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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.

Angie Chache Team Member Spotlight

Our passionate team at Optima is the heart and soul behind each of our communities and embodies all of our values daily. We recently sat down with Angie Chache, Optima Lakeview’s Property Manager, to learn more about her journey to Optima Lakeview and what excites her the most about this extraordinary new property. 

Tell us a bit about your background and the role you play at Optima.

I have been in residential property management for almost 20 years, managing different types of communities in a Property Manager and Regional Manager role. With Optima Lakeview, I am the Property Manager, so I oversee the site itself. I’m responsible for the entire building and its system of operations, and because I’m jumping in just as the building is being completed, it will be my first lease up. I am excited about it!

What drew you to Optima initially, and what’s kept you working there?

Initially, a conversation with Ali Burnham, the Marketing Director, introduced me to the vibrant project they were building here. My first experience with an Optima community was actually Optima Old Orchard Woods; I was drawn to its classical modernist architectural style. So when the opportunity to join the team at Optima Lakeview came up, I was very excited. At Optima, there is this wonderful collaboration between all departments. With most companies, the architect/designer and developer/builder are separate entities. So at Optima, where we do everything essentially under one roof, I observe that things go much more smoothly on the operations side of things.

How do you view the concept of community at Optima? How does it differ from other properties/buildings?

Community at Optima means providing exceptional and curated experiences for our residents. The buildings are designed with extensive amenity spaces so they can seamlessly function as an extension of our residents’ homes. Our tagline at Optima Lakeview is Expect the Extraordinary, which I believe speaks for both the building’s outstanding architecture and the rich community we are creating within it. 

One of our philosophies that encompasses our value around relationships and community is called the Optima Way. The Optima Way sets the stage for Optima experiences that are very unique and customized for every one of our residents. We strive to get to know every resident, what they like, what they don’t like, and how we can make all of their experiences unique. It’s about being encouraged by our company culture to create extraordinary encounters for the residents. When you live in an Optima community, it’s more than just living in any generic apartment; it’s about what residents can enjoy when they’re here and what we can do as a team to curate living experiences just for them. 

There are a lot of luxury properties in the market, but what differentiates us is our suite of services. The resident events we frequently host are incredibly special, including fitness classes and kid-focused events (we’re one of the only communities doing this). And our grand amenity spaces are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Residents at Optima Lakeview are going to feel like these spaces are an extension of their home. Some areas feel private, and others are great spots to gather with friends…because when you have that much space to spread out, it’s going to feel like home.

Optima has a unique set of values that differentiates it from other company cultures. How does that affect the quality of your work life? What values matter most to you?

My bucket gets filled every day. Yes, there are challenges and days that are hard, but there is also support and fluidity between the departments. We all work for the same company which, on the Property Management side of the business, makes my job so much easier. The two values that speak to me the most are that we build strong lasting relationships and that people are — and always will be — the most important pieces of the puzzle. 

In my career, relationships — whether it be with employees, vendors, or residents — have been at the forefront of my values, and I always want everyone to feel welcomed and appreciated. Optima allows me to curate experiences for people and provide amazing customer service, and it isn’t typical of companies to have the customer at the forefront. Many companies say they value that, but Optima acts on it.

What makes you most proud to be a part of the Optima team?

The beautiful ,innovative designs of our buildings, how we impact our residents’ lives, and the intentional way we work to be a part of the communities we build in. I never really understood the thought put into Optima’s communities before I started working here. We strive to build long-lasting relationships and partner with businesses surrounding our community so our residents and the surrounding businesses can benefit from those partnerships we form.

I’m also proud of the way we give back to the communities where we have built. Recently, we partnered with Lakeview Pantry and worked there for a day, which allowed us to see the lives that are impacted daily by this organization right here in the Lakeview neighborhood. We are excited to partner with them long-term and see how our community can help support such an important cause.

With move-ins scheduled for the spring, what elements of Optima Lakeview should new residents be most excited about?

Everything! We have 198 units with 52-floor plans, which means sometimes there may only be one unit of a particular floor plan, so our uniqueness provides a sense of exclusivity. I can’t wait for residents to see our 7-story atrium that will be filled with an abundance of natural light and the vibrant vertical landscaping that will live inside of it — similar to the vertical landscaping we do on the exteriors of our Arizona communities. We will have 40,000 square feet of amenity space for only 198 residences. Our skydeck with 360-degree views of the city will also have a heated pool and jacuzzi that can be used year-round — even when it’s snowing. And, we’ll have private terraces that range from 300 square feet up to 2,000 square feet, some with private grills and firepits. Our community is like no other in this neighborhood.

New Book Release: Reflections on the Career of David Hovey Sr., FAIA

Hot off the press is the spectacular retrospective of the 40+ year career of David Hovey Sr., FAIA, Optima’s CEO and Founder. David Hovey Sr., released by Images Publishing, is a collector’s item that arrived on bookshelves in January 2022. The monograph opens with a beautiful introductory essay by the late luminary architect Helmut Jahn, who wrote about their decades-long friendship and Hovey’s “staggering” influence on architecture. Entitled “Living Beautifully,” Jahn explains:

“The best thing that can be said about the work of David Hovey Sr. in his chosen field of multi-family and single-family housing is that he builds unique and inventive dwellings for people to live beautifully. That he chooses to play not just the role of the architect but also that of developer, contractor, construction manager, sales and leasing agent, and building operator makes the achievement even more remarkable. As his own client and CEO of his company, Optima, Hovey demonstrates that it’s possible to successfully execute the very different skills of an architect and a developer by applying tremendous knowledge and tenacity and assuming great responsibility. Many who have tried to work as an architect-developer have failed because they did not find the right balance. David Hovey expanded the role of the architect to the level of a master building and in this, he is without equal in his generation.”

A sketch of Optima’s Sterling Ridge

In the words of friend and chronicler, Jahn talks about the arc of Hovey’s career:

“Hovey’s built work is a testament to constant refinement and improvement, each project a step along a path to take on new and bigger challenges, never being afraid of making a mistake by doing something new. The achievements of an architect become more evident with the passing of time. The good buildings become more important, the others will be forgotten.”

In Jahn’s reflections on Hovey’s deep understand of the complex issue of climate change, he shares his thoughts this way:

“David Hovey’s work should be recognized for more than its architectural design. This is particularly evident in his desert buildings where he addresses the important issue of climate change that challenges architecture today. Authorities measure energy consumption as the primary factor in building construction. Looking at energy efficiency alone is the wrong measure. We don’t have an energy problem, we have an emissions problem. Carbon dioxide is the principal culprit in climate change and the building industry contributes a considerable amount of it to the atmosphere.

Optima’s Biltmore Towers

“In Hovey’s buildings, there are strategies that address climate issues. This is demonstrated in the use of many prefabricated lightweight materials for load-bearing or non-load-bearing, enclosing parts. This extends to the use of recycled steel. Hovey regularly employs effective sun-shading devices. His strategies include LED lighting as well as energy-saving heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems. Sustainability is assured by design and not through additional equipment or devices, which don’t pay off over time. Here, the mind of the architect and developer in one person can best design and build buildings where nothing can be taken away to come closer to perfection. Only through knowledge, determination, and a deep sense of responsibility can these energy goals be achieved, as the buildings show.”

Stay tuned for other inspiring excerpts from David Hovey Sr., along with stunning images of completed structures and his extraordinary sketches. For those who wish to purchase the book, it is available through a number of booksellers online.

Chicago Skyscraper History: the Merchandise Mart

Chicago has earned its place on the architectural map with endless distinctions, including being home to the tallest building in the world for 25 years and to numerous acclaimed architects like Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Marion Mahony Griffin and Jeanne Gang. But did you know that it’s also home to the world’s largest commercial building? Today, we’re taking a look at the history of the city’s beloved Merchandise Mart

How It Came to Be

As dated infrastructure (like the abandoned railroad yards in the downtown area) proliferated in the early decades of the 20th century, more and more land development opportunities opened up. In hopes of beautifying the frontage along the Chicago River, Marshall Field & Co. announced their purchase of one of the largest available sites, at the junction of the River’s branches. The company began construction in 1928 and when the Merchandise Mart opened in 1930, it achieved the company’s dream of becoming a dedicated wholesale center for architectural and interior design vendors and trades serving the entire nation. And, with 4 million square feet on 25 floors under a single roof spanning two city blocks, it became the largest building in the world.

Merchandise Mart, Courtesy of Jeremy Atherton

TheMART was imagined as a city-within-a-city. Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, the architects behind the structure’s streamlined look, took inspiration from traditional Art Deco architectural elements, including ribbon piers to define windows, setbacks and pavilions atop each corner to disguise the bulk of the building. Marshall Field himself was involved in the building’s design; his love for art inspired him to employ Jules Guerin to create 17 murals on the interior lobby’s frieze. Each mural details trade throughout the world and depicts the products, transportation and architecture of 14 countries.

TheMART was also a monumental experiment in state-of-the-art engineering and modern materials. At a cost of $26 million, it took advantage of construction techniques normally used in the building of big dams and employed nearly 5,700 workers at the height of the Great Depression.

theMART in the Modern Era

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, theMART faced a handful of modernization projects. One was designed by Helmut Jahn to connect the building with the Apparel Center located across Orleans Street with a pedestrian bridge. The building was LEED Certified Silver in 2007, followed by LEED Gold Certification in 2013 and in 2018.

In recent years, as the contract furniture industry has evolved from a focus on a wholesale hub and independent manufacturer showrooms, the Mart has repositioned itself as a destination for innovation, creativity, technology and entrepreneurship. Rebranded “theMART,” the building remains the world’s largest commercial building, and has become home to a host of changemakers, including Motorola Mobility, 1871, Yelp, PayPal and MATTER, as well as Fortune 500 companies Conagra, Allstate, Kellogg, Beam Suntory, and Grainger.

Art on theMart, Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition, Monet and Chicago, April, 2021

Today, theMART continues to celebrate an appreciation for architecture and art. The building now hosts a digital art display popularly known for “Art on theMART,” to showcase the work of prominent artists on the south façade of the structure. 

With our love for all things “forever modern” at Optima, we are proud to have this magnificent example of design innovation and tireless reinvention in our midst.

A Guide to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Studios Part 1: Taliesin

Frequently referred to as the father of American modernism through his establishment of the Prairie School of architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright gifted the world with many culturally-significant designs, forever leaving his stamp on American architecture. Many of Wright’s designs are widely celebrated and remain standing today, including Taliesin, one of his most iconic works that altered his life and the lives of those around him while serving as his studio.

The archetype of Prairie School architecture was built in 1911 by Wright after he had left Oak Park, Illinois to return to his family’s land in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Derived from Welsh mythology, Taliesin was an ancient poet, whose name means radiant brow. Wright built the exemplary estate in a Wisconsin River valley into the brow of his favorite hill from boyhood, hence its name. 

During the process of designing Taliesin, Wright drew inspiration from the patterns and rhythms of his surroundings. He became inspired by the thought of living among his ancestry and the nature that surrounded him as he embodied the idea of organic architecture within his design. Wright refined visions from his previous Prairie School designs, including a lush courtyard and open floor plan, and used local limestone and sand from the Wisconsin River to invite the outdoors indoors — a radical idea at the time. 

Throughout the estate’s history, it suffered a number of accidents, including two fires that sparked Wright to complete two renovations on Taliesin. The first of which, Taliesin II, was completed in 1915 after arson had destroyed one-third of the house, including Wright’s living quarters. The redesign was nearly identical to the architecture in Taliesin I, excluding its new observation deck and, in an attempt to make the estate completely self-sufficient, Wright’s hydroelectric generator. 

Taliesin, Photographed in 1913 before the first of its two fires, Courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society

Following another destructive fire in 1925, Wright was forced once again to pour new life into Taliesin and went to develop the third rendition of the estate, Taliesin III. Through the devastation, Wright remained committed to his passion for thoughtful architecture and brought a breath of fresh air to the bare structure that surrounded him. While living at Taliesin III Wright also designed some of his more renowned work, including Fallingwater, the headquarters for S.C. Johnson and Jacobs I (the Herberg Jacobs House).

Beginning in 1932, Wright established the Taliesin Fellowship and hosted 50 apprentices at Taliesin on an annual basis, giving them the opportunity to work for him for a lengthy period of time and experience his intensive working environment. Today, the estate is in the hands of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and the fellowship uses the neighboring Hillside School as its home base. The esteemed property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1976. 

Located just a few hours outside of Chicago, the Taliesen estate is the perfect day trip for anyone who appreciates breathtaking architecture and offers visitors a variety of tours designed for every level of interest, which can be booked on their website here

Exploring Lakeview’s Theatre District

Lakeview’s deep appreciation for the arts and support for its thriving creative community are just some of the many reasons we love the neighborhood. In anticipation of Optima Lakeview’s upcoming opening, we’re taking a walk through one of the community’s most vibrant sectors, the Belmont Theater District

Star-studded Location

A collaboration between the Lakeview and Lakeview East Chambers of Commerce in partnership with local theaters and businesses, the Belmont Theater District functions as a critical supporter of the immense talent that calls the Lakeview community home.

Located in the heart of Lakeview, the theater district pulses with lively energy through more than 20 theaters that line the streets surrounding Belmont Avenue. Its prime location is within walking distance to hundreds of shops and restaurants, making it the perfect spot to spend quality time with friends, family and everyone in between. The historic venues, some of which are nearly a century old, all bring their own unique contributions to the theater district. 

Standout Performances

With more than 100 live shows every week, visitors can find everything from world-class performances to hole-in-the-wall comedy shows. In the midst of this abundance and variety, the Belmont Theater District — the largest theater district in Chicago — is home to a few showstopping venues and performances that stand out from the rest. 

The Blue Man Group performing at the Briar Street Theater.
The Blue Man Group performing at the Briar Street Theater

One of the neighborhood’s most beloved venues, the Briar Street Theater has provided a constant source of entertainment since its opening in 1985. The renowned theater has hosted several famous guests, including Sada Thompson and Dorothy Loudon, and displays artwork created by Van Gogh and Picasso. Since 1997, it has been the home to the iconic Blue Man Group act, which continues to delight audiences of all ages with its stage productions that incorporate many kinds of music and art, both popular and obscure.

The Music Box Theater found on North Southport Avenue has been standing for nearly a century, making it one of the oldest theaters in the neighborhood. The venue originally opened as a single-screen theater playing everything from independent films to Spanish and Arabic language films. Today, the ornately-designed theater operates as an art-house and revival cinema and is recognized as the largest full-time operating film theater in Chicago. 

The interior of the Mercury Theater, Courtesy of the Mercury Theater
The interior of the Mercury Theater, Courtesy of the Mercury Theater

Other iconic venues in the community include The Playground Theater, which showcases the Chicago-born art form of improvisation, and Mercury Theater, where melodramatic musicals and plays ranging from Sister Act to Clue are enjoyed by all. 

With a shared appreciation for the arts and community, we couldn’t be more excited to become an official member of the Lakeview community and can’t wait to explore more of the charismatic neighborhood.

Lakeview’s Holiday-Themed Pop-Ups

With the holiday season comes vibrant lighting, extravagant decorations and joyful crowds. And in these gleeful times, Lakeview is one of the best neighborhoods to partake in festive celebrations. The annual Wrigleyville Wonderland, Chicago’s largest pop-up event, draws visitors from near and far, but Optima Lakeview residents and those living in the area have prime access. 

The beloved tradition returns this year to celebrate the holidays with 20 show-stopping Lakeview locations. Each bar brings its own unique twist on a festive theme. Visitors are promised fully decorated spaces filled with costumed performers, cheery music and holiday-inspired food and drinks throughout the season.

The participating bars will be sure to fulfill your craving to celebrate the holidays over the next few weeks and some long after the start of the new year. Check out the list of Wrigleyville Wonderland’s participants below:

  • The Country Club, 3462 N. Clark St., its original holiday pop-up runs through Feb. 1.
  • Deuces, 3505 N. Clark St., Santa Baby Christmas Bar runs through January.
  • Diver at the Park, 3475 N. Clark St., promises a Tulum holiday inspired experience.
  • Gallagher Way, 3635 N. Clark St., featuring Wrigleyville’s Christkindlmarket.
  • The Graystone Tavern, 3441 N. Sheffield Ave., a Hanukkah themed pop-up, running through Jan. 2.
  • Houndstooth Saloon, 3369 N. Clark St., inspired by the famous Griswold family, running through Jan. 10.
  • HVAC Pub, 3530 N. Clark St., the holiday pop-up runs through Jan. 15.
  • The Irish Oak, 3511 N. Clark St., a mash-up of St. Patrick’s Day and Hanukkah, Leprechanunaka,.
  • Wrigleyville Kilwins, 3519 N. Clark St., serving its 25 Days of Chocolate pop-up through Dec. 31.
  • Lucky Dorr, 1101 W. Waveland Ave., the festive Lucky Lodge pop-up is open through Dec. 31.
  • Moe’s Cantina, 3518 N. Clark St., inspired by the beloved holiday classic The Grinch and Whoville. 
  • Casey Moran’s, 3660 N. Clark St., has transformed into Rudolph’s Christmas Bar, open through Dec. 30.
  • Mordecai, 3632 N. Clark St., the annual holiday pop-up bar, Mistletoe, runs until Dec. 30.
  • NOLA Bar & Kitchen, 3481 N. Clark St., its Very Cajun Christmas pop-up runs through Jan. 20.
  • Old Crow Smokehouse, 3506 N. Clark St., featuring a festive Santa’s Workshop pop-up.
  • Rizzo’s Bar and Inn, 3658 N. Clark St., the holiday-themed pop-up features local singer John Vincent at 7 p.m. Thursdays and 5 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 30.
  • Roadhouse 66 Gas N’ Grill, 3478 N. Clark St., the Jingle Junkie pop-up is open through Jan. 8. 
  • Stretch Bar & Grill, 3845 N. Clark St., its Elf’d Up pop-up runs through Jan. 8.
  • Underground Lounge, 952 W. Newport Ave., inspired by the Island of Misfit Toys, the pop-up is open through Jan. 31.
  • Vines on Clark, 3554 N. Clark St., the holiday pop-up transports customers to an Apres Ski vacation.
The Graystone Tavern’s Hanukkah themed pop-up features traditional food and drinks options with a twist
The Graystone Tavern’s Hanukkah themed pop-up features traditional food and drinks options with a twist

With Wrigleyville Wonderland officially open for the season, don’t miss out on savoring the delicious festive food and drinks served at each immersive location. While some of the pop-ups run through February, others will end with the beginning of the new year. And, due to the popularity of the favorite tradition, many of the participating businesses are reservation only, so make sure to check their availability before making plans for a fun evening out. 

Chicago’s Christkindlmarket

One of the city’s most festive traditions, Chicago’s Christkindlmarket, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this season. The holiday favorite celebrates culture and is beloved by locals and tourists alike. And, since the celebration can be found in two locations this year, at Daley Plaza downtown and Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville, residents at Optima Lakeview and Optima Signature have prime access to the festivities just blocks away from their door.

History

Visitors have flocked to Chicago to visit the Christkindlmarket since its founding in 1996, and today, the festival attracts more than one million visitors every year. The unique outdoor market takes inspiration from one of the first outdoor exchanges of its kind from 16th century Nuremberg, Germany, which shares its namesake. 

The festival embraces its Germanic heritage and brings international charm to a local scale. Traditional architecture mirroring the original outdoor markets is key to the Christkindlmarket locations, and transports visitors into a winter wonderland. Entangled in the classical architecture are ropes of vibrant lighting, garland and other merry trimmings, giving the market an extra spark of life. 

Crowd favorite hot pretzels at the Christkindlmarket, Courtesy of Benita Gingerella
Crowd favorite hot pretzels at the Christkindlmarket, Courtesy of Benita Gingerella

Visiting

For those who make the trip to Chicago’s Christkindlmarket for its 25th anniversary, expect a lively environment in both locations — abundant in holiday spirit, jovial music, festive activities, eccentric shops and traditional cuisines. 

At the market’s Daley Plaza location, an alpine-themed heated dining area allows guests to unwind and feast on delicious foods and drinks from various food trucks, including German beer, brats, pretzels, Belgian hot chocolate and apple strudel, among others. Wrigleyville’s Christkindlmaket brings even more seasonal festivities — some traditional and some less so — with its ice skating rink, ice bumper cars, curling, holiday movies, wreath-making workshop and other curated activities.

Handcrafted nutcrackers fill a vendor’s stand, Courtesy of Benita Gingerella
Handcrafted nutcrackers fill a vendor’s stand, Courtesy of Benita Gingerella

Exclusive vendors, both local and international, also fill the grounds at each location, selling their own authentically made gifts. Everything from intricately-carved nutcrackers to hand-knitted mittens can be discovered within both markets. 

A truly transformed landscape, Chicago’s Christkindlmarket is the perfect tradition to take part in this winter, whether you find yourself downtown or in Lakeview. Regardless if you’re searching for an entertaining winter activity, uniquely crafted gifts for family and friends or just looking to take in the crisp winter air, consider this your one-stop-shop. 

Daley Plaza’s market is open through December 24 from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. most days, and Wrigleyville’s market is open through December 31 from 3 p.m. – 9 p.m. most days.

 

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.

Public Art in Chicago’s Lakeview Neighborhood

As we continue to explore the dimensions of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood that make it so unique and dynamic, we’re showcasing one of the community’s most significant ongoing projects, a thoughtful offering of public art to the city, the Lakeview Public Art Program

Because the Lakeview creative community has a long history of celebrating art and culture, even the most casual stroll through the neighborhood reveals an abundance of public art installations. And thanks to the Lakeview Public Art Program, the neighborhood is growing its collection of murals and sculptures, while hosting cultural events and other artistic happenings that support emerging artists. 

The Lakeview Public Art Program is run by the Lakeview Public Art Committee, a diverse group of volunteers responsible for finding forward-thinking, culturally-aware artists. Working in collaboration with Lakeview Roscoe Village Chamber of Commerce and Special Service Area (SSA) 27, the Committee supports and advances the non-profit Friends of Lakeview, an organization dedicated to improving and enhancing public streets and spaces, creating memorable experiences, and promoting the neighborhood.

Many of the artists whose work has been commissioned by the Lakeview Public Art Committee are Chicago natives themselves, like Anthony Lewellen; you can see his mural titled Lake View in the geographical heart of the neighborhood, at the corner of 3241 N. Lincoln Ave. For this mural, the artist took inspiration from memories of growing up in Lakeview. This 4,000 square foot wall painting displays a girl holding binoculars looking at Lake Michigan with the rest of Chicago behind her. The girl personifies the neighborhood itself, as she looks toward a horizon of opportunity.

A mural painted on a the side of a brick building depicts a woman gazing onto Lake Michigan with the skyline of Chicago behind her.
Lake View, Anthony Lewellen, Courtesy of Lakeview Public Art Program

Another mural commissioned by the Committee is Felix Maldonado’s Bears on Parade, which can be seen at  3409 N. Ashland Ave. Maldonado drew inspiration from the fact that in the 18th century, this area of Lakeview was once inhabited by the Miami, Ottawa and Winnebago Native American tribes. Featuring a group of bears and cubs walking through a blue forest, this mural celebrates the neighborhood’s culture and history while also subtly referencing the city’s favorite sports teams. 

With Optima’s commitment to thought-provoking, inspiring art in and around our properties, we are proud to join the Lakeview neighborhood, and celebrate its commitment to public art and talented artists.

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