the best revenge of all.


Dance a Jig for Low Prices in Chicago

Posted February 24, 2009 by Kate Hamman

Bar-CoupleCheers-DEF With a fairly large Irish population, Chicago doesn't dye its river green every St. Patrick's Day for the pretty color alone. However, you can visit any time of year to tap into the luck of the Irish. Come learn about Irish-American culture at a heritage museum, explore authentic pubs, and eat in a contemporary Irish bistro—all without spending a pot of gold.

Irish American Heritage Center: Pay a visit to this heritage center, where you can learn more about the literature, art, and music of the Irish in America. The center hosts many events and discussions highlighting the achievements of Irish-Americans. Check its calendar to see what's happening while you're there. Admission is free and many events are, too.

Chicago's Irish Pubs Northside Crawl: With such a high concentration of pubs in the area, it can be difficult to choose where to enjoy a pint of Guinness. However, you won't have to worry too much about where to go with this free handy-dandy map. Follow the trail, and "crawl" between several authentic Irish bars, where you will hear the brogue of native tongues and can sip on imported Irish brews. It's free to wander, but beer prices depend on the bar.

Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro: Mrs. Murphy and Sons Irish Bistro has and added a dash of sophistication to traditional Irish dishes. The restaurant serves contemporary entrees such as bacon confit risotto or oat crusted rainbow trout. If you prefer the old standbys, you can also order shepherd's pie or beef-and-Guinness stew. Entrees start at $12.50.

To search for flights and compare prices to Chicago, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Gagne)

Swissotel Chicago a real drag for smokers

Posted February 28, 2008 by Zak Patten

Healthsafetynosmkgdef_2I’ll be the first to admit it—I’m extremely anti-smoking and always have been. So I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who want to light up in their hotel rooms, rooms that I might have the misfortune of staying in someday. But according to USA Today, the Swissotel Chicago is now taking its anti-smoking measures a step further by turning its staff into bounty hunters who are financially rewarded for catching smokers in the act.

Employees who bag a live smoker are given $10 for their service. Perhaps my high school principal should have utilized this technique instead of spending his time sniffing outside the boys’ bathroom. Our hall monitors could have made more money catching puffers than they did slinging fries at Mickey D’s.

Swissotel Chicago general manager Jack Breisacher insists he doesn’t “want this to sound like a police state,” but "One person having one cigarette is really a big deal," as it costs around $500 to completely clean a room.

I’m with Breisacher. But I hope he expands the program so that guests can turn in other guests. I wonder how many smokers I’d have to nab to earn a free night at his hotel.

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