How do I begin to describe Chicago? The people are wholeheartedly proud of their city, and so they should be. Chicago overflows with energy and vibrancy – the sentiment is definitely infectious! I enjoyed my time here, and even managed to experience the windiness the city is know for, as well as Chicago in rush hour which I feel is absolutely bonkers.
Here was probably the first place that I experienced a couple of issues, from lack of organisation or research. They did not have a big impact on my stay here, but they are definitely worth considering:
1. Lollapalooza. Now, this is something I really should have looked into. In the initial planning stages of this trip my friend and I even considered going to some of it. But we thought we’d just miss it – so to be honest I completely forgot about it. And accidentally ended up being in Chicago on the same weekend. Cue extremely busy public transport, soaring accommodation prices and the complete inability to go anywhere near Grant Park (where it was being held).
2. The South Side. I had been warned prior to visiting Chicago that the ‘South side’ was pretty dangerous, mainly due to its high concentration of Latino population and previous reputation for murders. When booking my Airbnb, I looked at distance from the centre, as opposed to compass direction, and it did not seem that far. But Chicago is huge. I ended up SLIGHTLY in the south side. I did not have any problems but I was not out late, and those staying there that were got Ubers back in the evenings.
Aside from this, my stay here has gone swimmingly. I especially enjoyed exploring lots of different districts of Chicago, outside of the main ‘Loop’ region. Have also noticed that Trump Towers are inescapably everywhere.
Here are a couple of things that have been really useful for me – Chicago is a great city for people on a budget:
– Transport ventra cards are the best way of getting about. You can purchase a 72 hour unlimited travel pass for $20 (which was very useful, being so far out and exploring a lot), but be aware that you have to pay an additional $5 for the actual card. Also, there is a great free app on the App Store, called Chicago Total Transit: CTA bus & train times that helps you plan your route and check when the next bus will be.
– There are plenty of places to experience free music in the city, which with there being so much blues history here is a must – Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park offers free concerts throughout the summer months and Willie Dixon’s Blues Heaven recording studio holds free blues evenings on Thursdays?
– Another free attraction is the fireworks. Displays are put on every Wednesday and Saturday from Memorial Day to Labour Day. The best place to see them is from Navy Pier, but the scramble to get away afterwards can be a tad manic.
– Tours By Foot are great pay what you feel walking tours, that cover a wide variety of Chicago sights. The company also has a couple of self-guided tours on its website, I took one covering the hipster Wicker Park area. I also tried out their guided Gangster and Lincoln Park one (very intriguing) – the guide was super useful for tips about the area and sent out an email to everyone on the tour afterwards detailing good places to eat and drink.
– Talking statues. These are genius. Near interesting statues around the city, there are boards with a website link. If you go to this go to the link there will be an option for the statue to ‘call’ you. They are voiced by famous people that have connections to the city, and talk as if they are the statues themselves. The Bean (Cloudgate statue) is voiced by David Schwimmer (Ross from friends)!
Now to Nashville!
– M x
Vegetarian Note: As a vegetarian who loves trying new food, I have been attempting to find veggie versions of the local cuisines of places I am visiting. As it is pretty hip to be vegetarian or vegan now, this is not that hard to do! Here in Chicago I found loads of places offering the veggie ‘Chicago Dog’, but in the end opted for one from America’s Dog due to its location in the centre of town. Not sure about vegan deep dish pizza, but it was super easy to find veggie ones. Pizzeria Uno (the inventors of the deep dish), Giordano’s and Lou Malnati’s are some of the most famous places.