Planning a trip to Chicago? Yes, you should take a selfie in front of The Bean in Millennium Park, seek out the stunning Monet paintings at the incredible Art Institute and take a breathtaking ride on the Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier.
But if you really want to experience the city like a local, get out and explore Chicago’s neighborhoods. There are 77 to discover and they all offer their own charms. Most can be reached via the L, the CTA’s cheap and easy-to-use elevated train system that can whisk you around town quickly. It’s made up of eight different lines, delineated by color.
Some lines offer stunning views of the city, such as the Brown Line that snakes through the Loop’s canyon of skyscrapers and passes over the scenic Chicago River. Others land you right in the middle of the action, including the Blue Line stops in Wicker Park and Logan Square that are steps from some of the city’s hottest restaurants and bars.
It’s no secret that Chicago is a sports obsessed town. If you’re a baseball fan, you’ll be in good company with the many locals who take the Red Line to Cubs games at Wrigley Field in the aptly named Wrigleyville or White Sox match-ups at Guaranteed Rate Field in Bridgeport. And the Blue Line will bring you close to the United Center in the West Loop, where you can catch Chicago Blackhawks hockey or a Bulls basketball game.
Shop local and discover your new favorite Chicago designer. You’ll find lots of cool boutiques just off the Blue Line on Damen and Milwaukee Avenues in the sister Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods. Tree-lined Armitage Avenue is the shopping stretch to hit in quaint Lincoln Park (right off the Armitage Brown/Purple Line stop). Or check out the cute stores along the Southport Corridor in Wrigleyville (take the Brown Line to the Southport stop) and catch an art flick at the historic Music Box Theatre.
Spend a day experiencing Chicago’s melting pot of cultures. Take the Pink Line and get off at the 18th stop, which leaves you on 18th Street in the heart of Pilsen, home to family-run taquerias and the National Museum of Mexican Art. The Red Line’s Cermak-Chinatown stop lies at the doorstep to Chinatown, where a colorful archway marks the entrance to Wentworth Avenue’s strip of kitschy souvenir shops and dim sum restaurants. The Blue Line will get you close to Humboldt Park, where a giant iron Puerto Rican flag on Division Street marks the gateway to this neighborhood known for vibrant street art and its lush namesake park, where The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture resides.