Chicago's famed Taste of Chicago runs from June 26 through July 5, 2009 from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (except July 3 and 4 when it runs to 9:30 p.m. and July 5 when it closes at 6:00 p.m.).

Some basic tips for the Taste:

 1. If you head to the Taste on a particularly hot day, try to get there early. With the sun and all the cooking going on and all the crowds that head in later in the day, the area often feels warmer than it is otherwise and continues to get warmer during the day. Wear light clothing, but be aware that shade is a rare commodity at the Taste.  It is advisable to bring a hat and sunscreen.

 2. If you head to the Taste with a group of people, do try to designate a meeting place if you get separated. A good choice is the Columbus Drive entrance to the Art Institute. While the entrance is closed to the general public, one should be able to wait out front.

 3. Take a small notepad to write down the names of any restaurants you want to seek out after the Taste. While the hot, crowded conditions of the Taste are not always the best way for restaurants to offer up their dishes, one often does walk away with a least a few potential restaurants in mind to visit later.

 4. Take public transit. With crowds, expensive (and probably crowded) nearby parking and street closures for Taste, it's best to take public transit to the event - either Metra from the suburbs or CTA in the city.  You can find more detailed information of the region's public transportation at:  http://www.rtachicago.com/

 5. You buy strips of tickets at one of the booths at the entrance and in the interior of the Taste and exchange them for food or drinks at each of the restaurants. Tickets are $8 for a strip of 12. Usually, a strip will get you a large portion and a drink (if you're lucky, a small portion, as well.) However, some items are as much as 9 or 10 tickets. The amount of tickets required for dishes varies.  Cash is not accepted at the individual food booths.  Cash, Visa and Mastercard and American Express credit cards are accepted at Taste ticket booths, although a photo ID is required. *** Discounted tickets will be available at Dominicks locations prior to the opening of the Taste, for Fresh Values Card holders (the Fresh Values customer appreciation program is free to sign up for at the store.)

 6. Be happy that nutrition information is not available. Forget about the calories for a day!

 7. Check the Taste of Chicago website for a schedule of the performances going on during the event (I'd link to the page, but unfortunately, the city's website appears impossible to link to.) Some of the performers in 2006 included: Macy Gray, Liz Phair,  Train, India. Arie and Glen Campbell. The performances at the Petrillo Music Shell (adjacent to the central area of the Taste grounds) are free to the public and open 30 minutes prior - seating is first come/first serve, so arrive early. The entrance gate is on Jackson. There is ample lawn seating so you can bring a blanket, cooler if you want, and lie-back and listen to the music.

 8. Unfortunately for dog owners, "man's best friends" are not allowed at the Taste.  In retrospect, considering the huge crowds most days and the heat, it's probably best not to bring pets into such an environment.

 9. Seek out some of the additional sections of the Taste, such as the Living Pavilion (Southwest corner of the Buckingham Fountain area; offering fitness tips, gardening advice and more) and the Dominick's Cooking Corner (also by the fountain.)