Summer Travels (or How to Be a Gracious Southern Hostess in a God-Forsaken Yankee Town)

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy. The loved ones are visitin’, and the temperature’s high.” – Porgy and Bess as reimagined to fit this blog post.  

Hi there! I’m Susie’s sister, Sara Jane, and I have the privilege of chatting with you lovely Ends in Style readers today! 

A quick little bit about me – I’m a Southern transplant who calls Chicago home.  I’ve been here for almost four and a half years, pursuing my comedic dreams, soaking up city living and petting every animal I can get my hands on.  (Can you see the family resemblance?) In my time here, I’ve had the joy of hosting a number of friends and family who want to see the Windy City in person.  As a born and bred genteel Southern lady, I know the importance of keeping my guests well-fed and entertained. 

When you live in a city that attracts tourists and visitors, it’s always nice to keep a running list of popular attractions and favorite restaurants – you’re the insider and your insight will ensure that your guests see the best possible parts of your hometown!  Since I live in Chicago, I have a recommendation for the best pizza, the best Italian beef, best comedy show, best tours and best sporting events* ready to go.  By preparing this list of tips, you’ll spare your guests the pain of mediocre meals or lackluster attractions. Of course, if my guests insist upon visiting Navy Pier, I will gladly give them directions. If they insist on visiting the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. at Navy Pier, I will gladly give them the number to a decent hotel. (Kidding, sort of.)

One of the best parts about living in a cultural melting pot like Chicago, New York, LA or Atlanta, is the abundance of ethnic restaurants available to you.  When I have friends or family come in, I love to take them out for meals - Senegalese, Peruvian, Turkish, Vietnamese, Pakistani, Ethiopian - they might not otherwise get to sample.  

If you’d like for your out-of-towners to meet your in-towners, don’t stress over planning an elaborate dinner party or making reservations somewhere only to deal with the dreaded split the check ordeal.  Host a wine and cheese party! Pick up some crackers, fruit and a few chocolates. Ask your guests to bring a bottle of wine and a hunk o’ their favorite cheese.  Set out a few plates and glasses and let the conversation flow. It’s a simple, fun way to make your guests feel welcome without putting any pressure on you, the host. 

If you have visitors for an extended period of time, or guests who’ve visited more than once, it’s nice to step out of the ordinary and try something completely new to showcase your fine city. Sign up for a 5K that will lead you through a landmark.  Take a cooking class together – a fun way to knock out a meal and an activity all in one! Pack a picnic and stroll through a pretty neighborhood. Picking up tickets to a show one night won’t seem like such an extravagance if the rest of your visit is peppered with fun, low-key activities. 

*Pequod’s, Johnny’s, Improvised Shakespeare, Chicago Architecture Foundation river tour and a Sox game.