From the overview...
Located amidst the pleasant tree-lined streets of Hyde Park, the University of Chicago is a world-renowned research institution with a winning tradition in Nobel Prizes. Seventy-nine Novel laureates have been associated with the university as faculty, students, or researchers. (Six of them are current faculty members, so get 'em while they're hot!) The university prides itself on its rigorous academic standards and top-ranked programs, while its students pride themselves on their scholarly devotion -- traditionally shunning most overt displays of stereotypical collegiate debauchery.
From the sports section...
A long time ago, the famous nickname "Monsters of The Midway" belonged to The University of Chicago's football team (not 'da Bears), and the institution garnered football trophies right along with Nobel Prizes. The Maroons racked up seven Big Ten Football championships between 1899 and 1924, but the gridiron glory of yore faded and losing teams became the norm. The bleachers at Staff field, where fans once flocked to witness athletic triumphs, earned more fame as the site where Enrico Fermi and university scientists split the atom on Dec. 2, 1942 -- four years later, president Robert Maynard Hutchins put in the university's walking papers from The Big Ten and abolished the football team. Perhaps this was a step toward prioritizing scholarly pursuits over athletic achievement, but the catastrophic results of the "controlled release of nuclear energy" might be to blame.
From the culture section...
Located at 5757 Woodlawn Avenue is Frank Lloyd Wright's residential ode to all things horizontal and structurally organic: The Robie House (708-848-1976; www.wrightplus.org). This Prairie Style masterpiece is considered on of the most important building in the history of American architecture, and with the exterior restoration phase recently completed on the $8-million dollar renovation, it once again appears fresh of the proverbial drafting board. (Adult tickets cost $12, children 7-18 and seniors pay $10, and if you want to adopt an art class cabinet for restoration, it's $20,000).
Two must-see, but often overlooked free museums on campus are the Oriental Institute Museum (1155 E. 58th St., 773-702-9514; www.oi.uchicago.edu) and the Smart Museum of Art (5550 S. Greenwood Ave., 773-702-0200; www.smartmuseum.uchicago.edu). Showcasing ancient treasures from university digs since the 1900s (and yes, Indiana Jones did his undergraduate studies at U of C), the Oriental Institute houses permanent galleries devoted to ancient Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Anatolia, the ancient site of Megiddo, along with a rotation of special exhibits. The Smart Museum boasts a permanent collection of 10,000 fine art objects spanning five millennia of both Western and Eastern civilizations -- so, yes, it'll be enough to look at for that afternoon you have to kill.
With its narrow, cobble-stoned streets lined with Queen Anne-style homes and rehabbed cottages, Old Town's appropriate moniker perfectly encapsulates its nineteenth century charms.
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Old Jerusalem, the venerable shawarma and falafel stop, is an inexpensive Middle Eastern alternative to the neighborhood's often pricey eateries. The Fudge Pot freshly bakes up its chewy namesake and molds chocolate into any shape imaginable. Drink to life or drown your sorrows until 4 AM with an eclectic mix of barflies and colorful locals at Old Town Ale House.
Once home to Charlie Chaplin, and former jogging grounds of incarcerated Illinois governor Rod "G-Rod" Glagojevich, the quarter-mile section of Ravenswood known as The Manor has been a charming riverside haven for generations of Chicago's elite. Further west, the culturally diverse Albany Park is a condo conversion hotspot and the site of excellent ethnic shops and restaurants.
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Rockwell Avenue is a quaint "one 'L-stop' shopping" area that packs a lot of punch for a compact little strip; from bagels to yoga, you'll find it there. If you're hankering for halal meat or in the market to purchase a hookah, North Kedzie around Lawrence is a magnificent Middle Eastern melange of grocery stores and restaurants.