There’s no question about it: Chicago stands out as the Midwest’s shining jewel. Those considering living in Chicago will find it an exciting city for many reasons. Alternately dubbed the Windy City, the City With Broad Shoulders or the City That Works, this is a town with character.
Ever since the city rose from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, it’s never been underestimated — this place is a fighter. Chicago is a hotbed for culture, food, entertainment, politics and sports, so there’s rarely a dull moment. If you’re considering relocating, check out these 15 facts you should know about this great, thriving city.
1. Unique, Vibrant Neighborhoods
There are four major zones in Chicago: Downtown, North Side, South Side and the West Side. Each is made up of unique neighborhoods. For example, the affluent River North area is home to a bustling nightlife scene, highly regarded restaurants and upscale shops, and it draws hordes of locals and visitors. There’s also Lincoln Park, part of the North Side’s Lakeview community. The renowned Steppenwolf Theatre and Lincoln Park Zoo are two of the neighborhood’s destinations that attract people from all over the world. Glamorous residents flock to the Gold Coast, home to luxury retail shops, hotels and a host of expensive steakhouses frequented by celebrities. If you head west into Bucktown and Oak Park, you’ll find some sweet spots to raise families. Plus, Oak Park is the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway and still houses his childhood home.
2. World-Class Culinary Scene
Chicago boasts some of the best restaurants in the country — and the world, for that matter. It’s so respected that the prestigious James Beard Foundation awards, the Oscars of the culinary world, are set to take place here through 2021. At the very top are Chicago’s two three-Michelin-starred restaurants: Grant Achatz’s Alinea and Curtis Duffy’s Grace. Name a cuisine, and Chicago excels at it — from Rick Bayless’ award-winning Mexican concept Topolobampo, named James Beard winner for Outstanding Restaurant in 2017, to the soul food-inspired brunches at Batter and Berries, which draws herds each weekend. Logan Square, the West Loop, Wicker Park and Lakeview boast large concentrations of places to dine and drink.
3. Politics as Entertainment
Aldermen, state senators, congressmen, the governor and the mayor are all minor celebrities and colorful characters in Chicago. Former President Barack Obama always draws a crowd every time he returns to his adopted hometown. The Obama family makes it a point to visit from time to time, and they own a home in Hyde Park, a prominent neighborhood on the South Side that’s also famous for the University of Chicago and Museum of Science and Industry.
4. Thriving Theater Scene
From the long-running musical “Hamilton” and Chicago Shakespeare Theater to hundreds of smaller-scale and community productions, the city’s onstage presence can’t be denied. Throughout the year, Broadway in Chicago showcases Tony Award-winning touring productions like “The Lion King,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Wicked.” The Steppenwolf Theatre Co., Goodman Theatre and Black Ensemble Theater are also major players in town.
5. Picturesque Lakefront, Skyline and Architecture
Flying into Chicago or driving along Lake Shore Drive are the best ways to take in the beautiful views of Lake Michigan and the city’s magnificent skyline, punctuated by skyscrapers built by some of the world’s greatest architects. The Marina City Towers, the John Hancock Building, Tribune Tower, the Wrigley Building and Willis Tower are a few of the most notable. Architectural river boat tours are offered spring through fall, and tour guides possess deep knowledge of the history of the buildings and bridges.
6. Commuting by Car and Public Transportation Takes Smarts
The most important thing to know about getting around in Chicago is that the center of the city is where Madison and State Streets meet. Start at zero, and the address numbers go up from there. The Chicago Transportation Authority’s buses and trains are reliable and have routes conveniently placed throughout the city. Lake Shore Drive, which connects the North and South Sides, is designated as part of U.S. Highway 41 and connects to I-55. The Kennedy (I-90), Eisenhower (I-290) and Dan Ryan (I-94) Expressways are the major thoroughfares, but get ready to sit in traffic during morning and evening rush hour. When traffic is at its most intense, those in the know on the near West and North Sides take Elston Street. There are few lights, so traffic moves with ease.
7. Big Names in Showbiz
The talent coming out of this town is impressive. From Second City alumni (Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi, John Belushi, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Jeff Garlin, Jane Lynch, Bill Murray and Mike Myers) to musicians (Jennifer Hudson, Kanye West, Common, Lupe Fiasco, Chance the Rapper, Chaka Khan, Wilco, Herbie Hancock, R. Kelly and Styx), many superstar entertainers note Chicago as their inspiration.
Image Source: Flickr/Anne Worner
8. Two Major Airports
Midway is on Chicago’s Southwest Side, eight miles from downtown. It’s dominated by Southwest Airlines. O’Hare, the hub for United Airlines, is on the far Northwest Side and is 17 miles from the Loop. According to Crain’s, O’Hare is the second busiest airport in the world.
9. World-Class Cultural Attractions
CNN ranked the Art Institute of Chicago as the second-best museum in the world, just below New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other significant Chicago museums include the Alder Planetarium, the DuSable Museum of African American History, the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry and Shedd Aquarium. Some great off-the-beaten-path options include the Driehaus Museum, the National Museum of Mexican Art, the National Veterans Art Museum, the Polish Museum of America and Stony Island Arts Bank.
10. Home to the Blues
During the Great Migration, beginning in the first half of the 20th century, many African-Americans moved to northern cities to find work. This included a host of talented musicians who found their way to Chicago. They brought with them the music we now enjoy as the blues, with Muddy Waters as one of the first great innovators. Today there are blues clubs throughout the city, most notably Kingston Mines, which opened its doors in 1968, and Buddy Guy’s Legends, whose namesake was proclaimed as the world’s greatest guitarist by Eric Clapton.
11. Rich History Built Into the Architecture
History is everywhere in Chicago, and much of it is documented at the Chicago History Museum. For an immersive experience, there are all sorts of tours that provide insight into the city, from Al Capone and ghost trolleys to architectural adventures by foot or boat. The Chicago Water Tower, located on the Magnificent Mile, was built in 1869, two years before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. It’s one of the few surviving structures from that era and is considered a national landmark. There’s a photography gallery inside showcasing work from local artists.
12. The Weather… Builds Character
And tolerance, too. If you can make it through the occasions when the temperature goes from swimwear season to sweater weather within a 24-hour period, you’re officially a Chicagoan. To be honest, not even the most tried-and-true Chicagoan gets used to the bone-chilling, windy days.
13. Filming Fills the Streets
“The Blues Brothers,” “The Fugitive,” “Risky Business” and “The Untouchables” showcased Chicago in all its glory, and now all of these movies are considered classics. Famed television producer Dick Wolf — who put New York’s gritty streets in the spotlight with the “Law and Order” franchise — offers audiences a taste of modern living in Chicago with NBC shows like “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago Med.”
14. Hardcore Sports Fans With Superstar Teams
Chicago has won every major sporting championship in modern history, and residents support their teams as though they themselves were on the rosters. From the newly minted World Series Champion Chicago Cubs to the six-time-winning Chicago Bulls, the local professional teams boast die-hard fans. And even though the Chicago Bears haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1985, their fans still pack outdoor stadium Soldier Field, even on 10-degree days.
15. Eco-Friendly Pride
Chicago prides itself in sustainable living. You’ll find the country’s second-largest bike-sharing program in Chicago: the Divvy program. There are tons of parks and green spaces throughout the city, like the massive Grant Park, which spans 319 acres. Lincoln Park, Millennium Park and Washington Park are also sweet spaces to kick back for a picnic or stroll. Those with active lifestyles will appreciate the 606, a series of elevated trails on the Northwest Side for bikers, runners and walkers that was reconstructed from an old above ground railway. The 606 connects Bucktown, Logan Square and Wicker Park, so you can hop off your bike to explore thrift shops, cafes and the funky art and music scene that makes living in Chicago so cool.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Owners.com, Altisource or any other Altisource® business or entity. The foregoing content is not intended to constitute, and in fact does not constitute, financial, investment, tax or legal advice by the author, Owners.com, Altisource or any other business or entity.
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