What was a California girl thinking moving to Chicago, Illinois, you ask? Well, aside from school, I was looking forward to a change and forcing myself outside of my comfort zone. I had no idea that I would fall in love with Chicago the way I have. Here’s why:
There’s access to reliable and expansive public transportation.
Chicago is a city where one can choose to not have a car and still be able to get almost anywhere in the city, no problem. Both the bus and train come frequently, and during the cold months, train stations have heaters to keep commuters warm while they wait for their trains. The train and bus are easy to navigate as well (download the app Transit Stop.) Aside from the beauty of not having to be car dependent, the benefits of using the public transportation system are that I am able to incorporate more walking into my exercise and am easily hitting 10,000 steps a day; for those of you who have a FitBit, you know how good that feels. I’m also free to utilize the time on the train/bus to do anything I want — listening to music, responding to emails, snacking, and even napping.
It’s a big city with friendly people.
Chicago is often referred to as the little sister of New York City, and I would have to agree with this. Chicago has the energy and adrenaline of NYC, but without the density and unfriendly rep that NYC can get. After all, it is the Midwest, y’all, and you will always see friendly faces and meet some great people.
The beach is a stone’s throw from the heart of downtown.
“Summertime Chi” is a thing. People in Chicago know how to have a good time in the summer! Head on over to Montrose Beach and you will see everyone making the most of the season, from beach volleyball games to rollerblading and water activities. In the midst of it all, you will find a ship-shaped restaurant that serves great food, and has a DJ and dance floor to help you enjoy those Sunday Fundays. After you’re all done, you can walk a few blocks and find yourself in the heart of downtown. I can’t say I’ve been able to experience that anywhere else in the states.
Chicago is so large that you can spend an entire weekend just exploring one neighborhood.
Chicago neighborhoods have their own personalities; each offers something that the other does not. If I want delicious Mexican food and amazing murals, I head over to Pilsen. If I want a hipster type of vibe, I head to Wicker Park (try out Big Star for a lively and young ambiance). If I want a blend of music, art, and good vibes, I head to Hyde Park (the Oriental Institute is a must.) If I want endless new restaurants to try, I head over to the South Loop. It’s impossible to ever be bored!
It’s a foodie’s dream come true.
Chicago has so much good food! That’s where the walking (if you’re able) comes in to play; gotta burn those calories somehow. Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza places like Giardanos and Lou Malnatis never disappoint. Be prepared to wait about a half hour for the preparation of the pizza, though you can always call in ahead of time to place an order. Other famous spots like Portillos have great Chicago-style hotdogs and Italian Beef Sandwiches. Well known fine dining spots like Girl & The Goat and The Purple Pig are also magnificent, as well as Café Ba-Ba-Reeba and Eataly (they have a Nutella bar – try not to drool). Top off any meal by grabbing some famous Garrett’s Popcorn in either the sweet or salty variety, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, or cookies from Insomnia Cookies. Anywhere you go in the city, you will find food that your taste buds will fall in love with!
It’s an architecture aficionado’s haven.
Chicago arguably has some of the most diverse architecture in the states. The city proudly demonstrates this through architecture cruises and walks, which come highly recommended. From buildings alongside the Chicago river to the inside of the Chicago Cultural Centre, from Millennium Park or the Baha’i Temple, you will see amazing designs that will leave you breathless! Chicago also has one of the most spectacular skylines. Fall in love with it either day or night! The best view is from the Adler Planetarium.
There is always something to do! (And a lot of times at no charge.)
I rely on Metromix andRedEye Chicago to keep me updated on everything happening around the city. As I mentioned earlier, it’s really hard to get bored in Chicago; there are always things happening that cater to different tastes. And often these events and attractions are of no charge. Examples of this include: Headquarters Beercade (an oldschool video game bar), Big Jerry’s and their famous Rap Karaoke, Garfield Park Conservatory (which accepts donations), Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago Cultural Center, and Millennium Park (check out the calendar in the summer as they always have free concerts and movies).
Some personal favorite spots that are non-touristy are the Holocaust Museum in Skokie (about 20 minutes outside of Chicago proper) and, for the best free view of Chicago (for ages 21+), the women’s bathroom on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building.
For the best view of Magnificent Mile, visit Starbucks on the top floor of Uniqlo.
Best coffee: Metropolis (try their mocha).
Guaranteed good time on a Saturday or Sunday: Green Mill.