As a reporter, I don't usually have much trouble meeting and chatting up strangers. I've done this in some odd places, including on a walk to the Daley Center, brunch at the Bongo Room, even at a crosswalk in Lincoln Park. But there are some places in and around the city that inspire me to talk to people not for work, but for pleasure. Here are some splendidly romantic places that I have always thought would make for a great "How/Where Did You Meet" story, or just a great date:
For some reason, this Wicker Park bookstore feels like it should be the setting of an indie romantic comedy. Maybe it's the intense library-book smells, but I feel like I'm in a Norah Jones music video (circa early 2000s) when sitting on the vintage couch or looking out the windows on the upper level. The wood floors and seemingly never-ending shelves of books and cases of stairs (OK, just three, but I somehow always feel disoriented when I'm there!) make the place soothing, as does the resident cat, Leonard, who struts around like he owns the place. The selection of books is outstanding, the prices are reasonable and the staff is friendly (and cute). You really do feel like you can lounge around, browse and smile at strangers with similar tastes. Spend a rainy afternoon here (the cell phone ban ensures you CAN get reading done!) and you'll find that reading truly is sexy.
Lincoln Park Zoo
Unless you are dating a tin man or tin woman, the cuddly animals at this free, year-round zoo will automatically impress. The greenery, ice cream, carousel ride, and adorable children will stir up fond memories and, perhaps inspire thoughts about (gulp) your future kids. In general, this is the kind of date that guarantees a physically fun time, even if you're with a dud. And how can you go wrong with a petting zoo?
The Brown Line
I have professed my love for the beautiful skyline views on the Brown Line before. What's the appeal? The mixed bag of people and the occasional awkward jolt from the moving train gliding to the backdrop of the Hancock Tower and skyline -- and the crazy idea that you and The One could end up in the same train car at the same time; it's all very romantic in a "love at first sight" or (but hopefully not) "Craigslist Missed Connections" kinda way.