4xForth: Kelli Taylor / by Natalie Pavela

4xForth-Chicago-Kelli-Taylor Each Friday we’re highlighting one of the lovely women in our community. Today Forth alum Kelli Taylor talks about Chicago - the places she frequents, her go-to activities for out-of-town guests, and good day or weekend trips outside of the city.  She's also dishing on websites she's all jazzed about. Read on for some great Chicago tips (including recommendations for the best flea markets)!

Places I frequent in Chicago:

1. Randolph Street Market, or anywhere that feels remotely Flea Market-y. *Spoiler alert: you’re going to hear a lot about flea markets.

2. A New Leaf, or anywhere that sells gorgeous flowers and pretty things to put them in.  In a previous life, I was a florist.  In this life, I kill all plants that come within a 20-foot radius. Oh, irony, you darling thing.

3. Foursided (or Twosided), or anywhere that’s heartfelt and inspires me to go home and make something. I’m a big fan of more is more, and Foursided does not disappoint.

4. Guthrie's Tavern, or any bar with a playful hook. Beer just tastes better with a side of board games and trivia.

Favorite things to do in Chicago when out of town guests come to visit:

As far as cities go, Chicago is the hostess with the mostest.  The architecture, the lake, the food, the people, it doesn’t take much to show it off.  Just pick your vantage point.  After hitting up The Bean, and watching guests realize that you can’t wave to Michigan from across the lake, I like to treat them to…

1. A trip down Lake Shore Drive - So beautiful and cinematic... it's like an asphalt valentine to the city.  I blame John Hughes and Harry & Sally for never letting me play it cool when I hop on Lake Shore. My friends are always so giddy and camera-happy when we’re on it, and I think their picture-taking might distract them from my face-splitting smile too.

2. An architectural boat tour - I'm a nerd and love being a tourist in my own city.  And when your city has weaving waterways and a forest of gorgeous buildings, there’s no better way to see it.  I’ve done ‘em all except Chicago Architecture Foundation, and I hear theirs is the tour to hold out for.

3. Strolling around Old Town - I’ve always been drawn to the “Old Town” of any city… where it’s cozy and historic and full of crooked streets.  The Kelli Walking Tour departs every couple of months, and includes a crepe at Green City Market, instagramming at South Pond Pavilion, flowers at A New Leaf, drinks at the J. Parker, popping into shops on Wells, a show at Second City, and a nightcap/fine art viewing at Old Town Ale House.  (Bonus points if you have time to squeeze in the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool at any point along that trip.)

4. Something Seasonal - Some of these things are weekly… some are monthly… and some just happen for one hot weekend.  If it’s the latter, my visitors are coming with me (they don’t really have a choice):  Andersonville Wine Walk, Sheffield Garden Walk, Old Town Art Fair, Newberry Book FairRenegade Craft Fair, Green City Market, Randolph Street Market, and the motherlode… The Music Box White Christmas Sing-a-Long Show.  (Sidenote:  I was at the Music Box two years ago on 12/21 when everyone was buzzing about the Mayan Apocalypse.  I didn’t give it much thought, but decided that if this night was the grand hurrah, there was literally no happier place to be.  If you like Christmas and haven't been yet, you should probably go.)

Favorite places to visit outside the city/day trips from Chicago:

1. Elkhorn, Wisconsin - Home of my favorite flea market, hands down.  Bring a wagon, sunscreen, and provisions.  And leave the expensive shoes/handbags at home.  I’m pretty sure I actually wore Crocs last month because a) they’re comfy for 8 hours of walking and b) no one’s trying to swindle more money out of the girl who wears Crocs.

2. St. Charles/Geneva, IL - Two more flea market towns (surprise, surprise.)  These come as a package deal because they're super close, super cute, and super full of great treasures.

3. Buchanan, MI - My family is like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, only Southern and Swedish (it’s an interesting mix… just go with it.)  Every last one of my relatives lives here, and it’s amazing.  My immediate family has always lived in Chicago though, so my earliest memories are of roadtripping to Michigan (any time, all the time, sometimes just for the day.)  I’m pretty sure that if you could actually wave across the Lake, we’d have rigged up a zipline by now.  For me, Southwestern Michigan is home and farmland and family -- and as a city-dwelling adult, I love it even more.  The vineyards, the antiques, the roadside stands, the summer skies exploding with stars.  If I’m making it sound all rosy and magical, then my job here is done.  (I probably should've hired Tim Allen to narrate that post.)

4. Lake Bluff, IL - When I wasn’t in Buchanan, this is where I grew up.  I love that when I’m in town, I can turn in one place and see where I rode my first bike, had my first kiss, and learned how to (very unsuccessfully) drive a stick shift.  It’s pretty great.  But for those who didn’t live out their own personal Wonder Years here, they have a pretty cute town square and beach too.  And the Fourth of July parade has you seriously wondering where Rockwell’s painting it all.

Sites I lurve:

I’m assuming that Instagram, Pinterest, and Spotify are all givens, yes?

1. Krrb - It's like Flea Marketing in bed!  That should be their tagline.  I bought a gorgeous, handmade dining room table off this site for 200 bucks and have been a smitten kitten ever since. 2. Radical Possibility - When it comes to blogs, I'm a sucker for anything local, creative and sass-mouthed.  Meg Zandi, cheers. 3. Tuebl (The Ultimate e-Book Library) - As someone who adores the printed word and all creative pursuits, I probably shouldn't be endorsing a free e-book site.  But we all have our vices, and this is mine. 4.  Austin Kleon - I’ve read and re-read his books, and just plain adore this guy.  Whenever the creative world starts to feel a bit holier-than and competitive, I hop on over to his site.  Such a bright and cool perspective on everything (and the concept of a creative family tree is genius:  “Just as you have a familial genealogy, you also have a genealogy of ideas.  You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and you can pick the music you listen to and you can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you see. You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.  You are the sum of your influences.”  Amen.)

Thanks for sharing Kelli! So many great recommendations - Guthrie's, a Lakeview gem, and the architectural boat tour - my favorite activity for out of towners too! Sign us up for the Kelli Old Town walking tour any day - that's a killer lineup of activities. And we'll also be your flea marketing buddies any day.

Friends, you can find the delightful Kelli on Twitter and Instagram.