Essential Chicago

Get to know Chicago like a Chicagoan

When you take time away from campus, you’ll want to get to know more about your new hometown.

Just the facts

Topic Facts The Real Deal
 Weather Chicago is often called the windy city for the politics and because the weather is truly windy and unpredictable. Always check the forecast before heading out for the day so you’re prepared–you never know what the temperature will be at the end of the day. Every Chicagoan knows the closer you are to the lakefront, the colder and windier it gets.
Cost of Living Milk: $3.19/gal regular; $4.39/half gal organic, Monthly CTA pass: $101 (“L” trains & local bus), Gas: $2.76/gal regular, Movie ticket: $12.50/adult, Restaurant Dinner: $40/person Museums offer free days and attractions like Lincoln Park Zoo and the “Bean” are always free. If you decide to live here, keep in mind the closer to downtown you get the more expensive it becomes.
Population There are almost 3 million people living in Chicago and more than 9 million people living in the Chicago metro area. Chicago is the 3rd most populous city in the U.S.
Professional Sports Teams Baseball: Cubs, White Sox

Basketball: Bulls, Sky

Hockey: Blackhawks, Wolves

Soccer: Fire, Red Stars

Football: Bears

Chicago is one of a few cities with two professional baseball teams. Chicago’s major league soccer team got its name from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley cup in 1934, 1938, 1961, 2010, 2013 and 2015.
Major Media Filming in Chicago: The city is famous for being a backdrop for many movies including: “The Blues Brothers,” “Barbershop,” “The Dark Knight,”  “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “While You Were Sleeping” and “Stranger Than Fiction.” TV shows filmed in Chicago: “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Fire” and “Shameless”
Broadcast TV: ABC 7, CBS 2, NBC 5, Fox 32, WGN, WTTW
Radio: B96 (96.3), Kiss FM (103.5), The Mix (101.9), WBEZ (91.5) and WGCI (107.5)
Tallest Buildings
  1. Willis Tower (1973): 2nd tallest in the U.S., 1,451ft, 108 floors
  2. Trump Tower (2009): 4th tallest in the U.S., 1,389 ft, 90 floors
  3. Aon Center (1973): 5th tallest in the U.S., 1,136 ft, 83 floors
  4. John Hancock Center (1969): 6th tallest in the U.S., 1,128 ft, 100 floors
  5. Franklin Center North Tower (1989): 11th tallest in the U.S., 1,007 ft, 61 floors
 The Willis Tower was the tallest building in the U.S. until 2013 when New York’s One World Trade Center surpassed it. The Willis Tower is still referred to as “the Sears Tower” by most Chicagoans.

Major companies in Chicago

The University of Illinois at Chicago’s campus is located just minutes from downtown Chicago. While experiencing life on a college campus, students have easy access to the many companies located in the Chicago area with ample opportunites to work and intern in a variety of fields at companies spanning numerous industries. When students graduate from UIC, they are armed with real-world work experience which helps them stand out in today’s competitive workplace.

Archer-Daniels-Midland Co.

#27 in Fortune 500, one of the world’s leading processors of agricultural commodities.

The Boeing Company

#30 in Fortune 500, the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners and defense, space and security systems.

Walgreens

#37 in Fortune 500, the largest drug retail chain store in the U.S. was founded in Chicago and has its headquarters in Deerfield, a Chicago suburb.

United Continental Holdings, Inc.

#78 in Fortune 500, operates and owns United Airlines, the world’s largest airline.

McDonald’s Corp.

#106 in Fortune 500, headquartered in Oak Brook and Chicago’s Loop, there are more than 14,250 locations in the U.S. and 80 percent are run by franchisees or affiliates.

Exelon Corp.

#119 in Fortune 500, the nation’s leading competitive energy provider distributes electricity and gas to 7.8 million customers.

AbbVie Inc.

#152 in Fortune 500, a bio-pharmaceutical research company founded in 2013 by Abbott, has seven facilities making products that are available in more than 170 countries.

Chicago fundamentals

Brush up on these facts about the unique flavor, history and sites of Chicago. With this information you may win a few trivia contests and sound like a lifelong Chicagoan.

Slice of deep dish pizza being lifted from the pan

What makes it Chicago-style?

Chicago is a great food city, and some of our distinct flavor comes from Chicago-style pizza and hot dogs. Our deep-dish pizza is unique because of its height and the order of its ingredients: the pizza is covered in cheese then smothered in tomato sauce. Chicago hot dogs sit on a poppy-seed bun covered with mustard, onions, relish, tomatoes, pickle spear, pickled peppers and celery salt — and most importantly: no ketchup!

Harold Washington Library

Architecture

Chicago is home to the very first skyscraper. The Home Insurance Building was built in 1885 by William Le Baron Jenney. The Willis (Sears) Tower is present-day Chicago’s largest skyscraper. Built in 1970, the shape was named as the “bundle tube structure” and is famous for its two antennas. See all of Chicago’s great architecture via the many walking and bus tours as well as boat tours on the Chicago River during the warmer months. To see the city from above, check out the observation decks at Willis Tower or the Hancock Building.

Chicago's famous Water Tower

The Chicago Fire

Legend says the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was started by a cow kicking over a lantern. It’s real cause unknown, the fire destroyed three-and-a-half square miles of the city. The Chicago Water Tower was one of the few buildings to survive and still stands today along the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago. The re-built Chicago included fireproof buildings and the first skyscraper made of steel, introducing the city to the industrial revolution.

L train passing in front of sunset

The Loop

Most Chicagoans know the Loop to be the rectangular ring of elevated train tracks in the central business district, but some say that the name first referred to the downtown cable car turning loops. The officially designated community area named the Loop, however, expands beyond the “L” train hub. It stretches from Lake Michigan to the Chicago River and south to Roosevelt Road. Inside the Loop you’ll find City Hall, Millennium Park, Chicago Board of Trade, shopping on State Street, great restaurants and a variety of cultural and civic attractions.

Chicago's lakefront, Oak Street beach, and the Hancock tower

The Lakefront/Burnham Plan

In 1909, Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennett created the Plan of Chicago after studying cities across the world. The commonly-called Burnham Plan was created to improve the city so that it could better serve its growing population. One of the biggest goals of the plan was to improve and increase access to Chicago’s lakefront. Other elements included developing civic and cultural centers, larger streets, railroads and a highway system. It also introduced the grid system to the city.

People walking in a plaza with skyline in the background

Second City

Although Chicago is now the third largest city in the U.S., it was second only to New York for nearly 100 years in the aftermath of the 1871 fire. Some say the nickname Second City first came from New Yorker magazine writer Abbott J. Liebling’s less-than-flattering book Chicago: The Second City. However, others say it arose like the city from the ashes of the great fire when the “second city” of Chicago was built. Whatever the origins, today you’re more likely to hear it called Chi-Town, the Windy City or Sweet Home Chicago.