With more than 50 groups listed under “outdoors and adventure” in the Chicago area, Meetup.com is a great place for lovers of the outdoors to find like-minded individuals, as well as unique outdoor activities. Meetup is a social site that connects people interested in a particular topic. The site is centered on events, or “meetups,” and each group hosts public events related to its topic. Sometimes they’re free and sometimes there’s a cost. You can find a bit of everything: groups for cyclists, runners, sailors, hiking and backpacking enthusiasts, and people interested in traveling. There are also groups for lesser-known hobbies, such as kiteboarding, or small planes (for those interested in sharing the cost of flying lessons).
The outdoor section also contains groups targeting particular demographics. The Mosaic Jewish Outdoor Club of Chicago, for example, is “a unique non-profit organization dedicated to bringing Jewish people together to enjoy and foster a greater appreciation of the outdoors.” The mission of Outdoor Afro is to “[reconnect] African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, birding, fishing, gardening, skiing — and more!”
The Mosaic Club and Outdoor Afro exist as organizations apart from the site but use it to promote events and attract new folks. Others, like most of the hiking clubs and many of the travel-related groups, solely exist on Meetup.
As a longtime meetup.com user when I moved to Chicago two years ago, I used the site to start getting to know the city. I went to art gallery openings and cocktail hours, game nights and discussion groups and made friends who are still important to me. Now, I look at the calendar when I have a free evening or weekend, particularly when I’ll be with people I know are up for an adventure. Up for a hike? A wine tasting? Want to try something you’ve never heard of?
Rose, a fellow adventurer, has been involved with the “Adventure, Outdoors and Bucket List Fun” meetup group since 2012. She says, “The best thing about this group for me is meeting so many interesting people. I have made some very close friends, in addition to meeting my fiancé, by attending events with this group.” But it’s not just the people: “I think that being outdoors gives me a better appreciation of all that this city has to offer.”
When asked what should be on everyone’s Chicago bucket list, her response was “a bike ride through various parts of the city. Our group participated in the L.A.T.E. Ride: Light Up the Night, hosted by Friends of the Parks. We—and hundreds of other people—decorated and rode our bikes from Buckingham Fountain throughout the city. It was a great way to see the city at night.”
What’s up next for Rose? She’s “joining a running tour of Old Town, hosted by The Chicago History Museum, as well as attending the Wanderlust 108 ‘mindful triathlon’ in Grant Park.“
Using meetup.com is a great way of building your own Chicago bucket list, finding new ways of enjoying the city, and meeting new people.