16 reasons why we can't leave Chicago, even after this evil winter

We'll admit this winter has made us question why we live in Chicago, but the answers keep us right where we are

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Our skyline is beautiful, but it's not enough to keep us here.

Our skyline is beautiful, but it's not enough to keep us here.


You're not human if, after the third polar vortex, the hundreth snowfall, the bazillionth delayed El train, you haven't considered leaving this city. It's been a winter that's tested our will to live, much less our willingness to live in Chicago.

So on this, the 177th anniversary of Chicago's incorporation as a city, we've compiled the reasons why we at Time Out Chicago are committed to this city. In the end, it's not our stellar theater scene, our incredible restaurants and bars, or our countless music festivals that keeps us here—any big city has those things (not as good as ours, but still). Our reasons speak to the quality-of-life factors, the things that make living in Chicago better than in any other city.

Why do you stay? Tell us in the comments.

16. All the messy toil and sting of the cold season seem to disappear on that one magic day—it usually comes in the second week of March—when the early afternoon clouds part, the sun beats down with intensity you haven't felt in months and suddenly you're overdressed. You shed your bulky coat, stuff it in your bag and smile. It's not quite spring, but the worst of winter is behind you.—Jake Malooley, senior editor

15. You don't need a car to live here. The CTA is slow, clunky, late and often full of putrid smells, but it will get you where you need to go. Eventually.—Laura Baginski, editor

14. The people are what make Chicago great. Here, I can hang out with good friends all the time and it is easy to do. My friends who move away tell me that maintaining friendships in other not-to-be-named cities is really hard, and building a great network of friends in nearly impossible. In Chicago, I know if I stop at my local favorite bar or restaurant, I will know the bartender (a friend), an old pal will already be at the bar, and another friend will walk in the door a minute later, all unplanned.—Martha Williams, photo editor

13. There's a lot of talk in the theater and comedy scenes here about "paying your dues"—appropriate for this union town. And this brutal winter especially has felt like dues paid. But paying dues pays off, whether it's getting in on the ground floor with future comedy legends, or reaping the riches of Chicago in summer. The work we have to put in makes the rewards all the sweeter.—Kris Vire, associate editor, Theater, Comedy, LGBT

12. Because the beach is 15 minutes from pretty much anywhere you are in the city.—Erin Delahanty, senior digital marketing manager

11. The location. Being located in the Midwest means that I can hop on a plane and in about two hours be in New York, New Orleans, New England, D.C., and other spots my friends and family live. Plus, being driving distance from Milwaukee, Madison, Michigan, Indy, Louisville and other places means getting away for the weekend is super easy.—Amy Cavanaugh, Food & Drink editor

10. In some ways I think the winter slog makes us better appreciate Chicago's good points, in a self-reinforcing fashion: If we're willing to put up with this bullshit weather, this city must be pretty damn great.—KV

9. The 4am bars. And the White Sox.—Jessica Johnson, senior online producer

8. It's a city filled with driven, motivated people who also happen to (mostly) be friendly Midwesterners happy to give you directions when you're lost.—ED

7. Chicago is still reasonably affordable. New York magazine recently published a feature laying out what its city's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, can possibly do to make NYC affordable for the middle class. Here in Chicago, we don't have the same dire need to write those pieces. Not quite yet, anyway. That could change given Mayor Emanuel's fixation on making Chicago what he loves to call a "world-class city." Our city is world class, we don't need the sky-high rent to prove it.—JM

6. ​I can live alongside a massive body of water in a major metropolitan area—without paying a fortune.—Brent DiCrescenzo, managing editor

5. Chicago is now the place to set shoot your new TV show (Chicago PD, Crisis, Mind Games, Sirens, plus less-new shows like Chicago Fire, Shameless and the new season of Orange Is the New Black).—JJ

4. The beer. Confession: I hardly ever drank beer before moving to Chicago three and a half years ago. I’ve always been foremost a cocktail girl, but the vast number of breweries here and the availability of great beer has opened my eyes to all of the different styles available. I still have a ton to learn (and drink), but the beer scene has been one of the most exciting parts of living in Chicago.—AC

3. Every musical act in the world seems to play here, at some point. Sometimes it feels like every single last one of them is here in June, July and August alone.—BD

2. Chicago has all of the cultural richness of a major metropolitan city, but is very livable.  You can buy property or find a cheap apartment fairly easily, and live off very little if you need to. It was the perfect city for me when I was a broke college student, and it is still the perfect city for me as a first-time homeowner.—MW

1. The civic pride here is real. People here love to talk up their city, both the good and the bad (and then defend the hell out it when a non-Chicagoan dares to say something negative about the city). When I travel and people ask me where I'm from, I'm so proud to say I'm from Chicago.—LB


Users say

20 comments
Dustin D
Dustin D

Possibly moving to Chicago if this job works out.  I grew up in the twin cities which has a lot of similar friendliness (Minnesota Nice).  You don't get the homeless beggars pestering you as much in the twin cities but that is to be expected in any larger city, but that is the reason I'm going is to help end the high level Generational poverty in the schools. Glad to see I won't miss Minneapolis too much moving to Chicago.

Amanda N
Amanda N

Socioeconomic issues are present anywhere. And anywhere is better to live when you have money and social priveledge. No point debating it when contributors (note: it wasn't one author) are pointing out factors of one city that combine to make it unique from many other cities.

It's affordable and livable and full of appreciative good-natured people because of "the evil winter": points 16,14,10,8,7,6,2,1 are all a result of having awful winter weather. If the weather was more clement combined with all the social and cultural pluses we would have sky-high property prices and douches for neighbors, that is to say New York. 

Chicago is a cigar mecca, we have some of the best cigar lounges in the country and you can find a cigar related event every other week without fail.  

Pete F.
Pete F.

I for one can say I've never once thought of leaving Chicago -- this winter or any other.

D S
D S

You know, it is amazing how you can live right on the lake, be in a great city, and not go completely broke in the process. Not too dense, not too spread out. And you can choose your experience by living in whatever neighborhood you choose, and yet it all fits together beautifully.


What a great city.

Pedro C
Pedro C

These reasons you can apply to any city. Has this author actually lived in Chicago? And as a minority? Have you traveled further down than 35th and Roosevelt? Where did you actually come from? Have you also put down that this "Midwestern Charm" includes people being overly sarcastic and racist to each other? I will never ever want to walk down Wrigleyville because there will always be people who want to fight.  I lived here for nearly 30 years and found Chicagoans to be most the vocal and yet the most lazy people when it comes to solving problems. Chicagoans are stubbornly proud of their shittiness and would put people down on people who want to do more than work in corporate offices or guilds. I would like to see this author to do more than a google search and questioning her friends in the office about Chicago. I live in a different city right now (Los Angeles) and I would say you don't have to put up with this crap. There's a better life out there and don't let this crap article written by some transplant from Michigan, Ohio or Indiana tell you otherwise.

Jnette
Jnette

Seriously? No mention of cultural diversity? Chicago has one of best diverse neighborhoods without feeling out of place wherever you go. We have Devon Ave, we have Little Village, Greek Town, Pilsen, Humboldt Park, Ukrainian Village, Uptown, Hyde Park, Lawndale and the list goes on. Yeah we might have great fine dining, but you know what, so do many other cities. Take a bus 20-40min in either direction in Chicago and your taste buds will be completely submerged in cultural ethnicity. On top of that it's Pazcki day today! Why are you not at a Polish bakery right now getting your yearly sweet Polish pastries?

Epiphany
Epiphany

I agree that Chicago is culturally one of the best cities in the U.S. Subsequently some of the best cuisine, transportation, attractions, beautiful skyline and lakefront. I AM A Chitown native and insightfullly left November 2013..missed the polar vortex, and high crime rate. I lived in Lakeview which used to be one of the low crime areas...no longer the case. YES I love my hometown for many of the reasons mentioned in your article. However, I will love it even more as a summer tourist to enjoy it's wonderful attributes...but will be happy to fly away afterwards. .

ML
ML

Completely disagree with #3 unless the submitter is talking about rock and pop. The best jazz artists seem to skip Chicago. You need to go to NYC, DC, SF or NOLA to see them.

Katie F
Katie F

 I'm truly sorry for you that you feel this way!!! I was born and raised in Lincoln Park (and live there to this day) and I can tell you that while racism and sarcasm are present in any city population, Chicago has way less of these people than any other city. Midwestern hospitality is prevalent here. I suggest walking around with a more open look on your face or maybe try smiling if you don't receive the amount of random smiles and waves that I receive on a daily basis from complete strangers. Otherwise maybe you should just consider moving because only .01% of the population doesn't like it here therefore you will have nobody to sympathise with. Chicago might be cold now, but it's the warmhearted people that keep me here and are the reason I will live here for the rest of my life. 

D S
D S

As a born and bred Chicagoan, you're a fucking idiot. Have fun getting botox and getting your script turned down for the 127th time in LA.

Pedro C
Pedro C

@Katie F Have you ever traveled outside of Lincoln Park? Have you even taken the red line past Chinatown and hung out at other places around the city? Do you even know about Hegewisch? Have you even been to Cal Park Beach? Or the St. Jude Shrine on East 91st street? Or even had a hot dog at Freddie's near Comiskey Park? Or eaten at Harold's Chicken on 119th and Western (technically that was in Blue Island)? Again, it seems that many people  like you think that Chicago is only downtown and Big Star Tacos. And they NEVER EVER dare to go to any other neighborhoods unless it's for their office charity event so they can feel good about themselves and drink Margaritas afterwards.  Of course the city works for you, you are probably not a minority and have never felt racism. Step into my shoes and walk around trying to do the best you can and have people outright REJECT you because you look different. Or have many of your friends and family question your philosophy because they don't understand it (and never will).  Y'all think I'm just some troll who doesn't know what he's talking about but unlike many of you I have been nearly everywhere in the city. I've driven inside it, I've taken nearly every line except for the Yellow, I've taken so many bus rides and I've eaten at nearly every restaurant at the crappy glass bowl that's the State building. I went to UIC for undergrad. I went to the Taste of Chicago every summer with my mom and dad.  Why don't you do something brave and take the red line all the way towards 95th. Tell me what you see and how you feel?  There many, many people that live in this city because they have to. Unfortunately this city doesn't work for them and it never will. So, I'm truly sorry that you are not aware of what's really going on but hey it works for you, good. Ignorance is bliss.

Pedro C
Pedro C

@D S Hah, That's the good 'ol "Midwestern Charm" I keep hearing about. As also a born and bred (Ex)Chicagoan I don't hide behind a hastily slapped together screen name to throw insults. I thought someone as "tough" as you (being from Chicago and all) would reveal yourself.  I'm not a screenwriter nor an actor by the way. I don't even work in that industry. There's more to LA than that (if you even bothered to travel outside of the state) And more to my point, you just put me down because I wanted to do something better. I'm not surprised. This is the stuff I've been talking about. You want a comment war? You got it.

@Pedro C Many of us choose not to go to some of the areas you write about not because we are not brave, but because we are not stupid.  Why would you want to take the L to a neighborhood that lives like a war zone?  When you watch world news and they talk about all the gun violence in Chicago, they are talking about the same neighborhoods over and over again.  I choose not to go there, and if the violent people that live there want to leave the city, I would be happy to see them go.

Jess P
Jess P

@Pedro C  Thanks for posting this comment. Your argument is well expressed (all you did was ask the question) and there is ALOT of truth in what you are saying. 

Spike Lee was just in the midst of a controversial flurry of news and blog posts for his rant about the hyper-gentrification of of Brooklyn. The same "columbus syndrome" that he feels drives white elite and mid class occupants into historically cultural neighborhoods is the same air that Chicagoans put on about the small pieces of the city they think is the whole. Nothing against Lincoln Park and Big Star Tacos because those places are great and help add to the city's make-up but that's not all there is. Sadly, people who live and seclude themselves in these parts do not really learn the entire character of Chicago all it's different colors, niches, wounds, scars, valleys and peaks---and that's a real shame. If in fact people did do that, it might be a different city than it is today which is still as segregated and racist as it was 40,50,60 years ago.

Pete F.
Pete F.

@Pedro C  Jesus Christ, we get it, you've seen a black person. Get over yourself.


By the way, Old Time Tap in Hegewisch is one of my favorite bars, and I can tell you, they'd be the first among us to tell your ass to go back to Milwaukee, or whatever the hell suburb you're from.

Pete F.
Pete F.

@Pedro C people from Chicago don't talk about "midwestern charm." This isn't Minnesota. Get out of here with that garbage.

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