The Chicago Guide
Chicago.. there's a band named after it, a Tony Award-winning musical bearing its name, and as for the city, it was the second most visited in the US in 2017.
It's easy to figure out why Chicago is so beloved. Except for some chilly (really chilly and windy) winter days, Chicago has everything you'd want in big-city living and as a tourist destination. It has distinctive neighborhoods, more than 500 parks, 200+ theaters, eight major sports teams, and prominent universities.
Visitors make a beeline for Navy Pier, the Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park, and the Lincoln Park Zoo. They also have a list of "must try's" when it comes to dining.
Sure, you could head to Alinea, one of the most expensive in town, or Everest, on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange. But, you don't want to spend a few hundred dollars for every meal. Well, at least most people don't.
It's fun to shake things up with some hometown favorites like Chicago style pizza or Italian beef sandwiches with au jus, and maybe some giardiniera. It won't matter what neighborhood you're in at the time, you shouldn't have a problem finding the food that contributes to the city's appeal.
Easy to Navigate
Without disparaging other cities, let's just say that Chicago planners got it right. Like New York City and Las Vegas, Chicago is laid out like a grid with the "L" making a loop around downtown. Even now, new streets are added with a formula of eight streets per mile in one direction, and 16 the opposite way.
Of course, buses and trains will do the trick. But, if you need to drive or walk around and you're a newbie to the area, you shouldn't have too much of a problem.
Many, Many Things to Do in Chicago
How many times do you talk to friends about wanting something new and fun to do this weekend? Are you worn out on dinner and movie? Maybe your budget is tight, but you want to take in a show or go to a concert... Chicagoans have plenty of places to go, and things to see and do as there are more than 200 theaters and show venues, as well as comedy clubs, museums, art galleries, and nightclubs.
Musicals and Plays in the Windy City
Your personal preferences and ticket budget won't hinder you from having options. Chicago boasts theaters large and small.
Chicago is honored with a dedicated broadway musical named after it, but it's also home to venues like the Oriental Theatre, Broadway Playhouse, and Auditorium Theater at Roosevelt University. These venues are known for scheduling some of the biggest plays and musicals from Broadway, then and now.
The CIBC Theater started as the Majestic in the early 1900s. Theater-goers could catch the best of Vaudeville at the Majestic, with stars of the era gracing the stage. Today, the 1,800-seat theater is known for its pre-Broadway show presentations as well as one-off special events.
Music for all tastes
New York isn't the only city that doesn't sleep as things are hopping at Chicago's nightclubs and music venues. The Riviera Theatre has an ever-rotating line-up and isn't stuck to one genre.
Two prominent music venues, the Green Mill and the Aragon Ballroom, are said to be linked by an underground tunnel. That may not be all that exciting to you on its own but, during prohibition, Al Capone frequented the Green Mill. So it makes you wonder what kind of activities were going on in the basements.
Chicago's Museums and Galleries
Saying "I'm going to the museum this weekend" isn't narrowing things down very much as there's a long list of them in Chicago.
The Field Museum on Lakeshore Drive is the place to be for dinosaur enthusiasts. It's a natural history museum with rare jewels, mummies, and the world's largest Tyrannosaurus Rex, which measures 122-feet.
Are you a fan of Andy Warhol? If so, then the MCA or Museum of Contemporary Art is for you. It's on Chicago Avenue and its works rotate in and out, so you should always be able to catch something new. MCA also features live performances and can solve your gift-giving problems.
There's a planetarium, multiple Children's Museums, over a dozen Heritage Centers, the Chicago Sports Museum, and the list goes on and on.
What's Your Favorite Chicago Sports Team?
If you live in Chicago, chances are that you're a Bears fan? But, the real question is: White Sox or Cubs?
Chicago has eight major professional sports teams, including two Major League Baseball, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, NWSL, and WNBA.
White Sox or Cubs?
When spring rolls around in Chicago, are you heading to Wrigley or Guaranteed Rate Field? Chicagoans are loyal to their favorite, win or lose.
The Cubs came first as they started in 1876. They've won three World Series Championships, the first two in 1907 and 1908. In 2016, they finally captured win number three, when they beat the Cleveland Indians.
When it comes to longevity, there isn't a huge difference, as the White Sox were inaugurated in 1894. Like the Cubs, they have three World Series titles. Also, like the Cups, the first two were in the early 20th century (1906 and 1917). The third wasn't recorded until 2005.
The Chicago Bears are approaching the century mark as they began in 1920. The Bears play at Soldier Field and have had two Super Bowl appearances and were victorious in Super Bowl XX in 1985. Do you remember the Super Bowl Shuffle?
Other Chicago sports
In addition to minor league and college games, Chicago rounds out its list of eight with the following:
Chicago Bulls - NBA
Chicago Blackhawks - NHL
Chicago Fire - MLS
Chicago Red Stars - NWSL
Chicago Sky - WNBA
Outdoor Living - Weather Permitting
Chicago has some frigid winter days. So, when the weather is nice, people want to be outside. There are more than 500 parks in the area, but not all are the same. Lincoln Park is in a league all its own.
Lincoln Park isn't just for locals. It's one of the most visited in the country, as 20 million people spend time there every year. Like Burnham, Grant, and Jackson Parks, Lincoln is on the waterfront.
As a seven-mile long park, Lincoln has plenty of room for amenities. Visitors can head to the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Conservatory, or spend the day at one of the beaches. There's also a theater on the lake for summer shows alfresco.
Chicago Food is the Best Food
Whether you're a resident or on vacation, you don't always want to head out for fine dining. Sometimes, you just want a good, local favorite. In Chicago, you have your choice of local specialties including Chicago-style pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, and Chicago dogs.
Just as Philadelphians argue over which place has the best cheesesteak, Chicagoans are loyal to their choice of deep-dish pie.
If you've never had Chicago-style, you'll want to give it a try. It originated at Uno's in 1943 and is full of yummy cheese, but you won't see it because the sauce is on top. The crust is also different and is more flaky and buttery than New York-style.
Lou Malnati's, Gino's, Giordano's, and Uno are just some of the best in the area. But, if you haven't already established your favorite, start with one of those.
You won't have to look far to find a Chicago-style hot dog. But, can you list the toppings? If you get the works, you'll have a dog topped with chopped onions, tomatoes, yellow mustard, relish, a pickle spear, peppers, and a dash of celery salt.
The Chicago Miscellaneous
Snack Food Inventors
Both the Twinkie and Cracker Jacks were invented in Chicago. The Twinkie was originally made with banana cream but, as bananas became scarce during the Great Depression, vanila was substituted.
L = Elevated
Chicago's "L" or Elevated Railway was built in 1892 and is the reason why the downtown area is called The Loop.
The River North Gallery District in Chicago is home to more contemporary art galleries than anywhere else in the US except New York City.
Second is First
The Second City is an improv comedy troupe which started in Chicago in 1959 and has jumpstarted the careers of comedy greats like Steve Carrell, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, and Amy Poehler, just to name a few.