touring chicago with a museum fanatic

September 28, 2013

Hello everyone!  I'm Betsy from over at Musings of a Museum Fanatic.  Some of you might know this about me but if you're just meeting me for the first time I'm from the Chicago area and I LOVE my city!  I thought I would take you through some of the lesser known gems of Chicago.  You might have to trek a little bit to get to these places but it's definitely worth the hike for some real Second city sights, tastes and maybe even smells ; )

First up on my lesser known gem tour of course would have to be a museum.  I can't give you a favorites list of anything Chicago without one!  Number one would have to be the Chicago History Museum.  2.5 miles north of the Loop and right at the southern edge of Lincoln Park (the actual park and the neighborhood) this is a perfect place to head to get away from the craziness that can be the Loop during tourist season.  This museum is a great place to learn about Chicago past and present.  I actually just went this past weekend with my good friend Lauren.  I won't tell you too much cause I'm going to have a nice big post for you next week on my blog.  Needless to say it's worth the 156 bus ride north.  The Chicago History Museum has everything from the 1893 Columbian Exposition (a favorite of yours truly) to Al Capone to current temporary exhibits like the fashion of Ebony Magazine (a Chicago based gem!).  Oh in case you're wondering that's me as a Chicago style hot dog at the Chicago History Museum.   

One of my all time favorite places in the Chicago area is Russell's BBQ.  It's located in Elmwood Park just outside of the city.  Unfortunately the easiest (and safest!) way to get there is driving.  We have been going here since I was little, heck I think my dad (and various aunts and uncles) have been going here since he was a kid, the place has been open since 1930 after all.  The best thing is their BBQ pork sandwhich.  MMMM!  I'm salivating just thinking about.  When I say bbq pork you probably think of shredded meat doused in BBQ sauce well not here. At Russell's they slice their pork, and probably the beef and ham too but I've never gotten those, and you can add as much BBQ sauce as you like at the table. 

Bad Apple is a yummy place I found earlier this year when my friend Saige was in town.  It's just a bit south of Montrose and Lincoln, so there are definitely public transportation options to getting there.  They are known for being a gourmet burger joint but what really sets them apart is the gourmet frie upgrades.  Definitely try the fries with the truffle or garlic seasoning ... but beware of the garlic YOWZA!  Not for date nights, unless the person really likes you already, like the hubby and I cause I know he would most likely go for those fries and I would let him cause I'm an awesome wife like that.  I actually didn't end up even having a burger that night I had the Hickory Hillbilly (pulled pork) and it was delicious.  I did try a bit of my friends Edmund Fig-Gerald (Edmund Fitzgerald porter, fig & bacon relish, goat cheese, smoked onion) and it was so good.  I would do it without the onions though (yech!).  If you're going on a weekend I would head there early because it was packed but they are open super late so maybe your chances would be better then. 

One of my favorite activities that I really haven't done in forever is Whirly Ball!  It's bumper cars, lacrosse and basketball smushed into one big awesome time.  I mean seriously how incredibly amazing does that sounds?  There are actually three locations in the Chicagoland area, one by my parents, one by where I live now (which I didn't know before yesssss!) and one in the city in Lincoln Park.  The one in Chicago is right at Fullerton/Damen/Elston so there are a bunch of buses to get there.  You could probably walk from the L if you really wanted to but I would take a bus.  The whole point is to get the whiffle ball into the basket but most of the time I never got the ball so I was more of a defender.  What I can I say I really like bumper cars.  It's great when you've got a big group of people who know each other, you always feel a little bad ramming into someone you don't know ... or maybe you don't : )


My last hidden gem of Chicago is the Frango Mint Cafe in Macy's on State St.  Can you tell I like to eat?  This place is one of my favorites when we're in the Loop.  Most people tend to go to the Walnut Room while they're at Macy's but I prefer the Frango Cafe.  It's only open for lunch so be sure to take that into account.  They have a  yummy half sandwich, cup of soup with chips and a pickle meal for a great price (last time I was there it was $7.95) but the best part of the meal is that it comes with either a piece of Frango Mint Cheesecake or Frango Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Pie!  The ice cream pie is AMAZING!  If you don't make it for lunch at the Frango the Walnut serves the ice cream pie as well.  MMMMM!  

Hope you enjoyed some of my favorite Chicago hidden gems!  


  1. Oh, now I really wish I was closer to Chicago! Gosh darn being on the east coast ;-)
    That ice cream pie sounds amazing.


  2. I'm from Chicago too! You might like to check out my latest blog post because it involves a question about Chicago (although having read your blog post, I have a good idea of what your opinion will probably be!) My favorite things to do in Chicago are go to the lake, and the Museum of Science and Industry.

  3. Hi I am already a follower to your lovely blog via GFC, and Now following you in blogvin. I would love it if you follow me back.

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  4. My 10th Birfday was at Whirley Ball and to this day it's one of my fondest memories of my Birfday.


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