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Shuffleboard 101: A Blend of History, Fun, and Community

Welcome to Shuffleboard 101! At Optima®, we’re not just about sleek designs and stunning architecture; we’re about creating vibrant communities where fun and engagement are part of daily life. And what better way to bring people together than a timeless game of shuffleboard? Let’s slide into the history of this classic game and explore how it plays a significant role in our community.

A Stroll Down Memory Lane
Shuffleboard, a game with roots dating back to 15th-century England, has come a long way. Originating from a game called “shove-groat,” where players slid coins across a table, shuffleboard has evolved into a beloved pastime worldwide. It’s fascinating to think that this game, which started with people pushing coins in taverns, now brings laughter and friendly competition to our modern community spaces at Optima.

Modern shuffleboard is a blend of skill, strategy, and, most important, fun. The goal is simple: players use cues to slide weighted discs down a narrow court, aiming to score points by landing the discs within designated areas. Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned player, shuffleboard is accessible to all, making it a perfect game for community interaction.

Cruise ship shuffleboard (vintage photo)
Cruise ship shuffleboard Credit: WLouis E. “”Slim”” Gordon Special Collection Photo

Shuffleboard at Optima®: More Than Just a Game
In social spaces at Optima Kierland Apartments® and Optima Signature®, shuffleboard is a community catalyst, allowing residents to gather for friendly matches, fostering connections, and relaxation. It’s not just about scoring points; it’s about the smiles shared, the conversations sparked, and the sense of belonging that comes from engaging in a shared activity.

Incorporating amenities like shuffleboard into our living spaces aligns perfectly with our philosophy. We believe in crafting environments that encourage interaction, relaxation, and a sense of community. The courts are a testament to this belief, offering a space where residents can unwind and connect in a laid-back, enjoyable setting.

Join the Fun!
Whether you’re an aficionado or new to the game, we invite you to join in the fun at Optima. Discover the joys of this timeless game, meet your neighbors, and experience firsthand how simple pleasures can enrich our lives and strengthen our community. At Optima, it’s not just about where you live, but how you live—and shuffleboard is a part of that vibrant, engaging lifestyle.

So, grab your pucks, step up to the court, and let the good times slide!

A Guide to Chicago’s 2024 Restaurant Week

For the past seventeen years, Chicago Restaurant Week has celebrated the culinary feats and explorations of the city’s best and brightest restaurants, and the beloved event is back for 2024! The 17-day festivity is a celebration of the city’s award-winning culinary scene. From January 19 to February 4, participants will have the opportunity to indulge in an endless list of Chicago’s most delectable eats. Here is our guide to Chicago Restaurant Week 2024.

The flavor-filled event features more than 350 restaurants, representing nearly every cuisine from across the world. Participating restaurants are found in both the city and its suburbs. So, whether you’re in Optima Lakeview, Optima Signature or Optima Verdana, there’s sure to be an abundance of choices around. Each restaurant will feature curated prix fixe menus filled with a variety of tasty eats.

Brunch at Mia Frencasca, Credit: Kurman Communications flickr
Brunch at Mia Frencasca, Credit: Kurman Communications flickr

The multi-course meals vary in price, costing $25 for brunch or lunch and $42 or $59 for dinner (depending on the location). Many restaurants this year are also continuing to take advantage of both takeout and delivery options for those looking to enjoy their meals from home. 

Whether you’re craving French cuisine from Aboyer in Wilmette, pasta from Mia Francesa in Lakeview, or cocktails and the classics from Current Chicago in Streeterville, there are more than enough options to last you through the full Chicago Restaurant Week experience. It’s a great way to get to know your Chicago communities, and a great way to support local businesses.

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. And for those of us unsure of where to start, they have also curated lists of must-try restaurants in and around the city that you can find here

2023: Year in Review

As 2023 comes to a close, we’re taking this moment to reflect on how we’ve continued to grow, learn and serve others over the past year. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Awards

We were honored to have attended the 2023 Arizona Multihousing Association (AMA) Tribute Awards where professionals are recognized for their tremendous achievement of leaving a positive impact on both their industry and community. 

Optima Verdana Phase 2 Rendering
Optima Verdana Phase 2 Rendering

Projects and Properties

2023 was a year of growth and many exciting announcements for us at Optima. In Chicago, we finished construction and opened Optima Verdana. Residents at Optima Verdana are surrounded by experiences and spaces that delight and surprise around every corner, from our  pickleball court and fitness center to the rooftop sky deck garden lounge and a heated, glass-enclosed pool. With residents continuing to move into Optima Verdana, we’re thrilled to announce Optima Verdana Phase 2. The mixed-use development will be six stories and be home to 150 rental units in a mix of one-, two- and three bedroom layouts.

Playing pickleball at the opening of Optima Verdana
Playing pickleball at the opening of Optima Verdana

Construction was also completed on 7190 Optima Kierland, the fifth and final tower within the development. With the new tower, not only did we grow the community at Optima Kierland Apartments, but, we also welcomed Optima’s first Olympic-length pool. Following the announcement of Optima McDowell Mountain Village late last year, in 2023 we broke ground on the project. The mixed-use development will include six eight-story buildings – a mix of apartments and condominiums – 12 acres of greenspace and a 210,000-gallon rainwater harvesting system for reuse on-site. 

Optima McDowell Mountain Village Rendering
Optima McDowell Mountain Village Rendering

Culture

Throughout 2023 our culture at Optima continued to thrive through rewarding avenues of affinity and connection. We celebrated with each other at our fourth annual costume and pumpkin carving contest, observed Mardi Gras, St Patrick’s Day, International Women’s Day, Earth Day, Cinco de Mayo, Pride Month, Halloween, various other Holiday celebrations and held our annual master architect challenge. In anticipation of the 7190 Optima Kierland Apartments grand opening, we welcomed the new project with a lively BBQ on the rooftop sky deck where we shared delicious food, and following Optima Verdana’s completion, we celebrated a grand opening filled with laughs. 

The Halloween Costume Party at Optima Lakeview
The Halloween Costume Party at Optima Lakeview

We continued to embrace and internalize our shared values more than ever. We are proud to have participated in the Highland Park Strong Run, where we came together to support the Highland Park community and enjoyed a race with family and friends. 

We can’t thank our leadership, team members and Optima communities enough for making 2023 one to remember. Heading into 2024, we are excited to continue innovating and achieving great things together.

The Optima Team at the Highland Park Strong Run
The Optima Team at the Highland Park Strong Run

Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park Unfolded

At Optima®, our appreciation for public sculpture runs deep. For those who are always on the lookout for memorable leisurely activities, we have a truly special recommendation. The Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park, situated just south of Optima Verdana®, presents a captivating mix of artistic wonder and natural splendor to explore. 

The history of the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park began when the land along McCormick Boulevard and the north channel of the Chicago River had deteriorated into a “neglected eyesore” and was in desperate need of revitalization. This land was owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. In the mid-1980s, the Village of Skokie envisioned transforming it into a recreational haven, complete with jogging paths, biking trails, and picnic areas for visitors to enjoy. Concurrently, a group of citizens saw this as a canvas for displaying large-scale contemporary sculptures.

Jim Agard – Gapingstock. Photo: Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park

By 1988, Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park was realized. Through the combined efforts of the Village and its citizens, the park was transformed into an amenity rich, open-air art exhibit. Today, the park stretches two miles, from Dempster Street to Touhy Avenue, and proudly houses over 60 sculptures. These art pieces come from local, national, and international artists, making it a repository of diverse artistic expressions.

Visitors are encouraged to delve deeper through expert-guided tours which offer rich insights into the stories behind each sculpture and the artists who created them. Additionally, the park has fostered an educational environment, hosting tailored workshops and sessions. These sessions are designed to cater to schools, groups, and individuals, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of sculpture and art.

Ted Gall – Charger I and II. Photo: Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park

Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park is open year-round with free admission, underscoring the park’s dedication to making art accessible to all. It’s a haven for joggers, cyclists, and families who enjoy picnics. Additionally, the park is fully accessible, accommodating individuals with disabilities. 

While the park is open seven days a week, access is limited between 11 PM and 4:30 AM. For art lovers and nature enthusiasts alike, Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park provides an unforgettable experience!

Optima’s Guide to Thanksgiving 2023

As the holiday season approaches, we’re gearing up for a delightful array of activities around the Optima communities. Thanksgiving is a time to embrace the company of family and friends, and both Scottsdale and Chicago offer a fantastic range of activities to make this season truly special. Here are just a few exciting things you can do to celebrate Thanksgiving and welcome the holiday season:

Chicago

The Winnetka Turkey Trot and Turkey Trot Chicago have become cherished Thanksgiving Day traditions. Participants in both races, dressed in festive attire, embark on a thrilling journey through cherished communities, combining fitness and festivity. The lively atmosphere and communal spirit make these events a perfect start to Thanksgiving day.

Glowing pink balls of light string down from a structure and light the surrounding darkness
Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Following each trot, join the jubilant crowd at the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade, a beloved spectacle that has graced the city for decades. With vibrant floats, marching bands, and larger-than-life character balloons, this parade captures the essence of the holiday season. Families and friends gather along the parade route, creating memories that last a lifetime.

Cap off the Thanksgiving weekend by welcoming in the rest of the holiday season with a visit to Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The enchanting display, combining light and sound, transforms the garden into a magical realm, providing a captivating experience for visitors of all ages. Reservations usually fill up fast, so make your plans now!

Scottsdale 

In Scottsdale, Thanksgiving morning begins with the Phoenix Turkey Trot—a lively event that brings the community together for a morning filled with fun. Participants of all ages join in the spirited run, fostering a sense of cheer that extends beyond the finish line.

A small crowd of people wearing turkey trot t-shirts stand under the finish line sign for the race.
Chicago Turkey Trot

For those seeking outdoor adventures, the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and Desert Botanical Garden offer breathtaking landscapes to explore. Whether you prefer a scenic hike or a leisurely stroll, these natural gems provide the perfect backdrop for a Thanksgiving spent in the heart of Arizona’s beauty.

Complete your holiday experience at the Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale. Whether you’re gliding across the ice at the skating rink or diving into holiday shopping, the district offers a festive atmosphere that captures the spirit of the season.

As we approach Thanksgiving, embrace the season of gratitude, warmth, and togetherness. From the lively Turkey Trots to the grand Thanksgiving Parades, the festive events bring joy to individuals and foster a sense of community — a sentiment we hold dear at Optima. Dive into the enchanting celebrations our communities have to offer and create lasting memories with loved ones that will last forever. 

Optima and the 2023 Chicago Marathon: A Neighborhood Affair

The 2023 Bank of America Chicago Marathon has come and gone, but its legacy endures. It’s no longer about the anticipation; it’s about reflection and reveling in the history set onto Chicago’s streets.

The marathon looped through 29 emblematic neighborhoods, each revealing its distinct character and vibrancy. Beginning in Grant Park, the race stretched as far north as Wrigleyville before heading back south past the United Center and the Illinois Institute of Technology and finally up Michigan Ave to the finish line. The streets came alive as residents and fans cheered throughout each of Chicago’s neighborhoods, showcasing the city’s passionate spirit. Notably, at various milestones of the course, Optima’s architectural marvels illuminated the route. Racers passed by Optima Signature & Optima Chicago Center at the initial mile, were given a mid-race boost past Optima Lakeview at mile 8, and, as the finish line beckoned, Michigan Place at mile 22 offered a familiar cheer.

A worm’s-eye view of Optima Signature, which marathon participants passed in the first mile of the run

This year’s marathon wasn’t just another race. It made global headlines. Kelvin Kiptum clinched a new world record for men, finishing in a swift 2:00:35. Sifan Hassan’s debut on U.S. soil couldn’t have been more impactful as she set a new women’s course record with a time of 2:13:38. Marcel Hug and Catherine Debrunner also both set course records in wheelchairs, showcasing the Marathon’s inclusive spirit.

Kelvin Kiptum standing next to his world record time

Closer to home, we burst with pride as Optima’s very own Marketing Director, Ali Burnham, took to the streets, blending personal determination with Optima’s ethos of community involvement. 

Optima’s Marketing Director, Ali Burnham, spotted Michigan Place on the 22nd mile of the marathon route

The 2023 marathon underscores what we’ve always believed — Chicago is a city of unparalleled spirit and energy. And at Optima, we’re committed to embedding ourselves within the heartbeat of Chicago’s most iconic events. For our residents, events like these are not distant spectacles, but neighborhood affairs. The Chicago Marathon exemplifies this, turning morning routines into once-in-a-lifetime viewing opportunities.

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!

Exploring The Oak Park Conservatory

We’re always on the lookout for treasured locales to share with our residents, and today, we’ve struck botanical gold. Allow us to introduce you to the Oak Park Conservatory, a lush oasis that’s steeped in history and teeming with life.

Established in 1914, the Oak Park Conservatory has deep roots, beginning as a modest municipal greenhouse. Over the decades, it has grown both in size and reputation, securing its place as one of the premier historical conservatories in the U.S. What makes this conservatory genuinely enchanting, however, isn’t just its venerable age but the myriad plants in its diverse collection.

Step inside, and you’re immediately transported across varied climates. The Tropical Room surrounds you with the sights and sounds of a vibrant jungle, where banana trees graze the ceiling, and orchids display their intricate beauty. There’s also the Mediterranean Room, a warm escape filled with olive trees and fragrant herbs, evoking images of sunlit European coastlines. For those fascinated by resilient plant species, the Desert Room offers a captivating exploration of cacti and succulents, each telling tales of survival in some of the planet’s harshest terrains.

Oak Park Conservatory Map

But the Oak Park Conservatory is more than a visual treat. It’s a hub for education and inspiration. For those with green thumbs or even just a touch of plant curiosity, the conservatory hosts workshops and programs throughout the year, ensuring every visit offers something new and enlightening.

Conservation remains at the heart of the conservatory’s mission. Alongside showcasing the beauty of the plant kingdom, it’s dedicated to the preservation of endangered plant species. By emphasizing sustainable gardening practices, the conservatory underscores the vital relationship we share with our environment.

Desert Room. Photo: Park District of Oak Park

While the interior rooms captivate the senses, the conservatory’s outdoor demonstration gardens shouldn’t be overlooked. These plots are more than just pretty spaces; they serve as living examples of sustainable gardening practices, providing invaluable insights for enthusiasts and casual gardeners alike.

The Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory (FOPCON) plays an integral role in the conservatory’s success and vibrancy. This dedicated non-profit organization tirelessly supports the conservatory, championing its value through fundraising, education, and community programs. So, whether you’re a seasoned botanist, a gardening novice, or someone seeking a serene escape, the conservatory promises a journey of discovery. Embrace its rich history, marvel at the beauty of nature, and leave with a renewed appreciation for the botanical world.

Discover The National Museum of Mexican Art

We’re constantly on the hunt for cultural gems to introduce to residents in our communities, so it’s a pleasure to spotlight a cornerstone of Chicago’s vibrant art scene: The National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA). Situated in the heart of the Pilsen neighborhood, this museum is a testament to the depth, diversity, and dynamism of Mexican culture.

Founded in 1982 by Carlos Tortolero, NMMA emerged from a vision to represent Mexican, Chicano, and Latino arts and culture. Today, it stands as a bridge between Mexico’s past and the evolving identity of Mexican-Americans in the contemporary U.S.

NMMA’s collection is awe-inspiring, boasting over 10,000 pieces spanning 3,000 years. From ancient artifacts to modern-day masterpieces, every corner of the museum narrates tales of creativity, resilience, and passion. Whether you’re captivated by traditional folk art, contemporary sculpture, intricate textiles, or evocative photography, there’s a narrative waiting for you.

Day of the Dead Exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art. Photo: Roxy Delgado

One of the standout exhibitions that has become an annual tradition, is the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) showcase. This inspired installation dives deep into the fascinating rituals associated with this revered celebration, presenting art that is reflective and celebratory.

The museum is not just about viewing art; it’s an immersive learning experience. With a host of educational programs, workshops, and guided tours, visitors are invited to explore the contexts, histories, and techniques behind the artworks.

“Somos Pilsen.” Photo Credit: Mateo Zapata

Beyond the art itself, the museum’s location in Pilsen, a neighborhood full of Mexican heritage, enriches the experience. The vibrant murals, local eateries, and community events complement a visit to the museum.

As we admire the modern wonders of Chicago, we also treasure the institutions that ground us in cultural richness. Embark on a journey to the National Museum of Mexican Art, and emerge with a renewed appreciation for the beauty and complexity of Mexican art and culture. Best of all, admission is always free. Visit Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm.

Oz Park in Lincoln Park

At Optima®, we’re passionate about promoting locales that intertwine cultural richness with communal vibrancy. In the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood lies such a treasure: Oz Park, a space that weaves literature, community, and recreation into a single, captivating location.

Nestled amid tree-lined streets and elegant brownstones, Oz Park stands as an homage to Lyman Frank Baum, the creative genius behind “The Wizard of Oz.” Baum, who made Chicago his home in 1891, penned his iconic series here, gifting the world with tales of courage, heart, wisdom, and the magic of home. It’s only fitting that the Windy City pays tribute with a park that brings his enchanting world to life.

Tin Man at Oz Park, Photo: Eric Allix Rogers

As visitors walk through Oz Park, they’re greeted by lifelike bronze statues of the story’s beloved characters: the wide-eyed Dorothy with her loyal Toto, the Scarecrow with his quest for brains, the Tin Man seeking his heart, and the Cowardly Lion in search of courage. Installed between the late 1990s and early 2000s, these figures serve as timeless sentinels, sparking joy and nostalgia for both young visitors and those young at heart.

Yet, the history of Oz Park tells a story not just of literature, but of rejuvenation. In the 1960s, this area was earmarked for an urban renewal project. From an expanse that once bore witness to the ebbs and flows of urban change, sprouted a park that today serves as a refuge, a place for families to converge, for children to play, and for communities to celebrate together.

Dorothy’s Playlout, Photo: Chicago Playgrounds

Beyond the Wizarding statues, Oz Park offers “Dorothy’s Playlot” for the youngest adventurers, tennis courts for the sporty, a basketball court for the competitive, and vast open fields for any and everyone seeking leisure or recreation. The park not only offers these amenities but stands as a lively hub for a myriad of community activities ranging from movie nights to spirited gardening days.

For our residents, Oz Park presents an opportunity to experience a slice of literary history while enjoying the camaraderie of a close-knit community. The essence of Baum’s tales — the search for what’s truly valuable and the joy of discovering it’s been nearby all along — mirrors the experience of discovering this gem in Chicago. Through its unique blend of storybook charm and urban recreation, Oz Park epitomizes the very spirit of community and culture that we deeply cherish.

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