There's nothing Chicagoans love more than Chicago. The unique history of architecture, unmatched gastronomy and euphoric summers always reignite city dwellers' passion for the city. We asked Time Out Chicago readers on X and Facebook what makes them fall in love with the city and received a lot of feedback. Here are some of the things that give Chicagoans butterflies about a very special city.
1. The beaches
If you tell a coastal friend about your summer days at the beach, most of them might be surprised to hear about the city beaches. It’s one of Chicago's best kept secrets from outsiders—along all 28 miles of the sprawling lakefront, there are 24 sandy beaches stretching from Juneway Beach in Rogers Park to Calumet Beach in the East Side. While not the preferred hangout spot during the winter months, it’s a core part of what makes Chicago summers unforgettable. Whether you’re meeting up with friends for a beach picnic or going for a sunrise swim, visiting a Chicago beach always reignites Chicagoans’ love for the city.
2. Italian beef
Deep dish is out, Italian beef is in. This hearty hodge-podge of tender beef roast, hot or sweet peppers and rich jus has grown to become Chicago’s favorite delicacy. Thanks to The Bear, this sandwich has been graciously shared with the rest of the world. Fan favorite outposts for the best Italian beefs in Chicago include Al’s Beef, Johnnie’s and Mr. Beef.
3. Public art
A giant chrome bean in the middle of Millenium Park, hordes of stucco headless figures in Grant Park and the largest video-project art installation broadcasted onto Merchandise Mart. These are some of the endearing forms of public art in Chicago—you may not fully “get it” at first glance, but it still adds a pleasant quirkiness to the city. With ever-growing additions to public monuments of Chicagoans’ adoration (re: Rat Hole), unique artistic expression in Chicago’s park and city streets are always something that captivates natives and visitors alike.
4. The smell of chocolate from the Blommer Chocolate Factory
If you’ve ever been at Kinzie and Desplaines Streets in the West Loop, you’ve probably gotten a sudden, strong and unexpected whiff of chocolate filling your nostrils. Blommer Chocolate Company, the cocoa bean processor founded in 1939, can be thanked for the sweet smell filling the air. For many, it’s a pleasant treat of Sweet Home Chicago.
5. Lake Shore Drive
For some of the most scenic views of Lake Michigan, look no further than the lakefront highway that is Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Lake Shore Drive. Aside from getting you from Hyde Park to Uptown in record time, the Drive gives unbeatable views of the downtown skyline and lakefront. If you’re going to be stuck in traffic, at least you have something to look at.
6. O’Hare International Airport
Although everyone has at least one travel nightmare at this iconic airline hub, relative to a lot of other city options, it’s something a lot of Chicagoans are grateful for. Not only has it been crowned as the most internationally connected airport with nonstop flights to 218 cities around the world, it’s directly accessible by highway and public transportation.
7. Music scene
Music flows through the fabric of Chicago—it’s the birthplace of gospel, electric blues and house music. With over 250 live music venues around the city and colossal music festivals like Lollapalooza and Pitchfork, there’s plenty to appreciate about Chicago’s music scene.
As a manifestation of Chicago’s thriving Puerto Rican community, the jibarito joins the ranks of classic Chicago sandwiches. The jibarito was introduced at Borinquen Restaurant in Humboldt Park by Juan Figueroa in 1996. Replacing typical bread with flattened, fried green plantains, the inventive dish has nearly become synonymous with Chicago and one of the many reasons to fall in love with Chicago cuisine.
9. City architecture
Home of the original skyscraper, it’s impossible not to notice Chicago’s striking architectural forms. The unmistakable downtown skyline, rows of single-family bungalows, ornate greystone buildings and occasional art deco structures all make the city a sight to behold. Take a glance upward on your next walk around the neighborhood—you just might stumble across some of the most beautiful buildings in Chicago.
10. Summer street festivals
It’s not summer in Chicago without weekly street closures for impressive summer festivities centered around food, culture and music. From Mole de Mayo in Pilsen to the Bud Billiken Parade in Bronzeville to West Fest in West Town, Chicagoans never run out of things to do every summer.