Author: Stacy Warden
Museum of Science and Industry: An obvious pick, for sure, but we'd be remiss if we didn't at least mention it. Located between Lake Michigan and The University of Chicago, the museum's building is an attraction in itself, as it's one of the only remaining from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition (it's the former Palace of Fine Arts). It also happens to be the largest science museum in the entire western hemisphere, featuring a full-size replica coal mine, a German submarine (U-505) captured during World War II and the Apollo 8 spacecraft that carried the first humans to the moon, among other jaw-dropping exhibits.
International Museum of Surgical Science: It really doesn't get more weird than this (or creepy, depending on your feelings about the very curious field of medicine). Founded in 1954 by Dr. Max Thorek, this oddball gem has its home in Chicago's coveted Gold Coast neighborhood. The museum is run by The International College of Surgeons and it features exactly what you might expect, given its obvious name. Exhibits cover all sorts of medical issues from the past to the present, from the East to the West.
American Science and Surplus: You'll have to Uber it to this one, but if you have a little extra time in your Ignite schedule, the trip is well worth it. Located near Chicago's Jefferson Park neighborhood, this fascinating little shop will bring back fond memories of childhood science fairs. Whether you're looking for telescopes, beakers, rock samples, or items that you could very likely construct a robot from, rest assured you'll find it here. While you're in the area, grab a quick bite at Leadbelly Burgers.
Quimby's Bookstore: Yes, we know, you love your e-reader and you can easily get your literary fix online, but trust us when we say this bookstore is one worth visiting (and not just because it's managed to survive the Web). Located in Chicago's painfully hip Wicker Park neighborhood, this quirky shop is all about the DIY mindset. Not only is it independently owned, but it also sells independently-published and small press books, comics, zines and items that are sure to spark nostalgia. And if all that isn't enough, there's an old-school photo booth where you can document your super-fun Microsoft Ignite adventures for just $3.
The Improvised Shakespeare Company at The iO Theater: You don't have to be well-versed in Shakespeare to get a kick out of this improv show that answers the age old question: What if the Bard read People magazine? As a bonus, it's housed in Chicago's iO Theater, where the alumni list includes an impressive amount of famous funny people including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers, to name a few.
The Paper Machete at the Green Mill: If you happen to be in town the Saturday before or after Microsoft Ignite, make the trek to Chicago's oldest neighborhood (take the Red Line and put on your best non-tourist face) and witness the only live magazine you probably had no idea even existed. You'll get an entire week's worth of pop culture, current events and-as The Paper Machete puts it-American Manners. And you'll be doing it all in Al Capone's old haunt. The show runs from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. (arrive at least 15 minutes early to snag a seat) and, here's the best part: It's 100 percent free. Cocktails are roughly $8 and the beer is dirt cheap.
And of course, there's always this funny place: The Second City
Drinks, dinner and…arcade games?!
Headquarters Beercade: Remember when you were a kid and you'd unwind after a grueling day of schoolwork at the neighborhood arcade? You can do the same thing after a long day of lectures at Microsoft Ignite, and this time you can do it with a beer in one hand. Headquarters Beercade is filled with arcade classics like Street Fighter and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Just be warned, games are free to play, making it all too easy to lose track of time.
Xoco: If arcade games and craft beer are too much excitement after an already chaotic day, head over to this bustling corner restaurant where the tacos are so good they'll make you cry in Spanish. Be prepared to wait in line, as this popular spot is the creation of award-winning chef Rick Bayless, who makes such frustratingly delicious churros that they're reason enough for a gym membership.
The Oyster Bar at Shaw's Crab House: Look, sometimes you're just feeling too fancy for beer and tacos, and that's why places like Shaw's exist. Skip the dining room and head straight for the oyster bar. And seriously, the word "oyster" has now been mentioned here three times, what further explanation could you possibly need?