Staff Pick: Best attraction | Best of Chicago 2019 | City Life | Chicago Reader

Staff Pick: Best attraction 

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Tracy J. Lee

Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center sits in the middle of downtown—it's just west of Millennium Park, a stone's throw from the Magnificent Mile and the Art Institute. In a just world, tourists would ditch Navy Pier for the Cultural Center. This lovely structure was built in the late 1800s and once served as the main public library; I imagine patrons spent as much time gawking at one of the two ornate stained-glass domes as they did checking out books. I started spending time at the Cultural Center in the early 2010s, when the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events regularly hosted free lunchtime DJ sets from legendary locals, including Chosen Few founder Wayne Williams and Teklife cofounder DJ Rashad; I'm still not convinced the time I saw footwork master Traxman spin in the lobby wasn't a dream. (DCASE still hosts free musical performances, but the house-related series wound down.) Since then, I've frequently been drawn in by the exhibits, which often celebrate this city's artistic legacies. The Cultural Center has hosted some of my favorite gallery shows in recent memory, including last year's "African American Designers in Chicago" and "Keith Haring: The Chicago Mural." Now anytime a friend stops through Chicago I make sure to bring them to the Cultural Center. What's more, the programming and exhibits are free, which is the best bargain for any attraction in this town.