A beginner’s guide to Chicago
Last Updated on
The city of Chicago has so much to offer, from its famous deep dish pizza to iconic architecture. The abundance of attractions makes it hard to even know where to start. For anyone new to navigating the Windy City, here’s a complete beginner’s guide to Chicago to get you started.
We’ll start off with an essential (if not the most important) part of living in Chicago — the incredible food. You’ll be blown away by all the great restaurants in the city.
Beatrix, Wildberry Pancakes & Cafe, and Blue Door Farm Stand have got your weekend brunches covered. Farm-to-table modern dishes and cold-pressed juices galore. Meat-eaters have to try the Chicago-style hot dog at Portillo’s or the signature fried chicken at Harold’s Chicken Shack. You can also find a good ol’ burger at Au Cheval.
If you’re craving a more eastern cuisine, head to Oiistar for ramen, Qing Siang Yuan for dumplings, or Sunda for a fusion fare.
More Noms: Pizza
Chicago pizza deserves its own separate category. As one of the original inventors of the deep dish pizza, Lou Malnati’s is an iconic institution. You won’t want to miss out on the signature “Lou” pie, filled with spinach, mushrooms, and sliced tomatoes on a garlic butter crust. Giordano’s is another spot for dependable deep dish pizza, highly recommended by locals.
Sick of all that deep dish pizza? Impossible, but La Crosta Woodfire Pizzeria Italiana offers some of the best Neopolitan-style pies in the city, while Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.’s take on pizza pot pie is exceptional.
Of course, if you want to curb your spending, there are options to eat in and cook your own food at home. Plenty of Trader Joes, Jewel Osco, and Mariano’s around to meet your grocery needs.
The Hot Spots
You’ll probably spend most of your time exploring downtown Chicago, where you can see and experience Chicago’s rich history, culture, and arts.
A lot of people go ice skating or have a picnic at Millennium Park, depending on the season, and take pictures of the well-known Cloud Gate (a.k.a “The Bean”). Another landmark you’ll need to see up-close is the Willis (or more commonly, Sears) Tower, a 110-story building with a transparent elevator. Animal lovers can spend a day or two at the Shedd Aquarium or the Lincoln Park Zoo (for free).
As for museums, the wndr museum features Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Room, making it Chicago’s newest experiential and most Instagram-friendly museum. Chicago’s largest natural history museum, The Field Museum, exhibits everything from ancient cultures to the latest scientific discoveries.
If you don’t want to pay for admissions, you can take an art tour of the 16th Street murals in Pilsen. It’s a complete two-mile stretch of new art, including Hector Duarte’s home and works by various street artists such as Hebru Brantley, Sam Kirk, and Chris Silva.
Shop for a new style at the Magnificent Mile, where you’ll find 460+ retailers along Michigan Avenue as well as the 8-story Water Tower mall. Stop by the Navy Pier, a 300-foot-long pier along Lake Michigan, for a movie, a ride on the Centennial Wheel, or any free public program that interests you.
Some other notable activities include FTW and Lucky Strike for a drink at the arcade bar and a game of bowling, AIRE Therma Baths for a spa, and Second City for a comedy show.
Prepare to be impressed by Chicago’s 21-and-above social scene. Generally, you can find more high-end clubs in Old Town, River North, and West Loop and more laidback bars in Wicker Park and Lincoln Park. Either way, you’ll have a great time.
Local favorites include Tapster (a self-serve bar with board games), Rock Bottom Brewery (a craft beer brewery with a delicious menu of pub food and drinks), and Debonair Social Club (a late-night bar with different music on each floor). If you’re looking to spend the night dancing, then Society 2201 and Spybar are good options.
Places to Live
There are a couple things you should know about renting in Chicago. For one, all the neighborhoods are great in that they each have their unique style and community. You’ll be able to find one that matches your interests and personality; for example, Pilsen — where Common Racine is located — is perfect for foodies, culture enthusiasts, and art lovers.
These Common coliving homes in Chicago are perfect for anyone new to the city, offering fully furnished, private bedrooms within beautiful shared suites. Your rent includes utilities, WiFi, free laundry, free weekly cleaning, and Smart TVs, which translates into $380 a month in savings.