A Swedish immigrant himself, Kurt Mathiasson took it upon himself to found an institution that would preserve the legacy of the Swedish-American experience within Chicago. The Andersonville-neighborhood leader opened the original Swedish American Museum in a storefront log cabin in 1976, receiving the blessing of His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, who personally attended the ceremonies. Just over one decade later, the museum moved to its present Clark Street location, giving it both the space and the means to continue its mission of celebrating Swedish heritage and the experiences of Chicago's Swedish immigrants.
The three-story museum's permanent collection boasts roughly 12,000 artifacts. These historical pieces include original passports and steamship tickets, household items that immigrants brought to the New World, and various folk crafts. Within the museum's permanent exhibits, these artifacts provide visitors with valuable insight into the struggles and triumphs of Swedish immigrants as they established a new, vibrant community within Chicago.
Beyond the permanent exhibit, the institution also features the Brunk Children?s Museum of Immigration, which provides youngsters of all ages with hands-on opportunities to experience life in a replica of a Swedish farmhouse. Youths collect firewood, learn to milk a cow, and connect to the internet using a crank-powered modem. From there, children can board a 20-foot model of a steamship, which mimics the journey across the Atlantic and then teaches passengers about the log-cabin lifestyles of America's frontier settlers. The Swedish American Museum's Nordic Family Genealogy Center provides yet another service for interested visitors, giving them the opportunity to research their families' Scandinavian heritage.
In Italian, sentieri Italiani means "Italian paths"—something with which Daniela Cavallero is very familiar. A native of Italy's Piemonte region, Cavallero imagined a place where she could bestow the rich heritage and language of her homeland upon the citizens of her new home in Chicago. She spun her vision into a reality, summoning a squadron of fluent Italian speakers to lead Sentieri Italian's language and culture classes. During each lesson, these well-versed instructors strive to teach pupils of all experience levels more than just language skills—they also give them a thorough rundown of Italian culture and history.
The team also spreads its wealth of knowledge of all things Italian beyond the classroom. To prep travelers for annual excursions to Italy, staffers devise detailed cultural training to ensure travelers know basic phrases and can quickly catch leaning towers. They also arrange regular cultural and dining events and organize a trove of services, including translations, genealogical studies, and assistance in procuring Italian citizenship.
An ornate relic of Chicago's 1920s movie houses, The Music Box Theatre floods its screens with a rotating lineup of cult classics and the latest indie and foreign art films. The theater also provides patrons with a newly unveiled selection of wine and craft beers. Occasionally punctuated by live organ music, the main auditorium evokes an Italian courtyard beneath a cloudy midnight sky. The theater's original manager, Whitey, is said to haunt its aisles, watching over his legacy and hoping to finally catch Rocky's ending.
One night every Christmas season, the streets of Wrigleyville swarm with hundreds of people dressed in outrageous holiday costumes. This incongruous site is all thanks to Festa Parties. The infamous holiday gathering known as TBOX Twelve Bars of Xmas Pub Crawl is just one of the many themed pub crawls the event company produces each year. Other popular events include the mardi gras-themed BeadQuest and the baseball-themed Cover Your Bases. And the brains behind these quirky and interactive crawls is owner Christopher Festa, who aims to help locals have a memorable night out while simultaneously giving back to Chicago. Most recently, the event company donated $75,000 and more than 1,400 boxes of cereal to the Lakeview Food Pantry.
Simply put, Players Sport & Social Group helps more than 60,000 people each year get together, meet new friends, and have fun. The two-decade-old company has more than doubled in size in the last five years, due in no small part to the wide variety of sports leagues and clinics that it offers at venues throughout the city. Teams or individuals can sign up for sports ranging from dodge ball to beach volleyball to games of "bags," otherwise known as cornhole. Players can check their weekly standings online and review each sport's rules, learning exactly what is considered a foul in kickball or how to dispose of a football opponent's captured flag by burning it in a respectful ceremony.
The company also hosts and sponsors social events such as happy hours, fundraisers, and the Luau: a 55,900-participant grass-volleyball tournament with DJ music, food, and beer. Similarly, The Big Dig volleyball tournament offers the same mix of munchies, brews, and live entertainment, but on the sands of North Avenue Beach.
According to Wheel Fun Rentals’ website, they “were green before green was popular.” Founder Brian McInerney and his staff back up this claim by pairing renters with recreational modes of transportation that are safe for the environment. Visitors can rent a canopied surrey to navigate the trails near Foster Beach or a mountain bike to traverse Lake Michigan Mountain. Single- and double-kayaks allow one to glide over the water and take in the sweeping skyline to the south.