From the writers for A+E

Date:

August always arrives with a bit of baggage — that melancholy sense that the season’s days are numbered. Whether you’re a high schooler or haven’t been in a classroom for an age, you know summer break is winding down, pools are closing soon and fall is out there waiting.

From the critics, columnists and regular contributors to A+E, we bring a message: There’s still time. Carpe diem and all that. Here’s what’s on our lists of what to do in this glorious last full month of summer 2023.

Attention people-loving introverts: this Wednesday evening special at Dovetail Brewery is made for in-betweeners like you. If you bring your own hobby to this North Center hideout, you’ll get 15% off all draft beers — great news for knitters, watercolorists, “Legend of Zelda” enthusiasts, “Dungeons & Dragons” campaigners and bookworms tired of onlookers gawking at them at bars. Hobbies aren’t the only thing you can BYO: Dovetail encourages patrons to tote in food from elsewhere, though it keeps some light bar fare on hand if you need only a bite or two. Noon to 10 p.m. Wednesdays at Dovetail Brewery, 1800 W. Belle Plaine Ave.; dovetailbrewery.com

Freelance critic Hannah Edgar

Earlier this summer I went to my first Wisconsin pizza farm. When I told friends, they would ask: Wait, hold up, are you saying Wisconsin discovered a way to grow pizza? Or: Pizza grows on trees in Wisconsin? Yes, I would say. Also, pizza sprouts from the ground. More or less. It’s a miraculously obvious idea, paired with a bit of theater: A Wisconsin pizza farm is not farm-to-table dining, but farm-to-farm-to-blanket dining. Picture working farms, acres of grass and farmers who, for a few hours a week, use the herbs and vegetables and meat raised on their land to bake pizzas. There’s usually local beer and a guy strumming “Sugar Magnolia” and a barn. Wisconsin offers about a dozen good examples of this, spread throughout the state. Many are impossibly idyllic (which, these days, also means Insta-friendly). Food is half the appeal. At Mapleton Barn in Oconomowoc, there are summer greens set against fading barn reds. At Grassway Organics in East Troy, there’s a local guy strumming Boz Scaggs while, on the side of a hill, Jersey cattle huddle at a fence. Then you get a pizza from a stone oven, spread across a blanket and pretend you slipped into Schmigadoon. Wisconsinites know pizza farms. Chicagoans, who lay claim to all things pizza, have catching up to do. If you’re in the Chicago area, two day-trips are Grassway Organics (grasswayorganics.com) and Mapleton Barn (mapletonbarn.com), both just west of Milwaukee. Grassway is open Fridays and Saturdays through September; Mapleton on Thursdays until Sept. 14. Admission is free; pizza and drinks are not. Expect crowds.

— Tribune writer Chris Borrelli

Kloey Reyes, 12, warms up with the pitcher before a Horner Park North-West Little League game at Horner Park on July 27, 2021, in Chicago.

One of my favorite activities this summer has been rounding up my friends, packing a picnic lunch and heading to a park to play some lawn games. Horner Park, one of the biggest parks on the North Side, is a great option since there are plenty of trees offering a shady spot to set up even on busy weekends. My go-to games are bocce ball, croquet and ladder golf, but the park also has softball fields, baseball diamonds, football/soccer fields and spots for tennis, basketball and pickleball. Horner Park is open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. at 2741 W. Montrose Ave.; chicagoparkdistrict.com

Kayla Samoy, deputy editor of A+E

The third annual Chicago Live! will be bigger and better than ever, with 80 dance, music and theater companies from across the Windy City filling Navy Pier from end to end for two days. I know what you’re thinking, but Navy Pier has never been more delightful — and isn’t just for tourists. Plus, Saturday night ends with one of the best fireworks shows I’ve ever seen. Do yourself a favor and take public transit or bike, the parking garages fill quickly. Sept. 23-24 at Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave.; free, navypier.org

Freelance critic Lauren Warnecke

Looking for a twist on your moviegoing experience? “Bring your friends and loved ones and we’ll bring you city skylines, sunsets, starlit evenings, awesome drinks, delicious food and great movies on the big screen.” That’s the pitch from the folks who run Rooftop Cinema and they have a full slate of throwback titles running nightly through Sept. 4 including “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” “Grease,” “Clueless” and “The Breakfast Club,” to name just a few. There’s also programming with a special focus on Black cinema with two Chicago-shot films: “Love Jones” and the 2021 “Candyman.” The cinema is located on the 5th floor at the Emily Hotel, 311 N. Morgan St. Seating is provided. Tickets are $19.50-$27.50 at rooftopcinemaclub.com

— Tribune critic Nina Metz

Lights are strung above the beer garden at the Half Acre taproom and kitchen at the Balmoral Street production brewery.

Summer means outdoor excursions, hanging out with friends and refreshing libations. What better time to get acquainted with a few of the city’s 40-plus breweries? Especially the establishments with seasonal patios that invite you to unplug from your devices and be present in the moment. As a bonus, some even welcome well-behaved (and leashed) canine family members. Our advice: Take a snow day in August, plot a course that allows you time to relax and conduct a combination brewery-neighborhoods tour. Need five suggestions to start? Metropolitan (metrobrewing.com), Ravinia (raviniabrewingcompany.com), Burning Bush (burningbushbrewery.com), Half Acre (halfacrebeer.com) and Alarmist (alarmistbrewing.com) all pour outstanding beer and are located within accessible ride-share or biking distance of one other on the North and Northwest Sides.

Freelance critic Bob Gendron

It can be argued persuasively that the best summer people-watching spot in the city is at the intersection of Rush and State Streets, a triangular space that stretches north from Cedar to Bellevue Place. This has long been known, somewhat derisively, as the Viagra Triangle, a nod to what many felt was an overwhelming presence of older men with younger women. But to observe the patrons sitting outside at (or coming and going from) Lux Bar, Nico Osteria, Hugo’s Frog Bar, the venerable Gibsons and the recently opened Bellevue (which replaced the popular Tavern on Rush) is to see a younger scene, increasingly filled by families. The food at each of these places is first-rate, but to save a few bucks and enjoy the passing parade, plunk yourself down in the triangle itself. It is summer home to Whispers, an oasis of coffees, teas, fruit drinks, baked things and terrific gelato. There is a pleasant fountain there in the space formally known as Mariano Park, named for Lou Mariano, a former newspaperman.

Tribune columnist Rick Kogan

It’s open year-round but late summer is an especially nice time to get to know a place in East Dundee called Van’s Frozen Custard & Burgers. My beloved in-laws introduced me, and while it’s across Main Street (one block east of the Fox River, right along the bike trail) from a very busy Dairy Queen, Van’s more than holds its own, trafficwise. Tastewise? It MORE than more than holds its own. Right now I’m enjoying a spoonful of the lemon sorbet. Review: “Mmmmmmmaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhslurpslurpslurpmmmmmmmmm” At 16 E. Main St., East Dundee; 847-836-8267 and vansfrozencustard.com

— Tribune critic Michael Phillips

Ronald Román-Meléndez, Teri Brown, James Ridge and Samantha Newcomb in the 2023 production of

I won’t be able to make it there myself but it’s still on my list. Wisconsin-born playwright Thornton Wilder’s classic is one of the mainstage titles at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin, this summer, a little more than three hours away by car. A play about appreciating the moments of life that are passing you by, staged at dusk in the last days of August in the outdoor Hill Theatre? Heady, heady stuff. Through Sept. 22 at American Players Theatre, 5950 Golf Course Road in Spring Green, Wisconsin; tickets at 608-588-2361 and americanplayers.org

— Doug George, A+E editor

Ensconced within Avondale’s rapidly developing riverside edge, you’ll find one of the most scenic stretches of the Chicago River’s North Branch. You might already know its east side, home to Clark Park (with its famous Jeanne Gang-designed WMS Boathouse), a mountain biking course and the southern terminus of the new 312 RiverRun trail. But don’t pass up the tiny-yet-mighty western trail alongside the river. There, a bucolic, tree-canopied path curves alongside a complex of handsome brick townhomes — the stuff Zillow dreams are made of — and it offers mostly unencumbered views of river wildlife. A highlight from a recent visit: two great blue herons winging after one another, with a half-dozen turtles basking on a log below them. Head there ASAP, while the critters are out and the greenery looks like you maxed a saturation slider on Photoshop. West side of the Chicago River’s Northern Branch, between Roscoe Street and Belmont Avenue.

Freelance critic Hannah Edgar

A film plays during Godzilla week at the Music Box Garden Movies series on  July 27, 2023.

If you’re like me, you have a weakness for TikTok influencers who reveal the Chicago “secrets” nobody else knows (while mainly revealing they moved here from Des Moines four months ago). So let’s not pretend Music Box Garden Movies are hidden or underground. Still, it can feel that way. You sit on lounge chairs and drink in the tiniest of nooks beside the main theater on Southport Avenue, flanked by brick and Christmas lights, facing a miniature 7-foot tall screen. It’s lovely on a summer night, but there’s a catch: Capacity is a scant 50. Which means trolling the Music Box website for tickets. (Which meant I hesitated when tickets to a recent Godzilla series went on sale and lost out.) Do not show up expecting to buy a ticket for that night’s movie. Plan ahead. Also, the programming is as charmingly random as any neighborhood backyard movie party: August brings “Raising Arizona,” Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror,” “An American in Paris,” “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and “Dracula: Dead and Loving It.” September will offer “The House Bunny” and “Creature From the Black Lagoon” (in 3D). Just don’t tell anyone about this, OK? Screenings are Monday to Thursday at Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave.; tickets $8 at musicboxtheatre.com

— Tribune writer Chris Borrelli

Closed to vehicular traffic between Adams and Lake, five blocks of State Street will be transformed into a free interactive block party for one Sunday in mid-August. Several stages will be set up with performances from Andre Gibson and the SoulJazz Revue and a presentation from popular Chicago historian Shermann “Dilla” Thomas, among others. Food offerings will include pound cake from Cakes n Chicks; ribs, chicken and fish from I-94 Ribs; a family-owned food truck called Sausage Fest; gourmet pickles and vegetables from Wanna Pickle, shaved ice from TuTu’s Shaved Ice and more. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 13 on State Street between Adams and Lake; free reservations at loopchicago.com

— Tribune critic Nina Metz

A pair of MGs owned by Dick Davies of Crown Point, Indiana are displayed at a village cruise night in a past season.

I’m not half the car geek I used to be. One of the “games” I’d play on family road trips when the kids were little was to rattle off the make and model of every car that passed, no matter busy the traffic. Yes, it was more entertaining to me than anyone else and I promise those games were short. If you’re of a similar mind, summer is high season for car shows and cruise nights all around the Chicago area. Cruisin’ Into Lockport is every Monday night through Aug. 28 (cityoflockport.net). There’s a show in downtown Elgin and another at the Illinois Railway Museum in northwest suburban Union this Sunday (facebook.com and irm.org, respectively). This summer’s Crown Point Car Cruise season in northwest Indiana runs Thursdays through Sept. 28 (crownpoint.in.gov). The Volo Museum is one big daily car show (volocars.com). Get your motor running?

— Doug George, A+E editor

Nobody needed to reinvent Chicago street festivals, and Chalk Howard Street is not exactly original — there are chalk-art fairs across the country every summer — but a little focus never hurt a mass gathering on hot pavement beneath an August sun, now did it? Chalk Howard Street, billing itself as Chicago’s only chalk-art festival, has been a Rogers Park favorite since its 2019 debut, even through those awkward virtual years. This year is fully in-person for the first time in a while. You get the street festival standards: BBQ, bands, crowds. But it’s all centered on a handful of professional artists hunched over Howard itself, crafting 3D gorges, alligators, rockets, self-portraits. You can buy a patch of street canvas ($25) and draw alongside them, but look: This is a chalk-art street festival, nobody is going to stop you from chalking the curbs and crannies. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 26 on Howard between Paulina Street and Ashland Avenue; free, howardstreetchicago.com

— Tribune writer Chris Borrelli

Kayaks take off after gathering along the walls of Chicago's Riverwalk in June 2016. The Chicago River and its North Branch are popular waterways for kayakers.

Want to beat the traffic headed downtown on I-90? Admittedly, that’s not exactly the best reason to abandon the car or train and traverse the Chicago River on a kayak. But this summer, it’s nearly as good as any. Actually, paddling along the water at your own pace is more about serenity than speed. It also gives you an up-close view of the natural beauty and restored landscapes that frame a waterway that for decades the city treated as a dumping ground. You can also ogle the inspiring architecture — not just Loop skyscrapers but the fancy decks of homeowners who’ve made the river their backyard. Need a kayak? Easy. Rent one at REI Lincoln Park and use the store’s attached launch to start (and end) your adventure. Kayak rentals are available seven days a week at REI Lincoln Park, 905 W. Eastman St.; from $25 per hour at rei.com

Freelance critic Bob Gendron

Chicago’s far-flung movies-in-the-parks programming isn’t all “Minions” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and such. For years now, Chicago Park District operations manager Jon Ravenscroft has run the Chicago Onscreen: Local Film Showcase, featuring new works — short films, mostly, some full-length — proudly made locally. This year’s titles range from Claude Fethiere’s “Mr. Bulloch: Chicago’s Donut King,” about the man behind the Roseland landmark Old Fashioned Donuts Incorporated, to illustrator Olivia Jensen’s “Kiss ‘n’ Ride,” an animated short set in the thick of a Chicago winter. The free programs will take place from Aug. 28 to Sept. 3, starting at 8 p.m. (weather permitting) at various locations, including Promontory Point, Lincoln Park Cultural Center, Palmer Park, Blackhawk Park, Washington Park, Wicker Park, Willye B. White Park and Douglass Park; chicagoonscreen.com

— Tribune critic Michael Phillips

People walk on the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago on Sept. 3, 2021.

Loving the Lincoln Park Zoo is possible in any season. I am particularly fond of its solitude and snow in the winter. Summer’s terrific, too, but not enough people avail themselves of the wonder just to the south. It is the Nature Boardwalk, a 14-acre pond-and-prairie habitat plunked down in the middle of the city and filled with wonder in the form of animals and plants. Those of a certain age will remember when the pond was a scary mess and perhaps haven’t seen it since its 2010 transformation. That came with $14 million and the talents of many, prominently architect Jeanne Gang who designed the pathway that courses through a portion of it and has given new life to the park’s South Pond, and sparked the creation of the LPZ’s pioneering Urban Wildlife Institute, a now national effort to emphasize conservation here and abroad. You can go on one of the organized tours available or take it alone. Walk slowly. Look around. Be amazed. Lincoln Park Zoo, 2200 N. Cannon Drive; 312-742-2000 and lpzoo.org

Tribune columnist Rick Kogan

Few things are as transcendent as tap dancer Jumaane Taylor in his natural environment — an intimate setting with a tap board under his feet and a jazz combo beside him. Saxophonist Brent Griffin Jr., Charles Rick Heath on drums and bassist Jeremiah Hunt join Taylor as the Jazz Hoofing Quartet for a pair of upcoming performances capping the summer. For those craving an al fresco experience, stop by Tuesdays on the Terrace soon at the Museum of Contemporary Art. If air conditioning is more your speed, head to Calumet Heights a few weeks later for an indoor variety. 5:30 p.m. Aug. 8 in the Terrace Garden at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave.; free passes at mcachicago.org. Then 7 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Mayfair Arts Center, 8701 S. Bennett Ave.; free, details at chicagotap.org

Freelance critic Lauren Warnecke

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