Lollapalooza returns to its home in Chicago's Grant Park this weekend and will try to top past years with incendiary headliners Lady Gaga and the Strokes. Grant Park's Buckingham Fountain is stunning and everything, but when the microcosm of overpriced beer, loud music and heat gets to be too much, explore the city's culinary delights, sprawling beaches and historical attractions. Here are 10 not-to-be-missed events happening during Lollapalooza weekend.
Watch Michael Bay Obliterate Downtown
Since mid-July, the Michael Bay-helmed third installment of the action-packed movie 'Transformers' has been filming in various streets in Chicago's Loop. The film crew has been blowing up cars and littering Michigan Avenue with faux debris, and base jumpers have parachuted from 1,300 feet atop the Trump Tower. Follow the rat-a-tat machine gun sounds and the huge crowds to find soot-covered heartthrobs Shia LaBeouf and Patrick Dempsey running for their lives.
Satiate the carnivore within! The Purple Pig boasts a Mediterranean spin on "swine, wine and cheese," including said swine's ears and tail. The small space generates long waits, and reservations aren't accepted, but it is open till 1AM. If pork is still what you crave, head to The Publican: Its Sunday brunch serves a thick cut of braised bacon soaked in maple syrup. North Side sports bar The Piggery specializes in pork nachos, and The Pork Shoppe cooks up traditional Texas BBQ such as ribs, pulled pork and brisket.
Believe it or not, people do surf in Lake Michigan. Last summer, Chicago Park District lifted a decade-old ban on surfing, and now there are four beaches that allow long and short boarding, boogie boarding and windsurfing. North Side beaches Montrose and Osterman and South Siders 57th Street and Rainbow Beach currently offers surfing seasonally (Memorial Day to Labor Day) but are vying for off-season as well. Boat traffic and storms conjure gnarly waves, so much so that swells can reach 20 feet. Surfers must abide by the rules and provide their own gear.
Aug. 6 marks the first anniversary of John Hughes' death, so get close to the writer/director's fictional Shermer, Ill., by visiting his filming haunts. Check out the high school turned police station in Des Plaines where 'The Breakfast Club' filmed exteriors. Then head down the street to Glenview North High School (Hughes' alma mater) for 'Ferris Bueller' and 'Breakfast' scenes, then swing by Bueller's best friend Cameron's house in nearby Highland Park. Finish at the famed 'Home Alone' house in Winnetka where Macauley Culkin outsmarted those pesky robbers.
Instead of frying brain cells this weekend, get an education on stars, dinosaurs and fish at Museum Campus. Within walking distance of Grant Park, the campus is loaded with Chicago's best museums including the Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium and Field Museum. Marvel at Sue, the Field's tyrannosaurus, learn about all kinds of sea life at the Shedd, and stargaze at the Adler. Get the camera ready to photograph the best skyline view in the entire city.
Why see Lady Gaga when you can see Bad Medicine, a Bon Jovi Tribute band, for much less? The Taylor Street fest occurs in Chicago's Little Italy and features booze, Italian food and live bands. If Italian isn't your thing, then check out Chicago's first annual Festival Cubano fest – they have salsa performers and a lot of authentic Cuban food – or attend the Midwest's largest two-day outdoor festival, Northalsted Market Days in Boystown where Joan Jett and Jon Secada headline.
Big acts the National and Phoenix's pre- and post-Lolla shows have been sold out for weeks, but tickets are still available for Devo and Dirty Projectors' pre-show at Congress Theater on Thursday. The Brooklyn art-rockers will open for the New Wave vets, who most likely will play 'Whip It.' On Saturday, brave the bros in Wrigleyville and get up close and personal with the Cribs when they play a free show at Cubby Bear with the celebrated Johnny Marr on guitar duty.
One of the best ways to experience the city is via boat on Lake Michigan. Shoreline Sightseeing operates cruises that leave promptly from Navy Pier daily. Their fireworks excursion lasts 45-60 minutes and focuses on a spectacular fireworks display launched nightly from the pier. The cruise line also has a sunset lake jaunt and a 75-minute live jazz cruise featuring live jazz and a cash bar.
Before Canadian electro-pop outfit Dragonette open for Cut Copy's sold-out pre-Lolla show Friday night at the Metro, they'll be stationed at music store Borderline Music for a meet-and-greet, which includes complimentary cocktails. The first 30 people to arrive receive a gift from the band and have a chance to win prizes. Throw back a couple with the band on Friday night and then make it a priority to see their Lolla performance on Saturday.
While the Arcade Fire closes out Lolla Sunday night, skip the crowd and opt for movie watching and imbibing on a hotel terrace with impeccable views. Downtown's swanky boutique hotel The Conrad screens free Chicago-centric movies, like 'Risky Business' and 'Blues Brothers,' on their rooftop every Sunday evening at sunset. Sunday's screening is the White Sox-related 'Eight Men Out,' so indulge in cocktails and watch Chicago's own John Cusack play some ball.