The Best Hacks for Chicago, According to Our Readers
You know the movie Chicago , the Sinatra song "Chicago," and the band Chicago? They're all based on a real city! And when we asked residents of that city for their best Chicago hacks , they gave us hundreds of them. Here are some of the best.
First off: It's technically the Willis Tower now, but just call it the Sears Tower. And it's still the tallest building in America if you don't count the World Trade Center's hat .
Now let's start with navigation tips and favorite spots from Andyjamesdie:
And one from PoopedTheBed:
And a cluster of cheap and free spots from tfpHumorBlog:
Check out the "3 dollar tour" guide by Bruno Puntz Jones , the guide to getting around by Chris , a long list of museums and attractions from Papa Van Twee , and a list of to-dos (including BBQ Supply Co, Hoosier Mama, and the turtle races at Big Joe's) from AaronAM .
A long guide by fatherjabroni includes some caveats about the transit system and roads, and some favorite music venues:
Metro, Empty Bottle, Lincoln Hall, Schubas, The Hideout, Old Town School of Folk Music, Park West. Avoid the Aragon. Green Mill is nice, but overrun on Friday and Saturday nights. SPACE in Evanston is a great venue, but small. SPACE is accessible by transit, but a bit of a hike. Plan accordingly.
Dailylife knows a better way to get a city view from the Hancock (and
recommends showing up around 5 for this):
ViewoftheSouthSide and efrog2.0 have some driving tips:
Cell service is bad downtown, a few readers pointed out. So here's an analog navigation tip from blipsman :
Learn the grid - State & Madison, in the Loop are the 0/0 from which all directional coordinates originate. Each 100 increment is 1/8 of a mile, major streets are every 1/2 mi. Knowing the coordinates or address you're at can help quickly determine where you are in the city. And learn the major roads and order in the areas you frequent.
Sherryist warns, "Everyone here speeds and is aggressive while driving," with left-lane speeds of 75-80 mph. "Your safest strategy is to stay in the far right lane if you do not know where you are going." She and oldasempire agree that the cops don't do much (at least to white drivers) on the expressways. (According to oldasempire, that's because state cops, not Chicago PD, are responsible for the interstate.)
You can take the train, says Dem_Boots_Tho , but be careful:
Hold on to the rails on the L and the bus. I have seen too many people (usually visitors) topple over.
Or even go by water taxi:
Get the most out of Chicago's museums:
"Chicago is very much a city of neighborhoods," says heffomite , "and much of its charm is in the variety and character of those neighborhoods." For example:
Walk down Devon Ave and buy spices from a South Asian grocer, fresh tortillas on Blue Island in Pilsen, late-night Korean bbq on the northwest side, jollof rice that will make you dance in your seat in Bronzeville.
Dem_Boots_Tho recommends Chinatown:
Chicago's Chinatown is AWESOME. It makes for a wonderful day trip just out of the city. Drink Boba, eat your weight in Dim Sum at Triple Crown and enjoy viewing all the beautiful architecture. (Extra points if you take the water taxi)
John77 likes Logan Square:
Logan Square very quickly turned into the new Wicker Park (hipster/trendy area), but it's quickly outgrowing that label. Logan is a good spot for bars, food. Wicker is now a good place for brunch and shopping.
From thisaccountburnslikephoenix (who got plenty of blowback for dissing Portillo's):
Lou Malnati's for deep dish and Gene & Jude's for a good hot dog. Gino's East is also fun and Downtown Dogs are also good. If anyone recommends Portillo's, cut them from your friends list.
BlueRing's got ice cream:
fatherjabroni says, "Edzo's burgers in Evanston are top-notch."
Kevin Ngo likes the coffee at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel (but mind the dress code).
QADude recommends ribs at Twin Anchors.
And do some BYOB, says heffomite :
There are a huge number of BYOB restaurants all over Chicago, ranging from low-key Mexican, Thai, and Cuban places all the way up to fine dining, Michelin star calibre places like Ruxbin and Goosefoot.
And as for deep dish pizza, read the commenter debate and decide for yourself.
Kevin Ngo says the water taxi isn't just for fun:
Take a better route to Wrigley Field:
Be very careful when you get towed:
Locals might like these two tips from John77 's long visitor guide:
Pack a hammock, rent a bike and hit the lake shore trail. I spent many, many summer days a little buzzed while swinging in my hammock with friends along the lake shore.
Check out the 606 Trail. It's an old railroad line converted to a run/bike path that cuts thru many west side neighborhoods. It's new and has some good elevated views of different neighborhoods.
That's it for Chicago-except for over a hundred more comments on our original post. Check them out! Leave your own, on that post or right below this one.
Come back Monday to give your tips on our next city, a picturesque palm-tree-lined parking lot full of aspiring waitstaff.