Chicago Neighborhoods for Newbies

Photo of Chicago skyline from a boat on Lake Michigan. Huge clouds overhead with sun rays poking through.

“I’m from Chicago! Well, not REALLY…”

This post is for all my people who say this phrase on the daily. Take myself for example: I grew up in a small town about an hour and a half away from the city- close enough for comfort, but far enough to not deal with the traffic. However, wherever I go, (maybe due to convenience, maybe done with pride) I find myself stating, “Oh, I’m from Chicago!”

I’ll admit, I’m a fraud. Sure, I have frequented the city a lot. I’ve done the “Bean-Buckingham Fountain-Sears/Willis Tower-Navy Pier-Magnificent Mile” thing, especially when family and friends from out-of-town come to visit. That being said, the thing that I am most excited this summer leading up to optometry school is making Chicago my own. However, when I think about Chicago, I realize I don’t know that much outside of the tourist spots!

After doing a little research about the city, I have found that there are so many fascinating places, cool areas, and vibrant neighborhoods, all ours for the taking. To start off the list:

Old Town 

Old Town is a neighborhood with tons of rich history. There are a lot of older, Victorian-style buildings in this area. Many of the streets are from before the Great Chicago Fire, and thus, do not follow the same grid pattern as the rest of the city. There is a church that is one of the 7 buildings to survive the fire in this district. This is also the home of the improv group “The Second City.”

The Gold Coast

This one many of you might have heard before. Located in the heart of the city, The Gold Coast is home to a ton of upscale high-rises, and has had the reputation of being the neighborhood of Chicago’s elite since the late 1800s. This area also boasts tons of high-end shopping, with names such as Gucci, Chanel, and Marc Jacobs lining the streets. Some of Chicago’s famous restaurants also reside here, and this district is known for its celebrity sightings.

South Loop

Personally, this is my favorite part of the city. If you have ever heard of McCormick Place or gone to Grant Park for Lollapalooza, you would be in the South Loop neighborhood! In addition, South Loop is home to three big museums of Chicago: the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Adler Planetarium. South Loop is known to have many artistic stores and restaurants, and is a hotspot for jazz, blues, and soul.

Streeterville

This is another big tourist spot. Home to Navy Pier, Streeterville is a place that has a ton of locations for dining and activities, all with a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan. Streeterville attracts locals and tourists alike for fireworks, Chicago’s Shakespeare Theater, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Chicago Children’s Museum. Streeterville also is the location of the Magnificent Mile, where Michigan Avenue runs for only about 3/4ths of a mile, lined with restaurants and luxury stores. It comes to an end towards the north with the Water Tower Place, the John Hancock Center, and the Drake Hotel.

River North

Originally named Smoky Hollow since it was the industrial hub of Chicago at the start of the 20th century, River North is to this day a neighborhood full of industry. The world headquarters of Groupon and Motorola call this area home, as do the Wrigley Building and the House of Blues. Within River North, there are many districts, some being the cathedral district, the theme-restaurant district, and the design district.

 

Though I could go on forever with the list, I will stop sounding like a tour guide for Chicago! This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the numerous neighborhoods of this great city. I am thoroughly ready to build upon the list as the next four years fly by.

What about you guys? Add the name of a popular or not-so-well-known area of Chicago in the comments so we can keep a running list going!

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