Start the week in Chicago by touring the arts district's galleries and meeting the people behind the art. Cheer on the marathon runners—Chinatown is a good base—and then prepare yourself for an intellectual marathon as Chicago Ideas Week kicks off. If, as organizers claim, sharing ideas has the power to transform the world, there will be a lot of world-changing going on during this annual summit of the globe's most prominent thinkers. Looking to escape the city? Fall is the perfect time to hit the fruit belt and sample nature's most generous bounty—cider.
October 9 | Art walk
Second Friday Gallery Night
See how Chicago's most vibrant arts community works (and plays) when you visit the East Pilsen Arts District's galleries and artist studios the second Friday night of every month. Fall is a lovely time to do this, since you'll be exploring the area on foot. Spanning six blocks, the district's self-guided walking tour takes you inside 30 galleries where works from established and emerging artists are waiting for a new home. You can get a peek inside artists' residences, studios, and work spaces, making it that much cooler to own a work by an artist you've actually spoken to. Stop by the Art District Info Center at 18th and Halsted for a map, then get walking.
6–10 p.m. | 1821 S. Halsted St., Chicago | (312) 738-3000 | Free | website
October 11 | Cheer on the runners
Bank of America Chicago Marathon
Want to run the Chicago Marathon? You have a few days left to train. Just kidding! Running 26.2 miles on a whim is only for diehard masochists. Instead, cheer on those who have been training for this run for the past year by setting up camp along the route. At miles 13.5 (Halsted and Adams Streets) and 16.5 (Halsted St. and Jackson Blvd.), you can grab a free cowbell to ring to give runners some extra motivation. But if you really want to do it right, place yourself at Wentworth Ave. and Cermak Rd. in Chinatown, where the dragon dancers and music add to the festivities and, most important, you can peace out for some dim sum (Cai in Chinatown Square is a must) after your cheering voice gives out.
7:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. | Locations vary | Free | website
October 12–18 | Change the world through ideas
Chicago Ideas Week
Whether you're an entrepreneur, an engineer, a musician, a scientist, or just intellectually curious, you'll find something that stimulates your brain at Chicago Ideas Week. Learn about the art of graffiti from Chicago graffiti artists (then create your own spraypainted work of art), get a rare opportunity to check out the Midwest's largest rooftop garden on top of McCormick Place, or harvest honey from a beehive at a working apiary. Talks range from how sex and cultural taboos are changing in the modern age to how to lead under pressure with General (Ret.) David Patraeus.
Times and locations vary | $15 per event | website
AFAR Local is published every Wednesday, so check back for insider updates on restaurant openings, festivals, exhibitions, shows, weekend escapes, and more. Planning a trip? The AFAR guide to Chicago has you covered.
Through January 16 | Swashbuckling theater
Tony Award–winning Chicago director Mary Zimmerman reimagines the swashbuckling pirate novel by Robert Louis Stevenson for the stage, using the vivid visuals she and Lookingglass Theatre are known (and repeatedly lauded) for. The harrowing, seafaring tale takes a band of rogues, including the villainous, peg-legged Long John Silver, on a treacherous search for buried treasure. It's a show even young buccaneer-lovers (10 and up) will love. Catch it before it moves on to the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in the spring.
Times vary | Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago | (312) 337-0665 | From $35 | website
Weekend escape | Road trip
About 2.5 hours from Chicago is the bucolic area of Southwest Michigan known as the fruit belt. Orchards, blueberry farms, and wineries dot the rural landscape, and you could spend a day making stops to sample everything. But the highlight of your trip will surely be Virtue Farms, in Fennville, whose raison d'être is the best use of apples next to pie: cider. Former Goose Island head brewmaster Greg Hall founded Virtue Farms four years ago on the belief that cider will become as popular as beer. While it still has a ways to go in that regard, the dry, crisp cider that Hall is making is well worth stopping to taste. Tour the cider houses, too, where apples are pressed into juice and stored in fermentation tanks before hanging out in barrels in the Barrel Room.
Bottle shop and tastings open 10 a.m.–7 p.m. daily; tours at TK p.m. Sat. | 2170 62nd St., Fennville, MI | (773) 868-6878 | website
Laura Baginski is a Chicago-based writer and editor who specializes in travel and parenting. Because of the latter, the former doesn't happen as much as she'd like.