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What to Do in Chicago This Spring

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Although you hardly need an excuse to dive into the Art Institute of Chicago, an exhibition of Rembrandt portraits provides extra incentive this spring.

Michigan Avenue entrance; courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

Although you hardly need an excuse to dive into the Art Institute of Chicago, an exhibition of Rembrandt portraits provides extra incentive this spring.

Waking after a long deep-freeze of a winter, the Windy City bursts into colorful spring with a happening hotel, some venerable Old Masters, and a lovely day in the park.

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In the dark days of January, 41,000 Chicago residents voted for their favorite architectural designs for a new terminal at Chicago’s busy and aging O’Hare International Airport. Submissions came from celebrated architectural giants like Santiago Calatrava, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and Sir Norman Foster. The public’s votes were compiled and taken into consideration by a selection committee that ultimately chose a design from Chicago-based Studio Gang. As is the city’s tradition, the election process led to accusations of favoritism and a lack of transparency, but construction on the new terminal will begin anyway in 2021.

Your time to visit is now, before the $8.5 billion project begins: Take a trip to Chicago.

Places Where Your U.S. Dollar Will Go Far in Spring

Get your craft on

The Renegade Craft Fair is like Etsy, if you like to drink craft tequila and eat pie while you shop. The fair attracts makers and buyers from all over the country to Chicago three times a year for a bout of retail fun. (The fairs are held in several cities, but Chicago is Renegade’s hometown so each one here feels like a homecoming.) This Mother’s Day weekend, hit the outdoor stalls set up in Pilsen’s arts district to shop 200+ vendors selling vintage vinyl, handcrafted handbags, food and drink, furniture, art, ceramics, and that perfect linen romper for this summer. Renegade Craft Fair May 11–12, free; 11 a.m.–6 p.m. renegadecraft.com

The Hoxton’s lobby wants guests—and locals—to linger.
Find a hotel that invites in the locals

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As with the seven other Hoxton hotels, Chicago’s new outpost (which opened in the Fulton Market neighborhood in early April 2019) honors its surrounding community by offering up a social hub rather than simply a place for guests. The lobby is a sunny, high-ceilinged space with comfortable clutches of sofas and chairs, lots of potted plants, opportunities to eat and drink (a lobby bar, and Cira, a modern Mediterranean restaurant, with Lazy Bird, a cocktail lounge tucked in a downstairs space).

Up on the mezzanine level, the Apartment, a lounge-y event space, will host regular cultural programming like film screenings, podcast tapings, and lectures. Upstairs, the 182  guest rooms combine elements of the neighborhood’s warehouse past, like poured concrete surfaces and metal-framed large windows, with warmer modern comforts like custom-designed rugs, leather headboards, walk-in showers, and artwork curated by Chicago gallerists. And then on the roof, an open-all-year Peruvian restaurant, Cabra Cevicheria, from lauded Chicago chef Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat, Little Goat) is destined to become a local favorite. Also up top, a new element for the London-based Hoxton brand: a seasonal outdoor pool. Fulton Market.  thehoxton.com

Four portraits by Rembrandt speak volumes about the artist.

Discover why Rembrandt’s called a master

In the same way that “Einstein” is shorthand for one type of genius, Rembrandt’s name is shorthand for artistic mastery. One look at his depiction of light glinting off the metal buttons or the deep mellow sheen of the velvet hat in a Self-Portrait and you’ll understand why. The current Rembrandt exhibit at the AIC offers only four portraits hung in one gallery, two of which are on loan from Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum, but its abbreviated size feel less like a limitation than an opportunity to achieve some intimacy with the work (and it leaves plenty of time to see the museum’s stellar collections; don’t miss a stop by the delightful Thorne Miniature Rooms). Rembrandt Portraits at the Art Institute of Chicago, through June 9. Open 10:30–5 p.m., daily; Thursdays until 8 p.m.; admission $25. artic.edu

The Osaka Garden, in Jackson Park, was designed by Frederick Law Omsted for the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.
Stroll garden paths to find the past and the future

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Finally, a walking tour created for that intersection of fans of Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, of landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted, of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, of Barack Obama, and of the 2003 Erik Larson bestseller, The Devil in the White City. Sarcasm aside, an exploration of any of these topics would make an entertaining couple of hours, so this “White City Revisited” walking tour of Jackson Park feels like a feast for fans of Chicago history. The Chicago Architecture Center has organized a trip to the park, the site of the Columbian Exhibition, a world’s fair that heralded the coming machine age. Architect Burnham designed the buildings for the fair, and Olmsted (known for New York’s Central Park) transformed the 540 acres into rolling woodland and lakes and gardens. Erik Larson used events surrounding the fair to form the basis of his historic book. The park’s also been chosen as the future home to the Obama Presidential Center. The two-hour walking tour promises a look at the past, the present, and the future of the park and why it holds a position on the National Register of Historic Places. White City Revisited, May 18, $26; reservations suggested. Tour meets at 11 a.m. in the parking lot at Hayes Dr. and Cornell Ave. architecture.org/tours/

Chicago’s New Architecture Center Is an Essential Stop for Design Lovers

Enjoy some Prine time

The 72-year-old singer-songwriter John Prine grew up in Illinois, studied at the storied Old Town School of Folk Music, and after receiving his first musical review from beloved Chicago critic Roger Ebert, went on to a long career, touring, writing, and raspily crooning songs like Illegal Smile and Angel from Montgomery. Prine returns to his old stomping grounds, playing in early June at Highland Park’s Ravinia (accessible via the Metra Union Pacific North Line which stops at Ravinia’s front gate). Southern Gothic folk singer Tyler Childers will open. John Prine + Tyler Childers at Ravinia, June 8 (tickets go on sale May 7); lawn tickets from $35; covered seating from $80; round-trip Metra ticket $8. ravinia.org

>> Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Guide to Chicago

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