Lauren Viera

Correspondent

  • Chicago, Illinois, USA

Lauren Viera is a correspondent who lives in Chicago and covers the city for Forbes Travel Guide. Viera contributes articles on spirits, travel and lifestyle to Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, Time Out Chicago, Crain’s Chicago Business, Imbibe, MensJournal.com and others. She was a senior editor on the launch staff of Time Out Chicago, and was a staff writer on the travel desk of the Chicago Tribune. A native Californian, Viera has lived in Chicago for a decade and chronicles her love of horticulture and cocktail culture on her blog, The Glass & Garden.

  • On April 19, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What's one thing most visitors don't know about Chicago?

    Chicago has one of the largest Mexican populations in the United States -- third to just Los Angeles and Houston. Mexican culture is everywhere in Chicago, but its heart is in the near-south neighborhood of Pilsen, anchored at 18th Street and Ashland Avenue. With the National Museum of Mexican Art at the helm, Pilsen is home to a diverse Mexican-American culture representing many different Mexican states in terms of everything from cuisine to music. It's one reason celebrity chef Rick Bayless has made a name for himself in Chicago, often shopping for provisions -- and inspiration -- in Pilsen and nearby Little Village.
  • On April 19, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What's the must-have souvenir to bring home from Chicago?

    Unless you're lucky enough to catch a fly-ball while at a Cubs or a Sox game, you might have to improvise and make your own memories instead of buying manufactured memorabilia. My favorite souvenirs are never of the gift-shop variety; they’re usually an accidental left-over from a great experience that may not have even been on my itinerary: a ticket stub from a performance I got into last-minute, an unusual seashell collected on a long walk on the shore, a cocktail napkin or matchbook from a new favorite lounge. In Chicago, there are so many possibilities to fill your time, you might find that the best souvenir is the folded playbill you discover in your coat pocket the following season, or the camera-phone snapshot of Lake Michigan at sunset, caught spontaneously while riding the El.
  • On April 19, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What should I pack for a trip to Chicago?

    Trying to pack for Chicago weather can be pretty unpredictable. Weather forecasters sometimes call it "lake effect;" locals call it "annoying." But for the most part, Chicago's weather stays fairly true to seasons.

    By the the time the summer solstice comes around in mid-June, Chicago is usually experiencing genuine warmth with long, balmy days. Short-sleeved shirts and tanktops, shorts and skirts (or sundresses), sandals and sunglasses are the uniform most locals wear from June through September, and you can usually skip a sweater or jacket at night, as our Midwestern nights are pleasant. Don't forget your swimsuit--a summer dip in Lake Michigan is heaven.

    On cue in October, temperatures start shifting toward sweater weather. Jeans and long pants are best, as are close-toed shoes in case of rain. Later in autumn, nighttime temperatures can get downright cold, so bring a light coat and scarf.

    And then there's winter. If you're visiting Chicago between the months of November and, say, March (sometimes even later than that), plan on dressing in lots of layers topped with your warmest winter coat. Thanksgiving-time in Chicago can be pleasant -- think mid-40s with beautiful fall colors -- but into January and February, pack full-on winter gear: hats, scarves, mittens and sturdy boots with extra-warm socks.

    Spring is Chicago's least predictable season in terms of what to pack. A few teaser 70-degree days in March can have locals heading for the patios, but April and parts of May can be incredibly unpredictable with rain, hail, and even snow. In spring, pack a little bit of everything: long pants or skirts and shoes that can be worn with or without socks, tops that can be layered as needed, and a versatile jacket that can cozy up with a scarf if necessary.
  • On April 19, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What should I pack for a trip to Chicago?

    Trying to pack for Chicago weather can be pretty unpredictable. The local weather forecasters sometimes call it "lake effect;" locals call it "annoying." But for the most part, Chicago's weather stays fairly true to seasons.

    By the third weekend in June when the summer solstice comes around, Chicago is usually experiencing genuine warmth with long, balmy days, celebrated with al fresco dining. Short-sleeved shirts and tanktops, shorts and skirts (or sundresses), sandals and sunglasses are the uniform most locals wear from June through September, and you can usually skip a sweater or jacket at night, as our Midwestern nights are pleasant.

    On cue in October, temperatures start shifting toward sweater weather. Jeans and long pants are best, as are close-toed shoes in case of rain. Later in autumn, nighttime temperatures can get downright cold, so bring a light coat and scarf.

    And then there's winter. If you're visiting Chicago between the months of November and, say, March (sometimes even later than that), plan on dressing in layers topped with your warmest winter coat. Thanksgiving-time in Chicago can be pleasant -- think mid-40s with beautiful fall colors -- once we get into January and February, it's best to plan on full-on winter gear: hats, scarves and mittens.

    Spring is probably Chicago's least predictable season in terms of what to wear. A few teaser 70-degree days in March can have locals heading for the patios, but April and parts of May can be incredibly unpredictable with rain, hail, and even snow. What to pack if you're visiting in spring? A little bit of everything: long pants or skirts and shoes that can be worn with socks or tights, tops that can be layered as needed, and a versatile jacket that can cozy up with a scarf if necessary.
  • On April 19, 2013
    Lauren Viera answered the question: Lauren Viera

    What is Chicago's cultural makeup?

    Chicago has a super-rich immigrant history that’s reflected in a diverse cross-section of neighborhoods, traditions, cuisines and cultural institutions. What’s incredible is how wide spread it is. Like many major American cities, there’s a large population of Irish-Catholics and Italian-Americans—in Chicago’s case, anchored to the city’s South Side and West Sides, respectively. But then up in the tip-top of the city’s North Side is a whole neighborhood built around Swedish culture, from traditional public art near the Swedish American Museum to cinnamon-roll perfectionists Ann Sather, serving the most incredible Swedish breakfast this side of the fjords.

    Surprisingly, one of Chicago’s biggest subcultures is festively influenced by Mexico. The heart of the city’s Mexican-American population lies in the Pilsen neighborhood just southwest of downtown, anchored at 18th Street and Ashland Avenue, and also the Little Village neighborhood just southwest. Storefronts range from traditional mercados with butchers carving carnitas to sit-down restaurants serving specialties from each of Mexico’s many states. Chilaquiles are Chicago’s go-to Mexican breakfast specialty, and my favorite is served at La Casa del Pueblo in Pilsen. Next door is the 50-year-old grocery store of the same name, where celebrity chef Rick Bayless is known to shop for provisions.

    The city is also known for its population of Eastern Europeans. On the Northwest side in neighborhoods like Belmont Gardens and Old Irving Park, signage is written just as often in Czech or Polish as it is in English. Traditional restaurants like the Red Apple have been serving pierogis and borsht for decades, and related cultural festivals come out of the woodwork during summertime.
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