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FAQ About Chicago

In this FAQ, we’re just going to answer a ton of questions about Chicago that people ask. We’ll hopefully keep adding to it as time goes on. If you came here with a specific question (e.g. from Google), go ahead and Ctrl+F to find your question. Otherwise, just enjoy all the learning!

Chicago Basics

Where is Chicago?

Chicago is a city in the northeastern part of Illinois, United States of America. It is located on the southwestern tip of Lake Michigan.

Discussing the United States more broadly, Chicago is located in the “Midwest” region of the country which, despite its name, comprises the northern part of the center of the country.

Copyright Google

How many people live in Chicago?

Chicago’s population is about 2.7 million, making it the third most populous city in the United States (New York City, Los Angeles).

The Chicago Metropolitan Area (“Chicagoland”), which includes nearby suburbs, has a population of about 9.5 million (also third to NYC and LA metropolitan areas).

Chicago Culture and History

When was Chicago founded?

The area now known as Chicago was settled by the Algonquian peoples by the mid-1600s.

The first non-indigenous settler was Jean Baptiste Point du Sable in the 1780s. Both his home and Fort Dearborn, built 1803, were in the heart of Chicago’s current downtown.

The Town of Chicago was incorporated in 1830, and the town was given a city charter in 1837.

Bust of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable

What does Chicago mean?

“Chicago” derives from a Miami-Illinois word for a type of onion/garlic that naturally grew in the area.

Why is Chicago called the “Windy City”?

There are several explanations for this, but the most widely accepted origin story for the term is that Cincinnati newspapers used it to mock Chicagoans as unjustifiably boastful.

In terms of weather, Chicago is not a notably windy city.

Why is Chicago called “The Second City”?

This one is a little less certain, no doubt because “second city” is a more generic term than “windy city.”

The most likely explanation is simply that for a large part of the 20th century, Chicago was second to New York City in population among cities in the United States. It’s currently third (Los Angeles).

Other explanations include its role of underdog in seeking to host the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (it won) and the rebuilding of the city following the 1871 Great Chicago Fire.

How did the Great Chicago Fire start?

The cause of the fire was never determined, though it is known to have started near a barn belonging to the O’Leary family.

The commonly told legend that the fire was started by a cow tipping over a lantern has been admitted by its creator to have been a falsehood.

What is the tallest building in Chicago?

The tallest building in Chicago is the Willis Tower, more commonly known to Chicagoans at the Sears Tower. The Willis Tower is the third tallest building in the United States, at 1,451 feet.

Where is The Bean in Chicago?

“The Bean” is a nickname for bean-shaped sculpture actually called “Cloud Gate.” The Bean is located in Chicago’s Millennium Park, on the western side, across the street from 20 N Michigan (between Madison and Washington).

When is the Chicago Marathon?

The Chicago Marathon is held annually in October. The 2022 running was October 9, 2022 and the 2023 running is on October 8, 2023.

When is the Chicago Auto Show?

The Chicago Auto Show is an annual auto show held in February. The 2023 show will be February 11 to 19.

When is the Chicago Air & Water Show?

The Chicago Air & Water Show is held annually in August. The 2023 show will be August 19-20.

Chicago Politics and Economics

What is minimum wage in Chicago?

Chicago’s minimum wage is $12 per hour.

Who is the mayor of Chicago?

Chicago’s Mayor is Lori Lightfoot. Her current term began May 20, 2019 and will end in 2023.

What is the sales tax in Chicago?

The total sales tax rate in Chicago is 10.25%, the highest rate in the nation.

What are Chicago’s sports teams?

Across the four major American sports and soccer, Chicago’s sports teams are:

  • Baseball: Chicago Cubs (National League) and Chicago White Sox (American League)
  • Basketball: Chicago Bulls (Eastern Conference)
  • Football: Chicago Bears (NFC)
  • Hockey: Chicago Blackhawks (Western Conference)
  • Soccer: Chicago Fire (Eastern Conference)

Where do the Chicago Bears play?

The Chicago Bears play at Soldier Field in downtown Chicago. Soldier Field is located along the lakefront and along Lake Shore Drive on Chicago’s Museum Campus. The address is 1410 Museum Campus Dr, Chicago, IL 60605.

Where do the Chicago Cubs play?

The Chicago Cubs play at Wrigley Field in the Lake View neighborhood of Chicago. Wrigley Field is about four miles north of downtown Chicago. Its address is 1060 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60613.

Where do the Chicago White Sox play?

The Chicago White Sox play at Guaranteed Rate Field near the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago. Guaranteed Rate Field is about three miles south of downtown Chicago. Its address is 333 W 35th St, Chicago, IL 60616.

Where do the Chicago Blackhawks play?

The Chicago Blackhawks play at the United Center in the Near West neighborhood of Chicago. The United Center is under two miles west of downtown Chicago. Its address is 1901 W Madison St, Chicago, IL 60612.

Where do the Chicago Bulls play?

The Chicago Bulls play at the United Center in the Near West neighborhood of Chicago. The United Center is under two miles west of downtown Chicago. Its address is 1901 W Madison St, Chicago, IL 60612.

Where does the Chicago Fire play?

After a few years away, the Chicago Fire will return in 2020 to Soldier Field in downtown Chicago. Soldier Field is located along the lakefront and along Lake Shore Drive on Chicago’s Museum Campus. The address is 1410 Museum Campus Dr, Chicago, IL 60605.

Chicago Food

What food is Chicago known for?

Chicago is known for many foods, but the most prominent items are the Chicago Style Pizza and Chicago Style Hot Dog.

What is Chicago Style Pizza?

Chicago style pizza most commonly refers to deep dish pizza. Deep dish pizza is baked in a pan a few inches deep so the crust forms a high edge that allows the pizza to contain a large amount of ingredients, primarily cheese and “chunky” tomato sauce. It’s almost like a pizza “pie” without a top layer of crust.

Chicago also has a specific type of thin crust pizza. This pizza is cut into squares and has crispy crust, in contrast to the popular New York style pizza consisting of floppy triangles.

What is a Chicago Style Hot Dog?

A Chicago style hot dog is an all beef hot dog served:

  • on a poppy seed bun and with
  • yellow mustard
  • chopped white onion
  • neon green sweet pickle relish
  • a dill pickle spear
  • tomato slices
  • pickled sport peppers
  • celery salt

While some minor variations are acceptable, there’s really not much wiggle room. Completely unacceptable for a hot dog in Chicago is the use of ketchup.

Chicago Crime

Before we get to answering these questions, it’s important to understand that these matters are best not discussed in a few quick words buried on an FAQ page. Nonetheless, people ask and we want to try and give them an answer.

How many murders does Chicago have?

Here are the number of murders for the past five years:

  • 2014: 415
  • 2015: 468
  • 2016: 771
  • 2017: 653
  • 2018: 561 (unofficial)

Chicago often leads American cities by number of homicides each year. However, adjusting for population, Chicago tends to rank somewhere near tenth in the country, lower than cities like St. Louis, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Detroit, and New Orleans.

New York and Los Angeles, the two cities in the United States with higher population than Chicago, have markedly lower homicide rates on an absolute and per capita basis.

How many shootings does Chicago have?

Chicago had 2,391 shootings in 2018.

Why is Chicago so violent?

No one knows. The short answer tends to be “guns and gangs.” While gang violence does tend to have a “leak” effect that causes an increase in other types of crime, the bulk of Chicago’s “excessive” violence can be tied to gang violence perpetrated through guns.

Is Chicago safe? Is Chicago dangerous?

Yes and Yes. Safety is incredibly contextual. In 2016, five districts comprising 8% of Chicago’s population had 32% of the city’s murders. By local and national standards, it would probably be reasonable to call those neighborhoods “unsafe.”

Crime, including violent crime, is a problem in most large cities throughout the world. Unfortunately, the data aren’t detailed enough to answer the questions most people want to know.

Tourists, for example, want to know something like “how likely am I to be a victim of a violent crime as a tourist in this city?” That information is obscured a bit when murders, which make national news, might drop while robberies increase.

People moving to the city want to know “how likely am I to be a victim of a violent or property crime in my neighborhood?” And that varies by neighborhood, by where you work, and by how you get between the two.

Chicago Geography

What state is Chicago in?

Chicago is in Illinois, United States.

What county is Chicago in?

Chicago is in Cook County, Illinois.

How big is Chicago?

Chicago is 228 square miles or roughly 590 square kilometers. By comparison, New York City is about 303 square miles and Los Angeles is about 469 square miles.

What lake is Chicago on?

Chicago sits at the southwestern edge of Lake Michigan.

What is the capital of Chicago?

As a city, Chicago does not have a capital. It also is not the capital of the state or country. The capital of Illinois is Springfield. The capital of the United States is Washington, D.C.

What time zone is Chicago in?

Chicago is in the Central Time Zone.

What river runs through Chicago?

The Chicago River runs through Chicago. That river flows into the Des Plaines River, which flows into the Illinois River, which flows into the Mississippi River.

How far is Chicago from New York?

Chicago is 740 miles “as the crow flies” from New York. The driving distance is about 790 miles.