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Best of Chicago: Culture & Fun

Cone, Chicago Magic Lounge, Mondays at the Empty Bottle, and more

ILLUSTRATION: GINA TRIPLETT

Magic Show

Chicago Magic Lounge

From the semi-secret front door (hidden in a faux laundromat) to mixologists who are as skilled at sleight of hand as they are at slinging drinks, an evening here is a performance from start to finish. The magicians showcase Chicago’s own style of prestidigitation — up close and immersive. 5050 N. Clark St., Ravenswood, chicagomagiclounge.com

Photo: COURTESY OF CONE

Spot for a Kids’ Party That Isn’t Terrible

Cone

If you must attend the ninth circle of hell that is a child’s birthday, pray that it’s at Cone, where there’s not a germ-riddled ball pit to be found. Instead, this gourmet ice cream shop boasts a sundae bar, outdoor patio space, and appearances by cartoon heroine Peppa Pig or store mascot Mr. Cone. 1047 W. Madison St., Near West Side, conechicago.com

Local Music Deal

Mondays at the Empty Bottle

A weekly showcase that’s free and delivers a nifty survey of the local music scene? Yes, please. With only a few exceptions, you can start each week with a gratis concert at the famed venue from the likes of rapper Mykele Deville, raucous garage rockers Melkbelly, and riff-heavy brother-and-sister rock duo White Mystery. 1035 N. Western Ave., Ukrainian Village, emptybottle.com

Photo: COURTESY OF GREETINGS TOUR

Mural for Instagram Pics

Greetings from Chicago

The first in Victor Ving’s series of vintage-tinged Greetings From murals remains one of the most popular among visitors and locals alike. Roll up when the weather’s nice and you might actually have to wait in line to take your shot. 2226 N. Milwaukee Ave., Fulton River District

Place to Take Your Kids on a Rainy Day

Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration

This museum-within-a-museum (the Swedish American one) lets your kids wear themselves out milking a fake cow or hauling firewood to a replica stuga (that’s a farmhouse, for you non-Swedes). It’s free on the second Tuesday of the month, but even on other days, you can get the whole family into both this and the rest of the galleries for 10 bucks. 5211 N. Clark St., Andersonville, swedishamericanmuseum.org

Photo: The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Illinois

Historic House Tour

Clarke House Museum

Hardware magnate Henry B. Clarke’s 1836 Greek Revival mansion is the oldest existing home in the city. It’s survived two moves from its original location on Michigan Avenue, is full of period antiques, and simply glows during holiday candlelight tours. Free. 1827 S. Indiana Ave., Prairie District, clarkehousemuseum.org

DIY Class

Penguin Foot Pottery

The beginners’ course ($130) at this welcoming studio includes four two-hour classes and roughly enough clay to reenact the pottery wheel scene from Ghost 20 times. Love the feeling of wet clay between your fingers? Drop in on Fridays and Saturdays for the BYOB wheel-throwing happy hour ($40). 2516 W. Armitage Ave., Logan Square, penguinfoot.com

Photo: Grace Pisula

Escape Room

Escape Artistry

A team-building activity that doesn’t suck: Six meticulously rendered Chicago-themed options — from an apocalyptic L car to a Lake Michigan pirate dungeon (just go with it) — help you match the level of intensity to your group’s vibe. From $30. 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave. and 1342 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wicker Park, escape-artistry.com

Karaoke Bar

Louie’s Pub

Trendy it ain’t, but this watering hole delivers nothing if not a classic night of belting. Wireless mics let you really work the room, and the DJs will sing backup on request. 1659 W. North Ave., Wicker Park, louiespub.com

Adult Entertainment

Jeezy’s Juke Joint

Frustrated by a lack of showcases for black burlesque performers, local cabaret legend Jeez Loueez decided to, as they say, be the change. Her seven-year-old traveling show illuminates and elevates the bawdier arts — striptease, yes, but also drag, raunch comedy, and gender-fluid theatrics — and is performed entirely by people of color. jeezysjukejoint.com

Architecture Tour

Chicago for Chicagoans

Patti Swanson may be an architectural historian, but her tours go deeper than blueprints and buttresses. Each is an hour-and-a-half adventure in a single neighborhood, with stops focusing on women-owned small businesses, immigrant cemeteries, or the city’s earliest skyscrapers, and is carefully curated by local activists, journalists, artists, and lifers. $10 to $20 suggested tip. chicagoforchicagoans.org

Smackdown!Sky-High Tourist Trap

Willis Tower

Photo: Antonio Perez/CHICAGO TRIBUNE

875 North Michigan Avenue

(formerly the John Hancock Center)

Photo: John J. Kim/CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Height 1,450 feet 1,128 feet
View A full cityscape from 103 stories above the western edge of the Loop A vista that stretches past the North Shore, visible from the unlikeliest of places: the bathroom
Cost $24 for adults and $16 for kids Up to $23 for adults and $16 for kids to visit the 94th floor during peak hours — but it’s free to zoom to the Signature Room one floor up
Iconic movie moment Matthew Broderick and pals pressing their foreheads against the window in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Shailene Woodley ziplining from the top in Divergent
Nightmare material The clear-floored Ledge, which juts out four feet from the west side (a protective layer on it cracked under a tourist’s feet in 2014) The glass-enclosed Tilt, which leans over Michigan Avenue at a 30-degree angle
Ignominious name change Yet another name change is allegedly in the works, but it’ll always be the Sears Tower to us. This poor building has been nameless since the insurance company John Hancock stripped it of its moniker in February.

Winner:875 North Michigan Avenue. It may be touristy, but it’s got unbeatable views of our greatest natural asset: the lake.

Old-Movie Series

Chicago Film Society

Finally, a chance to see Curt McDowell’s 1972 underground exploitation film Peed into the Wind in its original celluloid glory. But if oddball trash isn’t your thing, this collective of cinema buffs also screens stone-cold classics (Howard Hawks’s 1959 western Rio Bravo) and cult obscurities ripe for reevaluation (the 1997 Nick Nolte vehicle Afterglow). From $7. Various locations, chicagofilmsociety.org

Trivia Night

Riddle Me That at Logan Bar & Grill

Call it the anti–trivia night. Physical challenges level the playing field between the nerds and the noobs — as does a last-place prize — at this free-for-all. 2230 N. California Ave., Logan Square, riddlemethatgameshow.com

Place to Volunteer as a Family

Greater Chicago Food Depository

Kids as young as 5 can learn empathy at monthly sessions where they’ll assemble nutritious boxed spreads. 4100 W. Ann Lurie Pl., Archer Heights, chicagosfoodbank.org

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