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Moving to Chicago?
THINGS TO DO
Okay, the Loop is of course the go-to tourist spot in Chicago and “considered to be the cultural heart of Chicago”, but here are some other awesome places and attractions to check out!
This neighborhood is home to the Museum of Science and Industry, Smart Museum of Art, Hyde Park Art Center, and the Robie House, built by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, which is open for tours Thursday through Monday. It also has the Oriental Institute Museum, Midway Plaisance Park, which is a one-mile long park that has remained a green area, and the Court Theater. There are also great skyline views from the lakefront park, Burnham Park.
While Chicago is very urban, there is still a lot of nature! The lakefront trail is 18.5 miles long, we have 600 parks, 70 nature and bird sanctuaries, and a total of 8,800 acres of green space.
Often referred to as “Chicago’s front yard,” Grant Park is a 319-acres of green space that spans from the northern edges of the Near South Side to the eastern edge of The Loop. Here you can find the Art Institute of Chicago, The Field Museum, and Shedd Aquarium. This park also includes the grandiose Buckingham Fountain; it is one of the largest fountains in the world, shooting water up to 150 feet into the air during 20-minute choreographed displays. From April through October, These displays take place at the start of every hour between 9 a.m. and 10:35 p.m. Catch one of these displays at night for an added bonus of lights and music!
In the mood for some amazing entertainment and good laugh? The Second City is one of the world’s most iconic improvisational comedy theaters. It’s helped start the careers of many famous comedians like Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Amy Poehler, Eugene Levy, and Steve Carell. You can check out a live show on almost any night of the week at any of The Second City’s seven locations across Chicago.
At Navy Pier, you’ll find the shoreline water taxis. The red, white, and blue taxis take two routes; either going to the Museum Campus area or another going to the Willis Tower. There is a yellow, Chicago water taxi that goes from Michigan Avenue all the way to China Town. Water Taxi service usually begins in May and runs through September with some additional service throughout the fall and for special events. These taxis are great for showing off the Chicago architecture!
All you coffee lovers know that Chicago has hundreds of coffee shops. For a unique experience, check out Fairgrounds at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. Here you can sample some of the best coffee blends from all over the US. They offer beans from Chicago, Portland, California, Nashville, New York, and Milwaukee. If you’re not in a hurry, you can enjoy your coffee and a sandwich at Fairgrounds’ patio with a view of Millennium Park.
This is one of the most popular swimming spots in Chicago. In addition to the beautiful skyline view, there are volleyball courts, beach and sport activity rentals, a beach house, tons of space to spread out, and many options of fun things to do.
There are thousands of places to go to, events to attend, and activities to do for 100% free. ***(COVID may alter these)***
- The Lincoln Park Zoo (free always)
- Garfield Park Conservatory (free always)
- National Museum of Mexican Art (free always)
- Cultural Center (free always)
- Check out the iO Theater for free events
- North Avenue Beach
The Park District created “Night Out in the Parks”, which has about 2,000 free events in almost every neighborhood. Some examples are movie screenings, theater/dance performances, yoga classes, and even circuses!
Has designated free days (often only for IL residents):
- The Art Institute
- Shedd Aquarium
- The Field Museum
- Museum of Science and Industry
- Chicago History Museum (also every Tuesday 12:30 to 9:00 p.m for IL res.)
- Museum of Contemporary Art
- Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center (free every Wed.)
For an extensive list of free dates, times, and requirements from each museum!
Wondering how there could be any activities going on in Chicago’s crazy winter? Think again! There are plenty of winter activities that go on during the cold months. Here’s a list!
- Pitchfork’s Midwinter music festival
- Beer festivals
- Lincoln Park Zoo’s festive light display
- Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza
- A polar plunge into Lake Michigan
- Ice Skating in downtown
HOW TO GET AROUND THE CITY
Wait… there’s free parking in Chicago????
There are hotels that offer free parking when staying there, like the Ohio House Motel at 600 N. LaSalle St. in River North which is just blocks from the Chicago River and The Loop.
If you aren’t staying in a hotel though, there’s other ways to save on parking!
There’s free street parking in the area around Fulton Market, about a mile west of Downtown and the Loop.
Stores like Trader Joe’s (44 E Ontario), Eataly (10 E Grand), and French Market (131 N Clinton) will offer free 1-2 hour parking as long as you buy something. Make sure you check into store policies before parking!
All around the city are standing zones. You can park here for free for 15 minutes as long as your hazard lights are flashing.
How to find cheap street parking for under 2 hours
Spothero is a great resource to find and reserve parking so that you know what is cheapest and available.
Unlike other major cities, you can easily get around town on a train or bus, normally on time too!
There is a subway called the L. The nickname “the L” comes from the fact that the train cars run on elevated tracks. All L trains stop downtown in the Loop too!
If the L doesn’t take you where you need to go, there is another cheap option called the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The CTA has eight train lines and 140 bus routes that run very often. One pass costs $2.50, and it is only $.25 more to transfer to another train line or bus.
Want to escape the icy “Chiberia” wind in the winter? The Chicago Pedway is a series of underground walkways that goes from Maggie Daley Park to the corner of Madison and LaSalle streets.
BUYING A HOME IN CHICAGO
The best time to make an offer on a house in Chicago is between November and January. Why? Because nobody wants to move in the winter.
Chicago winters are typically harsh, and people do not want to deal with moving during it.
If you want to get a good deal it’s the timing of when you buy in Chicago.
Keep in mind that Chicago home value is 29% higher than the rest of the state of Illinois. Calculating your future home’s value will give you an idea of how much you want to offer for it, how much you’d want to sell it for, and can be a way of negotiating lower property taxes!
According to data from HomeLight, top agents in Chicago have helped homebuyers save $54,786 and place 1.8-times the number of transactions as average agents.
When looking for somewhere to live, check to see if the place comes with a homeowners association (HOA) fee. These fees can actually be more than the mortgage payment and is subject to change, which means it can increase after you move in.
Check out what the parking is like for your house or building. There are properties with free parking, but there are many with fees due to the need for parking in the city. Some places might give you reserved parking, some may leave you to fend for yourself, which is less than ideal when it’s -20 degrees in the dead of winter.
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