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Chicago, Illinois has always been known as being an industrialized center of the United States. It is considered as the third-highest populated area in the nation. Chicago is also a major mecca of railroad freight, as almost fifty percent of it comes through Chicago. The city also boasts two of the largest airports: O'Hare and Midway International Airports.

There are many firsts that happened in Chicago, Illinois. In this city the first skyscraper was built, with only ten stories, in 1884. They birthed mail order retailing, the television remote, the refrigerated rail car and the car radio. The Sears Tower, built in 1974, is currently the tallest skyscraper in the United States.

Chicago's cost of living is extremely high, about sixty-six percent over national average. The city has three distinct neighborhoods. These encompass the North, South and West Sides. The city boasts cities within cities. Some of these are Little Italy, Old Town, China Town and Greek Town. Chicago is definitely a cold weather town. The area is known as the “Windy City” because of the blustery winds that buffet the downtown area constantly. Also, winters can be extremely harsh.

It is a well-known fact that hotdogs and pizza are Chicago's trademark eats. Chicago's hotdogs are second to none in the nation. Don't use ketchup, though - the natives might be offended.

Chicago, Illinois is a place like no other. It is an industrialized city which strives to make every day as enjoyable as possible.

A Short History of Chicago, Illinois

The name “Chicago” is thought to come from the Algonquin word for “onion” or “skunk.” Also, its nickname, the Windy City, is thought to have come from two possible sources. Of course, Chicago is a very windy city; you should try being downtown on a windy day, which is most days. Your body will be battered by the winds whipping around the downtown buildings. But, the other source, which is not quite as well known, is the possibility of it coming from a rivalry between Chicago and Cincinnati, OH that started in the 1860's concerning the meatpacking trade.

Chicago was incorporated in 1837 and, by 1884, Chicago held the distinction of building the first skyscraper in history; the 10 story Home Insurance Building. Chicago is also the start of the Historic Route 66. It is also the birthplace of the refrigerated rail car, mail order retailing, the car radio and the TV remote. In 1974, the Sears Tower was built. It stands at 1,450 which makes it the tallest skyscraper in the United States as of 2010 and the 5th tallest free-standing structure in the world.

Living in Chicago

Chicago's cost of living, unfortunately, is 66% above national average. The average apartment rent is over $1,000 per month. There are 3 major neighborhoods, the North, West and South Sides. The North Side is mostly residential and you will pay heftily for living there. The West Side is more industrial and is the place to be if you are on a tight budget. The South Side has the largest area in Chicago and that means the options for apartments are great. Prices there are cheap, about $500 to $700 per month, to moderately expensive, about $800 to $1,000 per month.

Residents and tourists alike appreciate the architecture, historic sites and vibrant neighborhoods of Chicago. There are little worlds within the city, as well. There's China Town, Little Italy, Greek Town, Old Town (which is primarily Victorian) and the list goes on and on. There are a multitude of museums and, generally, there is no shortage of activities for those who want to be out and about. The weather in Chicago is rather cold and brisk in the winter and generally hot in the summer. The average high temperature in January is 25 degrees and the average in July as 84 degrees.

Employment Prospects in Chicago

Chicago has a bevy of jobs and employment opportunities. Even though Chicago is ranked within the 15 largest metros that experienced increases in unemployment rates in June of 2010, there are still a lot of jobs out there. As of July of 2010, the rate of unemployment is about 10.6% vs. the national rate at about 9.6%. Currently, there are over 519,000 people unemployed. There are jobs out there, though. Major industries that are always hiring are the Great Lakes Port, meat packers, the grain exchange, iron and steel production and it is the largest in food production. There are also metal, electronics, publishing and chemical industries out there. Also, tourism, finance and business, including its entire support staff, are predominant employment opportunities within the Chicago area.

The City of Chicago also offers an internet program called “CAREERS,” Chicago Automated Recruiting Evaluation Employment Reporting System. It was unveiled in 2007 and is designed to make it easy and efficient to find a job in Chicago without filling out a paper application. There are ways to find jobs in Chicago. A great way to start is to go to a temporary agency. A temporary job can either lead to a permanent job or it can lead to a job that can help you get by until you can find a more permanent one.

A Varied Selection of Restaurants in Chicago

The numbers of restaurants is enormous. Pizza and hotdogs are Chicago's trademarks. For some great Italian cuisine, go to the Rosebud. The Rosebud was established in 1980 and is located on West Taylor Street. It is a little expensive at about $40 per meal but it is rated one of the best Italian restaurants in Chicago. They have dishes like sausage and peppers, baked clams, chicken vesuvio and other timeless favorites. The scene is reminiscent of a cozy living room feel with its faux-wood paneling, low ceilings and bookshelves.

The Half Shell, Inc. is an excellent seafood restaurant. It has been reviewed as being the absolute best seafood place in Chicago. They offer meals that are low priced, somewhere in the ball-park of $25 to $30 for a full meal, that are excellent and abundant. King crab legs, fried cat fish, jumbo shrimp, scallops, red snapper and Dungeness crab are just a few items on their menu. The place is rather small with an outdoor patio and a full-sized pub.

Apart Pizza Company on West Montrose is a pizza place that has the absolute lowest priced pizzas that have been raved about. They specialize in 10” pizzas for those that want their own signature pies. Of course, you can't forget about Chicago's hot-dogs. A trip to Chicago wouldn't be the same without trying one of these fabulous dogs. Chicago is very passionate about their hot dogs. They can be tolerant but most Chicagoans would rather die than see ketchup slathered onto one of their famous dogs. Typical fare would be adding mustard, onions, sweet pickle relish, sport peppers, a dill pickle spear and a touch of celery salt on a poppy seed bun.

Arts and Entertainment: The Classy Side of Chicago

There are multiple film festivals to attend every year within Chicago. They range from the Chicago Underground Film Festival that is an annual event showcasing underground, experimental and independent films, to the Chicago International Children's Film Festival that showcases children's films within North America, to the Chicago Asian American Showcase, which is also an annual festival that promotes film, video and other media by and about Asian Americans. That is the short list of the film festivals that are always available.

There is a veritable smorgasbord of museums available in Chicago. There is the Museum of Science and Industry, which is the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere that is housed in a single building, and the Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, which is immersed in the exploration of the universe and has one of the finest collections of early astronomical instruments in the world. Both museums are just a small fraction of the more than 50 cultural centers and museums located within Chicago.

The Chicago Opera Theater was established in 1974 by Alan Stone. They have reached hundreds of thousands of people through their main stage performances, the educational programs within the Chicago Public Schools, community engagements and the Young Artists Program.

Sightseeing in Chicago: An Experience in Itself

Sightseeing in Chicago is its own experience. Tourists and locals alike enjoy the multitude of attractions available in Chicago and its surrounding areas. There is the John G. Shedd Aquarium and Oceanarium. It is an all-purpose aquarium that opened its doors in May of 1930. It was the first aquarium with a permanent salt-water collection within the United States. Just before opening, Mr. Shedd, founder, orchestrated the transport of a million gallons of sea water by rail from Florida to fill the tanks of the aquarium; nothing like that had ever been done before. The Lincoln Park Zoo, established in 1868, is one of the few zoos that are still free in America. The Garfield Park Conservatory, established in 1908 and is located on North Central Park Avenue, is a free Conservatory, donations are accepted and appreciated though, which is still one of the largest gardens under glass in the world. Construction on the Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, was complete in 1974 and for 25 years, it held the position as being the world's tallest modern building in the world and it still holds the rank of being the 5th tallest free-standing structure in the world. It is still the tallest structure within the United States. There is a sky-deck 1,353 feet in the air and it has glass balconies that extend 4.3 feet out from the side of the building. The cost is $15.95 for adults and $11 for children for general admission. If you want to cut through most of the lines, it is $30 for a fast-pass, otherwise anticipate a long wait.

Nightlife in Chicago

Nightlife in Chicago is varied and unpretentious. There is a place for every taste. The Spybar is the premier nightclub in Chicago. Special and surprise guest star appearances are commonplace in this hip and trendy bar that caters to mostly the younger set. The sounds are very eclectic. They play everything, pop to hip-hop to R&B to Latin and Dance. Admission is free on Thursdays, with VIP reservation, and Friday is Ladies Night, which includes free valet service for the ladies and $5 drink specials for the ladies as well.

The Funky Buddha Lounge, on Grand Avenue, has a nice sized dance floor and has acclaimed DJ's that spin a mix of hip-hop, African, soul and underground music. The general cost of entry is $15 to $20, depending on the night. The building, on the outside, appears just like an industrialized mess but inside its dark and it is very kitschy. The Underground Wonder Bar, established in 1989, is technically a jazz and blues bar but it is not unheard-of to see acoustic guitars and piano music featured there. It is a tiny venue that was founded by Lonie Walker and caters to a highly eclectic group of people.

Shopper's Paradise: Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is definitely a shopper's paradise. The absolute first place to shop would be the “Magnificent Mile,” or Michigan Avenue. This area contains the best-of-the-best shopping in Chicago. There are a multitude of designer names, brands and stores along this mile. It's posh, trendy and very expensive. Ikram, on North Rush, is very upscale and has prestigious international designer names with hard to find vintage clothing and high-end accessories that has been reviewed as one of the best shopping experiences with their knowledgeable and courteous staff and excellent location. The Oakbrook Center, on Oakbrook Center Road, is a 30 minute drive from downtown, Chicago. It has all of your favorite stores in an open-air mall that is famous for its gardens and fountains. The Edgewood Antique Mall, on North Broadway, is the newest destination for antiques available in Chicago. It has over 35 dealers specializing in vintage and modern pieces. It is located 2 blocks away from the North Broadway Antique Mall and both places constitute almost 100 dealers and vendors to enjoy. Be careful, though, visiting these antique malls is an all-day experience and you will find something there that you can't live without so make sure to bring your wallet.

The Beautiful Side of Chicago

After all of that shopping, sightseeing and clubbing, it's time for a well-deserved break. The following are some of the best spas available in the City of Chicago.

Spa La La is a spa that specializes in must-have procedures and treatments. They are well-priced with packages that will fit just about anyone's budget. They do everything from massages to chemical peels to tanning and laser hair removal. Harmony Mind Body and Fitness, on North Bissell Street, is Lincoln Park's premier mind, body and fitness studio. They offer lessons and classes in Pilates, Gyrotonics, Gyrokenetics and Cardiolates. The Ruby Room, on Division Street, is a healing sanctuary that has distinctive boutiques, a comprehensive product line, a salon, spa, overnight guest suites and an e-store. Another fabulous spa is Aroma Spa, on N. Ashland Avenue, which specializes in massage. They offer facials, body scrubs; waxing, hot paraffin wraps and massage therapy. They have certified massage therapists that have cross-trained in China and the United States. Their massage therapies include deep-tissue, sports, Trigger, Point, Thai and Swedish massages. Chicago, Illinois has something for everyone. The city is big, beautiful and teeming with a variety of things to see and do.

Hotels and Hospitality in Chicago, Illinois

When deciding to take a trip to Chicago, Illinois or “The Windy City” as it's also known, you have an abundance of hotels to choose from for any price range. The Elysian is a luxurious hotel with its own health spa and fitness center, dining area, and elegant rooms to make your stay more comfortable. Looking for a hotel that stands out? The Hotel Palomar in Chicago is eco-friendly and treats its guests to flat screen TVs in each of its rooms, accompanied with MP3 players. An indoor pool, sundeck and spa, and fully stocked mini bars with organic options are just a few of the amenities. For families on holiday, The Hotel Palomar is child-friendly and allows up to three children under 17 to stay for free. While visiting Chicago you can take Segway tours through the city, take an historic food tour as the guide walks you through Chicago's neighborhoods to indulge in all the wonderful food it has to offer, visit Wrigley Field (home of the Chicago Cubs), or have a night out at the theatre. No visit would be complete without visiting The Chicago Diner and enjoy American classic food. If you want a place with a bar scene and eat surf and turf, then Joe's Seafood Prime Steak and Stone is the restaurant for you.

Education in Chicago

Having nearly three million residents within the city limits, Chicago, Illinois is known as the third most populous city in the country. It should come as no surprise that Chicago would hold a good variety for those seeking an education. The city offers about six hundred and seventy-five public schools, three hundred and ninety-four private schools and eighty-three colleges. The Chicago Public Schools make up a main body of schools within the Chicago district, holding six hundred of the six hundred and seventy-five schools in its governing body. A majority of the private schools are run strictly by religious groups. The largest majority of these are currently being run by the Catholic and Lutheran groups. For secondary or higher learning education, there are several different schools available. The top three research schools included are the University of Chicago; Northwestern University; and, the University of Illinois at Chicago. Other schools include multiple different colleges ranging from those that are more specialized in Arts, to others that are more broad in their curriculum.

The University of Chicago is a private college with various programs, four divisions, and six professional schools, with an enrollment of about fourteen thousand students overall. It has spent several hundreds of millions of dollars over the years in terms of scientific research, and continues that tradition over the course of its existence. It has courses for Sciences, Medical training as well as those for Education and another few courses as well. Not only known for its courses and research, it also boasts its own athletics program as well. Northwestern University offers one hundred and twenty-three undergraduate degrees and one hundred and forty-five graduate and professional degrees. Though located elsewhere, the Chicago campus offers medical school teaching, teaching of law and part-time business as well, even offering weekend and evening courses for those adults who are still working.

Transportation in Chicago

Chicago ranks as one of the largest ports in the world, third only after Hong Kong and Singapore. As could be expected, it is not lacking when it comes to transportation within the city limits. Like most major cities it hosts a rail system, public transportation, airports and its extensive miles of highways and freeways. Many of those living in Chicago have taken to cycling. The city itself has even made several provisions to enable it to be easier on those who wish to cycle instead of using public transportation or other means to move around. Included in these provisions are bike racks on buses and a state-of-the-art bicycle commuter station.

Nearly all of the Class 1 railroads meet within Chicago, though this causes massive congestion for the freight trains. However, they are not lacking in passenger trains either. The Amtrak service that ends in many other cities comes and goes within the city. As for Public Transportation, the city offers a variety here as well. Like so many other cities, it holds its own as far as city public systems for buses. There is an extensive route list here, as well. The city holds a rail transit system that runs in and out from various places, as well as some options for those wishing to travel out of the city or come into the city from outside. Chicago also features a number of airports, such as the Midway International Airport at the South end, and O'Hare International Airport at the Northwest end. Both are owned by Chicago, which serves as the main headquarters for the large airline company, United Airlines. It also hosts a number of minor airports like Gary/Chicago International Airport, and Chicago Rockford International Airport.

The Local Government Services for the City of Chicago

The Mayor of Chicago and the City Hall staff manage all services for the city through a network of departments. The Department of General Services plays a part in matters relating to architecture, engineering, construction management, energy and utility management and finance and general administration. For more specific matters relating to finance or city revenue, the Office of the City Comptroller and the Chicago Department of Revenue provide information, support and services. The Capital Improvement Program, along with the Chicago Tax Assistance Center, helps companies and employees in keeping the city´s cash flow buoyant. For other business related matters, the Department of Procurement Services, the Grants Administration and the Business Assistance Center are all equipped to help and support businesses flourish in the city. Physical development is handled by the Buildings Hearings Division, The Department of Community Development, and the Environmental Safety Hearings Division along with the Chicago Center for Green Technology to ensure that all development adheres to the city´s eco-friendly initiatives. Chicago has all of its public transportation services managed by the Chicago Department of Transport (CDOT) and the City of Chicago Department of Aviation. These departments link closely with the Chicago Office of Tourism and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs (CDA) both of which are responsible for the city´s culture, tourism and events. The Mayor´s Office of Special Events (MOSE) supports this work for specific projects. All PR and marketing for the city is handled by its in-house team at the Graphics and Reproduction Center. Citizens of Chicago get quality healthcare and safe, clean streets from the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Department of Streets and Sanitation. The Chicago Housing Authority, along with the Preserving Communities Together (PCT) initiative, provides information and services on all accommodation needs. Social services are provided by the Mayor´s Office for People with Disabilities (AccessChicago), the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services and the Homeless and Emergency Services Division. Law administration is served by the Chicago Police Department, Police Board the Office of Compliance and the Department of Law.