Chicago has the reputation of being a dangerous town, a corrupt city, and even though it is the third largest city in the United States you don’t hear people talking about talking a trip to Chicago like you do New York City or Los Angeles.
This could be because this City by the Lake is ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States, and even the most depressing city in America. But after visiting this summer I do believe the people of the Windy City really want to change this reputation. I know my impression of has changed, and I want to go back. Most of what I hear about Chicago is depressing, the crime, the corrupt politics, the unemployment, yet I knew there had to be more. Downtown is very much like any city, tall buildings, lots of shopping, restaurants, museums, and like New York, Chicago has a very efficient metro train system. For $15 we bought an unlimited metro pass which included the train, bus, and subway system.
After researching on line for the best places to live in the Chicago metro area my son picked an apartment in Edgewater, and I helped him move in January. He heard it was one of the safer neighborhoods and had the lowest crime rates. After spending time there I certainly believe it. The neighborhoods are clean, as if the residents take pride in the area where they live. The flower beds were blooming with color, restaurants have inviting outdoor seating with flower boxes and umbrellas.
There is a relaxed atmosphere, almost park like and yes, my son says he feels as though he’s living in a twilight zone when he steps out of his apartment. Considering he lived in a Marine Corps barracks in Yuma Arizona the previous three years seeing green and trees is probably a shock to his system.
At night there is a police presence on the corners and they regularly patrol. We parked our car at the hotel and either walked or took the CTA trains everywhere. Not once did I feel as though I was in danger, or threatened. Remember this is NOT the south side of Chicago, which from what I hear is a whole other world.
People were exceedingly friendly. We met a young black lady on the train who was taking her three young nieces and nephews to the fountains Saturday night to watch the fireworks. She spoke with pride about her city and how “…so many people talk bad about Chicago, there is a lot the city offers, people just need to get out and experience it, there are a lot of family activities and events.” This is true, I had no idea Chicago had such wonderful beaches.
Our hotel and my son’s apartment was only blocks away from Lake Shore Drive and the softest, sandy beaches I’ve seen in the Midwest. It’s not the ocean, but Lake Michigan does have it’s own tide, and small waves. It’s the perfect place to people watch and the dog beach is very fun. Dogs of all shapes and sizes playing in the water, playing fetch and enjoying the summer day.
The Chicago Park system is quite extensive and encourages people to get out and enjoy the trails with rental bikes, trikes (if you look closely in the photo below you can see the trike to the left of the bench) or bring your own roller blades.
I met the friendliest pit bull during our morning walk, his eyes just yelled “Oh pet me, please pet me I’m so happy to see you”. His owner fit the breeds stereotype, although his eyes said the same thing. Don’t judge me by my looks. We had a nice conversation about the pup, who was only 8 months old and already interested in a twig and a nearby bird, so off they went.
We also met an very wrinkled, larger old lady in a bikini walking her hairless Chihuahua . Yes, I said it a bikini, and the phrase of the day became “You know when you get old and you don’t care what people think? I don’t think I can care that little”
Part of the girls weekend trip to see my son included touristy things that he just doesn’t have time to do between his school and work. One of them was a lake and Seadog lake and river boat tour.
It was here that we met the forth very friendly Chicagoan, who was so excited to be sharing his city. Up until the week before he had never done a boat tour and he had lived there all his life. He recorded part of it on his iPhone and said we were in for an exciting trip. His words were “Chicago has heart!” and based on the people I met on this one weekend, Chicago is a friendly city and the people do have heart.
The thing that topped off my respect and faith for the city of Chicago was when I misplaced my gift bag from Chinatown in the restroom of a restaurant. We were rushing to get on the Navy Pier bus at 4:00 pm and I wasn’t thinking. More than four hours later my kids convinced me to go back, maybe it’s still there. You see I don’t get souvenirs that often and this one had special meaning. So we made the trip back, I asked at the desk, I looked in the trash, I asked the bartender if anyone had turned anything in, no luck. Out of desperation I opened the door to the stall and in the corner sat my bag.
Yes, Chicago has a heart, Chicago is full of friendly people, Chicago has honest people.
Our girls weekend to visit my son was wonderful! We went to the Billy Joel Concert in Wrigley Field, ate Chicago pizza, went to Chinatown, did a boat tour, sat and watched a free concert at Millennial Park, watched fireworks, and visited Navy Pier (which I was very dissapointed) But best of all got to spend time with my son who is going to school at Tribeca Film Academy and making quite the name for himself in a very short time.
There will be a next time, Shea Aquarium, a few museums, and maybe even a show or two. Sometime I’ll actually sit on the beach for an afternoon, watch the dogs and the sailboats on the lake. Sounds like another great trip.
Yes, I know about the gang mob violence in Chicago. Like any big city there are certain areas you avoid, there are precautions you take on the train, a certain way to behave, stay alert, not draw attention to yourself and stay safe. I had a drunk guy fall over on me on the train, but I also witnessed people applaud when my son killed a flying bug and “saved” a little boy who was scared.
So how about you? Have you been to Chi-Town (as some people affectionately call Chicago), do you live there? What do you like, what would you suggest for my next trip?