This weekend, the Royals make their first trip to Wrigley Field since 2001. With the Royals riding high, Wrigley a popular destination for many baseball fans, and with Chicago only a hop and a skip away from Kansas City, expect a large contingent of Royals fans in the Windy City.
I will be coming up on Friday with a group of five, riding the Royals express train up to Chicago. Shaun Newkirk will be in Chicago as well, as are a few Royals Reviewers and numerous Royals fans on Twitter. Chris Kamler at Pine Tar Press has written a brief guide to Chicago here. Chicago resident and Royals fan Jeremy Scheuch has put together this handy guide to the Windy City.
The last time the Cubs and Royals met at Wrigley Field, the winning pitcher was Jason Bere and the loser was Tony Cogan, and even if you're a diehard Royals fan, you're probably saying, "Who's Tony Cogan?" That's because the date of that game was July 17, 2001, nearly 14 years ago.
Since it's been such a long time since the Royals were at Wrigley, if you're heading to Chicago for the series next weekend, you might be looking for some guidance. If you're a recent college graduate coming to Wrigley for the first time, it means you were likely in second grade the last time your favorite team played on the North Side of Chicago. The only player from that game who's still active is Carlos Beltran. (Oops. You probably didn't want me to remind you about that.)
* Don't drive to Wrigley. Just... don't. Unlike the K, which is surrounded by acres of parking, the Cubs have very limited parking and most street parking is zoned, which means you could get ticketed and/or towed. Leave your car at your hotel and take public transit, which will drop you off within a block of the gate.
Chicago has pretty good mass transit, with the elevated train or "El" circulating around the downtown loop. Addison Station is located conveniently near Wrigley Field, and you can ride the El for $2.25 per trip, or buy a day pass for $10. The bus is even cheaper at $2 per ride, and the #8, #22, #152 Addison, and #80 Irving Park will drop you off right at Wrigley Field.
Chicago Cubs: Transportation to Wrigley Field.
Wrigley Field is over 100 years old now, and you should know it is currently undergoing major renovations. The famous Wrigley Field bleachers are part of the renovations, and while the left-field bleachers have re-opened, the right-field bleachers will not be ready until June. The Cubs got some criticism when extremely long lines due to bathroom shortages led to fans urinating in cups, but the team has added port-a-potties to address those shortages.
You can also watch the game from the rooftop of one of the buildings across the street from Wrigley, but expect to pay more for that than a ticket to Wrigley.
* Got tickets yet? Uh... if you don't, and you're looking to sit in the new Wrigley bleachers, the Friday game is your only option. The bleachers are already sold out for Saturday and Sunday, and other ticket choices are limited. Buy now!
Chicago is a drinkin' town, and they have some of the best bars in America, particularly in "Wrigleyville", the neighborhood surrounding Wrigley Field.
The Cubby Bear is one of the most famous Wrigleyville bars and music venues, and was named one of the top ten sports bars in American by "Sports Illustrated."
Sluggers World Class Sports Bar has a batting cage, in case you need to take some dry cuts.
If you're willing to venture out of Wrigleyville, you could check out the famed Billy Goat Tavern, made famous by the "Cheeseburger, cheeseburger" sketch on "Saturday Night Live."
If you like old school dive bars, you could check out the Old Town Ale House, frequented by old school newspaper writers like Mike Royko, Studs Terkel, and Roger Ebert.
* Don't take the advice of this Sporting News article and go to Murphy's. That's where tourists go. Yes, you're a tourist, but you don't want to be seen as one, right? The Cubby Bear, Sluggers, Bernie's and Yak-Zie's, all within a block or so of Wrigley, are much better local hangouts.
Deep-dish pizza is what Chicago is known for, but it is a bit of a divisive topic in Chicago, with many disowning the dish. Lou Malnati's seems to be among the best if you disagree with Jon Stewart's rant that deep-dish is not even pizza.
Chicago is famous for its "Chicago-style hot dogs" which can be a cheap and delicious way to fill up before the game. Here is Eater.com's list of 11 of the best Chicago hot dog places. Just make sure you do NOT put ketchup on it. That would be a disgrace to baseball.
Celebrity chef Rick Bayless (and brother of noted sports loudmouth Skip Bayless) has a number of famous Chicago restaurants, but Frontera Grill is his original James Beard Award-winning restaurant and has a more casual atmosphere than his other restaurants.
Ditka. Steak. Do I need to say more?
Here is Eater.com's list of 38 essential Chicago restaurants.
Things to Do
There are several breweries in Chicago - Revolution Brewing Company, All Rise Brewing, and a Lagunita's Tap Room. I will be part of a tour of Goose Island Brewery at 12:30 on Saturday, and I invite you to join us if there are still slots available to make it an all-Royals affair.
The Cubs offer guided tours of historic Wrigley Field hours before a ballgame for $25, or cheaper if you come with a group.
"Second City" is a sketch comedy show that serves as the "farm system" for the legends of comedy. Bill Murray, John Candy, Dan Akroyd, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, and Stephen Colbert all developed their craft there in Chicago.
The Navy Pier is a frequent tourist attraction. Its a long pier that sticks out into Lake Michigan with some touristy shops and street performers.
You can also go up to the observation deck of the Willis Tower (once known as the "Sears Tower"), at one time the tallest building in the world. Enjoy art at the Art Institute of Chicago, go shopping on the Magnificent Mile, visit the Shedd Aquarium, or The Field Museum.
Are you planning on heading to Chicago? What are your plans? Get out of your mother's basement and meet up with us!