Get Ready to Watch the Chicago Marathon

Autumn in Chicago isn’t just about the crisp air, colorful leaves, and pumpkin-spiced everything. It’s also about the thrilling sound of thousands of feet pounding the pavement, as the city gears up for the iconic Bank of America Chicago Marathon. For our residents at Optima Signature and Optima Lakeview, this October isn’t just any other month; it’s a front-row seat to one of the world’s premier running events.

Circle Sunday, October 8, 2023, on your calendar. The marathon unfolds in Grant Park, with gradual starts ensuring smooth sailing. For those not racing, join the celebration at Abbott 27.2 Fest from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. near the start line for a day full of music, food and fun. While Grant Park’s start and finish zones have some viewing restrictions, the race course offers numerous sweet spots for spectator cheering and encouragement.

The first mile of the marathon, Image via Flickr by Paladin27

The annual footrace is truly a global gathering, where more than 45,000 runners from every state in the U.S., and over 100 countries worldwide come together. Taking the runners on a grand tour, the 26.2-mile route dives deep into the city’s heart, stretching from Wrigleyville to the North, Pilsen and Little Italy to the West and the historic Douglass, near Guaranteed Rate Field, to the South. 

The prestigious event is more than just a marathon; it’s one of only six World Marathon Majors across the globe. For Optima Signature and Optima Lakeview residents, you have the privilege of stepping right outside to cheer on the incredible racers. And for the Optima Verdana community, consider making the short trip down from Wilmette. It’s a spectacle you won’t want to miss. You can find more details about the iconic event here!

A Guide to Chicago Restaurant Week

Spring is the season of new beginnings and reinvigoration — experiences many of us have been craving for a while. Thankfully, one of Chicago’s most cherished events is back this year, providing residents around the city with a treasured comfort. Here is our guide to Chicago Restaurant Week 2022.

Following last year’s modifications to the beloved event, Chicago Restaurant Week is back in full force for 2022. The 17-day festivity is a celebration of the city’s award-winning culinary scene. From March 25 to April 10, participants will have the opportunity to indulge in an endless list of Chicago’s most delectable eats.

The flavor-filled event features more than 300 restaurants, representing nearly any cuisine imaginable. Participating restaurants are found in both the city and its suburbs. So, whether you’re in Lakeview or Wilmette, there’s sure to be a plethora of choices around. Each restaurant will feature curated prix fixe menus filled with a variety of tasty eats. 

The multi-course meals vary in price, costing $25 for brunch and lunch and $39 or $55 for dinner (depending on the location). Many of the restaurants are also taking advantage of both takeout and delivery options for those looking to enjoy their meals from home. 

Chicago Restaurant Week is also partnering with Chicago Lighthouse’ Immersive Frida Kahlo Exhibit. The one of a kind experience will be held on March 22 from 6 – 8 p.m. and 8 – 10 p.m at Lighthouse Artspace Chicago. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy snacks and cocktails from eight restaurants while absorbing the extraordinary Immersive Frida Kahlo Exhibit.

For those planning to savor some of the mouth watering cuisines, Choose Chicago has created a list of participating restaurants, complete with menus and the opportunity to book tables throughout the event that you can explore for yourself here.

Winter Activities in Chicago

Although winter routinely draws the wrath of Chicagoans and visitors alike, it also brings an abundance of joy and entertainment for all. Chicago residents, especially those at Optima Signature, are particularly fortunate, with convenient access to some of the city’s most sought-after activities and venues. Here are just a few of the many ways you can experience the best of winter in the city. 

Daytime Agenda

There is no better way to start your morning than with an invigorating walk along the lakefront, where Chicago’s crisp air will stir your senses. You’ll be dazzled by the views of a snowy Chicago skyline that showcases many of the city’s architectural achievements — including John Hancock Center, St. Regis Chicago, the Mies van der Rohe buildings at 860–880 N Lakeshore Drive and more. And the spectacular sight of towering ice chunks piling up along the Lake Michigan shoreline is not to be missed.

We recommend your morning route takes you to Millennium Park. This iconic Chicago park lights up with vibrant colors and sounds during the winter months. Don’t miss out on winter musts like taking a snowy selfie at The Bean, or popping into the Art Institute to view one of the many blockbuster exhibitions on view.

The festive drinks at JoJo’s Shake Bar
The festive drinks at JoJo’s Shake Bar

If you’re searching for a unique ice skating experience this year, make your way to the famous Peninsula Hotel, which is only a few blocks north of Optima Signature. Explore the hotel’s exceptional sky rink for the special experience of skating in the clouds of downtown Chicago, surrounded by the city’s skyscrapers and inspiring views. The one-of-a-kind experience is a kid-friendly activity too. If you bring your child, the proceeds for admission ($20 for adults and $10 for children) are donated to two Chicago children’s charities: Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and Hephzibah Children’s Association.

Once you’re ready for a warm-up, head a few blocks North and indulge in a Biggie Shake or a gourmet Hot Chocolate from JoJo’s Shake Bar. You can’t go wrong with any of their famous, over-the-top specialty drinks that are essential to experiencing the best of Chicago’s winter season. 

Trees are illuminated with vibrant colors at The Lincoln Park ZooLights experience
Trees are illuminated with vibrant colors at The Lincoln Park ZooLights experience

Evening Agenda

The fun doesn’t end once the sun goes down! There are countless evening winter activities throughout the city that you can’t miss this year. 

Of course, we can’t go without mentioning the legendary Lincoln Park Zoo Lights. Brighten up your night by strolling through the hundreds of holiday light displays. This year, the exhibition introduces new features, including an alluring Enchanted Forest experience and an 18-foot Christmas tree! The beloved holiday tradition runs until the beginning of January and costs $5 for admission, excluding Mondays and Tuesdays, which are free for visitors.

The Nutcracker at the Joffrey Ballet, Photo courtesy of Cheryl Mann
The Nutcracker at the Joffrey Ballet, Photo courtesy of Cheryl Mann

Finally, cap your night by seeing a production of The Nutcracker at the Joffrey Ballet. This is a Chicago must, as it celebrates the culture and history of the city. During the performance you’ll be transported into another world, serenaded by the orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky and wowed by the dancers’ performances. Tickets can be found on their website and the production runs from December 4–26, 2021. 

Chicago’s winter can feel long, so while you can, fill your days and nights with enthralling seasonal activities to brighten your spirit. We promise you’ll feel the magic.

Exploring Optima Communities: Wrigley Field

One of our latest projects, Optima Lakeview, is in the midst of a neighborhood filled with interesting, iconic Chicago history. Within the Lakeview neighborhood is Wrigleyville, named after the home of the Chicago Cubs. The team itself is loved by fans near and far, but Wrigley Field is an equally fascinating piece of Chicago’s past. 

Lakeview Comes to Life

At the turn of the 20th century, the site of Wrigley Field was originally home to the Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary. At the same time, Lakeview was rapidly growing into a place for recreation and escape from the city; the once-quiet neighborhood was starting to change. The seminary sold the land, and developers started envisioning its future use. Due to leadership changes and funding, the site didn’t see real change for a little over a year.

A Stadium is Born

Around 1913, the owners of the Federal League, a minor league across six cities, secured the lease of the land. One of the owners, Charles Weeghman, commissioned a team of architects to design the stadium, which took just two months to complete. By 1914, the stadium — named Weeghman Park — was hosting its first major-league games. The park was a perfect fit for Lakeview’s changing dynamics, featuring modern design, impeccable cleanliness, top-notch food and hospitality.

The Wrigley Era

Despite the popularity of the stadium, the Federal League disbanded by 1915, but Weeghman didn’t give up. He purchased the existing Cubs franchise and moved the team to his own stadium. The Cubs played their first home game in Lakeview in 1916. Weeghman exited his management role shortly after, making way for another investor’s influence: chewing gum magnate William Wrigley. Wrigley hired the original architects to expand the existing structure to accommodate crowds and re-named the stadium to Wrigley Field. 

Over the years, the stadium saw plenty of other expansions and renovations, as did its surrounding neighborhood. Wrigley Field had such a magnetic pull that the community around it eventually became Wrigleyville. Streets, bars, restaurants and entertainment were all inspired by baseball, the Cubs and Wrigley Field. The vibrancy and excitement of Wrigleyville and the ballpark are both visible from Optima Lakeview’s Skydeck

Today, Wrigley Field is renowned as one of the oldest and most iconic Major League Baseball parks in the country. Chicago — and Lakeview — couldn’t be more proud to host the team; and we’re now thrilled to be part of the neighborhood.

Exploring Optima Communities: Chicago Riverwalk

Of all the things Chicago has to offer, its proximity to Lake Michigan is one of the perks that sets the city apart. At Optima Signature, our community enjoys sweeping views of the river that winds through Chicago, and access to the bustling riverwalk just steps away. Enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, the Chicago Riverwalk is a unique part of the downtown community, and one that offers the perfect taste of the city.

The idea of a Riverwalk was actually first introduced in Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago; however, it took until 2001 for the project to truly take shape. During Wacker Drive’s reconstruction, the work included a way for Chicago’s Lakefront Trail to connect to sidewalks along the river. The project was completed in sections over the years, expanding to include terraced lawns, wider walkways, seating and a pedestrian-friendly space for people to enjoy the riverfront.

Kayaks on the Chicago River

In 2012, Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled plans for an addition to the Riverwalk, extending it another six blocks. The new section included six distinct spaces or ‘rooms’, with restaurants and outdoor seating, fountains, piers and access for boats. If you’re looking to set sail on one of Chicago’s many architecture tours by boat, the Riverwalk will be your starting point. For those who are feeling adventurous, urban kayaks are available for rental. The Riverwalk is also home to Art on the Mart, a spectacular light show on the Merchandise Mart which is best viewed from the Riverwalk’s streets. 

The Chicago Riverwalk covers 1.25 miles through the heart of Chicago, and is a wonderful, immersive way to experience the city’s waterfront, architecture, culture and energy. With the weather warming up for spring, it’s worth a visit for a daytime walk or nighttime stroll.

The Arts Club of Chicago

An iconic creative space in Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago has been a hub for contemporary art in the Windy City for more than 100 years. Only a five-minute walk from Optima Signature and Optima Chicago Center, The Arts Club of Chicago exhibits international works from both established and emerging artists, breaking new ground for over 100 years. Today, we explore the fascinating history and unique details that make The Arts Club of Chicago a beloved neighbor within our Streeterville community.

A Scandalous Start

Founded in 1916, The Arts Club of Chicago was founded by artists and advocates after The Armory Show garnered negative attention when it exhibited at the Art Institute. As the first major exhibition of modern art in America, Chicagoans were shocked and scandalized. The Club’s founders took note of the negative reception and aimed to normalize modern art by curating exhibits tailored to Chicago, enabling the Club to present new, cutting-edge culture for residents and visitors alike. 

Finding a Home

Over the years, the Club has moved from an office space, to Michigan Avenue, to the Wrigley Building;  in 1951, it moved to 109 East Ontario Street. The new space was created just for The Arts Club by architectural legend Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Sadly, in 1990, the owner sold the building, which led to The Club’s current John Vinci-designed two-story building located in Streeterville. Although much of Mies’ architectural work was lost in the move, the building remains an homage to his design and his steel staircase was restored and remains the focal point of the first-floor space, adjacent to Alexander Calder’s Red Petals

The Club Today

Today, The Arts Club offers three or four major public exhibitions a year, along with displaying work from its permanent collection. The Club also offers a broad, rich calendar of programming, bringing lectures, demonstrations, gallery talks, films, music, dance presentations and other educational programming to Chicago, and to our Optima communities. 

For hours and visitor information, visit The Arts Club of Chicago website.

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