Chicago – USA, North America
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the USA, after New York City and Los Angeles. Its metropolitan area, sometimes called “Chicagoland,” is the third largest in the United States, the largest in the Great Lakes Megalopolis, and the 27th most populous urban agglomeration in the world, with an estimated 9.8 million people in the three US states of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Chicago is the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States, after Los Angeles County, California.
Chicago was incorporated as a town in 1833, near a portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed. Today, the city retains its status as a major hub for industry, telecommunications and infrastructure, with O’Hare International Airport being the second busiest airport in the world in terms of traffic movements. In 2008, the city hosted 45.6 million domestic and overseas visitors. As of 2010, Chicago’s metropolitan area has the 4th largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) among world metropolitan areas, after Tokyo, New York City, and Los Angeles.
The city is a center for services, business and finance and is listed as one of the world’s top ten Global Financial Centers. The World Cities Study Group at Loughborough University rated Chicago as an “alpha+ world city.” In a 2010 survey collaboration between Foreign Policy and A.T Kearney ranking cities, Chicago ranked 6th, just after Paris and Hong Kong. The ranking assesses five dimensions: value of capital markets, diversity of human capital, international information resources, international cultural resources, and political influence. Chicago has been ranked by The Atlantic as the world’s 4th most economically powerful city, and by Forbes as 5th most powerful. Chicago is a stronghold of the Democratic Party and has been home to many influential politicians, including the current President of the United States, Barack Obama.
The city’s notoriety expressed in popular culture is found in novels, plays, movies, songs, various types of journals (for example, sports, entertainment, business, trade, and academic), and the news media. Chicago has numerous nicknames, which reflect the impressions and opinions about historical and contemporary Chicago. The best known include: “Chi-town,” “Windy City,” “Second City,” and the “City of Big Shoulders.” Chicago has also been called “the most American of big cities”.
The city lies within the humid continental climate zone, and experiences four distinct seasons. Summers are hot and humid, with a July daily average of 84.7 °F (29.3 °C). In a normal summer, temperatures exceed 90 °F (32 °C) on 21 days. Winters are cold, snowy, and windy, with some sunny days, and with a January average of 23.5 °F (−4.7 °C). Temperatures often (43 days) stay below freezing for an entire day, and lows below 0 °F (−18 °C) occur on eight nights per year. Spring and fall are mild seasons with low humidity.
According to the National Weather Service, Chicago’s highest official temperature reading of 107 °F (42 °C) was recorded on June 1, 1934 and July 11, 1936, both at Midway Airport. The lowest temperature of −27 °F (−33 °C) was recorded on January 20, 1985, at O’Hare Airport. The city can experience extreme winter cold spells that may last for several consecutive days.
The city’s waterfront allure and nightlife has attracted residents and tourists alike. Over one-third of the city population is concentrated in the lakefront neighborhoods (from Rogers Park in the north to South Shore in the south). The city has many upscale dining establishments as well as many ethnic restaurant districts. These districts include the Mexican villages, such as Pilsen along 18th street, and La Villita along 26th Street, the Puerto Rican enclave Paseo Boricua in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, “Greektown” along South Halsted St, “Little Italy” along Taylor St, “Chinatown, Chicago” on the South Side, “Polish Patches” in Avondale and Belmont-Central, “Little Seoul” around Lawrence Avenue, a cluster of Vietnamese restaurants on Argyle Street, and South Asian (Indian/Pakistani) along Devon Avenue.
Downtown is the center of Chicago’s financial, cultural, and commercial institutions and home to Grant Park and many of the city’s skyscrapers. Many of the city’s financial institutions (for example, CBOT, Chicago Fed) are located within a section of downtown called “The Loop”, which is an eight block by five block square of city streets that are encircled by elevated rail tracks. The term “The Loop” is largely used to refer to the entire downtown area as well. The central area includes the Near North Side, the Near South Side, and the Near West Side, as well as the Loop. These areas contribute famous skyscrapers, abundant restaurants, shopping, museums, a stadium for the Chicago Bears, convention facilities, parkland, and beaches.
The North Side is the most densely populated section of the city outside of downtown and many high-rises line this side of the city along the lakefront. Lincoln Park is a 1,200-acre (490 ha) park stretching for 5.5 mi (8.9 km) along the waterfront and containing the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lincoln Park Conservatory. The River North neighborhood features the nation’s largest concentration of contemporary art galleries outside of New York City. As a Polonia center, due to the city having a very large Polish population, Chicago celebrates every Labor Day weekend at the Taste of Polonia Festival in the Jefferson Park area. The Chicago Cubs play in the North Side’s Lakeview neighborhood, in the Wrigleyville district.
The South Side is home to the University of Chicago (UC), ranked one of the world’s top ten universities; and the Museum of Science and Industry. Burnham Park stretches along the waterfront of the South Side. Two of the city’s largest parks are also located on this side of the city: Jackson Park, bordering the waterfront, hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, and is home of the aforementioned museum; and slightly west sits Washington Park. The two parks themselves are connected by a wide strip of parkland called the Midway Plaisance, running adjacent to the UC. The South Side hosts one of the city’s largest parades, the annual African American Bud Billiken Day parade. The American automaker Ford Motor Company has an assembly plant located on the South Side, and most of the facilities of the Port of Chicago are here. The Chicago White Sox play in the South Side’s Armour Square neighborhood.
The West Side holds the Garfield Park Conservatory, one of the largest collections of tropical plants of any US city. Prominent Latino cultural attractions found here include Humboldt Park’s Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Puerto Rican Day Parade, as well as the National Museum of Mexican Art and St. Adalbert’s Church in Pilsen. The Near West Side holds the University of Illinois at Chicago and television production company of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios. The Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks play on Madison Street.
In 2008, Chicago attracted 32.4 million domestic leisure travelers, 11.7 million domestic business travelers and 1.3 million overseas visitors. These visitors contributed more than US$11.8 billion to Chicago’s economy. Upscale shopping along the Magnificent Mile and State Street, thousands of restaurants, as well as Chicago’s eminent architecture, continue to draw tourists. The city is the United States’ third-largest convention destination. A 2011 study by Walk Score ranked Chicago the fourth most walkable of fifty largest cities in the United States. Most conventions are held at McCormick Place, just south of Soldier Field. The historic Chicago Cultural Center (1897), originally serving as the Chicago Public Library, now houses the city’s Visitor Information Center, galleries and exhibit halls. The ceiling of its Preston Bradley Hall includes a 38 ft (12 m) Tiffany glass dome. Grant Park holds Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain (1927), and the Art Institute of Chicago. The park also hosts the annual Taste of Chicago festival. In Millennium Park, there is the reflective Cloud Gate sculpture. Also, an outdoor restaurant transforms into an ice rink in the winter season. Two tall glass sculptures make up the Crown Fountain. The fountain’s two towers display visual effects from LED images of Chicagoans’ faces, along with water spouting from their lips. Frank Gehry’s detailed, stainless steel band shell, the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, hosts the classical Grant Park Music Festival concert series. Behind the pavilion’s stage is the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, an indoor venue for mid-sized performing arts companies, including the Chicago Opera Theater and Music of the Baroque.
Navy Pier, located just east of Streeterville, is 3,000 ft (910 m) long and houses retail stores, restaurants, museums, exhibition halls and auditoriums. Its 150-foot (46 m) tall Ferris wheel is one of the most visited landmarks in the Midwest, attracting about 8 million people annually.
In 1998, the city officially opened the Museum Campus, a 10-acre (4.0 ha) lakefront park, surrounding three of the city’s main museums, each of which is of national importance: the Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Shedd Aquarium. The Museum Campus joins the southern section of Grant Park, which includes the renowned Art Institute of Chicago. Buckingham Fountain anchors the downtown park along the lakefront. The University of Chicago Oriental Institute has an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern archaeological artifacts. Other museums and galleries in Chicago include the Chicago History Museum, the DuSable Museum of African American History, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the Polish Museum of America, the Museum of Broadcast Communications and the Museum of Science and Industry.
The top activity while visitors tour Chicago for leisure is entertainment, approximately 33% of all leisure travelers. Facilities such as McCormick Place and the Chicago Theatre contribute to this percentage.
Chicago was named the Best Sports City in the United States by The Sporting News in 1993, 2006, 2010. The city is home to two Major League Baseball (MLB) teams: the Chicago Cubs of the National League (NL), who play in Wrigley Field on the North Side, and the Chicago White Sox of the American League (AL), who play in U.S. Cellular Field on the South Side. Chicago is the only city that has had more than one MLB franchise every year since the AL began in 1901. The Chicago Bears, one of the last two remaining charter members of the National Football League (NFL), have won nine NFL Championships, including Super Bowl XX. The other remaining charter franchise, the Chicago Cardinals, also started out in the city, but are now known as the Arizona Cardinals. The Bears play their home games at Soldier Field just off the shore of Lake Michigan.