It's a view that shouldn't be missed. The Sears Tower offers a 360-degree panorama of Chicago's skyline from North America's tallest building, which soars 1,353 feet high. Admission into the Sky Deck is $9.95 for adults, and $7.95 for seniors. Aside from the view, visitors can check out the interactive, museum-quality exhibits. It is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. in May. To avoid long lines, the best time to visit is after 4 p.m. The Sears Tower is located at 233 S. Wacker Drive and access to the Sky Deck is easiest through the Jackson Street entrance. Call (312) 875-9696 for more information.
If you prefer to stay on the ground, don't miss Tulip Days on the Magnificent Mile, a 30-day presentation that ends May 15. Stretching from Michigan Avenue to Oak Street to the Chicago River, the event has partnered with the Consulate General of the Netherlands to bring Dutch culture to the Magnificent Mile. Explore Dutch-themed activities and exhibits, including an architectural photography exhibit, outdoor concert and artistic flower-arranging demos. All activities are free and open to the public. Call (312) 409-5560 for more information.
If you prefer to head out to sea, or at least to Lake Michigan, the Spirit of Chicago offers daily cruises for lunch, midday and dinner. Board your harbor cruise at the South Side of the Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave. The ship sails as far south as McCormick Place and as far north as Montrose Harbor. While on board, a variety of popular dance music is played for guests. In addition, performers provide lively entertainment during the lunch and dinner cruises. The lunch cruise also includes a narration. Reservations are required for parties of 20 or more, and prices vary as to date and time. Call (866) 211-3804 toll-free or (312) 321-1241 for more information.
The FMI convention falls when Chicago's art scene erupts with many outdoor events.
Check out the first-ever Chicago Contemporary & Classic Art Show, which ends today, at the Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave. This show offers a fresh approach to the international art exposition, and was created to provide a new direction for Chicago's spring art fair. CC&C showcases modern and contemporary art galleries as well as European and American classical dealers. An anticipated 25,000 collectors, museum curators and art aficionados are expected to attend. Call (312) 595-PIER for more information.
Art Chicago in the Park 2005 is being held through today on Columbus Drive. The 13th annual international contemporary art fair is staged in a 125,000-square-foot tent overlooking Lake Michigan. The site combines Grant Park and Lake Michigan with Chicago's downtown Loop. Located directly across the street from The Art Institute of Chicago and adjacent to Millennium Park, Art Chicago in the Park is also a short trip from the West Loop Gallery District. Call (312) 226-4700 for more information.
Now through July 10, catch the Ruth Duckworth: Modernist Sculptor exhibition, which will be on display at the Chicago Cultural Center in the fourth floor Exhibit Hall and in the Sidney R. Yates Gallery, 78 E. Washington St. The retrospective will focus on Duckworth's contribution to modern sculpture in ceramics and metals. The exhibit includes more than 80 vessels, ceramic murals and sculptures. For more information, call (312) 744-6630.
Visit Broadway in Chicago, a group of three theaters in the heart of downtown for pre-Broadway and Broadway touring musicals. Now through June 6, "Wicked," the hit musical that is still in high demand on Broadway in New York, is in Chicago at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theater at 22 W. Monroe St. "Wicked" is the story of how two friends became witches -- the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch -- long before Dorothy and Toto ever visited the Land of Oz. For tickets and times, call (312) 902-1400.
For classical theater, attend the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on the Navy Pier. This is one of Chicago's fastest-growing theaters and Shakespeare's love story "Romeo and Juliet" is the featured performance during the FMI Show weekend. The violence of two warring families stains Verona's streets as two teenage lovers stop at nothing to be together despite their families' rivalry. Tony Award-nominated director Mark Lamos makes his Chicago debut. Call (312) 595-5600 for more information.
The award-winning Blue Man Group is at the Briar Street Theater at 3133 N. Halsted St. This show features three bald and blue characters who take the audience through a multi-sensory experience that combines theater, percussion, music, science and vaudeville. As fascinating as the show is, the theater itself is a sight to see when the Blue Man experience begins as soon as you walk in the door. The theater hosts the Blue Man Group's largest lobby installation and also houses many famous pieces of art by Picasso and Van Gogh. Call (773) 348-4000 for more information.
RELAX AND RECHARGE
If the hotel fitness center isn't your style, but you still need to get a workout in to recharge for the next convention session, visit Fitness Formula Gold Coast on the sixth floor of the Gold Coast Galleria, located at the intersection of Clark and Maple streets. Gold Coast Multiplex comprises 72,000 square feet on two levels. Members call it "The Friendliest Place in Town." The facility includes 100 group exercise classes a week, four studios, a track, a basketball court, 75-foot lap swimming pool and locker room. Guest passes are available for $20. Call (312) 944-1030 for more information.
A game of golf, weather permitting, might fill the bill for some much needed relaxation away for the show floor. The Chicago Park District offers public play with six golf courses, three driving ranges and two miniature courses that are open all year long. Tee times can be made in person at any location, or by calling the 24-hour reservation system at (312) 245-0909.
For pure relaxation, pamper yourself at the ultra-posh Peninsula Spa, located in the Peninsula Hotel at 108 E. Superior St. This spa also offers a breathtaking view of Chicago from the hotel's 19th and 20th floors. Spa highlights include a roof deck, seven treatment rooms, light-filled pool, indoor pool, patio area and a full workout center. Use of the fitness facilities is free to hotel guests, and a limited number of memberships are also available to non-guests. Spa services are open to the public and include manicures, pedicures, facials and massages. The spa also has a tonic bar offering herbal elixirs, healthy snacks, wraps and muffins. Hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Call (312) 337-2888 for details.
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME
For baseball fans who have the time to break away, the Chicago White Sox are at U.S. Cellular Field, formerly Comiskey Park. If you're still around after the FMI show ends, catch the Sox at home against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday, May 3, at 7:05 p.m. For tickets, call (866) SOX-GAME.
A NIGHT ON THE TOWN
Chicago offers a wide spectrum of popular music, comedy and dance spots that are too numerous to name here. For starters, consider the following long-time favorite hangouts:
Wine connoisseurs can savor their favorite varietal and enjoy some live entertainment without a cover charge on Monday night at Webster Wine Bar at 1480 W. Webster St., which offers a selection of more than 500 wines. Established in 1994, this wine bar also serves a large selection of beer and spirits, as well as a variety of appetizers, small entrees and homemade pizzas tailored to match specific wines. The kitchen is open late, until 12:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays. Call (773) 868-0608 for more information.
Rich, famous and flashy people will fill Jilly's Piano Bar at 1007 N. Rush St., made famous by Jilly Rizzo, a good friend of Frank Sinatra. Entertainment is provided by legendary piano man Nick Russo, a 30-year Chicago favorite with a deep, smooth voice. He keeps things lively with a mix of swing and Sinatra favorites. Following the after-work crowd, the joint gets jumping and swinging into the wee hours of the morning, according to the Jilly's Web site. The bar is open Sunday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Call (312) 664-1001 for more information.