Spring Date Ideas in Chicago: Immersive Art and Old-School Italian Cuisine

The sun is sparkling off skyscrapers, bulbs are blossoming, and igloos are being replaced by permanent patio furniture. In Chicago, we LIVE for spring/summer weather, and this warm weather season is extra enticing because of the hermit-esque life many of us have lived for the past year. Everyone is ready to be outdoors, socializing, wining and dining, and living the life that has been left behind. Sharing some spring date ideas in Chicago so you can dip your toe into the city life again!

Art with a Twist- Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit

The arts have taken quite a hit during COVID. According to Brookings, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, “…we estimate losses of 2.7 million jobs and more than $150 billion in sales of goods and services for creative industries nationwide…The fine and performing arts industries will be hit hardest, suffering estimated losses of almost 1.4 million jobs and $42.5 billion in sales.”

Think about it- live music has been on hiatus, museums have experiences extended closures, even movie theaters and performing arts venues have been forced to shutter their doors, some permanently.

Thankfully, the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit has arrived at the Lighthouse ArtSpace in Old Town’s historic Germania Club Building with stringent safety protocols and social distancing. With 35-foot walls and Neo-Classical architecture, the space lends itself to this merger between entertainment and culture to create a truly enchanting experience.

Now, you might be wondering WHAT the actual exhibit is like? Paintings are digitally projected onto surfaces throughout the gallery, and they morph and move in time with music. Inspiration and animation are pieced in, allowing the audience to feel like they are in the middle of the artist’s mind and studio.

Couples can wander freely through the exhibit, stopping at will in various pre-determined socially distant floor markings to completely engulf themselves in the sights and sounds of the exhibit. The experience lasts approximately an hour, but attendees are able to revisit spaces and move in and out of different areas of the exhibit without a time limit.

Van Gogh Exhibit- Date night in Chicago

Want to listen to the actual soundtrack? Here is the Spotify playlist by Italian composer Luca Longobardi!

Personally, I was able to lose myself in the visual and auditory harmony of the multimedia immersion. I have long been a fan of Van Gogh, and the use of technology to convey the drama and emotion of his work and personality was an absolute privilege. Solo or with a friend/partner, this experience is definitely on a must-do list of Chicago!

PS- they JUST kicked off a yoga series inside the exhibit! Classes are scheduled for Wednesday mornings at 8 a.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 7 and 8 a.m, so if you want an early morning date this is one of the spring date ideas in Chicago that will knock your partner’s socks off. Capacity is limited in keeping with the City of Chicago’s COVID-19 protocols.  Admission is $54.99 per person/per class.  To reserve a spot, visit vangoghchicago.com.

Address: 108 W. Germani Pl.

Tickets: Start at $39.99

Purchase here: vangoghchicago.com

Dates: Exhibit currently runs through November 28, 2021

Social: @vangoghchicago

Parking: James House Parking Garage- available on SpotHero

An Italian Institution- Topo Gigio

A staple on the Chicago dining scene for over 25 years, Topo Gigio has been serving modern Tuscan-style Italian cuisine in Old Town to tourists and locals alike with an old-school feel. With its bistro bulb-lit outdoor garden and sidewalk seating, Topo Gigio the perfect warm-weather dining destination. If you prefer indoors, you will be greeted with crisp white tablecloths, exposed brick, and the restaurant’s namesake mouse (a puppet from a Spanish and Italian children’s TV series).

Photo Credits: Topo Gigio, @chicagofoodfavs, @emileedziersk

I first visited Topo when I was in high school, and I distinctly recall the cozy, familial atmosphere and decadent, flavorful dishes in addition to hot, crusty bread (I’ve always been a sucker for carbs). Any restaurant that has this type of staying power in a food-centric city rife with competition like Chicago deserves a visit.

They are known for their calamari (fried or grilled), Conchiglie alla Sarda (Seashell Pasta in a Tomato-Cream Sauce with Ground Sausage, Peas and Pecorino Cheese), and their Tiramisu (made in-house daily).

They are open for lunch and dinner, so book your Van Gogh trip first and schedule this reservation around it. Since they don’t take reservations for outdoor seating, make sure to get there early since there can be a wait for this popular spot.

Address: 1516 N. Wells St.

Reservations: (312) 266-9355 for indoor dining; they do not accept online reservations, you gotta call in old-school-like

Distance to Van Gogh Chicago: 6-minute walk; .3 miles

Cheers to diving back into the social scene with these spring date ideas in Chicago!

Disclosure: I received a media pass to the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit for review purposes; all opinions are honest and my own as always.