Labor Day weekend might be over – signaling the unofficial end of summer – but it’s not too late to plan a weekend getaway to the Windy City . As I described in the five previous posts of this six-part series, Chicago is a wonderful place to visit any time of the year – even during the winter months. While you’ll surely be exhausted after exploring the town’s art scene , museums , eateries , and sporting events , you should still make time to check out the city at night.
Following a day of sightseeing, it’s nice to relax in one of Chicago’s many intimate restaurants. If you’re looking for an especially romantic place, reserve a table at Geja’s Cafe  (340 W. Armitage, 773/281-9101, 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 5-11 p.m. Fri., 5-11:30 p.m. Sat., 4:30-9:30 p.m. Sun., $12-49), where my husband actually proposed to me. Since 1965, Geja’s has offered local gourmands and curious out-of-towners a unique communal cooking experience. Amid live flamenco and classical guitar music, diners can savor an array of fondue combinations in a low-lit, old-world setting. For the ultimate royal treatment (and the most economical selection), order Prince Geja’s Combination, which includes a salad; a warm cheese-fondue appetizer (with bread and fruit for dipping); an assortment of meats, vegetables, and seafood (to be cooked in hot oil and dipped in eight varied sauces); the flaming chocolate-fondue dessert (with fruit and pound cake for dipping); and gourmet coffee. A superb wine list only enhances this incredible, diet-busting meal.
Afterward, you’ll find a wide variety of nighttime diversions, including an unbelievable theater scene. Established in 1925, the Goodman Theatre  (170 N. Dearborn St., 312/443-3811, show times and ticket prices vary) is one of the city’s most well-respected venues, where you can expect to see classic and contemporary plays, plus an annual production of A Christmas Carol. Two other excellent venues include the Steppenwolf Theatre Company  (1650 N. Halsted St., 312/335-1650, show times and ticket prices vary), formed in 1976 by Gary Sinise and two fellow actors, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater  (800 E. Grand Ave., 312/595-5600, show times and ticket prices vary), which has featured a decade of Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies on Navy Pier . If you’re looking for laughs, head to The Second City  (1616 N. Wells St., 312/664-4032, show times and ticket prices vary), the famous sketch-comedy landmark that launched the careers of John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Mike Myers. To research shows and purchase tickets, consult Theatre In Chicago , League of Chicago Theatres , Broadway In Chicago , and Centerstage .
Of course, Chicago is also a hotbed of live music. From neighborhood bars hosting local bands to large concert venues presenting world-famous acts, the city offers a variety of options. Two notable venues include The Chicago Theatre  (175 N. State St., 312/462-6300, show times and ticket prices vary), established in 1921 as America’s first large, lavish movie palace and now featuring big-ticket performers like Van Morrison and Cirque du Soleil, and Kingston Mines  (2548 N. Halsted, 773/477-4646, 8 p.m.-4 a.m. Sun.-Thurs., 7 p.m.-4 a.m. Fri., 7 p.m.-5 a.m. Sat., $12-15), the city’s oldest blues club, which also offers classic cuisine ($5-27), from fried catfish to New Orleans-style ribs. For details about upcoming concerts and performances, consult Centerstage  and Citysearch .
If watching plays and listening to music are just not active enough for you, consider stopping by one of the city’s many nightclubs. Back in my college days, I sampled a variety of clubs, but my favorite has always been the Excalibur Nightclub  (632 N. Dearborn, 312/266-1944, 7 p.m.-4 a.m. Wed.-Fri., 7 p.m.-5 a.m. Sat., prices vary), a lively establishment situated in a Romanesque Revival-style landmark, erected in 1892 and once home to the Chicago Historical Society. With multiple levels, you’re bound to find a suitable vibe, from live music to spinning DJs to interactive shows.
Now, since it’s impossible to accomplish all of the above in one weekend, you’ll simply have to make a return visit. Although my six-part “Windy City Weekend” series has only touched the surface of all that Chicago has to offer, I hope that you’ve enjoyed the journey – and that you’ll come to love this terrific town as much as I do. Happy travels!
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.