Best known as ‘Windy City’, Chicago is lined with urban beaches along Lake Michigan and is the third-largest city in the U.S. Best known as ‘Windy City’, Chicago is lined with urban beaches along Lake Michigan and is the third-largest city in the U.S. and the largest in the midwest. Famed for its bold skyline, decorated with iconic stratospheric, glass-floored Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower), Neo-Gothic Tribune Tower, Frank Lloyd Wright’s stained-glass Robie House, Frank Gehry’s silver Pritzker Pavilion, etc. Chicago can be described in a myriad of ways. The choices will be overwhelming in Chicago, hence, here is your ultimate Chicago, Illinois travel guide to ease your trip to the city.
Chicago can be described in a myriad of ways. The windy city will blow your mind away with its low-key culture, thriving art scene, a cornucopia of eateries, numerous shopping streets, and diversity. Chicago is known as the birthplace of modern skyscrapers, and visitors hardly get their eyes off the spectacular skyline of Chicago. However, the city’s public art scene is no less and is absolutely worth admiring.
Chicago is also home to sports enthusiasts, as some of the country’s best basketball, football, hockey, baseball, and soccer teams call the windy city their home. If sports are not enough, Chicago’s vibrant and diverse food scene offers a superb range of global cuisines, from Italian beef sandwiches to Chicago dog, Vietnamese pho, and Mexican tortillas. So, loosen your belt and make some room for chowhound’s delights. With so many things to discover and places to visit, here is your ultimate Chicago tour guide to ease your trip to the city
More than 2.7 million people call Chicago their home. When founded in 1883, only 200 people from the American frontier settled here, and within seven years, the population had reached over 4,000. In the next forty years, between 1850-1890, the population grew from 30,000 to over 1 million, and by the end of the 19th century, it had become the fifth-largest city in the world.
Chicago is the fourth most segregated city in the U.S and is known for its ethnically diverse population. There is 50.8% white (33.5% non-Hispanic and 17.3% Hispanic), 29% Black or African American, 7% Asian, 0.4% Native American and Alaskan, 0.1% Pacific Islanders, 9.6% other races living peacefully in Chicago, making it an incredibly diverse city in the U.S.
Nestled in northeastern Illinois on the southwestern shores of Michigan, Chicago rests on a Continental divide at the site of the Chicago Portage. It connects the Mississippi River with Great Lake Watersheds. In addition, the city’s two main rivers, the Chicago River and the Calumet River, flow through the city. Lake Shore Drive runs a large portion of the city’s waterfront.
Know all about Chicago’s City history here:
Chicago has witnessed wars, a destructive fire, and tremendous transformation in its more than 184 years of history. In 1795, an area was turned over to the U.S. for a military post by native tribes, following its victory in the Northwest Indian War. This area later became a part of Chicago.
During the 18th-century, Potawatomi, a Native American tribe, inhabited the area. Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable, an African descendent, was the first known non-indigenous settler recognized as the ‘Founder of Chicago’.
Chicago was incorporated as a town in 1833 and as a city in 1837 when the population grew to over 4,000. Since 1850, Chicago has been a dominant city in the midwestern U.S.
During World War I, Chicago saw a massive industrial expansion and created several jobs, which attracted African Americans from the Southern U.S. The population of African Americans grew in later years and impacted the city’s culture, which is known as Chicago Black Renaissance.
Today Chicago plays a crucial role in America’s economic, political, social, and cultural history. It has become the country’s most vital business epicenter and one of the ethnically diverse cultural capitals.
71% of Chicagoans follow Christianity, and the remaining population follows Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, Jainism, Islam, and Bahai Faith.
Chicago has been a melting pot of different cultures. Chicago’s ethnically diverse city is the epicenter of rich culture, full of colors, music, art, and spirit. Chicago has been a leader in composing, writing, producing artistic work, and collecting, displaying, and performing various artistic creations. The culture in Chicago has contributed to American culture through its jazz-culture, deep-dish Chicago pizza, and the cubs.
Although the official language of Chicago is English, some common languages spoken by Chicagoans are Spanish, Polish, Tagalog, Arabic, and Chinese. Nearly 80% of the population speaks English, and 30% speak a language other than English. Spanish is the second-most spoken language after English, with approximately 1.4 million people speaking Spanish.
Furthermore, 1.64% Chicagoans speak Polish, 0.67% Chinese (including Mandarin and Cnatonese), and 0.64% Tagalog.
The official currency of Chicago is the U.S. Dollar ($, US$, USD).
City Council & Committees
Chicago’s city government is divided into executive and legislative branches. The City Council is the legislative branch of the Government of Chicago and consists of the Mayor, City Clerk, and Aldermen elected from each of the 50 wards to serve four-year terms. The City Council is responsible for exercising any power and performing any function pertaining to its government. Furthermore, the City Council is also responsible for protecting public health, safety, welfare, licensing, tax, and incurring debt.
The mayor is the Chief Executive of the city, responsible for the city’s administration and management, and is elected for a four-year term. The City Council is the legislative body, elected from 50 wards. However, most of the powers are laid on the Aldermen, each from 50 wards, and sit on the city council to approve most Mayoral actions.
The City Clerk is responsible for keeping records for the City Council and designated repository for city documents.
The treasurer is responsible for managing the cash and investments for Chicago, the four city employee pension funds, and Chicago Teachers pension. Furthermore, the treasurer is also responsible for several programs that promote electronic development in Chicago.
Aldermen are the legislators or members of the City Council who represent the residents of a ward. The Aldermen is the mediator between the government and his constituency and informs about city functions within his ward.
Chicago’s climate can be categorized as hot-summer humid continental. The city lies between the Continental Divide and the Atlantic Ocean and experiences cold winters and warm summers. Lake Michigan has a moderate influence on the temperature fluctuation while boosting the amount of snowfall in the city.
When to Go
The ideal season to visit Chicago is during Spring (April-May) and autumn (September-October) when the temperature is pleasant. During these two seasons, the city hosts numerous festivals. Summer is considered the peak tourist season in Chicago when the city welcomes a large number of tourists.
Every traveler entering the USA is required to show a passport. All travelers, including the U.S. citizens, traveling by flight between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Bermuda, Central, and South America are required to show a valid passport.
If you are traveling to Chicago from a different nation, ensure your passport has six months validity and has two or more blank pages.
If you belong to one of the 38 countries part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), you can apply for ESTA. ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization allows tourists from VWP member nations to enter the USA for 90 days for tourism, business, and medical purposes.
The first step to applying for a U.S. visa is to complete the DS-160 form. Once you submit it online, schedule an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country. You will need some documents to present at the interview.
The purpose of your trip to the USA determines the type of visa you need. Generally, business, tourism, or education visas are some of the common visas. Apart from that, below is the list of visas:
- Immigrant Visa (For permanent residency)
- Visitor’s Visa (For tourism & business)
- Fiance Visa (To marry an US citizen and live in the US)
- Student Visa
- Business or professional visas for citizens of Canada and Mexico
- Transit Visa (For traveling through the US on your way to another country)
The Windy City offers a good range of hotels to its guests. Chicago has over 140 hotels and 45,000 rooms in its Central business district. From luxury hotels to affordable B&Bs, Chicago accommodates all kinds of guests.
When in the US, call 911 in case of any emergency. Chicago has a good number of public and private hospitals. Below are the emergency contact numbers of emergency services in Chicago City.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Location: 251 E Huron St., Chicago IL 60611
Contact: +1 312 926 2000
Rush University Medical Center
Location: 1620 W Harrison St., Chicago IL 60612
Contact: +1 312 942 5000
- Dress Code
There is no dress code to roam around the city of Chicago. You can wear anything according to your mood. However, some upmarket restaurants, bars, and clubs require their customers to wear a particular dress. You can check in with them before visiting these places.
Chicago- Officially the most fantastic drinking city of America has some of the most pulsing pubs, bars, and clubs in the U.S. Chicago raises the toast with the best cheers from beer drinkers to gin lovers to aficionados. These places allow only adults above 21 years of age. Maintain your social etiquette and don’t create chaos in public.
Although tipping is your choice, Chicagoans always tip at 15%-20% of your total bill in cash, only if you feel you have been treated well.
Photography is a common activity in Chicago. The general public is allowed to take pictures within public places and CTA stations, and transit vehicles for personal and non-commercial use. However, a few places like Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Lincoln Park Zoo South Pond Nature Boardwalk, and the Garfield Park Conservatory.
Home to over 2.7 million people, Chicago consists of 77 neighborhoods representing diverse cultures, history, cuisine, and experiences. As the third-largest city in the U.S, Chicago boasts some of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the country, where there’s no dearth of activities to do in Chicago. Here are some popular neighborhoods in Chicago:
- Lincoln Park
Residents living in Lincoln Park share their neighborhood with penguins, monkeys, and rare animals from around the world. Isn’t it amazing? This designated community area in Northern Chicago is home to Lincoln Park, Chicago’s largest park, and is an affluent neighborhood in the state.
Located on the northern side of Chicago, Lake View includes smaller neighborhood enclaves and is the second-largest community area by population in Chicago. Boystown, famous for its LGBTQ community, hosts the annual LGBTQ Pride Parade, music festivals, Halloween, and more.
- Gold Coast
The Gold Coast Neighborhood in Chicago grew during the Great Chicago Fire. In 1882, when Potter Palmer, a millionaire, moved to the Gold Coast area, several wealthiest Chicagoans followed him. Today, the neighborhood is home to numerous affluent residents, high-end restaurants, and upscale boutiques. Since the area shares its border with Lake Michigan, several apartments have lake views and easy access to the beach and lakefront trail.
Bucktown is one of Chicago’s trendiest towns and close to Wicker Park. The Kennedy Expressway runs through the neighborhood, giving the residents access to Chicagoland and other areas. Bucktown is an affordable neighborhood in comparison to its neighbor Lincoln Park.
- Wicker Park
Wicker Park has been a residential enclave since 1937, when Chicago was incorporated as a city. It is close to Bucktown and has a triangular park in the center. This trendy and bustling neighborhood has upscale boutiques, restaurants, and coffee shops.
Museums and Culture Tour
The Field Museum
Museum of Science and Industry
Art Institute of Chicago
Lincoln Park Zoo
360 Chicago Observation Deck
Chicago Food and Wine Tour
High End Dining
Chicago is home to diverse cultures, races, and ethnicities, and the influence can be seen in its cuisines. Chicago’s population exploded during the city’s incorporation in 1837, when 4,000 people came to the city to live. Within a few years, the population grew exponentially, which influenced the town’s culinary traditions. The Chicagoan food today is influenced by immigrants residing in the city.
Today, when someone talks about Chicagoan food, four things come to mind: pizza, hot dog, Italian beef sandwich, and steak. Chicagoans like their pizza with a deep crust and loads of toppings. The steakhouses prepare juicily, and succulent steaks and hot dogs are always there in every corner.
When it comes to chilled beers, the city hosts some of the best breweries, where you can spend some good times relishing the finely crafted beers of the city and delicious food.
Before you visit Chicago, find out the best bars, and best restaurants in Chicago: