Geekfest Credit: Angela Gyorfy /Getty Images/iStockphoto

Alexis Finch, sketchnoter behind GraphiteMind, is utterly satiated by:

Geekfest Chicago has become something of a tech mecca. Startups are thriving here just as much as in NYC and SF. It’s a challenge to keep pace with all the rapid change when you’ve gotta be conversant in the full gamut of design, code, and UX (for the uninitiated, that’s “User Experience”). Luckily, once a week, for one hour, you can get a crash course from one expert or another at Geekfest. Previously Geekfest had been a closed event, intended just for developers, where they’d share side projects, best practices, and occasionally get schooled by guest speakers. I snuck my way into a few of those talks, but it took some serious feats of espionage and sleight of hand to get in. This year they’ve made the event an open meet-up, inviting the public to swing on by with nothing more than an RSVP required. Scope out each Tuesday’s topic in advance, since you might be sitting down to anything from a deep-dive code review to a walk-through on design process. No matter what, though, you’ll leave with a full brain and belly.

Credit: Courtesy of Image Pilots

Michael Raleigh, author of The Conjurer’s Boy, spends the occasional weekend perusing the:

Randolph Street Market at the Plumbers Hall One weekend a month, dozens of dealers in the antique, the arcane, and the merely amusing gather in the Plumbers Hall on Randolph Street. The summer market is larger and more popular, with hundreds of dealers and thousands of customers, but the cold-weather market allows the visitor to get a better angle on the action. There are antiques, of course, but you might just as easily find a Jimi Hendrix poster (a real one!), a 1930s fur coat, Persian daggers, and old records. And there is food—gourmet chocolates, empanadas, and a cute little French nun selling baked goods for her convent. (Well, I think it’s for the convent.) As interesting as anything at the Randolph Street Market, though, is the hall itself, with its huge rectangular bar that could seat the Fifth Army. And don’t miss the great mural on the main staircase, with an enormous plumber standing godlike, his arms outstretched over the city, protecting us all from leaks and puddles.

Mary O'Connor
Mary O’ConnorCredit: Johnny Knight

Amy Gorelow, actress at the Piccolo Theatre gets a monthly dose of girl power with:

The Gogo Show Girls doing stand-up. Girls doing improv and sketch. A girl singing about a ukulele while playing a ukulele. Girls telling stories. And, at the show I attended, She’s Crafty, a Beastie Boys cover band that brought the house down. Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing The Gogo Show. Erin Lane, Mary O’Connor, Krystal LaFianza Pitzen, Anna Lucero, and Andrea Wallace have created a space where the top female artists in town can come together once a month to network and share their talents; before and after the show, audience members can mingle with them. It doesn’t get more underground than this. The show is one Saturday a month, but we never know which Saturday it will be. It’s also in a supersecret location (that you can fortunately find on their Facebook page). The second-best perk of this show? BYOB. The first-best? It’s completely free.