Chicago's Ultimate Visitor's Guide!
Know All This Before You Go to The Windy City
The Chicago skyline stands tall even from Wrigley Field.
By Chicago Native Coleen Nielsen
Chicago is often referred to as the Windy City, but we would like to start a trend to call it the "Everything City."
It's only really windy here a few days a year. The nickname originates from Chicago's windy political climate, and it has stuck like a baseball in the Wrigley Field ivy.
Chicago has a great cultural scene including theater and operas. Every sport imaginable is played here. It is right on the water, so there is plenty of boating and beach volleyball, as well. There are museums and art centers exhibiting collections from all over the world.
Chicago, Chicago, is definitely PubClub.com's kind of town.
even when the sun isn't shining over the lake.
The Navy Pier is one of the city's top attractions.
Not only that, but Chicago is home to some of the most fabulous shopping and restaurants in the USA. So there is really something for everyone in this town.
Every year there is a fantastic list of neighborhood festivals and activities which take place through out the summer and fall that are either free or cost as little as $5.
These include weekly dance lessons and fireworks displays at Navy Pier, Gold Coast Art Fair, Taste of Chicago and many ethnic fests and parades . One of the more popular events is the Air and Water show where you can see B-1 bombers " attack" the beaches along Lake Michigan, watch Navy Seals and the Blue Angels strut their stuff and show us how our tax dollars are being spent.
Barack Obama's Neighborhood
Barack and Michelle Obama take in the Chicago lakeside view.
The president maintains his red brick house in Hyde Park at 5046 South Greenwood Ave. It's swarming with the Secret Service so getting a picture is impossible, but the neighborhood adjacent to the University of Chicago has become a tourist attraction. The city gives tours of the neighborhood on select days (April 18, July 18 and Sept. 19. It's one of several tours conducted by the city throughout the year, including one previewing St. Patrick's Day and visiting the city's parks. $50. Info: (312) 742.1190 or ChicagoNeighborhoodTours.com
Chicago Arrival and Orientation Information
The famed Chicago "el" train is as fast as a speeding bullet.
The busiest arrival point for those flying into Chicago is O'Hare International Airport. Smaller airlines utilized the older Midway airport, which is undergoing a renovation.
Any entrance into Chicago comes with a breathtaking view into the city. Chicago's skyline is absolutely amazing. It contains two of the world's tallest buildings, other high-rises and hotels with interesting architecture.
There is plenty of time to enjoy the view because Chicago's traffic is thicker than the ivy at Wrigley Field. This, along with limited and expensive parking, make getting around Chicago in a car difficult; expect to pay $20-30/day for parking. Fortunately, there is good public transportation.
The major mode of moving within the city is the elevated train, or "the el." Chicagoans take it everywhere: to work,the parks, museums and especially to Wrigley Field for Cubs games. The el is easy to navigate and each stop is clearly marked and announced by the conductor. There is also a map inside each car which shows all stops along that particular route. The downside is that the trains are not very modern or clean and it can be a bit dicey to ride after dark.
There is also a bus system, but its complicated even for locals so its hardly an option for tourists.
Public transportation operates on a FareCard system instead of cash. Cards can be purchased at card vending centers at each station.
When the weather is good, walking is a quick and easy way to see the city. Just about any place in the downtown area can be reached in 20-30 minutes.
Cabs are also highly recommended for transportation. If the destination is off the beaten path, be sure and provide the driver with have the address.
Chicago is remarkably easy to navigate. The North/South and East/West corridors are State Street and Madison Avenue; everything goes up from there depending on which direction one is headed. Each block increases in 100 increments, so to get from, say, 500 North Michigan to 200 South Michigan, it's simply seven blocks away, or one mile.
Wrigleyville is home to the loveable Cubbies.
Chicago's diversity and much of its personality can be experienced through various neighborhoods. Each has distinctive bars, restaurants and people:
• Gold Coast/Rush and Division. Located just off Michigan Avenue at Rush and Division streets in a downtown central business area. It has many bars and upscale restaurants and most of Chicago's VIPs.
• Lincoln Park/Wrigleyville. Lincoln Park is where most people live after they get out of college. It has a good mix of dance bars, sports bars and regular old-fashioned pubs. Adjacent Wrigleyville is home to the Cubs and several of Chicago's best bars.
• Wicker Park/Bucktown. Chicago's artistic community, where a lot of hot clubs are located. Adjacent to The Loop, the city's downtown business district and an after-work hot spot.
As a happening and vibrant city, finding accommodations in Chicago can be a challenge. Book a room in advance; Chicago is a major convention town and room rates often double during major shows.
If money is no object, Michigan Avenue is centrally located and has nearly all major chains as well as some classic Chicago hotels. Several are historic landmarks, worthy of a visit even for those without a room there. These include the Drake, The Palmer House Hilton, Hotel Barnham and The Ritz Carlton.
Those on a budget will likely have to stay in the suburbs. They are usually half the cost of the downtown hotels; use the Neighborhoods section above as a guide to the different areas.
Travelers looking for friendly locals will love Chicago. The people here will always converse with strangers, and do they ever party. Must be the weather.
They are a long-suffering but optimistic lot. No matter how bad their sports teams may be one year, they line up the next hoping this will be THE year for their team.
One gets the feeling that if the beloved Cubbies ever mount anything approaching a dynasty, the people will be unable to cope with the success. The basketball Bulls were one thing, but cutting back on the Old Style beer on a beautiful day in Wrigley Field to actually pay attention to what is happening on the baseball diamond would destroy the people's carefree attitude about the team.
Chicago is a working class- city. The people were raised with Midwest values and are full of local pride.
Old Style, a sunny day and the beloved Cubbies are endearing to Chicagoans.
The bartenders are some of the most knowledgeable people one will ever meet and are happy to share their knowledge of Chicago.
Chicago is one of America's greatest sports towns. There is a huge rivalry between the White Sox and Cubs fans (the South side vs. the North side), which gets battled out every year in the Cross-town Classic. One thing everyone agrees on is the NFL's Bears; people are still doing the the Super Bowl Shuffle and reliving the days of Mike Ditka. There are a lot of Notre Dame fans in town because Chicago is only about two hours from South Bend, Ind.
Nothing, however, comes close to Michael Jordan. He's a God in town, and deservedly so. Now, the Bulls may not win another NBA championship for 100 years, but Chicagoans will talk about the franchise's success as if it happened yesterday and Jordon will be on a pedestal higher than the Sears Tower.
Obtaining tickets from the box office early in a season is nearly impossible. Ticket brokers thrive in these times.
Annual conditions in Chicago are as follows:
• January: Bitterly cold and snowy
• February: Miserably cold and snowy
• March Cold and windy
• April: Cold and rainy
• May: Beautiful picture perfect
• June: Starting to get hot and humid
• July: Hot and humid
• August: Disgustingly hot and humid
• September: Beautiful picture perfect
• October: Mild temperatures and rain
• November: Chilly and rain/snow combo
• December: Really cold and snowy
Chicago is GMT - 6, Central Time in the U.S.
When To Go
September is the ideal time to visit Chicago. The weather is perfect, most of the tourists are gone and most college and professional sports teams are in season. The busiest time is May through July, but the summer months are very hot and humid; in August the temperature typically stays above 90 degrees and it does not cool off at night. Think sauna.
If weather is no object, Christmas in Chicago is spectacular. The department stores all decorate their windows and interiors, and there are several annual traditions which the locals have grown up with. The tree at Daley Plaza, Skate on State, The Nutcracker, The Walnut Room at Marshall Fields and Christmas Around the World at the Museum of Science and Industry are just a few of these special events. Plus, how can you have Christmas without snow, hot chocolate and apple cider?