A Primer on Chicago

What makes this city great?  And what about it will you find most compelling?

Many of you are facing the question of whether you want to uproot your life, leave your job, family, and friends and move to a place you may know nothing about.  And though that is certainly a daunting prospect, it’s also exciting for a number of reasons.  It pushes you out of your comfort zone (the first of many of such occurrences), it gives you a chance to redefine ‘local’, and allows you to navigate it all with many new friends.

While some business school experiences may not be interwoven with their locales, here at Booth, Chicago is very much part of the fabric of the university.  We interact with the city on a day to day basis, from our proximity to several major companies, to the unlimited dining options available, to the passionate and at times outspoken fan base that agrees on little else other than that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is no good.

I’ve learned that there’s something for everyone in this city, whether you’re a hardcore foodie, an arts lover, or just a fan of chilly Aprils.  I’ve listed some of my favorite aspects of Chicago below and I’d imagine each of us has a list quite different than the next!

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve lived in Chicago for exactly 9 months, so I’m not exactly what you’d call a long-time dweller.  But in my defense, I was quoted as being ‘of Chicago’ in this Washington Post Article that was published exactly 29 days after I moved in.  No, my hometown friends were not pleased).

Food: Chicago is about much more than deep dish pizza; it actually has the highest Chipotle-per-square-mile concentration in Illinois.  Just kidding.  Well it might be true, I don’t know.  At any rate, the key observation here is that this city offers a diverse range of cuisine, from casual eateries to Michelin rated restaurants, and everything in between.  Yes, it’s known for pizzeria landmarks like Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s but a single trip into West Loop (a neighborhood touted for its dining scene) could sprout a number of delicious options, such as Au Cheval, Green Street Meats, and Girl and The Goat.  These restaurants (and others) routinely are highly rated, win awards, and hit all sorts of ‘Top 10’ lists.

Nightlife: If you’re like me, you define a successful night as hitting the town with friends, listening to top-40 music, and flapping your shoulders/arms in different directions in an attempt at dancing.  And there’s plenty of that in Chicago (read: Social 25).  But the neighborhood-style layout of the city means other possibilities are endless as well.  You could hit up a dive bar in Lincoln Park (Rose’s Lounge) or a make it a fancier evening with some cocktails at The Violet Hour in Bucktown.

Sports: It’s no secret that Chicago has one of the best sports atmospheres in the country.  It is home to five franchises across the four major leagues and boasts an array of bars aligned to many teams, even ones with no relation to the Midwest.  Whether you’re watching the Bulls live at the United Center, or Manchester United from a local Irish pub, there is no shortage of viewing and rooting options.  And Wrigleyville is a must visit, even when the Cubs aren’t in season (on that note, given their position as the best team in the MLB, please refrain from jumping on the bandwagon now as that’s just considered poor taste at this point).

Arts and History: I can’t comment knowledgeably from a first-person perspective on this category but our Winter Formal was hosted at the Field Museum and I can promise hanging out with its prehistoric 13-ft-tall resident named Sue for the night was awesome.  Nonetheless, Chicago is known for its museums and cultural exhibits. In addition to the one above, the city offers Adler Planetarium, Chicago Art Institute, Chicago Theater, Second City, Museum of Science and Industry, among many more that appear on this Google search I’m currently running.

Weather: The school year coincides with some of Chicago’s less than desirable weather, and there’s no getting around the truth about the cold and wind.  Luckily, staying indoors gives you more opportunity to grab a cozy corner of the Winter Garden for that extra review session or case run through!  You’ll have to deal with the temperatures at various points, but the convenient Pedway system allows you to commute places underground and the sunshine from June to October may just make up for those chilly gusts.  Think about what a thick jacket looks like; then buy a thicker one and you’ll be good to go.

So there you have it.  My take on a city I’ve called home for just months but it feels like years.

In the words of Kanye West, “if you don’t know by now, I’m talking about Chi-Town.”

Welcome to Chicago.

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