Here’s your crash course in Chicago: this city of nearly 3 million is located on Lake Michigan and is the third largest city in the United States by population. Chicago is not the capital of Illinois (the capital is Springfield), but it is a major hub for American Midwestern culture, from arts and culture to business and global connectivity.
For 10 more things to know before moving to Chicago, read on!
The location of Chicago was home to various settlements along the mouth of the Chicago and the banks of Lake Michigan, but the town was officially incorporated in 1833. The city has been built and rebuilt multiple times due to the swampy land of the area and historical events like the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The city became one of the shining stars in the United States as it connected the West and East with railroads and hosted two World’s Fairs. American icons like singer Jennifer Hudson, actor Harrison Ford, and former First Family of the United States, the Obamas, all called Chicago home.
Chicago is located in the Central Daylight Time Zone (CDT). It is one hour behind New York City and two hours ahead of Los Angeles.
No matter the true origin of the city’s nickname, “The Windy City,” residents will certainly admit the city is rather gusty. Chicago has four distinct seasons. Spring is mild and damp, with many overcast days. Summers are warm and humid. Autumn is cool and dry. Winters are cold and snowy. After the cold winters, it is no surprise that people in Chicago seem to spend every moment possible outside when the weather is nice. The lake has a great impact on the weather of the region. Wind strength and precipitation levels change rapidly throughout all the seasons, so it is smart to be prepared for different types of weather before you leave for the day.
The downtown heart of the city is concentrated close to the water (both the river and the lake). This area is encircled by elevated tracks of the transit system, so now the area is known as the “Loop.” North Michigan Avenue is called the “Magnificent Mile” as recognition as the premiere business and shopping location. The streets mostly run in a grid structure with multiple highways connecting the greater Chicagoland suburbs.
Americans love rooting for their favorite sports teams, and Chicago is no exception. For baseball fans, head to Wrigley Field to cheer on the Chicago Cubs or to the south side to cheer on the White Sox. In the fall, the Chicago Bears play football at Soldier Field. The Chicago Bulls have 6 NBA championships to their credit and the Chicago Sky is the professional women’s basketball team. The Blackhawks are the NHL team while the Fire and Red Stars both play soccer.
Whether you are staying in Chicago for one month or one decade, you will always have something new to do. In addition to the hundreds of festivals and events around town every week, Chicago has world-class institutions for all interests. Here are a few common first stops for new residents:
The transit system in Chicago is second to only New York City in the United States. A network of busses and trains connects the city in a dense grid. The “L” is what the locals call the “elevated” trains, although not all of the trains are actually elevated above ground. The blue and red train lines run around the clock. Some bus lines also run constantly. There are direct transit options from the airport. Other methods of transportation in Chicago include water taxis, bikes, and ride sharing/taxis, although the city is extremely walkable as well.
Chicago has a few very famous food traditions that you must explore during your time in the city. Ask locals for their best recommendation for Chicago style deep dish pizza. A Chicago style hot dog is topped with white onions, relish, mustard, a pickle spear, fresh tomatoes, peppers, and nestled in a poppy seed bun. Chicago style popcorn is a blend of caramel corn and cheddar popcorn.
Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes, which are large bodies of freshwater between the United States and Canada. Lake Michigan is bordered by the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Many other large metropolitan cities are situated along the lake. Around the greater Chicago area, residents can often be seen enjoying the water through different activities, like boating, water skiing, or relaxing on sandy beaches.
The people of Chicago are known around the country for their Midwestern friendliness. Don’t hesitate to ask locals for directions or recommendations; it is not unusual to strike up a conversation with someone near you. People from Chicago are called “Chicagoans.” They are hard working and proud, but also know how to have a good time and appreciate being around friends.
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