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Entertainment & Nightlife in Chicago


Chicago is a drinking town, and you can find bars and pubs in every part of the city. It is believed that Chicago has the second highest bars-per-capita in the US (after San Francisco). Be prepared to be asked for identification to verify your age, even at neighbourhood dive bars.

At night, Chicago sizzles, from legendary blues and jazz venues to famous comedy clubs to hopping nightclubs. The Loop becomes fairly quiet after curtains fall on its many theatres. Then most barhoppers move north to clubs along Rush Street or to a cluster of busy taverns around the intersection of State and Division.

There's a more upscale scene in the West Loop warehouse district, and plenty of laid-back neighbourhood joints in Andersonville, Bucktown, Lincoln Square, Southport, Ukrainian Village and Wicker Park. Lincoln Park and Old Town are popular with the yuppie set, and Lakeview draws hundreds of recent Big Ten grads, as well as a large following to the gay bars along Halsted Street.

Sports bars cluster around Wrigley Field, and they fill up quickly after a Cubs game. But no matter where you go in Chicago, you're certain to find a corner bar with plenty of locals talking about Chicago sports.

Last call is usually 2 am, though some bars have liquor licences until 4 am, notably many on Division Street. Every bar gets an extra hour on Saturday night, pushing closing time to 3 or 5 am, respectively. The Smoke Free Illinois Act prohibits smoking in public places, including nightclubs and bars.

Places to Unwind

The Loop

While many night-crawlers will want to venture outside the Loop to truly paint the town red, Kitty O'Shea's, a hotel bar in the Chicago Hilton Plaza and Towers, provides a good setting for an after-dinner drink. Another favourite is the legendary Miller's Pub.

Magnificent Mile

The Magnificent Mile is more famous for high-class shopping and fashionable restaurants than its nightlife. One bar to try is the Chicago classic, the Billy Goat Tavern. This subterranean institution features a full bar that will lift your spirits even if you are not in the mood for its signature "cheezeborgers".

River North/Gold Coast

You will also find a popular area for nightlife in the Gold Coast. Head toward Rush and Division Streets and pop into Jilly's Piano Bar for a classy, swingin' Sinatra-esque atmosphere. Young guns on the prowl can go to meat/meet market bars like Butch McGuire's, Mother's or Bar Chicago.

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