CHICAGO (June 5, 9:30 a.m. EDT) — If you can divert your attention from North America's biggest plastics show, the host city has plenty of other things to offer visitors during NPE week.
NPE visitors will spend an estimated $150 million in Chicago during the show, and the city gives back big time. The June calendar packs a full slate of special events, professional sports, music, culture, museums, night life, history … maybe even some nice weather for biking along the lakefront or sunbathing (and people watching) downtown at the Oak Street beach.
Here's a selection of some highlights. If you're interested in more information, or you have special interests that aren't covered here, check the events listings on these Web sites: www.chicagoreader.com, metromix.chicagotribune.com, egov.cityofchicago.org, or www.877chicago.com.
Once again, NPE attendees will just miss two of the best summer events Chicago has to offer, the Chicago Blues Festival and Taste of Chicago. But if your visit happens to take you to the city either before or after NPE week, these events definitely are worth a visit.
The Blues Festival takes place June 8-11 in Grant Park, which is downtown on Columbus Avenue between Monroe and Van Buren. Admission is free.
Taste of Chicago is set for June 30-July 9, also in Grant Park. Admission to this is free, too.
So what is going on during NPE week? Well, if you enjoy juggling, acrobats and a big top-type show, the Cirque Shanghai opens at Navy Pier on June 7 and runs all summer. Touted as an event featuring “the best acrobats from China's most acclaimed troupes,” shows run every Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Cost is $14.50 for adults, $12.50 for ages 3-11.
The best-known attractions at Navy Pier make this a location that everyone should visit at least once: the giant Ferris wheel (cost: $5 per ride), and fireworks at 9:30 p.m. every Wednesday and 10:15 p.m. every Saturday (cost: free). Navy Pier is on the Lake Michigan end of Grand Avenue.
The world champion Chicago White Sox play close to McCormick, at what is now known as U.S. Cellular Field, on 35th Street next to the Dan Ryan Expressway. And, lucky you, the Sox are in town nearly every day of NPE.
The Sox play the St. Louis Cardinals on June 20, 21 and 22, and all the games start at 7:05 p.m. On June 23, 24 and 25 the opponent will be the Houston Astros, with games at 7:35 p.m., 12:20 p.m. and 1:05 p.m., respectively.
The Chicago Cubs will be on the road for all of NPE week. If you happen to be in town early, catch them at Wrigley Field any day from June 13-18 (the opponents are Houston, then Detroit) or, after NPE, see a four-game series against the Brewers that starts June 26.
Baseball may be America's pastime, but many of the world's sports fans will focus on soccer during NPE week. The biggest action, unfortunately, isn't in Chicago — it's in Germany, at the World Cup.
Never fear, you can sneak out of the show early some afternoon to catch a game at a local sports bar. Some highlights: Brazil vs. Australia on June 18, England vs. Sweden or Ecuador vs. Germany on June 20, Portugal vs. Mexico on June 21, and the United States vs. Ghana on June 22.
Chicago has live professional soccer, but not much during NPE week. The Chicago Fire plays the New York Red Bulls at 6 p.m. on June 25. The team's new home is Bridgeview Stadium, at the corner of 71st and Harlem.
The Grant Park Music Festival's 2006 season opens June 14 with a program that on most days features the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus collaborating with the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago.
The June 18 show will feature Chicago Chamber Musicians with Paquito D'Rivera performing “Music of the Americas.”
The Grant Park Orchestra returns on June 19 with its own “Musica Americana.” June 23 promises to be an unusual show: “A Tibetan Mozart Requiem,” features the orchestra and a group of Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery.
Lawn seating at the music festival events is free. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion is located in Grant Park.
The Lyric Opera of Chicago's season begins in September, so no performances are scheduled during NPE. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is off most of NPE week. There is a performance scheduled for June 17, but it is sold out.
The Ravinia Festival in suburban Highland Park has a full schedule of music during NPE week, including a Beethoven sonata series on June 19-20, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago on June 21-22, and Bonnie Raitt on June 23-24. For information, check www.ravinia.org.
Most of the museums in Chicago feature a regular lineup of exhibits, plus a variety of special shows. Here are some details on the special events during NPE week.
Tut is coming back to the Field Museum, with a special exhibit, “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs.” The museum touts this show as twice the size of the original 1977 exhibition.
The Art Institute of Chicago will be open free on Thursday and Friday evenings this summer, from 5-9 p.m. Also, the museum's current special exhibit is “Casas Grandes and the Ceramic Art of the Ancient Southwest.”
The Museum of Science and Industry is tackling pop culture, with “Leonardo da Vinci: Man, Inventor, Genius.” The show includes props from the film The Da Vinci Code and much more.
There's plenty of live music all over town, so this is a very incomplete listing. But Chicago is chock-full of blues, jazz and rock music venues, so there's no excuse for going to listen to your friends sing bad karaoke.
The biggest name in town during NPE week is Madonna, who is playing the United Center, with shows on June 14, 15, 18 and 19. Some shows will probably be sold out, so check for tickets online well in advance.
Rob Thomas and Jewel will be at the Charter One Pavilion, on Northerly Island near McCormick Place, on June 17. The Black Crowes will play the same venue June 24.
Radiohead and the Black Keys are at the Auditorium Theater on June 19-20.
Live theater also is an option, with comedy, drama, musical … anything you like.
The searchable www.chicago reader.com listings are a good place to start. One special show that starts just before NPE is the traveling company Wicked, a musical playing at the Ford Center for Performing Arts.