A few things I learned about Chicago

Downtown Chicago

Although my most recent trip to Chicago for the National Communication Association’s 100th anniversary convention did not warrant much touristyness, I learned a number of things by hanging out with some new locals.

1. It’s dense city living in a lot of places. Hailing from suburbia, sometimes I forget what it’s like to be surrounded by people and skyscrapers in big cities.

So many houses and people and apartments everywhere!

 2. Layers are critical. When I arrived, the city was a balmy 16-17 degrees with little snow flurries. My sister’s admonition to bring all the warm things I owned was completely accurate (and clearly heeded).

That’s a California popsicle, in case you wondered.

 3. Popcorn is complicated. Cheese and caramel corn, together? I was prepared to hate it, but it turns out the combo works well.

I also learned that the city flag is very important. Check out the colors and stars in these two photos. I saw the flag featured everywhere during my visit!

 4. Local liquor. Apparently Chicago has it’s own signature liquor: Malort. (Which is icky, in case you wonder.)


 5. Cold weather prompts bonding. Or maybe that was the five months apart. Either way, I got quality sister time in Chicago!


 6. Some restaurants are  BYOB. Who knew?

As a transplant from New York, this girl knows how to dress for winter.

7. Chicago isn’t hip to the California drought. An entire jug of water for our table? Outrageous.

I didn’t realize how attuned I am to water waste after this year’s water restrictions.

8. The street art is awesome. I would have more pictures but pictures require ungloved fingers which for most of my visit was just untenable. Here’s a picture from Pilsen. So cool.

I saw so many cool murals and sculptures in my short visit.

9. Public transit is easy. If you know where you’re going. Below is a photo I snapped while marching along Michigan Avenue during a frigid morning where I navigated to the wrong hotel. Ahem. That mistake aside, I found the transit system pretty accessible, especially compared to New York and Washington DC.

Downtown Chicago.

10. There’s more to the local cuisine than deep dish pizza. But the pizza is pretty good!

A slice from Gino’s.

 11. Chicago’s a great place to catch up with friends.

Four friends convening from four states. Our conference dinners are now a ladies’ night tradition!

 12. The windchill is NO JOKE. They don’t call Chicago the “windy city” for nothing. Thanks to the surrounding bodies of water, the wind chill factor is serious. I learned how much the buildings downtown work as wind blocking devices.

13. Architecture is huge.

Inside the Hilton Chicago. Our conference was based here and in the Palmer House, a historical landmark.

 14. The best chicken of my life. Visited Harold’s Chicken Shack during my first trip to NCA in 2007, and the memory lives on. It’s simple fare and probably not too healthy, but so. damn. good.



 15. Hot dogs are huge. Not in size, but popularity. Apparently the “Chicago way” includes lots of toppings like onions, relish and super hot peppers. My sis lives nearby a famous hot dog stop, and she says she’ll sometimes see a trail of peppers by her apartment, as people pick off and throw them while eat-walking.

Dinner of champions!
I love the “veggie burger” addition, and the fact that a cup of cheese and a slice of cheese are only 5 cents difference.

16. Midway Airport is easy to maneuver. The free wifi doesn’t work and the coffee choices are lacking, but it’s easy to get around.

Can’t wait to actually explore the city some day!





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