Chicago is the third largest city in the United States and is home to around 2.8 million people. It is the largest city in the Midwest and is situated on the shores of lake Michigan.
Chicago is known by several nicknames – The Windy City, the City That Works, The City of Big Shoulders, and The Second City – but none can truly capture what Chicago is all about. Famous for corrupt politics, the elevated train, bone-chilling cold winters, and deep dish-pizza, it’s often overlooked for the larger, glitzier New York City. But Chicago isn’t just a business center with good public transportation, hardy citizens, and tasty ‘za. It’s a flourishing metropolis full of world-class museums, unique dining for every taste, and surprises around every corner.
Take a boat ride down the Chicago River and learn about the architectural marvels that compose the city’s skyline. Chose sides in the north vs. south (Cubs vs. Sox) baseball battle by cheering on your team at a game. Stoll down the Lakefront Path or drool over designer duds as you walk down Michigan Avenue. Visit the nation’s largest free Zoo, ride a giant Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, and come face to face with the bones of a giant T-Rex at the Field Museum.
Sip cocktails from the top of one of the tallest buildings in the country, take your pick of any cuisine from around the world, find your way to a hidden speakeasy, or save a few bucks toting your favorite wine to a “bring your own” restaurant. From the opulence of the Magnificent Mile and the grandeur of glittering skyscrapers to the peaceful quiet of the city’s many parks and the unpretentious welcome of the neighborhood pubs, the city offers something for everyone, at every budget.
Chicago is divided into over 200 neighborhoods, though the lines between each often blur. The main neighborhoods frequented by tourists include:
- The Loop: This is the downtown area where most of the city’s businesses can be found. Museum Campus, home to most of the city’s major museums, and Grant Park are also located here.
- Gold Coast/Streeterville/The Magnificent Mile: Just north of the Loop over the Chicago River, the area between Michigan Avenue (the Magnificent Mile) and Lake Michigan is known as the Gold Coast, or Streeterville. Expensive boutiques and swanky restaurants line the streets along with some of the city’s most expensive addresses.
- Lincoln Park: One of the city’s most famous ‘hoods, Lincoln Park is named for the large park that dominates its eastern edge. Historically a more affluent neighborhood, it is also home to DePaul University, so residents are a mix of wealthy families and rowdy college students.
- Lakeview/Wrigleyville/Boystown: North of Belmont, South of Irving Park, and encompassing the area between the Lake and Ashland Ave, these neighborhoods all seem to blend together. All are technically considered to be part of Lakeview, while Wrigleyville refers to the area around Wrigley Field and Boystown is the stretch of Halsted between Belmont and Addison.
- Bucktown/Wicker Park/Ukrainian Village/Logan Square: Once seedy neighborhoods on Chicago’s northwest side, these areas have now become havens for hipsters, trendy clubs, and upscale boutiques.
Visitors from most countries will need a visa to enter the United States. Residents from the 35 countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program will need only a passport. These countries are: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
The city of Chicago covers 234 square miles. 6.9 square miles of that area are water.
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US Dollar ($)
Chicago is in the Central time zone, UTC-6. Daylight savings is observed from early March through early November.
English is, of course, the official language in Chicago, but in certain areas Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Polish are also widely spoken.
Chicago is often referred to as The Second City, The Windy City, The City that Works, and The City of Big Shoulders. Though visitors will often call it Chi-town, you’ll have a hard time finding a local who will.
Chicago’s sale tax rate is one of the highest in the country at 10.25%. Downtown hotels charge a separate hotel tax rate of 15.4%.
Electricity and Plugs
The U.S. is on the 110V 60Hz system, and the plugs are of two varieties – one with two parallel flat pieces with a circular grounding pin beneath them, and another with just the two flat pieces and no grounding pin.
Using the Telephone
Chicago has three area codes – 312, 773, and 872. From landlines you’ll need to dial 1 plus the area code, plus the 7-digit number for all calls. From cellphones, you will need to dial the area code and 7-digit number.
Useful Telephone Numbers
In an emergency, dial 911. For non-emergency issues, call the city’s helpline at 311.
The Chicago flag was designed in 1917 and features four red stars between two blue horizontal strips on a white background.