Mineral Display Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary ArtYou wouldn’t know it from driving through suburban Oak Brook, but the village is home to the only museum in America dedicated to lapidary art – the art of cutting and polishing precious stones.

The Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art is home to some of the world’s most unique and historic collections of mosaics, jewelry, stone carvings, fossils, dioramas and gemstones. As a Smithsonian affiliate, the Lizzadro Museum has hosted exclusive exhibits from the Smithsonian Institute’s collections. The partnership also facilitates collaboration on educational initiatives and research.

Founded in 1962 by Joseph F. Lizzadro, Sr., an avid lapidary hobbyist and collector, the museum has been building on to his original collection for 60 years. In 2019, the Lizzadro received a donation of several historic pieces from the Oakland County Museum in California – among them, a five-foot-tall jade pagoda that took 10 years to complete and was on display at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. Interestingly, the Museum’s move from Elmhurst to Oak Brook in 2019 enabled them to put the jade statue, titled Altar of the Green Jade Pagoda, on display for the first time. Also included in the collection is a nephrite jade imperial altar set from the Ming Dynasty and the Imperial Screen, a cinnabar screen encrusted with jade, amber, ivory, coral and gemstones that was gifted to Emperor Qianlong in 1791 during a visit to Southern China.

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vampire teethDo you sparkle in the sunlight? Do you crave blood? Is your arch nemesis named Van Helsing? Whether you identify with Edward Cullen from Twilight or Dracula himself, Chicago is welcoming to all of vampire kind. Lawn Love ranked Chicago as 2022’s second best city for vampires. Cities were ranked for having large populations with diversity in blood types, vampire friendly dwellings, nightlife options, vampire tours, and lack of sunshine. While vampires are welcome, Chicago residents and tourists should beware of the city’s hospitality to them.

Spooky season is upon us as vampires get to run wild in all of the haunted and mysterious places of the city. Potential victims who find themselves in Chicago’s Alley of Death, location of the Iroquois Theatre fire, might find their names whispered by the ghosts of those burned in warning, right before a vampire can strike. Tourists to the city at this time should look out for the Vampire population, carry garlic and holy water as the ghosts and ghouls come out to play. Tourists wanting to avoid the onset of vampires should also avoid the Congress Plaza hotel, known as one of the most haunted hotels in Chicago history.

Halloween is approaching, the one night of the year all monsters are celebrated, but vampires are welcome in Chicago year round. Residents be wary, not all may resemble Twilight.

AvondaleWhen walking around your street, what do you see that makes you smile? Is it the bakery, your favorite restaurant or the local park? People want to live where they can take their children out, enjoy an evening out or simply enjoy good food. In other words, people want to live somewhere cool. Good news for those looking to live in Illinois, as the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago has been ranked the 16th coolest neighborhood to live in the world.

Time Out magazine compiled the top 51 coolest neighborhoods in the world list by surveying 20,000 city dwellers around the globe to see what they love about their neighborhood. While “cool” can be a subjective term, the magazine chose its rankings based off of accessibility, culture, nightlife, diversity of affordable food and drink, and places were active street life and a strong community atmosphere are present.

Avondale was chosen for its ties to the Polish community, having some of Chicago’s best Mexican restaurants, and supporting a range of small businesses. Unique places can be found in Avondale, such as The Brewed, a horror-themed coffee shop, and The Insect Asylum, a bug museum. Walking through Avondale’s Milwaukee Avenue, one will find themselves smiling at the neighborhood’s trendy bars, plant stores and decades-old sausage shops of the Polish community. Avondale is a diverse community that welcomes families, as well as single young adults, with its vast range of businesses, restaurants and attractions. Anyone can find something cool to do in Avondale.    

To read more about Avondale and see the full list of 51 neighborhoods, click here.

Chicago skyline Chicago’s beautiful skyline, vast assortment of arts and cuisine, and welcoming atmosphere for families and young adults alike makes it no surprise it has been named the best U.S. city to visit. Chicago won this title from the 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards of the Conde Nast Traveler magazine. The city’s first win came back in 2017, making this the sixth year in a row readers have voted for Chicago. No other city has been voted the best big city in the U.S. for more than three straight years in the history of the awards. This year, more than 240,000 readers cast their vote. Chicago’s continuous ability to earn this title shows how the city is ever evolving and adapting to the needs of its residents and tourists.

Chicago’s enduring rank as the number one city to visit has led to a boom in the tourist industry. Leisure and business travel numbers are returning to pre-pandemic levels. Chicago is host to world-class restaurants, gorgeous lakefronts, stunning architecture, great hotels, and a multitude of museums and activities. It is no wonder tourists come to enjoy everything the city has to offer. Hotel room demand in the summer months this past year exceeded 3 million rooms a night, almost 90% of what the 2019 pre-pandemic levels were. Chicago is coming back to life after years of strife and worry caused by the pandemic. The soul of the city is being rejuvenated, and people all around the world are visiting to experience the city’s great food, festivals, institutions and more.

Chicago is made up of 77 diverse neighborhoods, making the city and its people unique. Anyone who visits the city can find their own niche where they will feel welcome. Chicago celebrates its individuality with a multitude of festivals and events, for example summer’s Taste of Chicago celebrates different foods and winter’s Christkindlmarket celebrates German and European tradition. The city welcomes anyone in any season, making it a great city to visit year round.

To read more about Chicago and the Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, click here.

Short Film imageA little bit of Hollywood can be found in Illinois at the annual Elgin Short Film Festival! Every September since 2009 Elgin, Illinois has been host to a number of talented young film makers from around the country and world. The event begins with a red carpet reception featuring interviews with filmmakers, followed by a film screening. At this year’s 2022 Film Festival, six short films were screened. The films are all 20 minutes or less, and contain two categories: animated and live action. Three films of each category had been pre-chosen for the event, and the winners of each category are selected by the judges and audience members in attendance.

This event celebrates the arts and cultivates the creative talents of people around Illinois. First place prizes receive $1,000. The very first winner in 2009 was an Illinois resident from Chicago. David Priego won with his short film “House of Cards”, which received a great rating of 8.5/10 on IMDb. The film is about a divorcing family who, in the war over the division of their material items, only realize the importance of family when tragedy strikes.

The film festival takes place at the Hemmens Cultural Center. The center is named after Hattle Pease Hemmens, who left over a million dollars after her death in 1957 to establish a non-profit Community Auditorium in the city of Elgin. The short film festival brings glitz, glamour and charm to the City of Elgin. Friends, families and film lovers are all welcome to attend the event, and every year the festival has been growing in notoriety. Hollywood has come to Illinois, and it can be found in the enchanting city of Elgin! Find out more about the event at the city of Elgin’s website here.