Blues Traveler: Where to Find the Chicago Blues and Feel Real Good

Kingston Mines (Photo: Ten Photos)

There are many good reasons why Chicago is called the Blues Capital of the World. There’s the annual Chicago Blues Festival, for one, along with the city’s long history of blues greats dating back to the 1940’s. You can get to know this history with an afternoon tour at Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven Foundation, housed in the former building Chess Records. Once you’ve explored their collection of blues memorabilia, you’ll be ready for a night of live blues at any of these head-nodding, hip-swaying venues.

Get Down and Grub


Buddy Guy’s Legends (Photo: Ten Photos)

There’s no place more central for live music in Chicago than the House of Blues. You’re more likely to find blues acts on the Crossroads restaurant stage than in the main concert hall, but that makes this a great place for both dinner and a show. Soak in your surroundings with its curated collection of folk and outsider art, or what they call the “visual blues.”

If you head just south of the Loop, you’ll find Buddy Guy’s Legends, founded by the king of electric blues himself. Here the walls are filled with artifacts from blues history. Regular lunch and dinnertime shows make this a great place for anyone under 21 to take in the blues. To catch Buddy Guy, you’ll have to visit in January, but the featured artists year-round are sure to not disappoint.


Blue Chicago (Photo: Ten Photos)

Swinging back north of the Chicago River, you’ll stumble upon Blue Chicago. Here, you can count on live local blues from some of Chicago’s best artists seven nights a week. It’s also an authentic alternative to some nearby theme restaurants popular with the tourists. Well, it’s a good alternative for adults anyway, since Blue Chicago is 21 and up only.

Take a Trip Down Blues Alley


Kingston Mines (Photo: Ten Photos)

A quick hop on the “L” to Fullerton will put you right near “Blues Alley.” On this special block of Halsted Avenue you will find two major blues spots with live music seven nights a week.

Opened in 1979, Chicago B.L.U.E.S. Bar brings the old school cool. The space is not very big, but that only adds to the intimate feel of the place. If you find your way there on a Sunday night, your cover at B.L.U.E.S. also gets you into the renowned Kingston Mines across the street.

Kingston Mines is a uniquely ambitious venue. Inside, you’ll find two stages with alternating sets from open to close. That’s around 10 solid hours of amazing local and touring blues acts, with each artist usually playing three sets throughout the night. By the time 4 a.m. rolls around, you’ll be hoping the sun doesn’t rise to find you’ve become blue yourself.