5 Reasons to Kickoff Your Summer in the South
1. Calumet Fisheries, 3259 E. 95th St. You don't want to go exploring on an empty stomach, so bike or drive over for a (strictly carry-out) bite to eat. Be warned, though: This winner of a James Beard America's Classics Award, presented to restaurants "with timeless appeal," is bustling, and parking can be scarce. Don't miss: Sure, Calumet Fisheries is known for its smoked salmon - and sells a lot of fried shrimp, perch and frog legs - but the fried scallops are a favorite too.

The beach. Whether you work up a sweat jogging or biking the curvy park paths or just taking a leisurely stroll, the beach is a good place to dip your toes into Lake Michigan and cool off. Be warned, though: This space - and the abundant parking throughout the grounds - can fill up quickly on a balmy day. Don't miss: A balcony-like platform that juts out from the concession area is a good place for people watching, but if you're not into crowds try

The Field House, 9801 S. Ave. "G". A Chicago landmark, the sprawling concrete structure with the arched windows and rounded balconies was built in 1924. The park district conducts its programs there, and it is home to the James P. Fitzgibbons Historical Museum, where the Southeast Chicago Historical Society is based. Don't miss: Murals of early Chicago by artist Tom Lea (1907-2001). Museum volunteer Joann Podkul (Class of 1956) says they have been recently restored.

Skyway Dogs, 9480 S. Ewing Ave. The hot dogs here are among the best in the city, and the service is quick. There's minimal seating inside, so plan on downing your dog while seated at one of the outdoor picnic tables or in your car. Plus: It's within eyeshot of the East 95th Street Bridge, made famous by the Blues Brothers. Don't miss: In addition to the Vienna Beef hot dogs (cheap!), the french fries get stellar ratings. And if you like ketchup on your dog, fear not. The staff here happily accommodates all orders.

The pier, just east of the beach. It's a good place to catch your breath and chill out. On a clear day, you can see the towering Skyway bridge and towns to the east in Indiana. Watch out for: On a recent very blustery day, it felt as though the wind could knock you right off the pier and into the waves. Don't miss: The seemingly endless view of the lake.