Eco-friendly travel guide to Chicago advises how to be a responsible tourist. Learn how to explore the attractions in a sustainable way and how to respect the local people and culture. Make your trip green by supporting locally owned hotels, organic restaurants and other businesses. Read more on how to protect the environment by making conscientious choices and how to travel green in Chicago, Illinois, United States of America.
- Air quality: 2.4 / 5
- Exploring by foot: 3.7 / 5
- Exploring by bicycle: 3.9 / 5
- Public transportation: 5 / 5
- Parks: 5 / 5
- Outdoor activities: 5 / 5
- Locals' English level: 5 / 5
- Safety: 3.75 / 5
- Accommodation: US$40 - $1,200
- Budget per day: US$110 - $1,500
- 1 Responsible Travel
- 2 Air Quality and Pollution
- 3 Respect the Culture
- 4 Top 10 Places to Visit
- 5 Explore
- 6 Eat
- 7 Drink
- 8 Activities
- 9 Accommodation
- 10 How to Get There
- 11 Moving Around
- 12 Sustainable Shopping
- 13 Recycling
- 14 Work and Study Abroad
- 15 See Also
Situated in northeastern Illinois and home to over 2.7 million residents, Chicago takes its place behind Los Angeles and New York City as the third-largest city in the United States of America. Bordering 16 miles along the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan, this sparkling gem of a city got to become a major port for the shipping industry with the rapid growth it experienced in the 19th century. Over the years, Chicago grew to become an international center for telecommunications, technology, transportation, industry, finance, and commerce as it continues to evolve.
There's so much more to this Midwestern metropolis than what meets the eye and while it could be pleasing to know that it's a friendly city for tourists, its brutally cold winters might pose a scare to visitors but then, the city compensates with its favorite deep-dish pizza and Malört. Traveling to Chicago is an experience that's worth it and as an eco-friendly traveler hoping to travel responsibly in Chicago, it's quite important to be equipped with some few tips which will go a long way in helping you know the best neighborhoods to stay in, navigate the grid system, and figure out the public transportation options.
- You can use the public transportation in the city to go almost anywhere you want to. The public transportation in Chicago is pretty cool, use it to your advantage. On the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), you can move freely and enjoyably like a local with its eight L lines and 140 bus routes. It doesn't matter where you're going, the CTA's got you because it's likely to have a stop nearby. If you're on your trip to some of the spots you've noted on your itinerary, do well to keep a CTA map with you. More so, take note that an L train can take you from the airport to downtown and wherever you want to whether you fly into O’Hare or Midway.
- Use your Ventra Cards wisely. It's quite possible that you don't know what Ventra Cards are and to simply put it to you, you'll begin to put them into use once you start boarding the CTA because they're the passes that will help you gain entrance. You may choose to recharge your Ventra Cards with a specific amount of money that's fine with you and you can as well purchase a seven-day, three-day, or just a day pass at any of the Ventra kiosks at either of the two airports.
- Chicago has an unpredictable weather. It's almost impossible for you to guess how the weather will be in this city and even the natives who have been living here for years can't make such predictions of what's coming next. As a result, it's advisable that you put on easily removable and replaceable layers. Chicago has a schizophrenic weather and it can go from being its regular "chilly sunshine" or "humid showers" in a matter of hours or in a single week.
- Use the water taxi to explore the city. As a matter of fact, it's recommended that you buy this idea if you're down for viewing the city from a completely different angle. Far beyond to Goose Island, which is quite close to Lincoln Park, and from the South Loop through downtown, there are water taxis available to transport tourists and Commuters, and as it is, it's pretty obvious that Venice, Italy, isn’t the only city that offers water taxis.
- Use Airbnb and Lyft. Airbnb and Lyft work pretty well in this city and they offer you the opportunity of booking your accommodation so you can get to be up and running as soon as you arrive. Thus, download these two apps before you embark on your trip or perhaps, even while you're already in this city. Airbnb will take it easier on your wallet and if you want to live more like a Chicagoan while in town, it's a fun option to consider. Lyft, on the other hand, is a great option for your transport and it's highly recommended if you plan to be out for late-night fun and enjoyment. So, use Lyft after sipping your craft beers at nighttime and use the CTA to go anywhere at daytime. Simply put, Chicago is Airbnb- and Lyft-friendly, and you should use these two apps to make your trip more relaxed and enjoyable.
- Don’t drive downtown. Driving in this beautiful city has its pros and cons and if you'll be considering driving your car in this city, particularly in a place like downtown, we'll advise that you should not even plan to drive here. Why? This is simply because of the cost you can incure over parking, and the expenses of parking may cost you over $50, especially if you plan to stay overnight somewhere around. The Chicago public transport has a set fare of $2.25 and you can enjoy going wherever you plan to go. You can as well find your way around using the CTA tracker or Google Maps after you visit a convenience store or an unlimited ride pass at an L stop to use the city's “L.” Another option you can consider is shared rides; Uber and Lyft, and they're pretty cheap. You can as well use the Chicago’s bike-share program to your advantage. You can enjoy an all-day pass for just $15 and $3, a 30-minute ride.
- Wherever you're going, make sure you give yourself plenty of time. Just to be safe, it's advised to allow more time than you think you need; be it a theater curtain, a dinner reservation, or a meeting. Making an appointment with a rigid start time can be costly if you don't give yourself enough time because the motorways, interstates, freeways, or the controlled-access highways as the locals call it may be unpredictable. And the simple reason is, whether you’re on the El or on the expressway, delays are almost bound to happen because this is a city accommodating about three million people.
- Support local industry. As an eco-friendly traveler in Chicago, supporting the local industry in the city is one of the ways to travel responsibly, and a good way you can do that is by catching a comedy show. Sketch comedy and improv are Chicago's bread and butter, even though you can find all types of comedy in the city. UP Comedy Club Chicago, iO Chicago, Laugh Factory, The Comedy Bar, and Zanies are some of the nice ones you can check out. Chicago is famed to be home to a host of comedians such as Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, and Steve Carell, and the city is popular for improv. The established Compass Players group at the University of Chicago in 1955 by Paul Sills and David Shepherd is where the history of improv stemmed from.
- Be prepared to tip. In several situations, tipping is considered to be customary for service, and it's a general thing in the United States of America.
- Hotel chambermaids are usually tipped $2 per day.
- Bellhops are tipped $2 per bag.
- Valet parking attendants and hotel doormen are tipped around $2.
- For exceptional service, it's ethical to leave a 25%-plus gratuity on the pre-tax amount of your bill for standard service for the waiters, bartenders, and taxi drivers.
- Chicago is not so expensive and you don’t have to spend your life savings. One of the reasons why you'll love visiting Chicago is that you don't have to break the bank to enjoy yourself here. Many restaurants in this city are BYOB, The CTA provides super cheap transportation throughout the city, and several museums in the city like the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and many others have free entry. Those traveling on a budget can still have a fun time coming to Chicago because of the plethora of free and cheap activities.
Other valid and helpful tips/info to help you travel responsibly in Chicago;
- Road rules
- It is illegal to transport alcohol with a broken seal.
- It's illegal for both drivers and passengers to consume alcohol while traveling
- It is illegal to talk or text on a mobile phone while driving
- You must have a valid driver’s license and auto insurance to drive.
- You have to be at least 21 before you can rent a vehicle at car rental companies and if you're below 25, you may pay surcharges.
- Age 16 is the legal driving age
- Speed limits are clearly displayed on road signs and speeds are measured in miles-per-hour.
- Always drive on the right-hand side of the road.
- Emergency services
- Police/Fire Emergency — 911
- Police/Fire/City Services — 311
- It is customary to tip bartenders; generally, $1 per drink ordered.
- Open containers cannot be taken outside the premises of the drinking establishment.
- A valid photo ID is required.
- The legal drinking age is 21.
- Age regulations
- Legal age to purchase cigarettes and tobacco is 21
- Legal drinking and gambling age is 21
- Legal driving age is 16
- Legal car rental age is 21 with surcharges for those below 25
Air Quality and Pollution
From dust and fires to wood burning, airplanes, construction sites, and idling motor vehicles to power plants, the Midwest is full of many sources of air contamination, and it's no surprise that the air quality in Chicago is not really healthy. The exhaust and emissions on the ground colliding with the sun factor, the summertime heat, and stagnant air are factors that affect Chicago's air quality, and recently, one can say that the air in the city has been posing some moderate or unhealthy risks.
Due to ozone and particulate matter, Chicago was ranked to have the 18th worst air pollution among the cities in the United States of America, and this was in accordance with the American Lung Association. Speaking of the climate condition in Chicago, spring and fall seem to be the most pleasant of all the seasons in the city because they tend to have more moderate temperatures. There are frequent short fluctuations in wind direction, cloudiness, humidity, and temperature in this city and with warm summers and cold winters, the climate here is typically continental, which is quite okay.
Respect the Culture
There are lots of things Chicago is famous for, which, of course, represent its culture. Famed for its Chicago-style hot dog and the Italian beef sandwich and the world-renowned deep-dish pizza, the various popular culinary dishes in the city are one of the things the city is notable for. And, one can say that Chicago does keep growing strong in cultivating its strong tradition of performing arts, dance, popular music, and classical music which are rooted in Western civilization and, its momentous continuous progress or invention in diverse performing arts, which include soul, jazz, gospel, hip hop, blues, house music, and improvisational comedy is what the culture of Chicago is known for. Respecting the culture in Chicago is not pretty much a big deal because the essential thing you need to is to respect all that's of the city. Chicagoans, on the other hand, are people who take pride in their city, they don't joke with their local beers, and you can rely on them because of their loyalty to who and the things they love.
Top 10 Places to Visit
There are lots of must-visit attractions in Chicago and it doesn't matter if you're a resident or a tourist for the city has an array of ideas on what to do and tons of nice places all can visit. Boasting a botanical conservatory brimming with thousands of plants, home to the world’s largest dinosaur, and famous to be the birthplace of the skyscraper, it's quite glaring that the Windy City is a cultural hub that offers inspiring attractions with its plentiful zoos, parks, high-rises, museums, art galleries, and many more.
- Navy Pier: It's the number one destination for both visitors and locals in the city and it's the right spot for families, seniors, singles, and young people who want to relax and have fun as it's a stunning 50-acre brimming with restaurants, shops, museums, entertainment, and activities. The 1.5-mile long pier opened to the public in 1916 and it was originally purposed for recreational, public entertainment, and shipping functions. There are lots of things you can do here; you can hit up the Pier Park for a round of miniature golf course or enjoy riding on the 150-foot Ferris wheel. You can as well enjoy watching performances and classics at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; see dozens of lively interactive exhibits like the Kovler Family Climbing Schooner, Dinosaur Expedition, BIG Backyard, and the Inventing Lab at the Chicago Children’s Museum; and enjoy boat cruises.
- The Art Institute of Chicago: Its complex measures 400,000 square feet and over the years, several other buildings have been added on. Its main building was initially built for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and designed in the beaux-arts style by Coolidge, Rutan, and Shepley. Popular for its collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings which include numerous paintings by Claude Monet and Renoir's 1879 Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando, this institute has pieces from a variety of architectural drawings, textiles, decorative arts, sculpture, photography, prints, painting, and more which span thousands of years. There are hundreds of thousands of artworks at this world-class museum.
- Millennium Park: This area of the city is a convenient place to settle down and it shares close proximity to great shopping centers and most other major attractions in the city. There is a whole lot you can do here; you can visit the Lurie Garden which is usually free and cost no dime all through the year, hit up the outdoor concert venue; Jay Pritzker Pavilion, to see a performance, and check out the Crown Fountain which is another top attraction in Millennium Park. Millennium Park is bordered by Monroe Street to the south, Randolph Street to the north, Columbus Drive to the east, and Michigan Avenue to the west. It's situated in downtown Chicago and it's part of the larger Grant Park.
- Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain: Creating an impressive display each minute with the 15,000 gallons of water through nearly 200 nozzles it shoots, the fountain bursts to life hourly, from 8 am to 11 pm. The central fountain is surrounded by four seahorses and it's designed in the period's iconic Art Deco style. Clarence Buckingham Memorial Fountain is one of the largest in the world and it was constructed in the year 1927 as a donation from the family. It as well hosts an array of some of the city's top attractions such as the Grant Park which holds music and food festivals, hosts events, and houses numerous recreational facilities and gardens. There are as well other attractions housed at the Museum Campus which is one of the main tourist sites here.
- The Shedd Aquarium: It's strongly recommended to buy tickets in advance if you'll be coming here because this place easily offers a full-day excursion with its several programming and activities. From look-and-learn experiences to live dives and feedings, it offers a detailed daily schedule that includes spotlight sessions, and it's divided into diverse geographical exhibits. You'll find an array of distinct fish and coral species housed here and in general, there are about 32,000 animals here; beluga whales, penguins, frogs, sharks, and sea otters.
- Willis Tower SkyDeck: It's one of the most popular attractions in Chicago and if you'll be coming here, look forward to long lines as it's hugely popular. From every angle, the Skydeck provides views that are breathtaking, and it's an ideal locale for those who want to do it for the gram. It’s the tallest spot to sightsee in Chicago, it's above the city, and it's a must-visit. If you desire to get an awe-inspiring 360-degree view of the city, come here.
- Chicago Riverwalk: Here's a place where can hit up if you're in the mood for some rejuvenating activities. There are lots of available options offered to help you actively traverse the river and blow off some steam and the Urban Kayaks is one, especially if you're an intrepid explorer. Via a guided tour, boat rental, or a water taxi, you can take to the water. You can explore local art along its banks, take a pit stop at City Winery, or stroll along its winding paths. There's a variety of activities offered at this charming and unique Chicago Riverwalk which gives you the opportunity to see the beautiful Windy City down by the riverfront from a different perspective.
- Second City Chicago: One of the things Chicago is known for is its comedy and visiting Chicago without having a taste of its comedy scene is not good enough. Howbeit, if you'll be planning to come here, make sure you book your online tickets online as it can sell out fast. This venue has a way of keeping you coming back for more with its plenty of variety. It runs every night of the week and it has its special sauce of weird and wonderful. For more than 50 years, it has been a pioneering hilarity hub, and it's reputed to be the home of improv and the heart of the comedy scene in the United States of America.
- Garfield Park Conservatory: What a pleasure it is to enjoy the delights of this conservatory year-round - all thanks to its free admission. The community members and local artists have installations and seasonal dynamic exhibits plus there are permanent display houses. Before venturing outdoors to the gardens, feel free to explore its Desert House, Fern Room, and the Palm House. Housing a vast collection of plants from around the globe, this epic botanical experience nestled in Garfield Park is one of the biggest conservatories in the United States.
- Brookfield Zoo: It's always fun and interesting here with its special events like summer night concerts and safaris. It has a play zoo for children under the age of 11 and there are unique installations for a more interactive experience. It boasts an eclectic mix of weird and wonderful creatures from orangutans and wolves to bears and butterflies. If you’re looking for something fun and lighthearted to do, it's a stellar option to go for. It's also an accredited arboretum and it houses over 2,000 animals.
Chicago is quite an interesting place to be. It has some of the friendliest city-dwellers out there, it's home to some of the most gorgeous parks you'll find around, and its museums rank among the world's best. Clearly, it's affirmative that Chicago is one of the finest tourist destinations in the United States. The attractions in Chicago are worth experiencing but one problem one can be faced with is getting to decide which ones to go for as the options are way too plentiful. Lying along the shores of Lake Michigan, Chicago is fondly referred to as the "Windy City", and it's famous for its interesting architecture, excellent shopping, several cultural attractions, and vibrant arts scene. With architects and artists like Chagall, Mirõ, Dubuffet, Picasso, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Louis Sullivan leaving their mark and imprints in the city, Chicago gets the opportunity of being a major center of 20th-century architecture and art. Beautiful beaches are teeming in the city as well and speaking of the sporting sphere, you'll find the Chicago Bulls in basketball, the Chicago White Sox and Cubs in baseball, and the Chicago Bears in American football.
The neighborhoods in Chicago are also worth exploring because they have their unique charm and flavor, with Downtown being the prime of all.
- However, take note that Chicago is more than downtown; explore more, and don’t stick to one neighborhood! For art galleries and restaurants, hit up the former meatpacking district; West Loop. For working-class history, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and good food, visit Pilsen. To enjoy good nightlife in Chicago and have a feel of its vibrant and large LGBTQ neighborhood, hit up Boystown. For boutiques and music clubs, head to Wicker Park. To have a taste of a refined past and catch sights of gorgeous brick mansions, take a walk in Cedar, State, and Dearborn streets in the Gold Coast. There are 77 neighborhoods in Chicago and they all have their unique flavor. You can as well;
- Go North. Hosted in strip malls or small buildings with faded signs, this area is home to some of the best restaurants in the city, but unfortunately, they tend to be unassuming and easily missed. Devon Avenue is one of the best food streets in Chicago and it's on the far north side of the city. And you'll find the best of Cuban sandwiches, challah, Indian sweets, and Iraqi bread here. You can commence with Tel Aviv Kosher Bakery for rugelach, La Unica Food Mart & Restaurant for Cuban sandwiches, Ghareeb Nawaz for plates of steaming biryani, Sukhaida’s Sweets and Snacks for Indian sweets, and Argo Bakery for Georgian khachapuri.
- Go South. There's a whole lot more waiting for you on this side of Chicago. One of the few true smokehouses left in Illinois is Calumet Fisheries and it's farther south. You can see the residence of President Obama, get to trace his early days, and know some of the spots and moments that do matter to him — from the place he had his first kiss with Michelle to his barbershop and his apartment. You can as well see Yoko Ono’s Skylanding installation in Jackson Park, stop by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, visit the University of Chicago, or check out the Museum of Science and Industry - most of all these you can do at ease by spending an afternoon in Hyde Park.
Exploring the city has been made so better, enjoyable, and thrilling with the festivals around!
- Attend a festival. Attending a festival is one way you can enjoy experiencing the city as a local. The interesting thing about Chicago is that irrespective of the month you visit, the chances are high that there'll be a festival happening. With this, it's important that you check out what’s going on during your stay. In conjunction with the West Town Art Walk, the West Town Food Truck Social takes place in October, and the Midsommarfest holds in June in Andersonville. The Lincoln Park Wine Fest is in May and the South Side Irish Parade is in March. The biggest festival draw in the city, which holds in August, is the Lollapalooza, and it's a three-day music event.
- Take tours too. Visiting Chicago without taking at least a tour would be totally silly. With the plentiful walking, architecture, museum, and brewery tours offered in the city, you shouldn't miss out on all the tours because they're worth the experience they give. In fact, the locals here go on a lot of tours and the Willis Tower seems to be the only ‘touristy’ spot they tend to avoid.
Home to several renowned park spaces which are designed by some of the very best, popular, and highly-skilled designers and landscape architects of the 19th and 20th centuries, Chicago enjoyed the reputation of being colloquially referred to as the "city in a garden" since the 1830s. It's widely recognized for being one of the cities in the United States of America with the highest percentage of public parklands and, its public parks and green spaces take up more than eight percent of its land.
- Adams Park: Featuring a seasonal ice skating pond, a sand court, and a playing field, it has day-use picnic tables on reservation on the weekends and children's playground areas with nice facilities. It holds weekly parent-child groups for toddlers and summer camps as some of the seasonal indoor activities for families at its small field house. Named in honor of Illinois Congressman George Adams and his wife, this park was originally established in 1902. It's open to the public year-round, it's in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, and it's a charming 0.78-acre park.
- Armour Square Park: Movies in the Park summer series and Easter egg hunts are some of the special events it organizes throughout the year as its after school program. It has a seasonal outdoor pool and a children's playground. There are as well tennis courts, soccer and football fields, and junior and senior baseball fields you'll find outside the park. Parkgoers will love it here as there are two gymnasium facilities, an auditorium, and an indoor fitness center at its fieldhouse and there's a wide variety of amenities offered here as well. Named in honor of Chicago industrialist Philip D. Armour, it's designed by the famous Olmsted Brothers, it was one of 10 parks crafted within the original park system in the city, and it was originally opened to the public in 1906. It's very close to the Chicago White Sox stadium and it's an 8.98-acre park.
- Edgebrook Park: Children aged six to 12 can enjoy the day activities at a summer camp, a variety of workout methods, and activities like kickboxing and yoga at the teen and adult wellness program organized here. There are opportunities for youths to enjoy soccer, dodgeball, and basketball programs - all thanks to the nearby school's indoor gymnasium. The public can use this park's baseball fields and spacious green spaces during the day and this park was initially constructed in the year 1939 as the recess park facility for Edgebrook Elementary School. It's situated in the Forest Glen neighborhood and it's a sports-focused park.
Generally speaking, there are no national parks in the state of Illinois but the Pullman National Monument in Chicago, which is federally-owned, is operated by the Parks Service.
With 26 miles of public Lake Michigan beachfront offered all through the city, Chicago houses some of the most beautiful beachfront areas in the Midwest.
- 57th Street Beach: Offering a long-distance swimming area and unprecedented views of the Chicago skyline for swimmers today, the completion of the Chicago's Drainage Canal ushered in its renovation into a swimming beach in the year 1899. The beauty of this beach can be attributed to Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted who are famous park designers. Situated at the Lake Michigan shoreline within Jackson Park at 57th Street's terminus, it's reputed to be one of the popular swimming beaches in Chicago, and visitors can visit the dog-friendly Promontory Point or the Museum of Science and Industry after a swim. Paid parking is also available close to the beach.
- 63rd Street Beach: As a visitor, you can use the beach's non-motorized boat launch or rent bikes through Bike Chicago if you want to catch some real fun. Showers and restrooms available for visitors, there's the casual snack stand Leave With A Smile, and a Jamaican-style Belly Up. There's an interactive water feature, open-air galleries, and lake view balconies featured here, and day campers, boaters, and beachgoers can make use of its fully renovated historic 1919 Classical Revival-style bathhouse. The completion of the 1899 Drainage Canal in the city ushered in the emergence of this popular public swimming beach from the park it used to be and it was initially developed as part of Olmsted and Vaux's 1888 renovations. This beach is located at the terminus of E within Chicago's Jackson Park and it's family-friendly.
- Calumet Beach: Showers, restrooms, and concession stands are some of the public amenities it offers. The southern end parallel to the Lake Michigan shoreline is where swimmers are permitted to swim; distance swimming. During peak hours between Memorial Day and Labor Day, there are lifeguards staffed on duty, and the beach is accessible to the general populace everyday between 6:00 am and 11:00 pm. This beach was Initially built as an urban oasis for the city's crowded immigrant neighborhoods in 1905 by the Olmsted Brothers and today, it has grown to be a lovely public beach within Calumet Park.
Chicago’s rich history has no bounds. From memorials and statues to mansions and many others, Chicago is awash with landmarks, with most of them being historical. Being one of the country's biggest and greatest cities, Chicago truly delivers when it comes to landmarks.
- Lincoln Park Zoo: Without spending a fortune on tickets, you can encounter a great deal of the animal kingdom from polar bears to armadillos, and of course, visiting here costs no dime - it's 100% free. It's one of the oldest zoos in the United States as it was founded in 1868. This wild landmark is worth the experience it gives.
- Emil Bach House: In 1979, it was included among the National Register of Historic Places but it originally became a landmark in 1977. Frank Lloyd Wright architecture is the inspiration behind this 1915 home that's situated in Rogers Park
- Biograph Theatre: It's on the National Register of Historic Places and it became one of that historic landmarks in the city in 2001. Now, it features live acts, though it used to show movies back then. Biograph Theatre is notable for being the spot where the FBI shot John Dillinger.
- Canal Street Railroad Bridge: It was dedicated as a landmark in 2007 and it helps trains cross the south branch of the Chicago River. This piece of history is as well called the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge.
- Carrie Eliza Getty Tomb: It became a landmark in Chicago in the year 1971 and it was a husband that built it for his wife in 1890. Situated in Graceland Cemetery at 4001 N. Clark Street, it's one of the most stunning pieces of architecture you'll find around.
- Buckingham Fountain: It's one of the largest fountains in the world and its dedication took place in the year 1927. It's one of the best attractions in Chicago and it's right at the center of Grant Park.
- Chicago Harbor Lighthouse: It was designated as a landmark in 2003 and it was constructed in 1893 for the World's Columbian Exposition. This lighthouse is automatic and in working order, and it's situated just east of Navy Pier on Lake Michigan.
Chicago museums make for an afternoon of education and beauty and the diverse array of museums are a treasured part of the cultural scene in the city.
- The Art Institute of Chicago: Every Thursday from 5 to 8 pm, residents enjoy free admission. Chicagoans and Illinois residents get discounts and those who are 13 and younger can enter without paying a fee. However, teenagers, students, and seniors pay $19 and adults pay $25 for admission. This museum opens 10:30 am to 5 pm every day but it closes as late as 8 pm on Thursdays. Varied design, architecture, medieval armor, and African art are some of what you'll find at its treasure trove of work inside. This museum features two famous lion statues at the entrance and it's the second-largest art museum in the United States.
- The Museum of Contemporary Art: Every Tuesday, residents enjoy free admission, and those who are 18 and younger can enter without paying a fee. However, teachers, students, and seniors pay $8 and adults pay $15 for admission. This museum opens on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, and on Tuesday and Friday, it opens 10 am to 9 pm. This museum is your best bet if you're looking for the best contemporary art museum in Chicago and it features a collection that includes Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns, Alexander Calder, Andy Warhol, and many others. If you're a lover of modern art, come here.
- The Field Museum: At times, it gives free days for admission all through the year for Illinois residents. For admission; children - $17; seniors and students - $21. This museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. People from different corners of the world come here to relax in a Chinese rock garden, marvel at ancient artifacts from a royal Egyptian tomb, and see towering dinos. Visit this museum to see how the world around you came to be as you'll find everything from mummies and Native American pottery to dinosaur bones and a whole lot more. You can spend all day inside this museum getting informed without being bored and it's one of the world's biggest and best natural history museums and one of Chicago's biggest and best museums as well.
Of all the cities in the United States of America, Chicago stands out to be one of the great restaurant towns you'll find around. To get a tip of the city's soul food and barbecue, check out Chatham, Chinatown, the Devon Ave Desi corridor, and Greektown neighborhoods. The neighborhoods in Chicago are the right places to look out for if you seek a specific kind of cuisine. If you crave down-home Swedish, stylish Japanese, contemporary American, Nigerian, Ghanaian, and foods from nearly the whole Southeast Asian continent, Uptown is your place, and those who seek Korean, German, and Middle Eastern food will find their hunger quenched and cravings satisfied at Albany Park and Lincoln Square.
If you're a lover of food, you'll be happy to be in Chicago because, here, you don't have to spend a lot of money, and another interesting point is that you'll always get to eat well irrespective of what you enjoy. If you'll be going out to eat, know that there are always equally good restaurants nearby, and standing in line is something you shouldn't subscribe to. The Hard Rock Cafe, Cheesecake Factory, and Rainforest Cafe are regarded to be tourist traps and you shouldn't waste your time here since there are tons of good upscale restaurants in River North. There's as well an array of award-winners in Wicker Park and Lincoln Park, and, this is basically for those who show interest in unique creations and celebrity chefs. Chicago is cheap, greasy heaven. It's a city that takes fast food so seriously and it has a world-class dining scene downtown. And if you care for an Eastern European culinary with old-style Polish restaurants and sausage shops, you should head northwest.
However, take note that Chicago is home to a few local "culinary specialties" and they include;
- Chicago pizza - It comes in three forms;
- The deep dish pizza - it's renowned for its contribution to the world cuisine in Chicago.
- Chicago thin crust - it remains soft and doughy on the top side somehow and it has a thin, cracker-like, crunchy crust.
- The stuffed pizza - it's a true pie and it's enough to make an onlooker faint as it's a monster.
- Where to buy them?
- Pizzeria UNO and DUE
- Gino's East
- Lou Malnati's
- Vito and Nick's
- Bella Bacino's
- Where to buy them?
- The Chicago hot dog - it's considered the perfect hot dog and king of all hot dogs but one thing you should know is that you shouldn't order ketchup with it because it's considered to be an abomination.
- Where to buy it?
- Maxwell Street Polish
- The Vienna Beef Factory deli.
- Where to buy it?
- The Italian Beef sandwich - the main focus of the sandwich is the beef and overall, it completes the Chicago triumvirate of tasty greasy treats.
- Where to buy it?
- Luke's Italian Beef in the Loop
- Mr. Beef in the Near North
- The Portillo's
- Where to buy it?
- Jibarito - With a filling of garlic-flavored mayonnaise, tomato, lettuce, cheese, and meat, it's a sandwich that uses plantains instead of bread.
- Where to buy it?
- Check out Logan Square, Humboldt Park', or other neighborhoods with large Puerto Rican populations.
- Ask someone around.
- Where to buy it?
Traditional Local Restaurants
Traditional local restaurants are plentiful in Chicago and here are a few ones you can check out;
- Chicago Chop House: It's decorated with photos of local celebrities and it's a traditional steakhouse in a restored brownstone. It's one of the finest restaurants in Chicago and you'll enjoy coming here with its friendly staff and excellent service. This restaurant takes delight in offering the taste of a true Chicago steakhouse and coming here is more like taking a step into the city's colorful past. Its meals are enjoyable with most of them being simple and its burger is very juicy. More so, it has a lovely set up for outdoor dining.
- The Walnut Room: Offering great drink selections and beautiful decorations, this restaurant promises the very best buffet experience, and it will keep you coming back for more with its yummy chicken pot pie and other items on its menu. Check out this restaurant if you like architecture and excellent food. This restaurant is a hidden gem and you should try out its classic old fashion if you're a whiskey drinker.
- Avec Restaurant: Right in its cozy, minimalist space with communal seating, it serves inventive small and large plates. It has a five-course wine tasting menu that is a nice touch and it's a cool place to get a good Mediterranean fare. People who have visited here have noted its service to be excellent and the food is made with mind-blowing creative fresh ingredients which makes it pleasant and great. Avec never disappoints in delivering a true Mediterranean experience and it's worth visiting.
Vegetarian and Vegan
Gone are those when it could be very herculean to find suitable vegetarian and vegan options in Chicago. Now, the city is teeming with a variety of delicious spots to satisfy the pickiest of diners and some of the best vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants in Chicago include;
- The Chicago Diner: It has patio seating available and it has been meat-free since 1983. With its desserts, vegan bakery, margaritas, and organic beers and wine, it offers American comfort food for brunch and dinner for all vegetarians and mostly vegans.
- Althea: It's situated on the 7th floor of Saks Fifth Avenue and it offers new interpretations of traditional dishes such as curries, noodle bowls, burgers, pizza, and many more. It also has a diverse variety of globally-inspired meals and a very fine dining experience. This restaurant was part of the Matthew Kenney restaurant group.
- Chicago Raw Food: Good rejuvelac, coconut water, wheatgrass shots, superfood smoothies, raw pizza, and salads await you here. With a focus on nut-free, it offers organic raw vegan snacks, drinks, and meals. It's situated inside the Chicago French Market at Ogilvie Train Station and it's a prepared raw food vendor.
- Native Foods - Wicker Park: It's a no-stress vibe here, just come and order at the counter and the food will be brought to your table. It has salads, bowls, veggie burgers, sandwiches, and many more on its menu. It seems to have originated from Southern California as one of those small chains of vegan restaurants.
- Amitabul: The setting here is quiet, relaxed, and cool. There's ginger tea with maple cookies and ice cream for dessert and it has dishes such as its signature Dr. K's soup, kimchi, dumplings, rice noodle soups, and savory pancake on the Buddhist Korean cuisine menu it offers.
- Soul Vegetarian East and The Eternity Juice Bar: It sells a few vegan groceries, deli-style salads, sandwiches, elixirs, and juices. There's brunch on Sunday and you'll find everything from desserts and cornbread to mac-n-cheese and lasagna on its menu that is varied. This restaurant serves comfort soul food that is vegan.
The street food culture in Chicago is thriving again and gone are those days when food carts became a rare sight when they were outlawed in the city a couple of years ago. Although street food can be somewhat hard to find, Chicago still exerts its influence as a food city and if it interests you to get some nice street foods, here are where you can check out;
- Chicago food trucks around The Loop: During the week, you'll find most of the food trucks congregating around the Loop area for lunch and they offer some very nice Cajun, sandwiches, Korean, grilled cheese, doughnuts, empanadas, tacos, and more. These trucks are gradually changing the narrative compared to when food trucks used to be almost nonexistent in the city. If you're keen on knowing the schedules of different food trucks, you can check out the map tool on Roaming Hunger.
- Puerto Rican food in Humboldt Park: If you've been following closely, you'll vividly remember when "jibaritos" was included on the list of local specialties in the city. And we pointed out that you'll find it in a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood such as Humboldt Park. So, if you delight to try out some of the Puerto Rican specialties such as jibaritos, Lechon, Arroz con gandules, and morcilla this food truck serves, just come around. It's one of the oldest food trucks in the city and it's in the center of the neighborhood.
- Chicago-style hot dog at Relish: Come over to this food truck across from the Art Institute if you seek a hot dog fix and you're around the Millennium Park area. The Chicago hot dog is its major specialty and it's definitely worth every bite.
- Elotes in the park: Parks are usually the best place to look within neighborhoods like along Clark Street in Rogers Park, Pilsen, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square if you're looking for where to find Eloteros. It serves delicious mangos, and its amazing Elotes, which is a blend of chili powder, salt, cheese, mayonnaise, and butter. It dishes up its corny goodness as it keeps pushing the carts around. The men who sell them are called Eloteros, elotes are Mexican-style corn on the cob, and it's a classic Chicago street food.
After San Francisco, Chicago is believed to have the second-highest number of bars per capita in the United States. There are pubs and bars almost everywhere you turn to in this city and this affirms that Chicago is a drinking town. The locals in this city don't seem to fancy staying in one place when they're drinking and they have a preference for dive bars rather than going to the hottest clubs as it's done in most other big cities in the country. Nevertheless, take note that you can't smoke in restaurants and bars in the city and if you'll be going to a neighborhood dive bar, your identification will be requested for to verify your age.
It's all about variety in this city and if you want to drink like a Chicagoan, hit up a place, grab a drink or two, then try the place next door. Bar hopping is the norm in this city, the locals do it for the variety, and most areas here thrive on the bar culture. For the art of the beer garden, North Center and Roscoe Village are nice destinations and to enjoy a high-class collection of quality dive bars and local craft breweries, Bucktown, Logan Square, and Wicker Park are your best bet as they're renowned to be the best places to drink for drinking's sake.
The locals here are as proud of their tap water, just like when it comes to pizza. If you'll be drinking tap water in Chicago, you have nothing to worry about because the tap water in the city is excellent, it tastes good, and it's safe to drink. However, you can avoid bottled water whenever possible by using a refillable bottle on the go for it's safe to drink tap from public places.
The local spots that make organic elements high priority are worth a visit, especially for those who seek environmentally-sound food. Local and organic ingredients is truly an art and we recommend you check out any of these spots to get the very best;
- Local Root: You'll often get drawn to come back here after you've had a taste of its dinner and lunch. Made with grass-fed burger, pulled pork poutine, and seasonal ingredients, you can have the soup du jour as lunch here. Situated in a tony neighborhood, its food comes in at an affordable price, and it's a good steward of the planet when it comes to organic ingredients and sustainability because it's as strict as a nun. Local Root is a zero-waste restaurant.
- Prasino: Grilled salmon, quinoa tacos, kale and spinach salad, healthy French toast (berries, nutmeg, cinnamon, egg whites, and multigrain bread), and steel cut oatmeal are its guiltless items that are super satisfying. You can also try out its short rib tacos and lamb spaghetti. Whether you want drinks, dinner, lunch, or breakfast, you can delight in the fact that it has farm-to-table ingredients for its Contemporary American menu. It's a win-win for brewers, vintners, ranchers, farmers, and diners, and the restaurant's design, kitchen facilities, and food signify its eco-friendliness.
A good brewery we'll recommend you check out is the Goose Island Brewery. It has an excellent restaurant, it gives tours and samplings, it produces the usual range of craft and seasonal beers, it's owned by Inbez, and it's regarded to be one of the most widely recognized craft breweries. Chicago is home to several breweries and micro-brews and you still have other options to try out;
- Half Acre Beer Company: If you're here, make sure you try out its deliciously dank and dry Daisy Cutter as it's a fine blend of mango, papaya, citrus, and pine. It gained more popularity recently when it threw a massive new beer fest in Millennium Park, and its thirst for experimentation and increasing popularity led it to open its massive 60,000-square-foot Balmoral facility. Experts consider it to be the finest craft brewer in the city. It's one of the OGs of Chicago brewing and it was founded in 2006.
- Metropolitan Brewing: Characterized by Metro’s trademark high drinkability, featuring lemony flavors, and brewed in homage to Cologne, Germany, its flagship Kolsch-style beer; Krankshaft, is a must-try beer. Offering a homey atmosphere at its Rockwell Tap Room, which it recently added to raise its profile, it has built the reputation of making easy drinkability its finest asset and it takes pleasure in keeping things simple with just flat-out good beer. It exerts dominance as one of the most respected beer makers in Chicago where beer aficionados flock to and since 2009, it has been brewing German-style beers and lagers on the North Side.
Chicago is a fantastic and totally underrated city for outdoor enthusiasts. With plenty of recreational and rejuvenating activities for outdoor lovers to do outside, you can never get bored here!
- Kayak down the Chicago River
- Explore Lincoln Park
- Bike past iconic Chicago landmarks at sunset
- Zipline through Bemis Woods
- Hike the 606
- Speed around Lake Michigan
- Hunt for murals in Pilsen
- Go bird-watching at the Chicago Botanic Garden
- Wander around Hyde Park
- Visit the Lincoln Park Zoo
- Run along the Lakefront Trail
Yoga and Retreats
Yoga and retreats are common in Chicago and this city has options available for those who desire to go on retreats or indulge in yoga.
- Moksha Yoga Center: It offers its patrons an opportunity to experience a complete and holistic practice with its workshops and classes. No pre-registration is required, it offers daily classes, and its teachers are well-skilled in kriyas, mudras, and bandhas. With the experience of its teachers, it offers teacher training too. With a mix of meditation, breathing techniques, and poses blending with ancient practice techniques, it provides an authentic approach to yoga.
- YOGA 2.0 - River North is another quality place for your yoga and retreats in Chicago. It's situated in River North and it encourages its patrons to come roll out their mats and feel the difference. Offering a chance to remedy the major pain points and an opportunity to up-level the yoga experience, it prioritizes the well-being of its students. An aspiring-yogi entrepreneur and a group of like-minded yogis founded YOGA 2.0.
If it interests you to stay at the center of the city where everything happens, then the Chicago Loop or Chicago Downtown as it's known by many is where you should stay. As a first-time visitor, you'll love it here because this is where you'll find easy access to most of the popular attractions around such as the famous shiny statue by Anish Kapoor, the Millenium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, the world-famous Cloud Gate which is also known as The Bean, and some of the tallest, most magnificent buildings around. You can as well use Airbnb to find accommodation in the city and the prices of accommodation tend to vary based on location.
Green hotels are plentiful in Chicago and a good one we'll recommend you to check out is the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park.
- Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park uses sustainable and recyclable products so as good reduce its energy consumption and remain green. You'll never regret staying here because the staff is very friendly and the rooms are beautifully furnished with modern facilities. This hotel is just a short distance from some of the popular attractions in the city and it's situated in the famous downtown area.
Other nice green hotels in the city include;
- Hotel Felix
- Kimpton Hotel Allegro
- Hyatt Regency Chicago
- Loews Chicago Hotel
- The Talbott Hotel
- The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago
Hostels and Guest Houses
Wrigley Hostel is one of the best hotels you'll find in Chicago. It has coffee/tea makers, stovetops, and microwaves. There are flat-screen TVs and free WiFi in its eight guestrooms and it offers conveniences such as dining areas and living rooms. That's not all, it also features a library, a business center, a terrace, and a bar/lounge. It shares close proximity to DePaul University-Lincoln Park, Briar Street Theatre, Vic Theatre, and Wrigley Field.
Other nice hostels and guest houses in Chicago are:
- Hi Chicago
- Holiday Jones
- Chicago Getaway Hostel
- Hampton Inn Chicago
- Holiday Inn O'Hare Area
- Freehand Chicago
Finding the right apartment in Chicago may be an overwhelming experience despite the fact that its rental market is not as cut-throat compared to that of San Francisco's and New York's. Chicago may be the country's third-largest city but its rent prices are not that wallet-breaking. However, take note that the rental costs in the city vary drastically by neighborhood. While Hermosa, Belmont Cragin, and Chinatown are considered to be the city's most affordable neighborhoods, Ukrainian Village, East Village, and Bucktown have average rent prices, and the West Loop neighborhood is the second most expensive. Securing an apartment in Chicago is not a difficult task as there are lots of websites online available to help you find what suits your taste and wallet.
Couchsurfing is not really a thing in Chicago but there's a website called Couchsurfing where you can possibly find a host that will accommodate you.
There are lots of nice places where you can enjoy camping in Chicago;
- William W. Powers State Recreation Area
- Ridge Bedford Park LLC
- Northerly Island Park
- Irene C. Hernandez Family Picnic Grove
- Burnham Park
- Dan Ryan Woods-North
How to Get There
Getting in to Chicago can be easy as it can be as there are various easy and accessible routes you can take advantage of to get there, and it all depends on your proximity to the city.
Midway International Airport and O'Hare International Airport are the two major airports serving Chicago. These two airports have taxis around transporting people to and from the city center. There are complimentary shuttle vans to one or both airports offered by many large hotels around.
Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport is another alternative to get in the city by air and considering the fact that Chicago is a major hub for private aviation, you can get in the city via a private plane.'
There are lots of bus service providers operating in Chicago;
- Coach USA/Airport Supersavers offers everyday service from Chicago area airports to South Bend Airport, Notre Dame, Portage, Michigan City, Highland, and Crestwood.
- D & W Bus connects New York to Chicago
- Greyhound provides regular service to destinations throughout the Midwest
- Megabus serves far-flung places like Atlanta and Dallas and it as well offers daily service across the Midwest.
Chicago is one of the most convenient cities in the United States to visit by train and it's historically the rail hub of the entire United States of America.
Chicago is one of the cities in the United States that frown at hitchhiking.
You can get in the city by car by using some of its expressways.
Moving around Chicago is easy and so is navigating the city. The L train which is run by the Chicago Transit Authority is the specific, best way to get around Chicago. Chicago has a good and effective public transportation which offers easy means of moving around for residents and locals alike. However, newcomers may find the CTA bus difficult to navigate but the elevated train which is abbreviated to the L is simple and easy to use. In summary, the city's public transport system is the best way to move around as its wallet-friendly and effective.
Chicago is too big to navigate using only your own two feet but you'll always feel safe walking around anyway and, of course, you should take extra caution when it's getting late.
Exploring the city via bicycle has been made easy by the Divvy bike-share system which gives visitors and residents alike the opportunity to grab a set of wheels whenever they need them. You can enjoy bicycling in Chicago because most major city streets have bike lanes and you can travel as long as you want via bicycle at the bike path along the shores of Lake Michigan.
Traveling around in Chicago via an electronic vehicle is feasible with the plenty of car rentals around the city.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates buses in the city. Buses run on nearly every major street and you can buy $3 CTA Single-Ride Ventra Tickets if your plan is to ride only a few times during your stay. Chicago has at least 130 bus routes and most of them operate 24 hours a day.
Tram, Train and Subway
Metra operates commuter trains that serve Illinois, neighboring cities, and the city's suburbs. The L train is a solid option to get around and it's very cheap.
Supporting local and social causes is one of the things the residents of this city are impassioned about and undoubtedly, Chicago is a city of makers. In this city, a lot of people are committed to giving back to their communities, and it's very easy for you to find shops and restaurants that still uphold their generational heritage. Shopping sustainably in Chicago is quite easy with the plenty of shops, restaurants, and centers that encourage eco-friendly practices, and here are some of the fine places where you can shop sustainably in Chicago;
- Wicker Park Thrifting
- Green City Market
- Wolfbait & B-girls
- Planet Access
- Asrai Garden
- The Shudio
Logan Square Farmers Market is one of the finest food markets you'll find in Chicago. It's regarded to be one of the best in the state of Illinois and it's considered to be the best in Chicago. It's dedicated to supporting small businesses, it educates everyone about food, and it's a place that serves to build up the community. Serving as an outlet for nutritious, conscientiously grown and produced food, it boasts of being a year-round farmers market.
Green City Market is another quality food market in Chicago and it's one of the largest markets in the city. Connecting producers and farmers to the public and showcasing sustainable practices, it moves indoors in the wintertime, and it functions throughout the year. It's an all-year-long market that grew from a summer market, it charges itself with the responsibility of educating people about sustainably grown food, and it has a regular annual crowd of more than 175,000 visitors.
Kane County Flea Market is one of the best flea markets in Chicago. It was founded in the 1960s by Helen Robinson and now managed by the sons. It boasts of being the “Best in the Midwest or Anywhere” and it's has a wide array of books, furniture, jewelry, and antiques.
Vintage Garage Chicago Flea Market is another popular flea market in Chicago that offers a quality experience.
Other nice Flea markets you'll find in Chicago include;
- Swap-O-Rama Flea Markets
- Randolph Street Market
- Maxwell Street Market
Second Hand Stores
Looking for a hidden designer label or two, old furniture begging for a DIY project, and secondhand clothes has become easy with the plenty of thrift stores in the city. Offering everything from gently used basics and mid-century modern deals to classic Chanel, thrift stores in Chicago are true treasure troves, and here are some of the best ones;
- Thrift & Thrive
- Knee Deep Vintage
- Richard's Fabulous Finds
- Mr. & Mrs.
- The Brown Elephant Andersonville
- Encore Resale Clothing
- Crossroads Trading
These sustainable Chicago shops are some of the ones you can trust for your eco-fashion in Chicago;
- Town & Anchor
- Milk Handmade
- Lena Rose
- Production Mode
- Green Heart Shop
- Squasht Boutique
Recycling in Chicago is very easy; all you have to do is to fill your blue recycling cart with milk cartons, beer bottles, plastics, paper, metal, glass, and a few other recyclables, and then call 311 for pickup. It's as simple and easy as that.
Waste collection in Chicago is coordinated by the Department of Streets and Sanitation (DSS) and residents are requested to leave their waste in the alley or at the curb for collection. Chicago takes waste collection seriously and it prioritizes the cleanliness of its streets. Pickup of waste in the city is usually weekly and reports reveal that there's a collection of over a million tons of residential garbage and recyclables yearly.
Work and Study Abroad
Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States of America and with the several reputable higher institutions of learning calling it home, there no denial to the fact that it's a hotspot for work and study abroad.
Chicago houses high-ranking colleges and universities such as Loyola University Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC), and Northwestern University, amidst several others, of which most of them offer exchange student programs. However, students who want to apply for this must meet up with the respective institution's set requirements.
Au Pair is not that really widespread in Chicago but there are definitely opportunities for au pairs to access in Chicago, especially with the internet which has always been a resourceful tool for both the young and old.
Volunteering opportunities abound in Chicago'! If it's in your interest to give back to people around you, you can contribute to helping the animals, the children, or the hungry by rendering free service for organizations like:
- Cradles to Crayons
- Chicago coat Angels
- Ascend Justice
- Ravenswood Community Services
- Chicago Cares
- Chicago animal care control
- Deborah’s Place
- Street Samaritans
- The Junior League of Chicago