Chicago: My kind of town

By Kalyn Story | Print Managing Editor

“Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.” – Carl Sandburg, “Chicago.”

If you know me, you know I am completely in love with the city of Chicago. Here are just a few reasons why I believe Chicago is the greatest city in the world.

1. Public transit

The L is the best mass transit system in the United States. Not the fastest, nor the most reliable. Not the newest, nor the longest. The best. Yes, it has its drawbacks. It’s undeniably loud, and a quarter of the year, you’re freezing waiting on cement platforms 30 to 40 feet above the ground, where the wind is cruelly pronounced. Even so, the L is the best because of where you are when you ride it: elevated. The L reveals a Chicago of a thousand unconsidered angles; it offers a view without filter or comparison.

I took the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) every day to and from school for most of my life, but last spring I truly rode the L. The whole thing in one day: 13-hour trip across the entire city. Six lines, 145 stations and 224 miles of track.

I saw the river, the lake, the skyline, the streetlights, the side streets, the rooftops, the houses, the condos, the gardens, the storefronts, the malls, the footpaths and the highways. If that 13-hour day with no food or breaks confirmed one thing, it was my love for Chicago.

2. Neighborhoods

Chicago is made up of 77 different neighborhoods, and there is something for everyone. Chicago is rich in history and culture in every area of the city. No matter your background or interests, there is a place for you in Chicago. I love our neighborhoods because it provides a small-town sense of community within the city, there’s also plenty to explore when you’re in need of a change, stepping into a different neighborhood can feel like entering a whole new world. So, if you’re visiting Chicago, take a break from downtown and check out the architecture in Hyde Park, take a walking tour of the murals in Pilsen and enjoy the National Museum of Mexican Art, learn about Chicago’s history in Bronzeville and pick up some pastries in Ukranian Village.


3. The Beach

Yes, we really have beaches. Driving down Lake Shore Drive between the skyline and the water is one of my favorite views of Chicago. Chicago’s public beaches are one of the best summer actives in the city, it’s always free and the water won’t burn your eyes. In the fall and spring sitting at the pier gives you a view like no other, and in the winter looking out at a frozen over Lake Michigan seems like you’re on another planet.

As Jamila Woods says in her song LSD, “You gotta love me like I love the lake/ you wanna love me, better love the lake.”

4. Winter

“I must confess a shameful secret, I love Chicago best in the cold.” – Erik Larson, “The Devil in the White City”

A lot of people would have Chicago’s winters on their cons list, but not me. Winter in Chicago can be cruel; I’ll give you that. This winter, it’s temperatures rivaled Antarctica, Mount Everest and Mars, but Chicago shines in the snow. Every Christmas Chicago transforms into a winter wonderland. The cold won’t kill you, so enjoy it! See the Christkindlemarket and go ice-skating at Millennium Park. If you really cant take the cold, warm up at the Garfield Park Conservatory. It’s beautiful year round but, it hits different in mid-February, trust me.

Chicago weather builds character, and we could all use some.

5. Mild Sauce

That’s it. That’s the whole point.

6. In all seriousness – the food.

The only real pizza is Chicago Deep Dish, and no, Old Chicago does not count. Hot dogs should always be a hickory-smoked, natural-casing Vienna Beef hot dog in a poppy-seed-crowned bun topped with minced raw onions, emerald-green and candy-sweet relish, tomato wedges, spicy pickled sport peppers, dill spear, a dash of celery salt and yellow deli mustard. And most importantly, hot dogs should never have ketchup. Food is something I miss the most about Chicago. Luckily, Portillo’s and Lou Malnati’s ship cross-country so I can have a real Chicago pizza, hot dog or Italian Beef whenever, and wherever. Now if only I could figure out how to bring mild sauce to Texas…

7. Chicagoans

Another thing I love about Chicago is the people. A friend once said to me, “I wish I loved anything as much as people from Chicago love Chicago,” and it’s true. Chicagoans have a lot of pride in our city, it is not uncommon to see a tattoo of the skyline or the Chicago flag. We are known to be very particular about who gets to call themselves a Chicagoan (the suburbs do not count).

No city is perfect, and Chicago certainly has areas it can improve, but William A. Hulbert captured my feelings exactly when he said, “I’d rather be a lamppost in Chicago than a millionaire in any other city.”