The City of Chicago covers an area of 60,000 hectares and sits 578 feet above sea level on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. At 190 km wide and 495 km long, makes Lake Michigan the 5th largest body of fresh water in the world. The city is traversed by the Chicago and Calumet rivers. Chicago’s extensive parklands, including 3,000 hectares of city parks attract an estimated 86 million visitors annually.
As a multicultural city that thrives on the harmony and diversity of its neighborhoods, Chicago today embodies the values of America’s heartland-integrity, hard work and community and reflects the ideals in the social fabric of its 77 distinct neighborhoods.
Chicago is recognized across the United States as a very passionate sports town. The United Center in Chicago is home to the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks, Soldier field is home to the Chicago Bears, Wrigley field is home to the Chicago Cubs, and U.S. Cellular Field has the Chicago White Sox. Chicago has been named as the Best Sports City by Sporting News three times in 1993, 2006, and 2010.
The city’s waterfront allure and nightlife has attracted residents and tourists alike. Over one-third of the city population is concentrated in the lakefront neighborhoods (from Rogers Park in the north to South Shore in the south). The city has many upscale dining establishments as well as many ethnic restaurant districts. These districts include the Mexican villages, such as Pilsen along 18th street, and La Villita along 26th Street; the Puerto Rican enclave Paseo Boricua in the Humboldt Park neighborhood; “Greek town”, along South Halsted St, immediately west of downtown; “Little Italy”, along Taylor St; “Chinatown”; “Polish Patches”; “Little Seoul”, around Lawrence Avenue; a cluster of Vietnamese restaurants along Argyle Avenue near Broadway, and Indian/Pakistani along Devon Avenue.
Downtown is the center of Chicago’s financial, cultural, and commercial institutions and home to Grant Park and many of the city’s skyscrapers. Many of the city’s financial institutions (for example, CBOT, Chicago Fed) are located within a section of downtown called “The Loop”, which is an eight-block by five-block square of city streets that are encircled by elevated rail tracks. The term “The Loop” is largely used by locals to refer to the entire downtown area as well. The central area includes the Near North Side, the Near South Side, and the Near West Side, as well as the Loop. These areas contribute famous skyscrapers, abundant restaurants, shopping, museums, a stadium for the Chicago Bears, convention facilities, parkland, and beaches.
The North Side is the most densely populated section of the city outside of downtown and many high-rises line this side of the city along the lakefront. Lincoln Park is a 1,200-acre park stretching for 5.5 mi along the waterfront and containing the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lincoln Park Conservatory. The River North neighborhood features the nation’s largest concentration of contemporary art galleries outside of New York City. As a Polonia center, due to the city’s having a very large Polish population, Chicago celebrates every Labor Day weekend at the Taste of Polonia Festival in the Jefferson Park area. The Chicago Cubs play in the North Side’s Lakeview neighborhood, in the Wrigleyville district. Lakeview is also home to Boystown, which, along with Andersonville, are the best known LGBT neighborhoods.
The South Side is home to the University Of Chicago (UC), ranked one of the world’s top ten universities; and the Museum of Science and Industry. Burnham Park stretches along the waterfront of the South Side. Two of the city’s largest parks are also located on this side of the city: Jackson Park, bordering the waterfront, hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, and is home of the aforementioned museum; and slightly west sits Washington Park. The two parks themselves are connected by a wide strip of parkland called the Midway Plaisance, running adjacent to the UC. The South Side hosts one of the city’s largest parades, the annual African American Bud Billiken Day parade. The American automaker Ford Motor Company has an assembly plant located on the South Side, and most of the facilities of the Port of Chicago are here. The Chicago White Sox play in the South Side’s Armour Square neighborhood.
The West Side holds the Garfield Park Conservatory, one of the largest collections of tropical plants in any US city. Prominent Latino cultural attractions found here include Humboldt Park’s Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Puerto Rican Day Parade, as well as the National Museum of Mexican Art and St. Adalbert’s Church in Pilsen. The Near West Side holds the University of Illinois at Chicago and television Production Company of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios. The Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks play on Madison Street.