It’s that time of year again, I’m exactly one year older and I use this time to reflect on some of my favorite experiences. When my Birthday comes around I don’t throw a big bash or have a huge celebration. Instead, since every day is kind of like  a party it’s the one day where I can just reflect and relax on what a great year I had.

I am now 25 and while it’s primetime for my quarter-life crisis to set in, I am proud to say that I welcome this new year with open arms. When you are 25 your metabolism slows down, you aren’t quite where you want to be in your career, and you still don’t have life figured out. I barely know what outfit I’m going to wear next so having my life figured out is a daunting task. I still have a long way to go but I’m incredibly blessed to have a platform that I’m proud of and the experiences I’ve had to date have been truly amazing.

Last year, I kicked off my first ever “A Few of My Favorite Things” giveaway and you guessed correctly, it’s inspired by one of my inspirations Oprah. I’m sure we all remember the various episodes where Oprah would give her audience members a car or a vacation and we were all filled with envy at the lucky audience members. When fans would sign up for tickets to Oprah’s show, everyone secretly hoped they would attend “The Favorite Things” episode.

When Oprah would announce each giveaway item the audience would let out the shrillest screams. Over 10 years later we still reflect on the favorite things episodes. As a kid, I remember telling my Mom and Dad how I wish I could do what Oprah did. The happiness that swept that audience’s faces was just so heartwarming and inspiring. Everyone was appreciative and thankful for Oprah’s generosity.

Fast forward to the creation of The Chicagolite and I hoped to do the same thing with my very own annual giveaway. Unfortunately, 1 year later I am still not Oprah but I do hope the “A Few of My Favorite Things” giveaway grows to be much bigger. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to drop the “few” of my favorite things and just share all of my favorite things.

For the time being, I would like to introduce you to some of my favorite experiences within the last year. Since I love the suspense, I’ll reveal each giveaway one by one and one of these experiences may become one of your favorite things.  I’ve already selected the winner of Dinner for 2 at Miss Ricky’s so stay tuned to see what other experiences I’ll be sharing with you.

Thank you for making year 24 truly amazing and I look forward to seeing what year 25 brings. Without further ado, here are “A Few of My Favorite Things”

Let’s Do Lunch: 3 Arts Cafe

There are tons of places to go to for lunch, but nothing beats the luxurious ambiance of the 3 Arts Café inside Restoration Hardware. It has easily become my new favorite lunch spot. I suggest if you do go, leave a good block of time in your day. 3 Arts Café is not an in and out affair, and trust me in order to capture the full essence of the experience, you need all the time to take it all in.  Before you enjoy your incredibly delicious meal in the comfort of their plush sofas, be sure to browse all levels of the immaculate space. Restoration Hardware is certainly a welcome gem to Chicago.

The Hangout: Virgin Hotels

The Millennial hangout spot in Chicago is hands down Virgin Hotels.  As you already know, Virgin is a favorite on the blog and it’s always a good time when I walk through the doors of 203 N. Wabash. I’ve had amazing cocktails in The Commons Club and had my share of fun in the Shag Room. And of course any good hangout is going to have food that’s to die for.  Whenever my friends and I want a nice relaxed atmosphere but a good bite to eat, we head to Miss Ricky’s. I first checked it out when I was invited to attend a “Quicky with Ricky” Trust me, because of the deliciousness of your meal and the chill atmosphere, your stay in the diner will be anything but quick. My personal favorite dish is the hot crab and shrimp dip. I’ll admit that once I find something I like on the menu, I tend to stick with it and I pretty much always order the same thing. You can take it from me that it’s a dish that you can always count on to be delicious. And once you are done devouring the savories, you cannot end your meal without dessert! I end my meal with a nice giant slice of cake. There are some new menu items coming soon so I can’t wait to see what deliciousness is coming up.

A Sweet Taste of Paris: Vanille Patisserie

As you know, I know my way around the Chicago event scene pretty well and no event is complete if you aren’t nibbling on some delicious French pastries. My friend Jillian and I always try to stop by the French Market to get our daily dose of  Vanille Patisserie’s incredibly delicious macarons. Not only is Vanille a haven for delicious treats, but you can also partake in my favorite activity afternoon tea. You guys all know how much I love my tea and macarons and it remains one of my favorite experiences. Just in time for mother’s day, Vanille has a contest going on where you could win afternoon tea for 10 at the Vanille Salon in Lincoln Park. From April 18th to May 8th all you have to do is share a picture of yourself on social media using the hashtag #MomMeVanille enjoying the delectable bites of this fabulous French pastry shop. Picture with the most likes wins!  Life is so much sweeter with Vanille and it’s a must try for anyone who appreciates the finer things in life.


The Coolest Hostel: Freehand Chicago

With Lollapalooza right around the corner, we already know which hotel is going to be booked and that’s the luxury hostel Freehand.  And the best part, with the unique décor and festive vibe, Freehand is already festival ready.  Freehand is already adding to the artsy vibe of the neighborhood with its 130-foot muraI by Kurtis Kulig. When you go to Freehand you’ll be bombarded with many Instagram moments. I had the pleasure of checking out Freehand when it first opened at Graham of Glossed & Found’s Slumber Party.  While you wouldn’t want to leave your room because it’s so nice and cozy, guests should venture to the Broken Shaker for some nightly fun and delicious cocktails. In the morning you can head down to Café Integral for the best morning pick me up. If you want to check out Freehand, be on the lookout for their “An Offer to Make You Smile” For one week, there will be a rare flash sale where select rooms will be $50 from now till April 14th.

A Night at the Theater: Lyric Opera

If you are a lover of the theater and the arts, no visit to Chicago is complete without attending a show at the Lyric Opera. It’s no secret how much I love Lyric and I try attending as many shows as possible. The Lyric is definitely a historical fixture in Chicago. Whether you’ve been inside the theater or not, at one point or another you’ve walked under the arches or spotted the art deco architecture from a river trolley. However, once you do make it inside those doors you’ll be in awe at the beauty of the theater. If you still haven’t explored the Lyric, I highly recommend you stay on the lookout for sessions of their private tours. Visitors see everything from the costume department to the orchestra pit. Once you see all the work that goes into each production, it’ll make you appreciate each show a little more. The next show at Lyric is the beloved classic The King and I. This show would be especially beneficial for first timers of the Lyric. Since many of us are already familiar with the story, it’ll be easier to follow along. The King and I opens April 29th.

Movie Lover’s Paradise: Gene Siskel Film Center

If you are a movie buff, then I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about the beauty of the Gene Siskel Film Center. I would describe the theater selections as a box of chocolates. The features change quite frequently ensuring that the movie lover of all tastes can find something to enjoy. You could even end up attending an early screening of a film that goes on to win best picture at the Academy Awards.  While its awhile away, my must attend event at Gene Siskel is The Black Harvest Film Festival.  This celebration of black film is always on my radar and I always vow to see at least one film. Plus, unlike you average day at the movie with Black Harvest attendees may have the opportunity to speak one on one with the director and actors after viewing the film.  The festival is great for connecting with others of similar interest plus it’s an added bonus that you get to enjoy some great films.

Designer Fashion & Champagne: Neiman Marcus Michigan Ave

So I’m going to be honest. I’m not at the point where I can shop till I drop in Neiman Marcus but I have faith that one day I’ll get there. In the meantime, Neiman Marcus is one of my personal favorites because I LOVE their events. The Spring is when they have some of their best events so I encourage everyone to browse through their calendar. Plus, in my personal opinion no other department stores holds a candle to the caliber of events that Neiman Marcus puts together. Plus, if you love fashion or are interested in pursuing a career in the field of fashion, it’s a great way to meet designers one on one. Designer Michelle Smith of Milly will be showing her collection in a special runway presentation this week.  Events are always going on so be sure to check out their event calendar.

Vintage Treasure Hunting: Randolph Street Market

I cannot wait till the weather warms up just in time for my favorite market Randolph Street Market. Not only is the market huge, but it’s virtually impossible to walk away with nothing. Whether you want gorgeous one-of-a-kind vintage clothing or unique home goods, Randolph pretty much has everything.  Since I do consider myself a professional thrifter, I’ll admit that I do have a talent for knowing how to sift through large quantities of items and finding hidden gems. However, for you newbies to the world of treasure hunting it’s always best to go into Randolph with a game plan and keep an open mind. Both the indoor and outdoor market opens on May 28th but you can catch Randolph’s indoor market on April 23rd-24th.

A Tasty Fusion at Altiro

I know I’m late to the party but I’m starting to gain a newfound appreciation for Latin food. My experience with Altiro is still one to remember because I loved every single dish from my Latin fusion meal. The quaint restaurant sits cozy in Roscoe Village with the perfect atmosphere. On a nice warm day, I can see myself sitting in Altiro for hours imagining myself in a tropical paradise.  Must try dishes includes the creamy Poblano soup, the Al Poblano, the Elotito (rice), and you can’t go wrong with any of their tacos.  For a nice delicious escape from city life, Altiro Latin Fusion is the way to go.

A Hidden French Delight: Chicago French Market

I couldn’t end this list without mentioning the one place in Chicago where I spend the most time; Ogilvie Transportation Center. Some of you know that I spend quite a bit of time here because I commute from the suburbs. Luckily this station is packed with all kinds of great hangouts including my favorite The French Market. The market has a wide array of foods ranging from the popular Da Lobsta and everyone’s favorite French pastries Vanille Patisserie.  Soon, you’ll get to nibble your way around the market with the Pastoral’s 6th Annual Pastoral Artistan Producer Festival. The festival takes place on April 30th from 11 a.m-3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and you’ll get to sample from nearly 100 culinary artisans.  Since the James Beard Awards are that weekend, you’ll also get to meet some of the nominees through a variety of demonstrations and discussions. Don’t think Ogilvy is all trains when you can have a bit of fun downstairs at the market.

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