Introduction to Chicago, Illinois
Organized in 1833, Chicago, also known as "the windy city", is the third largest city in the United States with a population well over 2.5 million people. Chicago is also the largest inland city in the United States. It is located in northeast Illinois, on the southwestern banks of Lake Michigan. The Chicago metropolitan area has a population in excess of nine million people.
Chicago is ranked as the fifth "Most Fun U.S City" in a survey conducted in 2003 by Cranium Inc. Factors taken into account in the ranking include: the number of sports teams, restaurants, dance performances, toy stores, the amount of a city's budget that is spent on recreation, and other factors.
The area that was to become Chicago was first "discovered" in 1673 by Father Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit missionary, and Louis Jolliet, a Canadian explorer and map maker. In 1779, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, an African American from Haiti, built the first permanent settlement near the present Michigan Avenue Bridge on the north bank. Chicago was incorporated in 1833 as the Township of Chicago. Chicago became a city in March of 1837. At that time Chicago's population was just over 4,000 people. Some notable dates and events in Chicago's history include:
- In 1860, the first national political convention held in Chicago nominated Abraham Lincoln as the Republican candidate for president.
- In 1865, the famous Chicago Union Stock Yard was completed. The Stockyard went out of business in 1971 and is now the site of an industrial park.
- On October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire started. The fire lasted for almost two days and destroyed most of the city. 300 people died in the fire and 90,000 people lost their homes. Property loss was $200 million.
- In 1872, Montgomery Ward, the nation's first mail-order house opened in Chicago.
- In 1885, Chicago became home to the first "skyscraper", the Home Insurance Building, which was initially nine stories tall.
- In 1927, Chicago's first airport, the Chicago Municipal Airport, was completed. It was renamed to Midway in 1949 to honor those who fought at the battle of Midway during World War II.
- In 1973, the Sears Tower was completed. At the time it was the World's Tallest building. To this day it still holds the records for height to the highest occupied floor, and height to the top of the roof.
Chicago Arts and Culture
Chicago has a strong and vibrant arts community offering museums, performing arts, music festivals, and more. Some of the more notable museums include:
- The Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum
- The Art Institute of Chicago
- The Bronzeville Children's Museum
- The Chicago Children's Museum
- The DuSable Museum of African-American History
- The Field Museum
- The John G. Shedd Aquarium/Oceanarium
- Hands On! Children's Art Museum
- The Museum of Contemporary Art
- The Museum of Science and Industry
- The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum of the Chicago Academy of Sciences
- The Polish Museum of America
- The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum of the Chicago Academy of Sciences
For patrons of the performing arts, Chicago's notable attractions include:
- Broadway in Chicago
- The Chicago Opera Theater
- The Chicago Symphony Orchestra
- The Emerald City Theatre
- The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago
- The Lyric Opera
Chicago is also home to numerous music festivals, including: Celtic Fest Chicago, the Chicago Blues Festival, the Chicago Country Music Festival, the Chicago Gospel Music Festival, World Music Festival: Chicago, and more.
Chicago Sports and Leisure
Chicago has plenty to offer to fill every sports fan's appetite. Chicago and the surrounding area is home to the following major sports teams:
- Baseball - Chicago is one of only two cities in the United States that is home to two Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, the Chicago Cubs and the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox. For individuals who like Minor League Baseball action, the Midwest League's Kane County Cougars play an hour west of downtown Chicago in Geneva, Illinois. The Cougars are a Class A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.
- Basketball - The National Basketball Association (NBA) Chicago Bulls, and the WNBA Chicago Sky.
- Football - The National Football League (NFL) Chicago Bears, and the Arena Football League (AFL) Chicago Rush.
- Hockey - The American Hockey League Chicago Wolves, and the National Hockey League Chicago Blackhawks.
- Soccer - The Major League Soccer (MLS) Chicago Fire.
As one would expect from its proximity to Lake Michigan, Chicago boasts a plethora of water-related and outdoor leisure-time activities. In addition to its over 500 parks, the Chicago Parks District maintains over 30 beaches, 16 historic lagoons, nine lakefront harbors, ten bird and wildlife gardens, and thousands of special events, sports and entertaining programs.
Navy Pier, located on Lake Michigan, just east of Chicago’s downtown, has long been a Chicago landmark and is a focus for lakeside recreation. Navy Pier attractions include a unique collection of restaurants and shops in addition to excellent recreational and exhibition facilities.
Another major waterfront activity is the annual Chicago Air and Water Show. It is the largest free event of its kind in the country and happens late summer every year along the Chicago lakefront. The show is best viewed from North Avenue Beach.
Chicago "Must See" Attractions
Chicago has attractions too numerous to do justice in a simple list. Some of the more notable "must see" attractions include:
- The John G. Shedd Aquarium/Oceanarium, which offers the world’s largest indoor collection of aquatic mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
- The Lake Michigan shoreline with its numerous beaches, lagoons, harbors, and Navy Pier.
- The Lincoln Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country.
- Millennium Park, a combination of architecture, sculpture, landscape design, and a sophisticated outdoor concert venue offering numerous events.
- The Sears Tower, the fourth largest building in the world.
Chicago at Night
A city the size of Chicago has just about everything to offer in the way of nightlife. For those interested in good food, Chicago is famous for excellent steaks and deep dish pizza. Dining options abound from family fare, to ethnic cuisine, to the latest in trendy restaurants. Some of Chicago's most interesting dining can be found in the area of Randolph Street just west of Chicago's Loop, as well as a stretch of the south Loop, and on the Magnificent Mile.
For those looking for the music and nightclub scene, a city the size of Chicago has just about everything to offer. Chicago is famous for blues and jazz, but offers just about every musical tradition. There are numerous nightclubs all over town, especially along Halsted Street, Lincoln Avenue, and Clark Street on the North Side, as well as Chicago's famed "Gold Coast", the neighborhood around the intersection of Rush and Division streets. Up-to-the-minute listings of happenings can be found in New City and The Reader, as well as the Friday editions of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune.