A Top 10 List: Get to Know Chicago!
If you’re new to the area, welcome! You’re now a resident of one of the coolest cities in the country. Chicago, named after a local garlic plant in the Native American vernacular, is a great place to grow up, start a family, and bask in the charm of middle America.
We may not have the ocean, but we do have a Great Lake, Lake Michigan, right off our shores. We may be a “Second City,” but we have other nicknames, too. We’re “The City of Big Shoulders, “The White City,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” and “the Windy City.” Chicago has so many nicknames because the city means many different things to the multitude of people who’ve passed through over the years.
As a city with 2.7 million people (9.4 million if you count the suburbs), this isn’t a city you can get to know quickly. Those of us who have lived here for decades are still finding out how deep and rich the region is, in terms of its history, people, and culture. Chicago is a living place that continues to change and grow.
That means it’s impossible to get to know the city within a single blog post, but here are 10 things you should know about the city that’s now your home.
1. Yes, we love pizza, hot dogs, and Italian beef – but when it comes to cuisine, Chicagoans thrive on variety. Go try different types of food!
Chicago is known for its pizza, and rightfully so. After all, deep-dish pie was born here. There are more than 3,000 pizza places in this town, and many of them are really good. You’ll have to find your own favorite, of course, but among the pizzerias locals swear by are Lou Malnati’s and Pequod’s.
But pizza, the Chicago-style dog, and meat (see our cattle-raising history) aren’t the only foods we eat. It’s true that fare here tends to be hearty and comforting. But we also have a huge variety of restaurants, from vegetarian (Chicago Diner and Green Zebra are local highlights) to fine dining (Alinea). Whatever you have a taste for, you’ll find it here, probably at a neighborhood spot close by. We follow food trends as much as any other city, and we have some of the best restaurants in the country. You’ll soon find that out for yourself.
Insider tip: You can quickly assess the character of your neighborhood by checking out the eateries that call it home. Chic neighborhoods will offer stylish restaurants, for example. So, as your choosing where to move, let your stomach be your guide. 🙂
2. Our cultural institutions and events are among the best in the nation. Go visit them.
You may have heard about the Art Institute of Chicago, which is one of the biggest museums in the world – the post-Impressionist art collection is stunning. You may also know of the Field Museum of Natural History, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium, all by the lake on Museum Campus – but Chicago is home to dozens of other cultural institutions, from the Museum of Broadcast Communications and the Museum of Surgical Science to the National Mexican Art Museum. The Museum of Science and Industry and the Chicago History Museum are also wonderful institutions.
Additionally, you can enjoy Broadway in Chicago, numerous symphony orchestras (like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra), the Lyric Opera, consistently excellent shows at the Shakespeare Theatre, and a thriving theatre scene that includes everything from the famous Second City to small, independent performances and free, outdoor summer music and movie festivals all over town. There’s no dearth of culture in this town.
Insider tip: Don’t always stick with the bigger theaters in our theatrical district, or the places you’ve heard of. They’re amazing, but you can find good theater all over the city.
3. Chicago is a great sports town. Find your team, and be a fan!
If you’re into sports at all, you know about our Bears, our Cubs, the White Sox, the Blackhawks, the Chicago Fire. But did you know we have a great fast-pitch softball team? We have other great women’s sports teams as well – the Chicago Red Stars (soccer), the Chicago Sky (basketball) and the Windy City Rollers (roller derby) among them. We have minor league baseball (a new team starts playing in Rosemont in 2018!) and hockey, racetracks, and college sports, too.
This is a city that is passionate about athletics. You’ll find fair-weather fans anywhere, but here you’ll find true fan communities – and we stand behind our teams! The sports culture here is sincerely awesome, no matter which one you love most.
Insider tip: If you’re moving into a neighborhood near one of Chicago’s stadiums or fields, such as in Lakeview, try to avoid scheduling your things to arrive on a game day. The extra foot and car traffic and a lack of parking will make everything more complicated.
4. Downtown and the Loop aren’t all there is to Chicago. Get out into the neighborhoods!
Did you know that there are 77 different neighborhoods in the city of Chicago? And each of them has its own feel, its own diverse population, and its own unique character. Don’t stay in the touristy, business areas of the city. Get out and about! You’ll learn so much about the forces that have shaped the city, and the people who live here.
Chicago has a vibrant and amazing history, but it has such a shiny center that sometimes you have to go out of your way to find it. So get off the beaten path and find out something interesting! Go to Chinatown and have dim sum. Get into Andersonville to get a taste of Swedish culture and Lincoln Park for some great night life. Hike over to Logan Square to be where the trends begin. Visit Lakeview if you’re into the bar scene. Get out and explore!
Insider tip: Chicago also features 570 neighborhood parks that make up 8.5 percent of the city, and all of them have their own beauties. They’ll also feature events throughout the year, so check out your local park!
5. The suburbs aren’t a dearth of culture. They’re awesome, too! Don’t stay downtown all the time.
The city of Chicago is great. The suburbs have character, too. They’re where you’ll find gems like the Baha’i Temple, Northwestern University, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home & Studio, the Chicago Botanic Garden, Brookfield Zoo, Lamb’s Farm, the Illinois Holocaust Museum, Morton Arboretum, Cantigny Park, and a dozen more interesting and beautiful destinations. Even O’Hare International Airport, one of the biggest travel hubs in the country, is technically in a suburb (Rosemont) filled with amenities.
The suburbs are home to historic theaters and hotels, museums, parks – even beaches. In the north, you’ll find picturesque downtowns in lakefront towns like Wilmette and Lake Forest. In the northwest, you’ll find Schaumburg with its giant retail corridor and Woodfield Mall, along with fine dining in Wheeling on Restaurant Row. In the west, Naperville is home to a growing community full of attractions, and Oak Park is filled with architectural gems. In the south, even northwestern Indiana residents come to Chicago for their work and entertainment needs.
Insider tip: Some of the best school districts in the country, such as the New Trier district, are in Chicago’s northern suburbs. If you’re looking for an “elite” school experience for your kids, try moving into towns like Glencoe, Winnetka, Northbrook, Deerfield, Vernon Hills, or Lincolnshire.
6. We love the nightlife! Chicago is social, and fun, and diverse. Enjoy it!
On weekend evenings (and that sometimes counts Thursdays), Chicago residents love to go out and be seen. Of course, there’s no point in leaving your house before 10 p.m. The city boasts more than 100 bars and establishments here that open till 4 a.m. nightly – and 5 a.m. on Saturday evenings. Whether you’re into dive bars, dance clubs, or the gay scene, you can keep the party going almost the whole night long. Some local favorites include Studio Paris, Smart Bar, and Berlin.
If bars and nightclubs aren’t your scene, we have alternatives. Take in a Brew & View film at The Vic, see a band at Lincoln Hall or Schuba’s or the Metro, or go to The Music Box for movies. As with most big cities, it’s not too difficult to meet people, as long as you get yourself out there. Fortunately, with so many different types of people here, you’ll definitely find your crew.
Insider tip: Meeting people in Chicagoland requires a bit of hustle initially. Try joining a health club or join in group activities in order to find people with your interests!
7. Our public transportation is vital to city life. We all love it and hate it!
Here in town, we use the L trains from the Chicago Transit Authority to get around (the “L” stands for elevated, but that’s not true of the entire route). Then, we use the Metra commuter rail to go the suburbs. Of course, city dwellers and suburbanites alike use Ubers and Lyfts and cabs, along with car-sharing services like ZipCar and bike-sharing services like Divvy. We even have water taxis that can get you from the train stations to the Magnificent Mile via the Chicago River in-season.
The L is clean and safe and used by millions every day, and we depend on it. But valid criticisms do exist – you’ll notice, looking at our transit maps, that there’s no way to get from north to west or south to west (can’t go east, that’s in the lake) without passing through downtown. To be honest, other cities have better systems. Partly, the problem with Chicago is that it’s so spread out. In New York, Boston, or Washington, D.C., travel times are shorter. But it’s often better than driving – and parking!
Insider tip: Our streets are numbered systematically, starting at zero at the intersection of State and Madison. Learn it and you’ll never get lost.
8. Chicago may be the “windy city” because of our politicians, but our leaders do care and do good work.
Legend has it that it’s our politicians blowing hot air that got Chicago its nickname. And it’s true that this town has long had a reputation for corruptness in its politicians. But that doesn’t mean our leaders are all bad, or that they only care about lining their own pockets. This is a resilient place, determined to succeed.
Since the beginning, the history of Chicago has included city leaders working to create a great and livable city. The way the city rebounded after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 is one major example. Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan for Chicago, which influenced aspects of how the city developed, is another. More recently, Chicago has taken the lead in creating a city that is friendly to cyclists, encourages the development of renewable energy sources, and mitigates waste. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is also proactive about attracting businesses and major events to Chicago.
Insider tip: Our past mayors loom large in Chicago’s history. For example, Mayor Richard M. Daley, who retired in 2010, left behind an environmental legacy that affects us daily even today. Our City Hall has a rooftop garden with a beehive!
9. Winter here can be tough, but the city slows down only a little. Let the cold help you appreciate the other three seasons!
Actor Gary Cole once said, “I miss everything about Chicago, except January and February.” That’s because after the excitement of Christmas, citizens here do tend to hibernate a bit until March. Chicagoans, though, know how to deal with snow and ice. The city and suburbs alike prepare all year for winter – which means that when blizzards come, municipalities are ready with salt, snowplows, and good information.
Still, things happen here year round, from the Chicago Humanities Festival in October to Chicago Restaurant Week in February. Then, as soon as it’s even slightly warm out, everyone gets out and about visiting our city parks, walking along the lakefront and the river walk, and enjoying the sun. The cold here gives us a reason to get out and always enjoy the weather when it’s nice. We don’t take it for granted!
Insider tip: If you’re moving in the winter, don’t forget to start early to take advantage of as much sunlight as possible! You’ll want to make sure walks and driveways are clear before you start bringing boxes in and out of a residence.
10. People here work hard and they play hard. We urge you to support local businesses.
Chicago is the third biggest city in the country by population, and many of its residents, even if from somewhere else, are Midwesterners through and through. We love sports and shopping and we’re a bit stubborn (we still call the Willis Tower the Sears Tower). We love food (except catsup when it’s on our hot dogs), and we get outdoors when we can.
This is a huge city with many entrepreneurs and family-run businesses. They make the area unique and special. Whether it’s a donut shop or a moving company like ours, Chicago is full of great businesses run by interesting people. They are open and friendly, with a sense of history, so get to know them however you can. Your city life will be richer for it!
Insider tip: Not all the best places in Chicago look sleek, fancy or big. Step into a mom-and-pop shop or a dive, and you might make a true discovery! Every neighborhood has great local stores with character.
…Talk to Us!
And, if you are new to Chicago, or planning on moving to Chicago – or going to move within Chicago – consider using Elite Moving & Storage. We’re a family-owned business that works hard to provide a great, friendly service to Chicagoland clients. We’re proud to be the best local moving company in one of the greatest cities in the world. Elite Moving & Storage is a one-stop shop for all your moving needs. We are a family-owned full-service Chicagoland moving company, serving the city and surrounding suburbs.
We specialize in local and state-to-state relocations, packing services, and storage. We help 3000 families a year with their moves, relocations, and packing and storage needs. Elite Moving & Storage has been in business for over 10 years, with an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. We are big enough to move you, and small enough to care. Go to “Request A Quote” block at the top of the page to get a estimate and find out how we can help you with the moving process.