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How To Tumble Back In Time, Get Spicy, And More In Old Town

By Sponsor in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 27, 2016 5:00AM

Here in Chicago, it comes as no surprise that there are a million ways to get from here to there. We're a bustling and constantly on-the-go city—and you bet we're proud of it! But while math teaches us that the fastest way to get from where you are to where you're going is a straight line, can't we all agree that's a little boring?

Some might argue that route-mapping apps are so ever-present and inescapable that they turn could-be adventures into a purely functional, time-saving routine. We dare you to answer: how many times do you look up directions on the reg? Does it not default to fastest route, assuming that's what you want? And does that not steal a bit of surprise and joy from the journey itself?

In partnership with Sanpellegrino® Sparkling Fruit Beverages and their Delightways app, we challenged ourselves to slow down a little bit, without a pre-charted path or ultimate destination—to discover the (semi) hidden beauties and local gems of one of our most beloved neighborhoods: Old Town. We stopped, we went back in time for a little bit, we tickled our noses with insanely aromatic spices, and we channeled our inner Sinatra. And to help avoid what could be your next "stare at the ground and get where you're going" walk, we curated a little insider's neighborhood guide, charting our trip and (hopefully!) inspiring a little joy. So the next time you're visiting, why not look up, look around, and seek out a few new experiences along the way to wherever you may be going.

Old Town's history saw the neighborhood face waves of folkies and hippies, then balanced the area between wildly affluent and economically depressed neighborhoods, before gently moving into its current state of existence. Now Old Town finds a pleasant balance between a familial vibe in its center, while its periphery is sparked by comedy clubs, excellent restaurants and numerous small boutiques. It's just blocks from Lake Michigan as well, so you can get your culture on and then head to the beach. Some of Old Town's streets predate the Great Chicago Fire, so don't get worried if you feel yourself growing a little disoriented as you wander around, it's just you tumbling back into history. Give into it. Here are a few of our favorite spots we love dragging friends to whenever we find ourselves in the neighborhood.

(Jim Kopeney/Chicagoist)

Handmade Delights at The Fudge Pot
The Fudge Pot has been hand-making candy in Old Town since the early '60s, and you can taste the lessons learned over that long history in every delicious bite of every goodie sold over its counter. And if the standard creative confections aren't enough for you, they will also custom create personalized candy treats made to order. Sure, your loved one might like flowers, but we think they'll love a block of chocolate spelling out their name or a personalized lollipop. And sweet treats aren't the only dessert in the house; the walls are filled with various memorabilia the shop has collected over the years, so there's plenty of eye candy to take in as well.

Chicago History Museum
You might not think of a museum as a hidden attraction, but in a city with so many internationally renowned institutions, the Chicago History Museum is often overlooked by just about everybody. It's housed in a relatively non-descript building on the edge of Old Town, but its interior is filled with terrifically detailed exhibits about the city's progress over the years. It's the kind of place both kids and adults can happily, and easily, lose an afternoon exploring. If you want to get out of the building, the Chicago History Museum offers an impressive number of tours that will take you through Chicago's lesser known historic nooks and crannies. So wander away from the higher profile museum campus located south of the Loop and take in this hidden treasure that even most Chicago natives miss out on.

St. Michael's Church
You might not know it, but not every building was destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire. St. Michael's Church is one of the few that survived that epic conflagration, and we're happy it did. It's beautiful exterior is wonderfully imposing, but the church's true treasures lay inside its walls. The interior is filled with elaborate architecture and decorative detail, and you can lose an afternoon getting swept up in the contours of the ceiling alone.

(Jim Kopeny/Chicagoist)

The Aromas of The Spice House
The Spice House is a family-owned purveyor of scents and smells that will drive your olfactory senses wild the second you walk in the door. The married couple that owns the establishment describes themselves as second generation spice merchants, and their decades of experience in the business means that the shop is fully stocked with herbs and spices that have been painstakingly hand-picked for their quality. If you can't make up your mind on what to walk out of the store with—and the selection can be overwhelming—the staff is happy to either make individual recommendations or help you pick out a gift box with a unique assortment of the shop's offerings.

Twin Anchors

Sure, Frank Sinatra used to hang out at this neighborhood bar and restaurant, but your friends will be even more impressed when you show them the spot that Two-Face first showed up in The Dark Knight after escaping an exploding hospital. The establishment practically aches with old school charm, and the walls are dripping with mementos of Twin Anchors' history and reminders of its numerous famous clientele. On top of all of this, the restaurant serves up some of the best, fall-off-the-bones ribs that Chicago has to offer. So show up, grab a table and a beer, and dig in.

Feeling like having a little adventure? We thought so! Go ahead—we hope you're ready to smell the spices and take a trip down Chicago's memory lane. And alongside our friends at Sanpellegrino® Sparkling Fruit Beverages, we encourage you to discover The Life Deliziosa™—the joy of wandering and the art of serendipity. Want to add a breath of fresh air to your journeys to come? Discover Delightways today—it's a curated journey-finding app full of local haunts and hidden gems that encourages you to rediscover the art of wandering—right here, at home in Chicago. Delighways helps you live The Life Deliziosa™, reminding you that delight is not only in the destination, but in the moments of joy we find along the way.

If you've got a destination, take a chance on something new and discover the most delightful way there. Keep cool with a refreshing Sanpellegrino® Sparkling Fruit Beverage and find your joy in the journey today.

This post is a sponsored collaboration between Sanpellegrino® Sparkling Fruit Beverages and Gothamist staff.