Summertime is fun time, and there’s nothing better than experiencing the history and family legend in a new location. Whether you’re getting out of the house to research with your friends or you’re in need of a cultural holiday, here are ten suggestions which will help you take advantage of the beautiful weather. Pack up the car and get ready to take your genealogy and history adventures on the road this summer!
#1 The BillionGraves Field Trip
If you own the bumper sticker ‘I Break for Cemeteries’, you probably will want to take on a BillionGraves Field Trip. Break out your smart phone and get out of the house with fellow genealogists to capture cemetery headstones locations and transcriptions with the BillionGraves App. You will want to bring your smartphone or data-plan enabled tablet, weather appropriate accessories, a good pair of sturdy shoes, and snacks and water for your outing. If you need suggestions, you may want to try to survey these Chicagoland area sites: Wunders Lutheran Cemetery, Ridge Lawn Cemetery, and New Light Cemetery.
Cost: Snacks and Gas
Payoff: Good genealogical Karma
#2 Join a Meetup!
When you’re looking to recruit a genealogical posse, you will want to meet people who share some of your interests. A great way to meet new people and enjoy social events, activities, and programs is by joining Meetup.com. Registration is free and the site offers groups of all interests and locations to plan and host events. Here are a few of my favorite historical and cultural groups on the site:
Chicago Art Deco Society – Celebrates the unique aesthetic of the Interwar Period including fine and decorative arts, architecture and fashion that defined the elegant Art Deco and Streamline Modern era through Social Events, Historic Preservation, and Educational Lectures.
Walking Across Chicago – Celebrates notable figures and the inspirations for Chicago’s great streets, by walking the entire length of each street. The streets serve as a narrative thread weaving together disparate communities, industrial remnants and new developments, history and mystery.
The Northwest Chicago History Meetup Group – Meet others in your local area interested in the history of Chicago’s northwest side neighborhoods. This meetup hosts discussion groups, public tours and events, and dissemination of historical documents and photos though publications.
Culinary Historians of Chicago & Chicago Foodways Roundtable – This group studies the history of food and drink in human cultures, down to the procurement, preparation and social influences. Bring your love of learning and your appetite to this meetup!
Cost: Transit and group fees (if any)
Payoff: New friends and fun experiences
#3 Take A Walking Tour
Break out the sneakers and put on your sunglasses! Walking tours are a great activity when you’re flying solo or entertaining guests. The Chicago History Museum offers walking tours of Bohemian National Cemetery, while the Chicago Architectural Foundation touts numerous walking tours including it’s immensely popular Devil and the White City Tour. These tours often sell out ahead of time, so you’ll want to book your tickets online early!
Cost: $25 to $55 depending on the tour
Payoff: Fresh air, cool Facebook updates, and awesome selfie photos
#4 Catch a Silent Film
When you need a break from the evening heat, you won’t want to miss the Chicago Silent Film Society’s Summer Series on Thursdays at the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge. The Summer Series features movies from the best actors and actresses of the silent film era such as Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, Loretta Young, Douglas Fairbanks, Buster Keaton, Rudolph Valentino, and Charlie Chaplin. The series runs July 30 through September 3, and each event includes live organ performances and special musical acts. The summer series movie list has not been released yet, but you can check for updates on the Chicago Silent Film Society website.
Cost: $7-$10 per film
Payoff: Unique movie experience and bragging rights
#5 Cool Online Classes
If you don’t have a library card but want to take an online class, check out the exceptional offerings on Future Learn. Future Learn offers free online classes from some of Great Britain’s best universities to anyone aged 16 and older. Classes last between three to six weeks, and encompass a variety of interests. Some of the classes offered this summer are World War 1: Paris 1919 – A New World Order, England in the Time of King Richard III, and Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923.
Payoff: Knowledge and new online friends
#6 Free Museum Nights
You don’t have to pay big bucks to see some of Chicago’s best museums! Save your museum outings for the free days found throughout the summer, and you’ll have money left over for souvenirs and eating out. You can find a full list of free summer museum days here. Here’s another money saving tip: use SpotHero to find a cheap parking spot. I paid $11 for a 6 hour parking space within a six minute walk to the Field Museum and a $12 all day parking spot across from the Museum of Modern Art. Talk about a deal!
Cost: Free + Cost of Parking
Payoff: Museum entry and trouble-free parking
#7 Outside Research Sessions
Take your laptop, call your friends, and make a date at one of the many outside patios, restaurants, or rooftop decks around the city for a research session. Time Out Chicago has a great list of locations around the city and suburbs for all culinary tastes and budget points. Make sure you have internet access and a full laptop battery, as not every location will have easy access for outlets and wi-fi. I can personally recommend the rooftop space of Terzo Piano on the top floor of the Art Institute of Chicago. Go on Thursdays for for a late lunch and stay from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for free entry to the museum. If a beer garden is more your style, I suggest Gene’s Sausage Shop & Delicatessen. Gene’s has an absolutely wonderful rooftop deck! In beautiful weather, you may need to finagle a table for you and your friends, but the beverages, fresh sausages, pretzels, and potato pancakes are well worth the wait!
Cost: $5 and up. No judging on your bar tab.
Payoff: Sun, fresh air, and help with research
Do you have a fun genealogy plan or activity for the summer? Leave your suggestion on our blog!
See you at the Library!