Perhaps more than art , museums , and food , Chicago  has a love affair with sports – the focus of the fifth part of my Windy City series. Few U.S. cities have so many professional teams – including football (Chicago Bears ), baseball (Chicago Cubs  and Chicago White Sox ), basketball (Chicago Bulls  and Chicago Sky ), hockey (Chicago Blackhawks  and Chicago Wolves ), and soccer (Chicago Fire ). As a rule, Chicago fans are fiercely loyal – and extremely vocal.
When I first moved to Chicago for college, I wasn’t much of a sports fan. In theory, I’d always rooted for the New Orleans Saints (my hometown team), and I’d watched some occasional LSU football games with my dad. But, once I hit the Windy City, I simply fell in love with the sporty vibe – and it didn’t take long before I’d attended several Cubs games.
Even if you’re not much of a sports fan, you should experience at least one game at legendary Wrigley Field (1060 W. Addison St., 773/404-2827, Mar.-Oct., $9-350). The energetic atmosphere, the juicy hot dogs, the cold beer – no wonder baseball has long been America’s favorite pastime. Visiting the ballpark is especially fun on a beautiful spring, summer, or fall day, when nearby residents set up their own seats on the surrounding rooftops.
Unfortunately, the Cubs have been away this weekend, but they’ll be back at Wrigley later this week, playing the Cincinnati Reds September 11-13 and the Minnesota Brewers September 14-17. Check the website for an up-to-date schedule, but even if a game isn’t happening on-site during your visit, you might still be able to take a tour ($25) of this historic ballpark.
After the game – whether it’s still day or night – you should prowl the nearby streets of Wrigleyville, a youthful neighborhood filled with casual restaurants and lively sports bars. Two favorite spots include The Irish Oak  (3511 N. Clark St., 773/935-6669, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Sun.-Fri., 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Sat., $6-12), an authentic Irish pub with live music, traditional fare, and televised sporting events, and Goose Island Wrigleyville  (3535 N. Clark St., 773/832-9040, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Wed., 11 a.m.-midnight Thurs., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Fri.-Sat., $5-16), a spacious brewpub that offers local beers, televised Cubs games, and decent bar food, from salads to burgers. Just beware – this area can get pretty crowded on game days and weekends.
Another great aspect of attending a Cubs game is the easy access via inexpensive public transportation. In fact, Wrigley Field lies within walking distance of the Addison station on the CTA Red Line , which runs 24 hours daily. So, do as most natives do – leave the car elsewhere and hop on the “L” or nearest bus.
Of course, if baseball really isn’t your thing, you might enjoy one of Chicago’s other sporty spectacles, depending on the season. If you dislike spectator sports altogether, you’ll have no shortage of participatory activities – from several golf courses  to Bobby’s Bike Hike  (465 N. McClurg Ct., 312/915-0995, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily Mar.-May, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily June-Aug., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily Sept.-Nov., prices vary), which offers bicycle rentals as well as sightseeing tours, including a nighttime excursion amid downtown attractions like Millennium Park and the kaleidoscopic Buckingham Fountain.
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me at laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.