Social Program puts focus on Chicago

By Kathleen Misovic

From striking skylines and unique architecture to world-class museums and fabulous shopping, Chicago offers a variety of activities to keep any visitor happy. This year’s social program combines a mix of tried and true favorites with some unique opportunities to peak everyone’s interest.

If you’ve ever looked at fashion design and thought, “I can do that,” here’s the chance to prove it. At the LILL Studio you can create your own handbag design. Choose from various styles and fabrics to make the perfect bag for yourself, or the perfect gift for a friend. A stylist will help you through the entire process. This unique opportunity is today and Friday from 12 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The price is $150. Your custom-designed handbag will be shipped directly to you in about three weeks.

Shop ’til you drop
If you’re content to leave the designing to designers, take a trip to Chicago’s famous department store, Marshall Field’s. This venerable Chicago institution was recently bought by Macy’s of New York and will change its name in the fall, so this will be one of the last opportunities to visit the store under its traditional name.

The Marshall Field’s flagship store on State Street is famous for its architecture and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Your experience will begin with a presentation in the culinary studio on how to make desserts and cookies using Frango Mints, Marshall Field’s own brand of chocolate mints. Next, you have some time to do some shopping and explore the Trend House, an annual display showcasing the most current home decorating trends in color, fabric and furniture design. You will also meet with the store’s interior design staff for some tips on beautifying your own home.

The Marshall Field’s tour is today from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. The price is $80.

Explore ancient history
If you’re a history buff, plan to visit the Field Museum of Natural History to take in a special exhibit on Pompeii, the vibrant society that vanished in 79 A.D. with the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. A docent will guide you through the exhibit, which features room-sized frescoes and mosaics, gold coins, precious jewelry, marble and bronze sculptures and everyday household objects.

You will also have the opportunity to visit the museum’s other famous exhibits, including Sue, the world’s largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex. The tour to the Field Museum is today from 10:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; the price is $57.

An architect’s dream
If architecture is more appealing, consider taking a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s creations in nearby suburban Oak Park. The tour will reveal the evolution of his architecture styles, showcasing Victorian, Queen Anne and Prairie-style homes. One of the architect’s favorite projects, Unity Temple, will also be featured. Lunch is included in the tour, which will be held from 9 a.m. to noon tomorrow (Thursday). The price is $75.

The various architecture styles of Chicago will be highlighted in another tour that will take you along 26 miles of uninterrupted Lake Michigan shoreline and pass through several diverse neighborhoods. The tour begins today at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 12:30 p.m.; the price is $28.

Lights, camera, action
Did you know that Chicago is a famous site for filming television programs and movies? Movies released in 2005 that were filmed in Chicago include “The Weather Man,” “Derailed,” and “The Intimidation Game.” Guest speaker Arnie Bernstein, author of Hollywood by Lake Michigan will show you some of the famous spots where filming has been done. You will learn about the actors and directors involved with these locally shot TV programs and movies. As a bonus, an experienced guide will also entertain you with stories on the city’s history, including the famous Chicago fire and the city’s rebuilding. The $42 tour will start tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.

To learn more about these and other programs, visit the social program registration site, located in Hall B. Registration hours are from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday.

All tours depart from and arrive at McCormick Place. Make sure you arrive at the North Building, Level 1, Gate 21 on time for each event. Tours will not wait for latecomers.

Plan your own tour

If you’re the adventurous type who likes to plan your own tours, you can purchase a Go Chicago TM Card good for one, two, three, five or seven days. The card gives you unlimited, free general admission to more than 25 attractions including the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Art Institute, Chicago Architectural Foundation Walking Tours and the John Hancock Observatory. It also will provide you with up to 20 percent in savings on shopping and dining around the city. You can purchase a card at the several downtown Chicago locations including:

    Segway Experience, 224 S. Michigan Ave.

    City of Chicago Store, 163 E. Pearson St.

    Shop at the Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.

    Gray Line Chicago (inside Palmer House Hilton Hotel), 17 E. Monroe St.

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