Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission for purchases made through links in this post, at no extra cost to you.

What Is Chicago, Illinois Known For

Being America’s third-largest city, there is so much Chicago has to offer its visitors and residents. Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, the Windy City has all the vibrancy of a cosmopolitan center while maintaining all of its midwestern charms. People from all over the US and beyond have fallen in love with Chicago and all it has to offer. 

Chicago is known for its one-of-a-kind architecture, unique cuisine, live music, famous festivals, and the iconic river winding through the downtown. Summer in Chicago is marked by outdoor entertainment, while winter usually means enjoying the nightlife inside the city’s many well-heated venues.

In the rest of this article, we will take a look at what is unique to Chicago and what keeps visitors coming back year after year. We will catch a glimpse of the immense cultural offerings as well as the city’s iconic eats, as well as see the events that draw visitors from all over the world to the Windy City.

Freezing Winters and Nonstop Summers

When it comes to seasons in Chicago, you’ll never be confused about what time of the year it is. 

Winters in the Windy City are typically long and bitterly cold, full of snow and below zero temperatures. However, this just makes Chicagoans much more ready for summer when it finally comes. 

Summer in Chicago is a frenzy of enjoyment. 

With many beaches accessible within the city, there are plenty of opportunities to take in some sun, have a swim and enjoy a cocktail at a beachside bar. Outdoor concerts and entertainment are common in this season, and the nightlife is lively as people look to enjoy the warm days while they have the chance. 

Winter usually means having a beer and catching some music inside one of Chicago’s many iconic venues. 

This metropolis has a highly creative and eclectic dining and drinking scene often accompanied by local, live musical favorites. New restaurants and bars are constantly popping up in this city, offering guests a wide range of foods from different cultures as well as locally brewed drinks and handmade cocktails. 

World Famous Music Festivals

Some of the biggest and most famous festivals in the United States are held in Chicago. These festivals draw some of the biggest stars across genres and attract massive crowds each year. The Windy City has festivals for every age, interest, and budget. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most famous ones here. 

Lollapalooza

This four-day festival that typically takes place near the end of July and beginning of August is one of the best known in Chicago. 

In 2019, over 400,000 people attended this festival in Grant Park, catching favorite acts across eight different stages. Practically every genre of music is represented at this festival, making it possible to catch the biggest names in pop, hip hop, or alternative rock in a single afternoon. 

The city swells with visitors and excitement during the days of Lollapalooza. This is more than an isolated festival, but a cultural event that can be felt beyond the borders of Grant Park during its four designated summer days. 

 

Riot Fest

This three-day festival in Douglass Park is known for its focus on punk and other edgy sounds across genres. It began in 2005 inside various local music venues and, through its fast-spreading popularity, grew into one of the biggest outdoor festivals in Chicago’s summer.

You can find big names on the stages at Riot Fest, from classic punk bands to other innovative, alternative options. There is something for everyone at Riot Fest, and it is a well-loved event by both Chicagoans and visitors alike.  

 

Pitchfork Music Festival

This festival presented by online music magazine Pitchfork is one of the biggest events in indie music in Chicago and perhaps even the country. 

The magazine is one of the best-known online sources of music reviews and carefully curates its festival to reflect the innovative, creative approach to music they praise. This weekend festival held in Union Park presents a mix of big-name headliners along with other up-and-coming artists selected by the team at Pitchfork. 

As this festival has grown over the years, it has come to include more diversity in the styles and genres of its acts. Most recent lineups have included more electronic and hip hop-styled alternative acts than seen in the first years of this festival. 

These are just a few of Chicago’s most well-known and famous festivals. 

However, the list of summer musical offerings is quite extensive and has something for everyone. From blues to jazz to hip hop, there is a festival for everyone in Chicago’s summer season. 

First Class Museums

The range and quality of museums available in Chicago are quite impressive. This city is well known for its cultural offerings, and visitors could spend weeks wandering the museums that call Chicago home. 

Let’s take a look at some of its most attractive and famous institutions. 

 

Art Institute of Chicago

If you’re walking down the streets of Chicago and find a historic building with two bronze lion statues guarding the impressive stairway entrance, you have found the world-famous Art Institute of Chicago. 

This museum has been a staple of the Chicago cultural offerings since the 19th century and holds many famous works that visitors line up to see each day.

Inside, you can find just about everything when it comes to styles, time periods, and tastes. 

There are over 300,000 works that call the Art Institute their permanent home, as well as a wide range of special exhibits that come and go throughout the year. Pablo Picasso’s The Old Guitarist can be found in this museum, as can Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.

 

The Field Museum of Natural History

If natural history is more to your liking, you will have to stop at the Field Museum the next time you are in Chicago. When it comes to natural history offerings, this is one of the largest and most extensive museums in the world. 

Each year, around 2 million visitors come to explore the vast exhibits that this museum offers. 

You can find some of the earliest fossils known to man, as well as imaginative exhibits of what the future will hold and why conservation is so important to us at this time. The museum also has its own in-house research programs. 

These programs are responsible for a massive artifact and specimen collection as well as an impressive library. 

The Adler Planetarium

For those interested in space and astronomy, the Adler Planetarium is a must. 

Opened in 1930, this world-renowned institution has a compelling mix of exhibits, theaters, and artifacts. It is also home to the actual space capsule from the Gemini 12 mission, and visitors can explore its exhibit to learn more about the historic flight. 

The theaters inside the planetarium are some of the most technologically advanced in the country. 

These state-of-the-art projection systems give visitors a stunningly immersive experience with the goal of both education and inspiration. The planetarium regularly organizes events for the community, from educational family days to nightlife for those over 21 years of age. 

The planetarium is also home to the Doane Observatory that holds one of the largest telescopes in the region. 

The observatory hosts world-class professional scientists carrying out innovative research and other projects. In addition to professional scientists, the observatory also guides online and in-person citizen scientists. 

These community members assist with projects such as planet discovery and Mars surface mapping. 

The Chicago River

One of the most distinctive features of the Chicago Downtown is the river that is seamlessly incorporated into the thriving metropolitan center. The Chicago River makes its way through the most densely developed part of Chicago to present a truly unforgettable American city. 

The river gives residents and visitors plenty to do. 

With the Riverwalk, you can stroll along the banks of the river, trying a bite from local restaurants or having a drink from one of the many local bars. The city has developed this area to be a lovely walking path that is particularly popular in the warm summer months. 

Additionally, plenty of themed boat tours allow visitors to sail along the river while engaging in favorite activities. 

There are architecture tours where you can cruise past some of the most iconic buildings in the Chicago skyline, as well as booze cruises where you can enjoy a few drinks with your friends out on the water. 

Every year, for St. Patrick’s Day, Chicago authorities place a green dye in the river to celebrate the holiday. Chicagoans look forward to this tradition every year.

If you are looking for a more DIY option, you can rent a kayak for the day or by the hour and head out on the water yourself. Choose the time of day you want to go, possibly opting for a sunset tour or enjoying a full day in the warm Chicago summer sun. 

Chicago-Style Cuisine

When it comes to various foods, “Chicago Style” has become well-known beyond the city limits. Chicago-style pizza is one of the most famous of these inventions and can be found throughout the city and beyond.

Chicago-style pizza means a deep-dish, thick crust with ingredients piled on in a slightly different way. 

Cheese is placed on the thick crust, followed by any other toppings of choice. These layers can be repeated, depending on the depth of the crust and the desired pizza. Finally, tomato sauce is used as the final layer. 

This style is starkly different from the thin-crust New York style that starts with sauce and ends with cheese and toppings.

You can’t think of Chicago-style food without thinking of this city’s famous hot dogs. These are not your average dogs but rather a whole meal situated in a single poppy-seed bun. 

You can top these dogs however you want, but if you want the full experience, you will want to go for yellow mustard, the iconic neon green sweet relish, sport peppers, sliced tomato, and white onion, along with pickles and celery salt. 

Just as important as what comes on your Chicago-Style hot dog is what doesn’t. 

While ketchup may be standard fare in most other American cities, this is highly looked down upon at hot dog joints in Chicago. Almost as a matter of city pride, ketchup is not used on classic Chicago-style hot dogs.

Some Chicagoans can’t live without their Vienna Beef hot dogs. These dogs have a rich, full flavor and can only be found in certain areas of Chicago if you want truly authentic dogs. They are served with grilled onions and a strip of mustard only. 

Don’t ever ask for ketchup!

Unique Architecture

Chicago has some of the most interesting and unique architecture in the world. 

It has a multitude of buildings that are one of a kind and a skyline that is unlike any other in the United States or beyond. The city is credited with inventing the skyscraper, so it only makes sense that it has some of the most unique ones in the world. 

 

Marina City

For fans of the Chicago-based band Wilco, the Marina City towers will be instantly recognizable. 

A photograph of these two towers was used for the cover of the 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Marina City is often referred to as the Wilco Towers, features undulating balconies that give the towers an appearance similar to corn on the cob. 

In addition to the album cover, these towers can be found along the edge of the Chicago River in the city’s downtown. 

 

Willis Tower

Perhaps better known by its previous moniker, The Sears Tower, this is one of the most famous buildings to be found in downtown Chicago. It is one of the tallest buildings in the Western world, measuring 1,450 feet in height. 

This building is perhaps the most prominent and recognizable when looking at Chicago’s stunning skyline. 

 

The Wrigley Building

The Wrigley Building is both historic and massive. 

It was built in the 1920s and is located in the city center. It is actually two separate towers on the same campus. Known as the South Tower and the North Tower, these two are connected by a pedestrian walkway located on the 14th floor of each building. 

For more information on Chicago’s architecture check out this book on Amazon!

The Wrigley Field

The Wrigley Family has a long legacy in Chicago, but is probably better known for the famous Wrigley Field which is named after the famous gum maker. 

The Wrigley Field is one of Chicago’s best known features and the Stadium has a long history in the city and the United States as one of the top sport stadiums in America. 

 

Final Thoughts

When it comes to all the offerings of the big city while maintaining the charm of the American Midwest, no city can compete with Chicago. From world-class museums to innovative dining, this midwestern metropolis is to entertain and inspire its guests, no matter what their interests.

If you’re planning a trip to Chicago be sure to check out this walking guide on Amazon!