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Your guide to living in Chicago

Living in Chicago can be overwhelming. Use this guide to city life as your survival manual and you'll be a Chicago expert in no time

Photograph: Matthew Bowie
One of the iconic views of the Chicago skyline from Willis Tower.

Living in Chicago doesn't have to be a puzzle. The tips and secrets to the city are right at your fingertips. Whether it's navigating food staples like pizza and hot dogs, figuring out which neighborhood you should call home or knowing who to avoid on public transit, we've got the essentials to becoming a Chicago expert.

We took a helicopter tour of the Chicago skyline
Blog

We took a helicopter tour of the Chicago skyline

Until very recently, the only way to take a helicopter tour of Chicago was to drive out to the suburbs and then fly back into the city to see the sights. A new heliport near Bridgeport offers a more efficient way of seeing the skyline from the air. Chicago Helicopter Experience just moved into its riverfront lot and is currently operating out of a temporary building while construction begins on its permanent visitor center. Eventually the company will have a hangar stocked with copters (right now, they're being flown in from the 'burbs) and a dock where water taxis can pick up and drop off guests, but they're already welcoming visitors who want to fly. Upon arrival (at least 40 minutes before your scheduled flight—don't be late) customers are checked in and weighed, so that passengers can be evenly distributed throughout each helicopter. After checking in, guests can take a walk through a small museum that gives an overview of the history of Chicago and the city's changing architectural landscape. Before boarding the helicopter, passengers go through a metal detector (just like at any airport), watch a brief instructional video that outlines safety procedures and then head to the tarmac for a photo. The tour itself lasts for about 15 minutes, taking you to Montrose Harbor and back while flying over Lake Michigan. From around 2,000 feet in the air, you'll see landmarks like Soldier Field, Navy Pier and Lincoln Park Zoo from an entirely new perspective. You won't be weaving b

25 people you're guaranteed to run into at a Chicago street festival
Blog

25 people you're guaranteed to run into at a Chicago street festival

You're going to a street festival this summer and that's all there is to it. And while you're there, you'll see a whole host of characters that seem to be fixtures at all Chicago summer festivals, no matter which you choose to attend. The people will be various incarnations of sad, happy, oblivious, in bizarre states of dress and undress. Of course, a select few are guaranteed to be an unfortunate hot mess. Most will just be regular Chicagoans having fun though, out people-watching like the rest of us. One person there will be you. Which will it be? 1. The person who forgot to apply sunscreen all day. 2. The guy who insists on drinking only cocktails served in a pineapple. 3. The girl wearing a cowboy hat and boots for some inexplicable reason. 4. The guy walking around with corncob kernels in his beard. 5. The dad with a double stroller angrily apologizing to everyone he bumps into. 6. Hippie woman with a flowered headband dancing all by herself and/or on drugs. 7. Barely Scottish guy re-appropriating his heritage with a kilt. 8. Really hairy dude in a tank top. 9. Really hairy dude without a shirt. 10. Really hairy dude with something shaved into his chest and/or back. 11. Person puking into a trash can in broad daylight while their friends watch mortified, remorseless, at a distance. 12. The lost, barefoot wanderer. 13. The guy wearing his pet bird or snake on his shoulder. 14. The person who buys you a drink, says they're from Chicago, but later tells you

20 signs you've been blessed by the Chicago gods
Blog

20 signs you've been blessed by the Chicago gods

Chicago can be a rough city. Sometimes it feels like everyone is being a complete asshole, and you just want to curl up in a ball for a daylong cry. But every once in a blue moon, everything comes together and goes your way. Here are a few of the ways you know that the Chicago gods are on your side. 1. You hop on a train that's going express to your destination—and you get a seat. 2. There isn't a wait when you arrive to your favorite brunch spot at 12:30pm on a Sunday. 3. After a treacherous winter snowstorm, some anonymous neighbor shovels the sidewalk in front of your house. 4. It doesn't rain at all during a three-day music festival you're attending. 5. You're recognized as a regular at your favorite bar, and you're given a free shot. 6. An out-of-town friend doesn't request to see Navy Pier, the Bean or eat deep-dish pizza while visiting. 7. The Tamale Guy shows up exactly when you need him. 8. You park illegally overnight and don't get a ticket. 9. You score the last two spots in line on Saturday morning for the Half Acre Brewery tour. 10. When summer finally arrives, you're able to get a table on the patio at Big Star. 11. Your co-worker's improv group doesn't suck. 12. There isn't surge rate on Uber during rush hour, terrible weather or after a concert. 13. No one steals your "dibbed" parking spot during the winter. 14. You pass through Wrigleyville without encountering an obnoxiously intoxicated bro. 15. The Bulls score 100 points at a game you're atte

Where Chicago residents and tourists take photos
Blog

Where Chicago residents and tourists take photos

Five years ago, a photographer named Eric Fischer embarked on a project called "Locals and Tourists" that had him mapping the photo habits of Chicago residents and tourists.  The results are above. While not necessarily mind-blowing, but they do look nice. The red dots in the map above represent photos shot by tourists, blue dots are those taken by Chicago natives. Yellow dots represent photos taken by people who's status as tourists couldn't be determined. As expected, the Loop is consumed by a fair amount of tourists. Navy Pier is entirely swarmed. Even so, the most noticeable color on this map is blue. Many cities in the Locals and Tourists project didn't come anywhere near as close to Chicago in terms of spread. Houston, the nation's next-largest city, is a comparative dead zone (see below). Perhaps the best takeaway is that people really love spending time in Chicago.  Here's what Chicago looks like as a picture-taking whole—tourist or not. Photograph: Eric Fischer / Flickr Here are some of the photo maps from other U.S. cities:   New York City Photograph: Eric Fischer / Flickr   San Francisco Photograph: Eric Fischer / Flickr       Los Angeles Photograph: Eric Fischer / Flickr       Houston Photograph: Eric Fischer / Flickr       Detroit Photograph: Eric Fischer / Flickr   Las Vegas Photograph: Eric Fischer / Flickr       London Photograph: Eric Fischer / Flickr       Venice Photograph: Eric Fisc

Chicago vs. New York
Blog

Chicago vs. New York

Once and for all, we are ending the debate with these 33 reasons Chicago is better than New York

26 ways to piss us off
Things to do

26 ways to piss us off

No. 13: Put your name on a skyscraper

Chicago in the movies
Movies

Chicago in the movies

Here are things we learned about our CTA, sex lives and more from movies

18 ideas we'd steal
Things to do

18 ideas we'd steal

Co-opting these events, venues and innovations from other cities would making living in Chicago even better

Chicago guilty pleasures
Things to do

Chicago guilty pleasures

If loving our city's suburbs, cover bands, malls and big batch beers is wrong, we don't want to be right

Best and worst Chicago tattoos
Things to do

Best and worst Chicago tattoos

Before you go under the gun, take a look at some inked-up tributes to the city

The 14 runners you'll see
Things to do

The 14 runners you'll see

You're sure to encounter these runners on the road to shin splints

Gone but not forgotten
Things to do

Gone but not forgotten

These are the closed Chicago restaurants, bars, nightclubs and more that we pine for the most

The essentials of living in Chicago

27 Chicago hacks to make your life easier
Blog

27 Chicago hacks to make your life easier

Chicago transit guide
Things to do

Chicago transit guide

Chicago businesses we miss
Things to do

Chicago businesses we miss

Chicago apartments guide
Shopping

Chicago apartments guide

10 things Chicagoans have to explain to out-of-towners
Blog

10 things Chicagoans have to explain to out-of-towners

51 things you'll never hear a Chicagoan say
Things to do

51 things you'll never hear a Chicagoan say

Chicago rites of passage
Things to do

Chicago rites of passage

The 16 rules of living in Chicago
Things to do

The 16 rules of living in Chicago

33 things that will definitely happen to you when moving to Chicago
Things to do

33 things that will definitely happen to you when moving to Chicago

The 19 people you'll see on the CTA
Things to do

The 19 people you'll see on the CTA

Overrated and underrated people and places in Chicago
Things to do

Overrated and underrated people and places in Chicago

See Chicago then and now via Google Street View
Things to do

See Chicago then and now via Google Street View

What kind of Chicagoan are you?

Quiz: Which neighborhood do you actually belong in?
Things to do

Quiz: Which neighborhood do you actually belong in?

Quiz: Which Chicago music fest are you?
Music

Quiz: Which Chicago music fest are you?

Why we love Chicago

33 reasons Chicago kicks New York's ass
Blog

33 reasons Chicago kicks New York's ass

Of course Chicago is better than New York. We Chicagoans know this to be true and, if New Yorkers are being honest with themselves, they know it, too.

25 reasons why Chicago is the best city to raise kids
Kids

25 reasons why Chicago is the best city to raise kids

Here's why your kids will have awesome childhoods and grow up to be well-rounded people if you raise them in Chicago

The 50 most beautiful buildings in Chicago
Museums

The 50 most beautiful buildings in Chicago

We searched Chicago's skyline from the skyscrapers to the side streets (and beyond) to find our favorite examples of the city's architectural excellence

The 41 greatest Chicago albums of all time
Music

The 41 greatest Chicago albums of all time

From Curtis to Kanye, from Screeching Weasel to Pelican, these are our favorite records made by Chicago artists ever

16 reasons why we can't leave Chicago

16 reasons why we can't leave Chicago

The winters can make us question why we live in Chicago, but these answers keep us right where we are

Chicago in photos

See Chicago then and now
Things to do

See Chicago then and now

Remember 2007 and 2008? There was some kind of election going on, a local guy running or something? And Gov. Blagojevich was arrested in 2008—that was fun. Oh, right, and the economy tanked. Good times! RECOMMENDED: Your guide to living in Chicago The city looked a lot different, too. Now, thanks to Google Street View’s cool new feature that allows you switch to a view of the same scene several years back (click the little clock in the top-left corner when you’re in Street View), we can study how Chicago has changed over the years—for the better, and sometimes for the worse. Here are some key ways Chicago has evolved over the past six to seven years. One thing is clear: There are a lot more Targets now. // original_jQuery = $ = jQuery; // // $_alt = jQuery; jQuery = $ = original_jQuery; // 1200 N Larabee St // $_alt(function(){ $_alt('#container').beforeAfter({ imagePath:'http://media.timeout.com/london/microsites/soho-bcp/', introPosition : .50, cursor: 'e-resize', enableKeyboard: true, dividerColor: '#ed1b24' }); }); // That's one of the remaining Cabrini Green towers in the before view...and then a Target. 150 W Roosevelt Rd // $_alt(function(){ $_alt('#container7').beforeAfter({ imagePath:'http://media.timeout.com/london/microsites/soho-bcp/', introPosition : .50, cursor: 'e-resize', enableKeyboard: true, dividerColor: '#ed1b24' }); }); // Before: empty space with a great vi

Chicago ghost signs
Things to do

Chicago ghost signs

Extreme views of Chicago
Things to do

Extreme views of Chicago

Chicago wrapped in a blanket of fog
Things to do

Chicago wrapped in a blanket of fog

Shots of stunning Chicago sunrises and sunsets
Things to do

Shots of stunning Chicago sunrises and sunsets

Gorgeous shots of fall
Things to do

Gorgeous shots of fall

Wild photos the derecho storm
Things to do

Wild photos the derecho storm

Summer in Chicago
Things to do

Summer in Chicago

Mapping Chicago

What if Chicago were Game of Thrones?
Things to do

What if Chicago were Game of Thrones?

We map the lands and castles of George R.R. Martin's fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire to their equivalent Chicago neighborhoods

How Chicago sees the Midwest, how the Midwest views Chicago
Things to do

How Chicago sees the Midwest, how the Midwest views Chicago

Our map of state stereotypes breaks down how we in the city view our region

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