Chicago Travel Guide
Chicago isn't just Frank Sinatra's kind of town, it's the kind of town that's got something for everyone. It's a big city that's not quite as crowded and fast-paced as New York but still filled with more things to do than you'll have time.
Chicago is home to more than 2.7 million people, making it the third largest city in the U.S. and the largest city in the midwest. It's lined with urban beaches located along Lake Michigan and is known as the birthplace of the modern skyscraper. A massive fire in 1871 destroyed much of the city center, leaving behind just a handful of structures and paving the way for Chicago to construct one of America's tallest and most beautiful skylines.
With professional baseball, basketball, football, hockey, and soccer teams, Chicago is a sports aficianado's dream come true. Catch a Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field. If football isn't for you, catch a Cubs or White Sox ball game, a round of soccer with the Chicago Fire, the Bulls for a basketball game, or a Blackhawks game for hockey fans.
Chicago isn't just about sports, though. It's also a foodie paradise with world-class museums, architectural gems, luxury shopping, and a long list of live music venues and comedy clubs. It's a place where you're sure to find plenty of things to do — and eat. Just make sure you save room for deep dish pizza and a Chicago dog.
Central Standard Time
Best Time to Go
Chicago may have freezing winters, but the Windy City makes up for it with warm, sunny summer days filled with live music, neighborhood festivals, and bright blue skies. The best time to visit Chicago is between June and September when the city's urban beaches are at their best. Runners may want to wait until October when the city hosts the annual Chicago marathon. June brings the well-known Chicago Blues Festival while July brings the Taste of Chicago, an outdoor food festival that allows for sampling of several local favorites. Each August, Chicago hosts the Lollapalooza music festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival and the Chicago Air and Water Show. For travelers brave enough to face freezing temperatures, December brings the Christkindlmarket, a chance to lace up your skates and glide through iconic Grant Park at the Maggie Daley Ice Skating Ribbon and ample opportunities to view Christmas lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo and Navy Pier.
Things to Know
Chicago is a city of more than 200 neighborhoods, each with its own unique character and charm. Chicago and its surrounding areas are collectively referred to as Chicagoland.
Chicago hot dogs are topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato, pickled sport peppers and a touch of celery salt. Whatever you do, do not ask for ketchup.
How to Get Around
Chicago is a highly walkable city with an excellent public transit system that includes both trains and busses. Uber, Lyft and cabs are also plentiful across much of Chicago.
Trains: Chicago's train system is known as the "El" because it's elevated and runs above ground across much of the city. It's easy to get from both Chicago O'Hare and Chicago Midway to downtown Chicago via the El.
Buses: Chicago's train system is extensive, but learn to use its buses and there will be few places you can't get to via public transit. Bus information is available via text, follow the instructions posted on bus stop signs.
Taxis: Metered taxis are easy to find throughout downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, though Uber and Lyft are likely to be cheaper.
Rideshare: Uber and Lyft are your main options in Chicago. Uber tends to be a little cheaper than Lyft, though that's not always the case.
Things to Do
Neighborhoods to Know
Magnificent Mile: The Magnificent Mile is a strip along Michigan Avenue known for its shopping. This is where you'll find high-end merchants like Burberry, Chanel, Tory Burch, and La Perla, as well as department stores Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, and Saks. Retailers including Uniqlo, The Disney Store, Patagonia, Nike, and Zara also have stores on this stretch of shopping paradise.
Wrigleyville: If you're a baseball fan, Wrigleyville is the neighborhood for you. Wrigleyville is where you'll find Wrigley Field, home of the World Champion Chicago Cubs and a seemingly never-ending strip of bars that's the liveliest place in town when the Cubs are playing.
Hyde Park: This southside neighborhood is where Michelle Obama grew up and where she and Barack Obama still own a home (well, technically across the street from the border of Hyde Park, in Kenwood). Hyde Park is where you'll find the University of Chicago, the Museum of Science and History, the Robie House, and a number of historic mansions.
Gold Coast: Chicago's Gold Coast is a historic district born when a number of local millionaires moved to the area after the Great Chicago Fire. It's got a mixture of mansions, row houses, and high rises, and is among the richest urban neighborhoods in America.
Chicago summers can be beautiful but humid while long winters can be windy, snowy and downright brutal. Fall is generally pleasant with lots of colorful leaves.
January: Average temperatures 18 to 32
February: Average temperatures 20 to 34
March: Average temperatures 29 to 43
April: Average temperatures 40 to 55
May: Average temperatures 50 to 65
June: Average temperatures 60 to 75
July: Average temperatures 66 to 81
August: Average temperatures 65 to 79
September: Average temperatures 58 to 73
October: Average temperatures 47 to 61
November: Average temperatures 34 to 47
December: Average temperatures 23 to 36