December 13, 2023 | Allison Robertson

The Best of Chicago


How Well Do You Know Chicago?

Travel talesWikimedia.Commons

Chicago, the most populated city in the U.S. state of Illinois, is undoubtably a sight to see. If you haven’t visited yet, you should.

Jam packed with culture; the stunning cityscape has something for everyone. In this article, you’ll find everything Chicago is best known for, and what to add to your itinerary for your next trip to The Windy City.

From cuisine to museums and landmarks to innovations and residents—discover everything Chicago is famous for.

The Size of Chicago

Chicago, IllinoisTravel and Leisure

Located on the shore of Lake Michigan, Chicago is the Midwest’s biggest city, and the third largest city in the U.S. It is home to an estimated 2.7 million people and rests on 228 square miles of land.

There is about 28 miles of lakefront with 24 beaches.

The Windy City

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Chicago is best known as “The Windy City”. It got its nickname sometime around 1856, and it comes from many sources.

Aside from the intense wind itself, the Windy City also got its name from political rivalries involving other major cities, such as Cincinnati and New York.

Another popular nickname for Chicago is “Chi-town”—pronounced “Shy Town”—which is basically just a shortened version of the name.

Chicago Weather

Night Walks factsMax Pixel

Given the nickname, The Windy City, you can guess that Chicago is known for its wind. However, it is actually less windy than many other large American cities.

Wind speeds range from 8 miles per hour in summer to 12 miles per hour in spring.

Aside from wind, Chicago summers are hot and humid with average temperatures reaching above 90 degrees F. The winters are cold and snowy.

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Iconic Chicago Cuisine

Deep dish pizzaWikipedia

One of the main things Chicago is known for is its food. Specifically, the Chicago-style hot dogs, polish sausages, and American favorite Chicago deep-dish pizza.

The Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is talked about all over the globe. It’s thick crust will be oozing in cheese and it requires a knife and fork to manage eating it.

Ordering the Chicago-famous hotdogs is also an experience. Order it “all the way” or “dragged through the garden” to have your steamed, all-beef frank topped with mustard, green relish, onions, peppers, sliced tomato, pickles and celery salt.

You can find these hot dogs in both restaurants and at street vendors across the city. Chicago even has a Hot Dog Fest every year to celebrate the tradition.

There are more than 7,300 restaurants and over 160 breweries in Chicago.

Chicago Economy

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Having the second largest central business district in the United States, Chicago is a major world financial center. It is the headquarters of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, as well as major financial and future exchanges.

Chicago Museums

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Chicago is known for its wide variety of prized museums.

  • The Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum: Built in 1930. It is the oldest planetarium in the world, and the first in the Western Hemisphere.
  • The Art Institute of Chicago: American and Impressionist art
  • The Field Museum of Natural History: Home to the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus fossil.
  • The Museum of Science and Industry: Displays a real, full size Boeing 727 jet plane, and is one of the largest science museums in the world.
  • The Polish Museum of America: Has large collection of Polish art, and is said to be haunted by famous piano player Jan Paderewski.
  • The Shedd Aquarium: One of the world's largest aquariums. It has 19 million liters (5 million gallons) of water and 22,000 fish.

The arts are highly valued in Chicago, so much so that the city has implemented a program called City of Chicago’s Public Art Program, which displays more than 500 public works of art around the city.

Chicago Sports

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Sports are a big part of Chicago culture. It is home to 15 sports teams, with most of them playing within the city limits.

Chicago has two Major League Baseball teams: the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are one of the oldest teams in baseball. The White Sox won the World Series in 2005, and the Cubs won the World Series in 2016.

Chicago’s NBA team is the Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan played for the Bulls for many years and helped them win six championships in the 1990s.

Their football team is the Chicago Bears of the NFL and the Chicago Rush of the AFL.

Chicago also has two ice hockey teams, the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL and the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.

And finally, their Major League Soccer team is the Chicago Fire.

Chicago’s Greenspace

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Chicago, although known for its beautiful cityscape, is also home to 8,800 acres of greenspace, and 600 parks. The Chicago Park District is the largest municipal park manager in the country.

There are over 300 miles of bike lanes in Chicago, with 18.5 miles of lakefront bicycle paths.

Chicago holds a record for the most Divvy rides at 4 million Divvy rides. There are over 800 Divvy bike share stations and thousands of Divvy bikes around the city.

Chicago’s Transportation

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Chicago is known as the United States railroad capital, with more major railroads serving the city than any other place in America.

The Chicago Transportation System is the country’s second largest public transportation system.

There is also an underground pedestrian system—"the Pedway”—which consists of tunnels and bridges that connect over 40 blocks in the Central Business District, covering around 5 miles.

Another unique feature in Chicago is the multi-leveled streets. This is most commonly known as “Wacker Drive”. It is a double-decker street which has an upper-level riverfront boulevard, and a lower-level roadway for through traffic.

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Chicago’s Top Attractions

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The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, opened in 1973 as the world's tallest building. It held this title for nearly 25 years. It is now the third-tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the 23rd-tallest in the world.

The popular tourist attraction caters to more 1.7 million people who visit the Skydeck observation deck, the highest in the United States.

Cloud Gate, also known as “The Bean”, is a centerpiece in the Loop area of Chicago. Inspired by liquid mercury, the sculpture is made up of 168 stainless steel plates welded together, and its highly polished exterior has no visible seams.

Do yourself a favor and do some research for many more must-see attractions in Chicago. The list is endless.

Chicago’s Best Moments

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There’s a whole list of amazing “firsts” for Chicago, these are just a few:

  • In 1885, the world’s first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Company, was designed and built in Chicago.
  • The brownie, a popular chocolate dessert, was created at Chicago’s Palmer House in 1893.
  • The Twinkie was invented during the Depression by Chicago resident Jimmy Dewar. Fun fact: it was originally made with banana cream filling, but bananas were hard to come by during WWII, so it was substituted with vanilla cream.
  • America’s first automobile race was held in 1895 on Thanksgiving by the Chicago Times-herald and ran a 54-mile course.
  • Chicago’s Loop is home to Jeanne Gang’s Vista Tower—the tallest structure in the world designed by a woman.
  • The Society for Human Rights—the first gay rights organization—was founded in 1924 in Chicago.
  • Gwendolyn Brooks, a Chicago resident, became the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for her book Annie Allen.
  • Sen. Carol Moseley became the country’s first female African-American senator in 1992.

Chicago’s Famous Residents

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There are several famous actors/entertainers who were born, lived, or worked in Chicago. These are just a handful of well-known names:

  • Walt Disney: Born in Chicago in 1901.
  • Hugh Hefner: Born in Chicago. The original Playboy Mansion was located in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood.
  • Oprah Winfrey: Lived in Chicago and produced her show there from 1986-2011.
  • Barack Obama: Chicago resident and first African-American President of the USA

Final Thoughts

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Well, there you have it. Almost everything you need to know about Chicago. If you haven’t visited yet, it might be worth it to add The Windy City to your bucket list.

There are endless intriguing facts about this popular American city. What’s your favorite thing about Chicago, Illinois?

Sources: 1, 2, 3


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