PLAY BALL!

It's that time of year again when the weather gets warm and baseball gets into full swing.  The Cubs and the White Sox are already well underway and play host to the usual suspects this season.  Each ball park offers it's own unique view on the game and a faithful crowd.  Both stadiums are easily accessed via the same El line (Red Line) which happens to be an easy two block walk from our home to the Clark/Division station.  You can decide which way to go--Sox or Cubs, or come for the Crosstown Classic and see them both in one spot!

Foodies Rejoice at "EATALY" in Chicago

Attend the Italian Food&Wine Festival at Eataly Chicago October 14-16th, 2014

Benvenuto! 

As they say…..Italians do it better and Eataly in Chicago proves just that!  Spending two hours on a Sunday with a girlfriend wandering through the 63,000 square feet of pure Italian heaven!  With 22 different restaurants and bars under one roof (and two floors), we spent our time discovering cheeses, persciutto vino, Italian beers, pastas, dry-aged beef and nutella options!   We grabbed a glass of wine and strolled through the delicate handmade pasta areas, tomato sauces, truffles stand, fresh fish and cheese from every Italian nook and cranny.  So fun discovering all the different kitchen gadgets I had never even heard of before, and flipping through every Italian cookbook in existence! 

The cheese market at Eataly Chicago... what DON'T they have!

The cheese market at Eataly Chicago... what DON'T they have!

But wait, there’s more, you can also take cooking classes and seminars right here and learn the true secrets of Italian cooking!

Perfect timing for fall….a food and wine festival is happening at Eataly on October 14, 15 & 16, 2014. Book your Brownstone now and join the Italian heaven here on earth, I mean here in Chicago!

Ciao for now!!  

Ashley

Romance in Chicago: Top 5 Chicago Valentine’s Day Picks

Brownstone Chicago Valentine's Day 2013
Brownstone Chicago Valentine's Day 2013

First Class Chicago knows Chicago We also know romance. Come on, we specialize in providing top of the line Chicago vacation rentals. Romance is our middle name. Our ecstatic customers love to fill us in on what makes their hearts pitter-patter a bit faster around the best Chicago Valentine’s Day ever! This year is no different, but this time, we are giving you all the inside information on the big day next month. Plus, if you are a guy reading this… now is the time to get crackin’ with the plans. The last minute never works out well. Believe me! Drum roll please…….

Harry Carays Chicago Valentines
Harry Carays Chicago Valentines

5.Chicago Valentine’s Day at Harry Caray’s Steakhouse.  This may not seem too special but it will blow your sweetheart’s mind. They let you make and decorate your own heart-shaped pizza and/or cookie. Then you can wash it down with a specially created Ghirardelli chocolate martini. Mangia!

Duets for My Chicago Valentine
Duets for My Chicago Valentine

4. Duets for my Chicago Valentine’s Day! This isn’t on the actual day but may act as the lovely present. Enjoy a night of mixed dancing, from ballroom to hip hop,  to celebrate love and couples and that special day. Be at the Historic Athanaeum Theatre to see Duets for my Valentine  on February 9th. I would be impressed with such a gift. Any takers?

Bistronomic
Bistronomic

3. What could be more romantic than Paris? So, the French / Valentine’s Day combo just makes sense. If you have never eaten French food and want to be wowed, Bistronomic will blow your Chicago Valentine’s Day expectations. They have a prix-fixe menu that reads like a primer on fabulous French food. Don’t miss this First Class Chicago Valentine’s Day gem.

Redhead Piano Bar
Redhead Piano Bar

2.  Plan out a whole night. “Did I just hear you right?” Yes, you did. Do some thoughtful planning. The Navy Pier could be fun, if it is not storming. But you have to plan properly. Go get about 20 of those hand warmers and right before you get on, start cracking them and putting them in your special someone’s mittens and anywhere else you need a little warmth. Then head over to a Spirit of Chicago dinner cruise next door with climate-controlled decks. Or go to a piano bar like The Redhead Piano Bar where you can spend your Chicago Valentine’s  evening singing along to all the classics. The devil is in the details and this is where you have to show your stuff!

Chicago Valentine's Day highrise view
Chicago Valentine's Day highrise view

1. Stay in! First Class Chicago Vacation Rentals provides everything you need to blow your sweetie away. You can stay in a high rise  or your own Brownstone.  You know, if you brought her to the 30th floor of some gorgeous building with roses and wine and dinner brought in, you would be such a hero. The skyline alone earns points.  It pales in comparison with the other choices. That is why First Class Chicago is Number 1 for romantic getaways.

Chicago Fitness 2013 Resolutions: They're a Keeper

fitness
fitness

The first month of the year at First Class Chicago Vacation Rentals and the crew are feeling the same crunch as all you. We are overweight and bored and trying to face the anti-climax of the end of the holiday season.  What we know at First Class Chicago is that a vacation to Chicago in one of our Brownstone or High Rise Rentals can provide the excitement you need and you can still keep all your New Year’s fitness resolutions.

Walk Chicago for Fitness

First, at First Class Chicago, you will be staying in one of our Brownstone or High Rise Rentals. Both options provide tons of opportunities to walk the beautiful neighborhoods of Chicago. If you stay in a First Class Chicago Brownstone, you will get to tour the incredible architecture of the Gold Coast Neighborhood.  In our high rise….well,  you get downtown. With both, you can walk along Lake Michigan until your heart is content. The locations of our First Class Chicago vacation rentals make your New Year’s Chicago fitness resolutions attainable.

Healthy Dining in Chicago

You have to eat and on vacation you want to go crazy and taste all a city has to offer. Lucky for you when you are staying at a First Class Chicago Brownstone or High Rise there are many eateries that allow you to maintain your New Year’s Chicago Fitness resolution.  Here are a couple.

The Protein Bar: This place is amazing and you can pretty much go crazy and order anything you want and you will never feel shorted or that you are missing out. It is the safest place to go if you are trying to maintain your fitness resolution. There are seven locations in Chicago. Walk to one for breakfast and another for lunch.

New Life Health Foods & Restaurant: This place is located at 3141 West Roosevelt Road. It is a health food store with a little inexpensive, yet delicious, café.

Of course, you can always go vegetarian with

Native Foods or

The Vegetarian Express at 3109 N Halsted St.

Where to Keep Your Chicago Fitness Resolutions

Whew….as if all this talk about healthy eating doesn’t wear you out enough, your New Year’s fitness resolution would not be complete without, you guessed it , exercise!! If you stay at a First Class Chicago High Rise, you are all set: both lovely vacation rentals are located in a building with a Chicago fitness gym. Just wake up and you are there. However, if you are in a First Class Chicago Brownstone rental, you may want to sample some of the special health spas Chicago offers.

Fitness Formula Club: This is a Chicago phenom that will support even your most extreme New Year’s fitness resolution. They are regularly rated Chicago’s #1 health spa

X-Sport Fitness: If you go online , you can request a 7 day guest pass. Bonus, you can work out for free!

Finally, us girls need something for just us so, if you dare, you can attend a class at

Flirty Girl Fitness

When you come and stay at First Class Chicago Brownstone or High Rise Vacation Rentals, Chicago has you covered. You don’t have to worry about keeping any New Year’s Fitness resolution with us. We know how make all your resolutions realities.  Enjoy First Class Chicago your way!!

Top 12 Hottest New Years Eve 2012 Chicago Destinations

First Class Chicago New Years Eve martini
First Class Chicago New Years Eve martini

One of the most dreamy and iconic images of New Years Eve 2012 in Chicago is sipping a martini, dressed up in your finest attire, looking out of high rise windows at the unbelievable view. Add First Class Chicago's vacation rentals to the mix and an incredible Chicago skyline and you have the makings of an unforgettable evening.  The high rise vacation rentals at First Class Chicago will recreate even your most posh New Year’s desires. Have friends up to your high rise vacation rental for cocktails before the evening begins or ring in New Years eve 2012 whilst entertaining. Either way, First Class Chicago hits the ball out of the park.  Chicago on New Years Eve 2012 has so much to offer that your plate will be full regardless.

Really, Chicago is bustling with parties and activities on a normal night. On New Years Eve 2012, you will not be disappointed.

Sooo, here is a list, an incredible list if I may be so bold as to say, of fabulously wonderful events for your New Years Eve 2012 Chicago enjoyment. The best option is to split the difference. I say, invite the friends up to your First Class Chicago High Rise Vacation Rental.  Enjoy the skyline from your vacation rental and then get a table at one of these amazing establishments and dance the night away.

Our Top 12 New Years Eve 2012 Chicago Hotspots:

The Crystal Gardens At Navy Pier: 773-516-5767

Fedora Lounge:  712 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60654, 312-624-9008

Proof Nightclub: 1045 North Rush Street, 312 646 6000

Bar Celona Wrigleyville: 3474 N. Clark, 773-224-8000

Mickey's: 2450 North Clark Chicago, IL 60613, 212-843-2400

Bar Louie River North: 333-335 N. Dearborn St., 312-863-2363

Quay Lounge: 465 E Illinois, 312-981-8400

Bodi: 873 North Orleans Street, 312-440-9680

NV Penthouse Lounge: 116 W. Hubbard St., 312-329-9960

HUB 51: 51 W Hubbard, 312-828-0051

Market Bar: 1113 W. Randolph, 312.929.478

Fatpour: 2005 W Division Street, 773-698-8940

May your 2013 be as lovely as your New Year’s celebration at First Class Chicago.

Image courtesy of

kozzi.com

5 Reasons to Choose Chicago Vacation Rentals over Magnificent Mile Hotels this Holiday Season

hellickson0107-0113_33
hellickson0107-0113_33

The holidays are upon us. We have already begun the slippery slide from the changing of the clocks to New Year's Day. I am frightened! It seems so close and there are so many festivities to partake in and so much traveling to do.  That has always been a sticky situation with our family. We enjoy traveling during the only break both kids get simultaneously but we HATE spending Thanksgiving or Christmas break in a hotel room. It is bleak. I have done it. However, there is another option: A Vacation Rental. First Class Chicago Vacation Rentals provide exactly the option to a rotten hotel holiday experience.  Take a look at the pictures of these places and you will understand my meaning. You can choose a First Class Chicago Brownstone in the Gold Coast neighborhood of Chicago or a First Class Chicago Vacation Rental High Rise, downtown . Either way, you are set.

Top 5 Reasons to Choose Chicago Vacation Rentals over Magnificent Mile Hotels

So to the query….what are the top 5 reasons to choose a vacation rental in 2012 this holiday season?

  1. Your whole family stays together under one roof. With the option of a one or two bedroom suite and we can generally accommodate a sizable group under a single roof.
  2. You can actually enjoy a holiday meal on the dining room table of your rental. There are luxury kitchens at the First Class Chicago Vacation rentals so you have the option of cooking your own recipes, or ordering out, or a hybrid of the two. Either way you can display your spread and gather around a holiday table.
  3. LEFTOVERS!!! Because you have a kitchen, you have a refrigerator large enough to contain your holiday feast remnants.
  4. Entertaining is a breeze. Whether you are in town for the holidays for business or pleasure, your entertaining needs will be met and surpassed. Imagine hosting your business partner and his wife wilst sipping champagne looking at the Chicago skyline. The season was never so bright.
  5. Anything is better than Christmas morning in a hotel.

Chicago is magical over the holidays. It is an experience to share with friends and loved ones. Spend the seasons with us at First Class Chicago.....May the merry begin!!!

Great Chicago Dining: Hopleaf Bar

Hopleaf_logo
Hopleaf_logo

Hopleaf is worth remembering!! I just cannot believe this one escaped my view. Hanging out around Chicago as much as I do, staying in those First Class Chicago Vacation Rentals as often as I do, makes me aware to the new and the posh and the old stand-bys. Hopleaf passed right by…and I love meat and cheese plates….and I love great beer…and…and…and everything. Hopleaf is one of the best chicago gastropubs, an amazing tavern in uptown that will blow your socks off.

First of all, I do not normally blog about a single restaurant. I stick to lists of interesting places so you can have a variety to choose from. However, this is a MUST SEE for so many reasons. Plus, when you are staying at a First Class Chicago high rise you need a break that only Hopleaf can offer.

Their beer menu is expansive, and by expansive I mean around 35 to 40 craft beers on tap and over 250 bottled. Their menu describing their tap beers reads like you are making love to the drink. Be prepared to be wowed, no matter what your taste. Then, there is the food. Oh My God! You can go for mussels and frites - the broth is off the hook. Or dive into a meal more hearty. Start with any of their crazy good appetizers.

However, of special note is their Charcuterie Trio, recently featured on Diner’s Drive-In’s and Dives. I don’t know if I would have had the guts to order it if I hadn’t seen the episode. Here, they make their own head cheese. You never had head cheese?  Most people haven’t but it is worth trying because this pork-y, velvety, yummy slice of heaven is just what the doctor ordered. Then jump on in to one of their signature sandwiches or an entrée.

The sandwich that gets me is when someone tries to do something really great with something really ordinary. This happens at Hopleaf with their CB&J: cashew butter, figgy jam, and gooey raclette cheese all fried up. Get it with their macaroni and  cheese…oh but wait, its not just mac and cheese - this is Stilton mac and cheese. You will want to lick the bowl. Incidentally, I did.

Don’t let Hopleaf slip under your radar. I went all that time. I wrote about the best Chicago gastropubs and craft beer and it never came up. Next time you get a First Class Chicago Brownstone Vacation Rental give Hopleaf a try. I sure love it and can’t get enough. Couldn’t wait to share.

Hopleaf, 5148 N. Clark St , Chicago, IL  60640. (773) 334-9851. Mon-Thu Noon – 11; Fri-Sat Noon – 12; Sun Noon – 10; Bar opened later.

Hopleaf-whole-cow
Hopleaf-whole-cow

P.S. November 11th from 12:00 to 3:00 A whole cow. Cooked in the Hopleaf back yard. This is a Sunday afternoon event, all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink from Three Floyds. $80 on brownpapertickets.com—search for WHOLE COW or Hopleaf or try http://wholecow.brownpapertickets.com

Chicago Craft Fairs 2012 - Harvest Aplenty

It wouldn’t really be fall if I didn’t fall-ow up the Halloween post with a Chicago Craft Fairs review. Really, what is more fall than local artists pedaling their wares, sometimes in the cold, so that you may have the good fortune of happening upon them? Then, you get to give your family and friends something truly amazing and unique for the holidays instead of the Kenneth Cole tie you got at the last minute for Uncle Ted. When you are in a new city, and especially if you are staying at a truly magical historic First Class Chicago Brownstone vacation rental, it is always wise to check out the local artists. In fact, my opinion is, why even go to a new destination if you aren’t excited about sampling their local artisan food, their local artists, or their local theatre? That is the point, after all. To enjoy what the city has to offer.

Autumn gives visitors unique opportunities to sample the local artisans at local Chicago Craft Fairs all the way up to Christmas.

Instead of doing it by date, like any normal human being might, I am listing these by coolness factor, get ready…..go!

The DIY Trunk Sale Chicago Craft Fairs 2012

Harvest-DIY Trunk Show chicago
Harvest-DIY Trunk Show chicago

This is an incredible Chicago Craft Fair. You already missed the Renegade Art Show in September. Going to this show may assuage your sadness. November 17th,  Broadway Armory Park, 5917 North Broadway Street.

SOFA Art and Design Expo

Harvest-SOFA
Harvest-SOFA

Sculpture Objects Functional Art, so no…this is not a couch or Barcalounger convention, this is hip and modern art and it is for sale. Tickets are $15 but even the exhibits, like the glassblowing, are worth every nickel of admission.  It is an awesome experience.  November 2nd – 4th, Festival Hall, Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Avenue

Those are really the two biggest Chicago Craft Fairs but for the sake of fun, let’s explore the less well known shows, shall we?

Harvest of the Hands Art and Craft Show

Harvest of the Hands Chicago
Harvest of the Hands Chicago

Usually I would not suggest a little festival at a church but lately the gals at my church are waxing nostalgic about the days when we had a harvest and craft festival. People are making homemade food for sale, which is always the best you ever had, and the wares are always one of a kind and at the right price. This little festival looks like some fun. November 3rd , Community United Methodist Church, 20 N. Center in the Fellowship Hall/Parlor. Oh, this is in Naperville, BTW, enjoy the 30 minute fall foliage drive from your First Class Chicago High Rise Vacation Rental

Rolling Meadows Holiday Arts & Crafts Boutique

harvest-ROLLING
harvest-ROLLING

Likewise, I am loathe to recommend a high school event, especially one 20 minutes outside of your base camp. However, you never know what artist lurks off the highways and byways surrounding Chicago. This Chicago Craft Fair has been going on for 34 years, so enjoy the tradition. November 10th , Rolling Meadows High School, 2901 Central Road, Rolling Meadows

The Late Late Craft Show Chicago Craft Fairs 2012

Harvest Fair Late Late Craft Show Chicago
Harvest Fair Late Late Craft Show Chicago

I leave you with one final Chicago craft fair, near and dear to my heart. It probably should have been first on the list, but oh well.  It takes place at an Irish restaurant, at night, with a dizzying array of booze. This is really one to write home about. Admission is free, no less. How impressive. November 23rd Mrs. Murphy & Son’s Irish Bistro,3905 N. Lincoln Ave.

Trust me, if you come to Chicago and want to do your Christmas/Hanukkah/Holiday shopping, make it a weekend. Get a vacation rental to end all vacation rentals at First Class Chicago, grab your girl/boyfriend, or amenable husband/wife, and get thee to a craft festival. Don’t get the same garbage everyone is getting -  branch out to a gift that will distinguish the giver as a true patron of the arts.

The Creepiest Chicago Halloween 2012

chicago ween
chicago ween

With Chicago Halloween 2012 right around the corner, I thought you could handle (and may even desire) a little gore for your First Class Chicago Vacation Rental weekend. Chicago has a knack of doing, even the creepy, a bit classier. When you come to Chicago you just don’t get an average vacation rental, you get either a First Class Chicago Brownstone Vacation Rental or a High Rise Vacation Rental. In the same way, you don’t just get your everyday Chicago Halloween events, you get wonderful cultural experiences that will leave you at once, breathless and disgusted. Don’t pass up on these spooktacular events, some are only around for a moment and then they disappear. Chicagoween in Daley Plaza The plaza and the surrounding area are transformed into a Halloween Harvest wonderland. The plaza becomes FrankenPlaza and there is a super cool pyrotechnic display. There are live performers, pumpkin carving and decorations aplenty. Come for the Halloween festivities and enjoy the farmer’s market. October 26th – October 30th.

harvestdays
harvestdays

Spooky Boo Zoo and Harvest Festival  at Lincoln Park Zoo. Lincoln Park Zoo is incredible. It was featured boldly in a previous blog about free exciting things to do in Chicago. There are Chicago Halloween 2012 events going on throughout the month for the whole family, which is a real bonus when you are staying in a two-bedroom brownstone vacation rental, at First Class Chicago and need events not only for the adults in the group, but for the little ones, also.

200px-Edgar_Allan_Poe
200px-Edgar_Allan_Poe

Edgar Allen Poe readings at Clark House Museum Since we gave you a couple fun family events, this is one for the adults. This one is fabulous and for $25 per person, it is well worth your night of haunting out. On October 27th, you will be entertained by the players from the Lifeline Theatre as they make you squirm in your seat with the most wicked Poe renditions. Reservations are required.

Haunted Tours of Prairie Avenue through Glessner House Museum.  Don’t miss this Chicago Halloween 2012 event offered for your screaming delight on the 27th and 28th of this month. Get led down this street of real-life horrors. Don’t get too scared, though, you wouldn’t want to be left behind on Prairie Avenue, one of the Halloween ghouls may show up to give you a real fright. Reservations are recommended.

hauntedhotel
hauntedhotel

Haunted Hotel Ball at the Hilton Chicago. It seems like something out of a movie. You are ready for your Halloween Ball, standing at the window of your First Class Chicago High rise vacation rental, watching the darkening night skyline. Ready to show off your costume and ready to boogie. Get spooky on October 27th with music, fun, and a $5000 prize costume contest! Buy your tickets early because they always sell out. Once you check in, you may never check out!

The bottom line is that Chicago is a Halloween wonderland. Enjoy the creepiest and scariest season of the year to its fullest. I am a Halloween nut and have my home decorated like a haunted house so I am giving you some personal advice from a Halloween aficionado… Don’t miss this season in Chicago. We lend our special twist to this, the spookiest of times.

Chicago Pizza Places - Not to be Missed

chicago pizza5
chicago pizza5

In the last food blog (yes, that one about the dogs), I mentioned a conversation I had with my daughter where she narrowed the entirety of Chicago pop culture down to “Wind” and “Hot Dogs.” Well, I wasn’t entirely honest with you. You see, the conversation did not stop there. She added one more tidbit to the mix… “and what about pizzas?. Can’t you get a Chicago style pizza?” It immediately brought back a memory from my own childhood of the first time I ever had Chicago pizza. We went to a pizzeria that had actual seating and no televisions with the game on. There were even real napkins. The place was packed but the only thing I can really bring vividly into my mind was this lovely enormously crusted pizza. The crust must have been 2 ½ or 3 inches tall and I adored every bit of it. Until then, I was not a fan of pizza. Anything with thin, matzo crust left me wanting. Chicago style pizza changed all of that.

The crust is the kicker. It is thick and big and is texturally different than most other pizzas. It is baked in a pan so it has that slightly crispy outside edge that travels up the entire side of the pie. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Then we got fresh tomatoes and onions. Wow.

The Chicago pizza is an icon unto its own. How could you come all the way to Chicago, stay at either a First Class Chicago High Rise Vacation Rental or a First Class Chicago Brownstone Vacation Rental and not get some Chicago Pizza? It would be a sin.

So, I decided to take it upon myself to direct you to some of the best deep dish, Chicago style pizza, around.

The Best of the Best Deep Dish Chicago Pizza

Lou Malnatis Pizzeria
Lou Malnatis Pizzeria

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria

Okay…this is what I am talkin’ about. Spend the extra 75 cents and get the special butter flaky crust. You will not be disappointed. There are locations all over Chicago. However, they have a sit down restaurant in the Gold Coast Neighborhood that I highly recommend. You can walk straight from your First Class Chicago Brownstone to mouthwatering pizza. The Gold Coast location can be found at

1120 North State Street 312.725.7777

 .  .

art of pizza chicago
art of pizza chicago

Art of Pizza

This is the place to go if you are into stuffed crust. I am not..yes I am a crust purist. However, I hear this place has it going on for those stuffers among you.

3033 North Ashland 773.327.5600

 .  .

Pequod's Pizza Chicago
Pequod's Pizza Chicago

Pequod’s:

They make a pizza with a beautiful and unbelievably tasty “caramelized crust.” If you are into that sort of thing, you may want to head their direction. Plus they have a killer lunch special. Monday through Friday, for $5.

2207 N. Clybourn Ave

(773) 327-1512

 .  .

Burt's Chicago pizza
Burt's Chicago pizza

Burt’s Place

:

A couple of neat tidbits. Burt has been involved in the opening of other Chicago pizzerias and decided to venture out onto his own. This is his place and he is a character. You can’t miss him; he is the hippie in the back.

8541 N. Ferris Ave. Morton Grove

(847) 965-7997

Chicago on Fire! Tour the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 Sites

Chicago_Water_Tower
Chicago_Water_Tower

"Late one night, when we were all in bed,

Old Mother Leary left a lantern in the shed;

And when the cow kicked it over, she winked her eye and said,

"There'll be a hot time in the old town, tonight."

I grew up singing this little ditty never quite realizing it was describing a real event, The Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In fact, it wasn’t until an I watched an episode of Auction Hunters with Allen Haff and Ton Jones that I realized the true extent and impact of the Chicago Fire. It is hard to imagine anything as devastating.

However, I was shocked into reality when watching my two favorite guys explore storage lockers in the Windy City. Some of the items found were incredible. They found these round glass fire grenades filled with suppressants. They also found an old fire call box.

When you stay in a high rise luxury condo vacation rental at First Class Chicago, you will realize when looking out on the skyline is that buildings that pre-date the fire are few and far between.

This is because the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was mighty. It leveled the city. Literally, four miles of densely populated city were wiped out in the fire that lasted from Sunday night until Tuesday. Chicago was so hot after the fire, they couldn’t even return to aid victims for days following.

Although there are questions as to the validity of whether the fire started with Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, what is certain is that the rebuilding of Chicago after this devastation made Chicago into the city it is today. When money poured into the rebuild, Chicago emerged as a top U.S. city. This is an amazing bit of history and is well worth exploring.

Great Chicago Fire of 1871 tourism options

  • The Fire Museum of Greater Chicago: This is where Allen and Ton went to sell their incredible finds. It is clear they are the experts on Great Chicago Fire of 1871 memorabilia. Their website lists special events but is obscure as to their regular hours. My suggestion is to call before dropping by.
  • Create Your Own Adventure: This Chicago History Museum website allows you to plan your exploration geographically using walking maps. Some of the highlights of places to visit include visits to the site of the O’Leary home, which is, ironically the current site of the Chicago Fire Academy, and “the most venerable landmark of them all, the Water Tower.”No matter where you are staying, whether you find yourself in the Gold Coast neighborhood in a First Class Chicago Brownstone or in an ultra-luxurious First Class Chicago high rise, you can just click on this site and find all the great historical sites within walking distance. They even have an iPhone app.

The Great Chicago Fire  of 1871 gives a snapshot into our country’s history. The artifacts, alone, boggle the mind. It is incredible to think of a people in a world without internet or modern telephones fighting off a disaster of this proportion. On your next stay with First Class Chicago Vacation Rentals explore the Great Fire…Chicago will light you up! I know, I am ON FIRE FOR FIRST CLASS CHICAGO!

Where to Get the Best Hot Dog in Chicago

What’s in a Dog?A Chicago Dog, that is. I asked my intelligent, semi-astute teenage daughter what she thought of when she thought of Chicago.

“Wind.”

“Wind?”

“It is the Windy City, you know?” She rolls her eyes.

“Don’t you think of anything else…isn’t there any bit of history or a famous person Chicago brings to mind?”

“Oh! hot dogs.”

That got me thinking about the nature of a Chicago style hot dog. What exactly does a Chicago Dog encompass? When I am staying at a First Class Chicago Vacation Rental, where can I consume one of these tasty treats?

Chicago Hot Dogs: Not Your Ordinary Hot Dog

chicago-dogs-superdawg
chicago-dogs-superdawg

So…I decided to do some research, specifically hands-on research. I promptly booked a stay at in a First Class Chicago High Rise Vacation Rental. I love this job! If you have not stayed in one of these, I highly recommend it. It is bucket list material.

Then, I sat back and let my fingers do the walking. I searched long and hard for the meaning of the Chicago Hot Dog. I wanted to know exactly what made it tick. What made this dog so special? Special, it is!

There is nothing quite like a Chicago Dog and it is well worth its reputation. A traditional Chicago Dog is all beef and water simmered. Right there, I am blown away. I am used to grilled dogs, bubbly and browned. Next, they stick this dog on a poppy seed bun. The best is yet to come because the toppings are to die for. You get yellow mustard, white onions, sweet relish, a dill pickle spear, fresh or pickled tomatoes (depending on who you ask), pickled peppers, and a sprinkling of celery salt. As my mouth watered, I came to comprehend the true mystic nature of this dog. A Chicago Dog is like no other. I had to find one.

Oooh and one little SECRET….do not grab for the ketchup. Half of the hot dog sellers don’t even carry the stuff, the other half uses it as a litmus test of your taste and....who knows what else.

Finding the Best Hot Dog in Chicago

chicago-dogs-superdawg
chicago-dogs-superdawg

From your First Class Chicago Brownstone Vacation Rental or my high rise, the quintessential dog….or should I say dawg... is within your reach. Superdawg Drive-In blew my socks off. Right away you are taken back to another era with their retro drive in order boxes and your window trays. I kept asking if we were really eating this way in 2012. Then came the loveliest of dawgs. For $5.50, you too can experience utter delight in the form of the best hot dog in Chicago. Superdawg is located at 6363 North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.

chicago dog house
chicago dog house

If you feel more adventuresome, you may want to try outChicago’s Dog House. The best part is that you can go for multiple outrageous dogs for an almost unthinkably low price. You get your Chicago Style Dog for a mere $2.50. Where on earth can you get anything for $2.50? Here, you can get one of the best hot dogs in Chicago. Since you saved all your pennies on that dog, you can now venture out into uncharted territory. Do you dare? Kangaroo or Smoked Duck may be in your future. Chicago’s Dog House is located at 816 W. Fullerton in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

My stay at First Class Chicago was incredible. Do not come to Chicago and blow your chance to experience authentic Chicago. There are things in this city you need to see and experience. One of them is a First Class Chicago Vacation Rental; the other is a Chicago Dog!

First Class Chicago’s 8 Favorite Chicago Free Events

We all want to feel like we are traveling in the First Class Chicago style. We want the Gold Coast neighborhood where our fabulous Brownstone Vacation Rentals are located.  We want our High Rise Vacation Rental suite with all the amenities. And we also want to find Chicago free events. However, what we need most of all is a break. We need to feel like we are having a great time and it isn’t costing us the deed to our house. Chicago has many options. If you don’t believe you can have fun at Chicago free events, try these on for size.

The Best of Chicago Free Events and Venues

NatureBoardwalkLincolnPark
NatureBoardwalkLincolnPark

Lincoln Park Zoo: This zoo is incredible and can you believe it? A zoo, for free? But it gets better. It is located minutes north of downtown and has all sorts of programs and events.  Plus, it is a much cooler zoo than most. Because of its close, intimate setting, you get to get a much closer view of the animals. Spend some time meandering the new Nature Boardwalk, a pond habitat that features native plants and wildlife. If I haven’t tooted the zoo’s horn enough, their motto is, "Lincoln Park Zoo is everyone's zoo". That means it is yours, too.

freebies2
freebies2

The International Museum of Surgical Sciences:  If you are staying in one of our First Class Chicago Brownstone Vacation Rentals, you are in for a treat.  About a half a mile stroll up Lake Shore Drive will put you at the doorsteps to this Chicago free events gem. Nothing less than fascinating, the collections span floors of this converted mansion. Although this may not be the museum for everyone, if the strange, odd, or gory has any appeal whatsoever, you cannot miss this museum ~ one half education and one half shock.

freebies4
freebies4

Navy Pier: This place has rides, it has shopping, it has a beer garden and there is no cost of admission. There are events going on here all the time, like fireworks on Labor Day or BIGart at Navy Pier, an exhibit of huge outdoor art. It is a great place to grab some coffee or a soda and people watch.  Or, walk down to the end of the pier and saunter through Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows  (free, too). Wiling away an afternoon with a backdrop of Lake Michigan is nice no matter how you slice it.

freebies5
freebies5

The Museum of Contemporary Photography: I am one of those people, who, when taken to a county fair, spends an inordinate amount of time browsing through the photography entries. I love the professional photos but I also love the children’s and the amateur entries. If seeing that snapshot of the world through another’s eye is intriguing, you will be in heaven.  It is not a super big space but it is a great hour or two for Chicago free events, to be sure.

freebie3 BarneyRoss
freebie3 BarneyRoss

Spertus Museum: This is a museum about the Jewish experience. It is interesting in that it is not a holocaust museum. Hence, you get a much different museum vibe.

Right now, they are featuring two main exhibits: Uncovered and Rediscovered Stories of Jewish Chicago and Jewish Chicago and A Gift to Biro-Bidjan.

freebies6
freebies6

Millenium Park Chicago free events: You may be thinking, “a park? Of course, a park is free!” However, this is no ordinary park. It is the king of Chicago free events. In this park, they have festivals and tours and gardens and fun during the warm weather.

Most importantly, they have free ice skating in the winter. Magical.

freebies7
freebies7

Art Institute of Chicago & Museum of Contemporary Art: These two are grouped together and added with a hesitant disclaimer. They are only free one day a week if you are an Illinois resident.

We are so sorry to our out-of-state visitors to First Class Chicago Vacation Rentals that they won’t get to participate in this great deal but some Chicago free events are just for us.

Now, after a good night’s rest at a First Class Chicago Brownstone Vacation Rental or a First Class Chicago High Rise Rental and a full day of Chicago free events fun, take all that money you saved and go buy yourself a new pair of shoes: you deserve it!

5 Reasons to Try Chicago Gastropubs and 5 of Chicago's Best Gastropubs to Try!

thegagerestaurant
thegagerestaurant

For those of you who have never supped and drank at one of Chicago's gastropubs, you are missing out on a new and delightful dining experience. In a most basic definition, a gastropub is a high-bred fusion of a fine restaurant and a gritty pub, giving you the best of both worlds.

When staying at a vacation rental at First Class Chicago Vacation Rentals, the hippest, chic-est vacation rentals in Chicago, don’t be left out of the gastropubs craze that is sweeping the nation with Chicago in tow.

In our Craft Beer blog we hinted at the bounty of the gastropub experience and here we plan on giving you the inside scoop on Chicago gastropubs.

What You Get with Chicago Gastropubs

  1. Atmosphere: You are in Chicago. You are staying in an incredible vacation rental at First Class Chicago, either a shockingly amazing high rise rental or  brownstone in the luxurious Gold Coast neighborhood. Your mood is lively, yet relaxed. You want the finest in leather and wood furniture. You want your experience to be the entertainment. Well, you don’t have to go far. Chicago gastropubs give you unparalleled fun, people watching, and occasionally, some live music.
  2. Food: Really, I debated whether or not this should be the first or second bullet point because the food could be the star of the show. Without it, there would be no gastro in gastropub. The food is generally top notch and caters to upper class tastes. You can find all sorts of fun, from pork belly to die for to Charcuterie platters. You will come for the food but stay for the dining experience.
  3. Beer: The beer is extensive and broad spectrum. You will find craft beers on special release; you will find exotic ales from all over the world. Sometimes, they will have a limited list of exquisite choices and other times their list will be so long, you will need the assistance of the informed wait staff to guide you to your wet whistle destination.
  4. Cost: For all their upscale intoxicants and mouth-watering menus, Chicago gastropubs are affordable. They are not rock bottom cheap but they are a great bargain for what you get. Everyone can sample the delicacies that are only offered for hundreds of dollars per plate at finer establishments.
  5. Availability: Chicago Gastropubs are everywhere. You can be picky and find one with your favorite type of beer and your favorite food but it will be hard to find one that doesn’t have your style of beer and grub. Also, they are available to you if you are alone, or on a date. You can even take your kids and not feel like you are dragging them to a bar.

Five of the Best Chicago Gastropubs

Now that I have you on the edge of your seat, let me give you 5 of the most awesome gastropub establishments near your First Class Chicago Vacation Rental accommodations.

View Best Chicago Gastropubs in a larger map

When you stay First Class you want to eat First Class and a gastropub will give you the satisfaction of a great time and food that is at once comfort food and elegant beyond compare. Take the time during your stay with us at First Class Vacation Rentals to enjoy Chicago like a local!

Cheers!

How to Travel in Chicago: Tour Frank Lloyd Wright Houses

Unity Temple Interior
Unity Temple Interior

Travel to Chicago cannot help but be influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, shocking in its beauty. Can you imagine contracting an architect to build your home and they build it completely furnished?  Then, your sales contract has a clause that you must keep the furniture, as is? The only saving grace is that Frank Lloyd Wright is the person leading the build, and build he did.

Chicago is Frank Lloyd Wright’s home town

When you travel to Chicago, your stay at a First Class Chicago brownstone or high rise vacation rental would not be complete if you didn’t add a bit of Mr. Wright to your stay. First, you book a room at First Class Chicago in one of our sumptuous high rise vacation rentals, or  an elegant brownstone.

Travel in Chicago: Check out Oak Park IL

Oak Park is a little town 10 miles from our high rise but it is well worth the trek. In Oak Park alone you will find:

  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home and Studio: This place is amazing for so many reasons. I have been to many of the homes Frank spent time in and this is an  absolute charmer. Don’t miss the octagonal library and the drafting tables in his work studio. A friend of mine came home from this tour and built a copy of the desk for himself.
  • The Unity Temple: Still operates as a Unitarian Universalist church. Come for a worship service on Sunday with the Universalists or call to schedule a tour. The glass work in the church is different than most religious stained glass but equally awe inspiring.
  • Walking Tour of Oak Park ( ): Stroll through the tree lined streets and enjoy the 20+ homes built by Frank Lloyd Wright. Grab a picnic lunch and feast in Austin Gardens Park.
Wright Studio
Wright Studio

Tour Wright Architecture in Chicago Proper

If you don’t want to drive all the way into Oak Park…..STOP right there…. make that drive… It is worth it! But if you want to do more Frank Lloyd Wright closer to your vacation rental, Chicago boasts Wright architecture at every turn. Some closer Wright options include:

  • The Robie House: This building, on the campus of the University of Chicago was built by Frank Lloyd Wright for Mr. Frederick Robie. It is open for tours through its restoration. This place is a pretty big deal in the architectural community. Might be worth a gander.
  • The Lobby at the Rookery: This is the lobby where Frank Lloyd Wright had his downtown office. When the lobby was renovated, Frank Lloyd Wright headed it up. The magically bright ironwork and lighting are incredibly dramatic.

*Insider’s Note: fork up and take the tour when you travel in Chicago. Your docents are generally highly educated about Frank Lloyd Wright, his architecture, and the general period. The tour is essential to maximizing your Wright experience. You will not be sorry. Mr. Wright’s architecture encompasses the beauty of each and every part of the environment.

It is a sensual experience to tour one of his homes and I have seen them from Arizona to Wisconsin. Frank Lloyd Wright and First Class Chicago High Rise and Brownstone Vacation Rentals is the perfect combination for your particular taste. Let me tell you…I know particular.

Chicago Craft Beers and a First Class Chicago Vacation Rental: Perfect Weekend Getaway

If you haven’t entered the world of craft beer, you obviously are not hip to what is trending around the U.S. Craft beer is a sensation from Breckenridge Brewery, in Colorado (whose Vanilla Porter is a MUST taste) to Iron Fist, in Vista, California. The craft beer sensation has not missed Chicago. The folks in Chicago take their craft beer seriously and host many events to showcase their local pride. However, nothing could be more perfect than enjoying this craft beer phenomenon in Chicago whilst laying your head at an impeccable vacation rental from First Class Chicago.

In June: Chicago Craft Beer Festival

craftbeer
craftbeer

Although Chicago hosts it’s annual Craft Brew Week in May, do not fret, you have not missed all the fun. In fact, a new entrant to the world of craft brew festivals is the Chicago Craft Beer Festival held June 29th through July 1st. The way beer festivals work is pretty standard. Usually, you buy a ticket which gives you many, if not unlimited, tastings of the featured craft beers.

However the Chicago Craft Beer Festival also sports a “European Style” street fair with gourmet food, and arts and crafts. BONUS! The best part is that this festival will be held at St. Michael in Old Town which is an easy 1-mile walk from the Gold Coast neighborhood, where First Class’s brownstones are located, and two miles from our luxurious high rise vacation rentals.

Chicago in July: German Craft Beers at Deutschland uber Ales and Lagers Event

craft-beer
craft-beer

This year the Chicago Beer Society is hosting Deutschland uber Ales and Lagers on July 31st. This event celebrates German style beer from Europe and the United States. Tentatively their food menu includes: Thuringer and bratwurst sausage, frikadellen, sauerkraut, spaetzle, and chicken schnitzel and, of course, German potato salad from Olga’s deli. Over 25  beers have been confirmed for the event, including:

  • America’s Brewing – Kolsch
  • Emmett’s Brewing – Kolsch or Alt
  • Flossmoor Station – Pilsner
  • Gordon Biersch – Alt
  • Great Lakes Brewing – Dortmunder Gold
  • Lakefront Brewery – Eastside Dark
  • Lunar Brewing – Blonde Doppelbock
  • Metropolitan Brewing – Flywheel Bright Lager, Dynamo Copper Lager
  • Mickey Finn’s – Helles, and possibly Mexican Vienna Lager
  • New Belgium Brewing – 1554 Black Lager
  • Piece – Hefewizen
  • Rock Bottom Chicago – Smoked Helles
  • Rock Bottom Warrenville – Kolsch
  • Three Floyds – Schwarzbier and/or Pilsner

My mouth is watering, already. Even though this event is a little further out, 7 miles is worth the drive for me. Staying in a First Class Chicago High Rise or Brownstone is worth the luxury and the peace of mind. This German fiesta is paired with a museum exhibit about Chicago’s German community. Sounds matched just fine.

August: Midsummer Day’s Ale Festival

murphys-bleachers
murphys-bleachers

No review of 2012 beer events in Chicago would be complete without a mention of an event going on across from Wrigley Field. Again, The Chicago Beer Society is hosting the event, a Midsummer Day’s Ale, at Murphy’s Bleachers on Saturday August 31st.

This event features summer beers and includes a tour of Murphy’s and shockingly amazing pub grub, in the new Gastropub tradition. On any given weekend, you can find craft beer events of all sorts. My best advice is to start tasting. Once you do, you realize that brewing is a craft and a special beer is every bit as complex as wine. The variety of beers to choose from is awesome. It is such a fun weekend to plan a getaway with an event like craft beer tasting. Combine this fun with a stay in the MOST incredible vacation rental you can imagine through First Class Chicago Vacation Rentals , and you have the makings of a great vacation.

Don’t miss the high rise or brownstone vacation rentals! Don’t miss the craft beer! Don’t miss Chicago!

The Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Chicago

vegetarian
vegetarian

As a vegetarian, I know traveling can be unbearable. Restaurants are always hit-or-miss and the concierge rarely have any knowledge, whatsoever, about vegetarian/vegan options. Especially in the Midwest, the Beef Capital of the world. When I planned my trip to Chicago I made sure to book a High Rise vacation rental from First Class Chicago Vacation Rentals. Why? I always appreciate a kitchen. Sometimes, we just need some vegetables and brown rice and I cannot emphasize enough how dramatic and crazy it is to make that simple dinner staring at Chicago, 39 stories up, with the sun setting. May I always remember that image when I’m cooking. I mean, you cannot miss out on the Chicago skyline. In fact, I would go as far as to say that you have not really seen Chicago until you have seen it out of a high-rise. It is magical. First Class Chicago has 2 two-bedroom options that are unbelievable, on the 39th floor and 52nd floors!

Best Old-School Vegetarian Restaurants: Chicago Diner

chicago-diner
chicago-diner

Chicago also has some of the best vegetarian restaurants around. They are frequented by veggies and non-veggies alike. Driving by Chicago Diner will tell you, immediately, “this ain’t your hippie mama vegan restaurant.” Located at 3411 North Halsted Street, you will find all sorts of hipsters congregated, waiting for a table in this retro diner. There is a reason it is packed. It is delicious. On my last stay, I actually had to come back to the Chicago Diner a second time to get another Radical Rueben. It is the Vegetarian Times Magazine, Readers Choice Winner, Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Midwest. This place serves dang good food whether you are a vegetarian or an omnivore. You will end up planning your next trip around a visit to Chicago Diner.

New Addition to Chicago Vegetarian Restaurant Scene: Native Foods Cafe

native-foods
native-foods

And... a new addition to the Chicago vegetarian scene is an import from Southern California, Native Foods Café. The closest location to downtown is about a mile and half away from your First Class Chicago high rise vacation rental and it is worth the walk or taxi fare. I cannot laud enough accolades upon Native Foods. Every place they open a new location flourishes because the food is so appealing on such a large scale.

You can choose from delectable bowls or wraps but you cannot miss their Scorpion Burger. It is huge and filling and one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. They start with their home made tempeh patty and they blacken it with Cajun spices. Then they pile on avocado, carrots , red onions and lettuce and slather on their vegan Chipotle Aioli. It is shocking how good it is. Always make sure to order yours with a side of sweet potato fries and an extra side of Chipotle Aioli to dip your fries into. You will not be disappointed.

First Class Chicago Historic Brownstone or High Rise vacation rentals provide you with the options you need no matter who you are or what your life style. We understand our mix of customers and try to open up Chicago for all their tastes and needs. For vegetarians, Do Not Miss these Chicago favorites! For Non-Vegetarians, Do Not Miss these Chicago favorites!

The E Huron high-rises are at the green marker - click the map to get directions to the best vegetarian restaurants in Chicago.

Historic Brownstone Pairs Well with Chicago’s Historic Gangsters

First Class Chicago makes pairing history with a Chicago vacation rental an incredible experience. Staying in an historic brownstone pairs architectural history with Chicago’s gangster background like fine wine and cheese. Whenever you think of Chicago you cannot help but think of Al Capone's own 'gangster squad' and the history tied to the Prohibition Era. In fact, to come to Chicago and not enjoy these sites robs you of a piece of what made Chicago the city it is today. All the memorable names in gang history were here.  

Visit the Biograph

gang-biograph
gang-biograph

In 1934, John Dillinger, the most prolific bank robber in human history, was shot at the Biograph Theater in Chicago. Even today when you approach the old Biograph, now the Victory Gardens Biograph, you can’t help but be transported back to another time. The same Marquee stands in front of the same building that stood during Dillinger’s day. Made of red brick, the Biograph Theater is one of the only remaining examples of early Chicago theater design. It is an architectural icon unto its own. The inside of the theater was recently modernized so now you can take in a play in a historically significant monument.

al-capone
al-capone

The home where Al Capone lived with his family for many years, still stands on 7244 South Prairie Avenue. Or for the real enthusiast, you can go down to the site of the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre which took place on February 14, 1929.  Al Capone’s mob, dressed like police officers, lined up men of the North Side Gang and executed them. The garage where the massacre occurred, which stood at 2122 N. Clark Street, was demolished in 1967.  In stark contrast to this violence is the grassy, shaded parking lot for a retirement home that remains.

Speakeasys - the Original Gangster Hangouts

gang-greendoortavern
gang-greendoortavern

Mere steps from one of First Class Chicago’s historic brownstones is the adventure of enjoying a cocktail in a former speakeasy. Chicago is full of them. During prohibition, Chicago would not be forced dry. These underground and illegal establishments blossomed in every neighborhood of historic Chicago. The Green Door Tavern , so named because restaurants with green doors told their patrons that there was a speakeasy inside, still exists as the oldest Chicago tavern. In the heart of the Chicago Loop you can also sip a Dry Gin Martini at the Exchequer Restaurant and Pub  which was famous for being one of gangster Al Capone’s favorite hangouts. Check out a full list of former speakeasy pubs.

Take A Gangster Tour

If you don’t want to do all the research on your own, a fun option suited for those of you staying in either of First Class Chicago’s famous historical Brownstones or one of our high rise apartments  is a Chicago Gang Tour. Untouchable Tours provides fun, no hassle tours of all the memorable Chicago gangster spots.

Be a part of history when you put yourself in the locations where bullets rang out in the night and where bars were raided and hundreds of gallons of alcohol seized. Go back to 1920 – 1930s Chicago when you stay at a First Class Chicago vacation rental in our Historic Brownstone and explore Chicago’s fascinating gangster history.

Vacation in a Chicago Brownstone ~ What is a Brownstone Anyway?

Are Chicago Brownstones really that special?

CIMG1421
CIMG1421

Chicago Brownstone vacation rentals at First Class Chicago are very special, indeed. Brownstone is an actual special brown sandstone. The sedimentary stone used in Chicago Brownstones was mined in New Jersey and Connecticut. Brownstones were so popular in the late 19th and 20th century that the mines that once fed Chicago are now closed. This stone was used to clad the outside of some of the most beautiful homes in Chicago. It is more than just brown brick, it is a special, beautiful façade. First Class Chicago specializes in Chicago Brownstone vacation rentals. You can find all the low down on what is and what is not a genuine Chicago Brownstone here.

What on earth is a Chicago Brownstone?

Chicago Brownstones have, traditionally, been found in the most affluent and lovely neighborhoods in Chicago, such as the Gold Coast. After the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, Potter Palmer, a famous millionaire, came to the Gold Coast area and built his mansion. The Palmer mansion is a 42-room castle, still glorious today. Other millionaires came after Palmer and created an area of great luxury and beauty. Today, everyone can appreciate Astor Street in the Gold Coast area, filled with Brownstones. Alongside these homes you can browse the incredible shops and enjoy the famous International Museum of Surgical Science along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Why would I want to stay in a Chicago Brownstone vacation rental?

Hellickson0408-012532
Hellickson0408-012532

Choosing First Class Chicago allows you the opportunity to experience a Chicago Brownstone on your own. You can stay in an exquisite Gold Coast Chicago Brownstone with all the history on the outside, completely remodeled on the inside. We offer two one bedroom/one bath options, one on the second floor and one on the third floor. Both boast hardwood floors and are designed with top of the line materials for your discerning taste. Enjoy them in the summer months or curl up next to the stone fireplace with a good book picked from one of the many specialty bookstores in Chicago.  For larger parties, or those needing more elbow room we also have an amazing two bedroom option, complete with arched front windows and all the accoutrements you need to make your Chicago Brownstone vacation truly magical.