A boat cruise near the tall buildings in Chicago river, the subject of several of these Chicago facts

Facts About Chicago (29 Interesting & Fun Things to Know)

Today, I’m going to cover some fun Chicago facts to help you get to know my favorite city in America. You’ll learn that there’s a lot more to the so-called Windy City than meets the eye. 

Chicago is a vibrant and diverse cultural hub. Chicago draws millions of visitors each year for its world-renowned attractions, friendly vibes, and abundance of fun things to do.

But there are a few interesting facts about Chicago you may not know … 

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29 Chicago Facts

1. It’s Actually Not the Windiest City

Despite being dubbed “The Windy City,” Chicago isn’t actually the windiest city in America! In fact, it doesn’t even rank in the top five

Nevertheless, Chicago is known as “The Windy City” for a reason. Winds from Lake Michigan blow through Chicago. 

Additionally, in the 19th century, many journalists referred to Chicago residents and politicians as “full of hot air.” This unintentionally gave Chicago its nickname [Source].

📚Related Reading: Chicago Packing List

2. Chicago is the 3rd Largest City in America

Chicago is the third largest after New York City and Los Angeles. It’s also known as the capital of the Midwest. 234 square miles make up Chicago and 2.7 million people call this city home [Source].

3. It’s a City of Neighborhoods

One of the most important facts about Chicago that visitors should know is that it’s a city of neighborhoods. There are 77 designated community areas, and these make up different neighborhoods. Each of these Chicago neighborhoods offers something different. I highly recommend exploring beyond downtown [Source].

4. The Great Chicago Fire Hugely Shaped the City

In 1871, one third of Chicago was totally destroyed by a fire that burned for more than 24 straight hours. Over 17,000 buildings were burned and 300 people died. Although tragic, this fire led to a “great rebuilding.” 

This resulted in the incredible architecture and urban design that Chicago now has. A few buildings survived the fire, including the Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station [Source].

5. Chicago is the Birthplace of Modern Architecture

View of the tall buildings with a clear blue sky from the foreground
Willis Tower

After Chicago’s Great Fire, an architectural boom followed. This led to Chicago becoming the birthplace of modern architecture. 

Built in 1885, the Home Insurance Company building was the first skyscraper in the world. Today, Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) is the second tallest building in the Western hemisphere, and one of the most famous Chicago landmarks.

Another significant building is Harold Washington Library Center. It was once the largest library in the world. Chicago is also well known for architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright. 

6. Chicago Has a Lot of Nicknames

You probably know Chicago as “The Windy City,” but it has many other nicknames. These include: The Second City, Chi Town, City of Big Shoulders, The White City, and City in a Garden

The word “Chicago” comes from Algonquin words “Chicagou” and “Shikaakwa” which translate to “wild garlic” and “onion field.”

7. Chicago is Filled With Green Space

A couple enjoying the pink hue sky on the lawn of Lincoln Park
Lincoln Park

In the 1830’s Chicago adopted the motto “urbs in horto” which translates to “a city in the garden.” This is because of Chicago’s impressively large park system. Within Chicago, there are over 8,000 acres of green space, 600 parks, and numerous walking trails [Source].

8. The CTA is the 2nd Largest Public Transportation System in America

Following New York City, Chicago has the second largest public transportation system in the country. The Chicago Transportation Authority is commonly known as the “CTA.” It serves 35 suburbs throughout six counties. 

The CTA train lines are referred to as the “L” because they’re elevated. The CTA includes trains and buses that connect the city [Source].

9. The Chicago World’s Fair was Held Here

The Chicago World’s Fair was held in 1893 in Jackson Park. This major international event featured the world’s first Ferris wheel. It was designed by civil engineer George Washington Gale Ferris. Although this first Ferris wheel was destroyed, a Ferris wheel still makes up the Chicago skyline at Navy Pier

10. Chicago Has Two Major Bodies of Water

People wandering around the sandy beach with a scenic view of the cityscape of Chicago
North Avenue Beach

Chicago sits on two major bodies of water: Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. This includes 26 miles of lakefront and numerous free beaches in Chicago. Because of this, access to calming waters is always nearby. Each year on Saint Patrick’s Day, the Chicago River is dyed green [Source]. 

11. Cannabis is Legal Here

As of 2020, Illinois is one of 21 states in the U.S. where marijuana is legal. There are a number of dispensaries around the city, and anyone 21 or older can legally purchase. If you do purchase cannabis, make sure it’s from a licensed seller and abide by the law.

12. Chicago is Home to Over 60 Museums

The author Lea Rose Allbaugh looking at the Ballet Dancers painting by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec at the Art Institute of Chicago
Me looking at “Ballet Dancers” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec at the Art Institute of Chicago

Chicago’s museums span art, history, science, culture, and more. Some of the most popular museums in Chicago include: the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry, Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum of Natural History. These museums and others feature world class collections and exhibits.

13. There’s a Huge Arts Scene

Chicago is overflowing with music, theatre, dance, film, and other art forms. The city has over 200 theaters, 250 live music venues, and 200 professional dance companies. It also hosts more than 70 annual music festivals and 40 film festivals

14. Sports are Big Here

Chicago has eight major league sports teams in total. You’ve probably heard of a few: the Chicago Bulls, Cubs, White Sox, Bears, and more. Chicago is also home to the iconic Wrigley Field, which is the second oldest Major League Baseball ballpark. 

15. The World’s Largest and Longest Running Permanent Digital Art Installation is in Chicago

Digital art on the exterior of theMART illuminated at night in Chicago
A night of Art on theMART

Art on theMART is a public digital art display that takes place on the facade of theMART in downtown Chicago. This display features colorful, moving art projections. It’s free for the public to enjoy every night from the RiverWalk.

16. Chicago is a Foodie City

Chicago is an amazing foodie destination with every cuisine imaginable. There are over 7,300 restaurants in Chicago, and 26 Michelin star restaurants. Chicago classics include deep dish pizza and Chicago-style hot dogs. Brownies were also invented in Chicago! [Source].

17. The Chicago River Flows Backward 

A boat cruise sailing on the Chicago river surrounded by tall buildings and a bridge at the end
Mouth of the Chicago River

Get this—the Chicago River flows backward! This is because, in 1900, engineers achieved the “largest public earth-moving project ever completed.” This was done for sanitation and contamination prevention purposes. The river now empties into the Mississippi River, and not Lake Michigan

18. O’Hare is One of the World’s Busiest Airports

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has been named the fourth busiest airport in the world. It has direct flights to over 150 U.S. destinations and more than 50 international cities. In 2021, approximately 54 million travelers passed through [Source].

📚 Related Reading: Best Hotels & Places to Stay in Chicago

19. Grant Park is Known as “Chicago’s Front Yard”

A bush of lavender in the park of Lurie Garden surrounded by tall buildings and a blue sky
One of my favorite places in the park: Lurie Garden

Grant Park is home to some of Chicago’s biggest attractions. This includes Cloud Gate in Millennium Park (aka, “the Bean”), the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum Campus, and Buckingham Fountain. The park is located in the heart of Chicago’s downtown Loop and has over 300 acres of green space [Source].

20. Chicago Has Legendary Music History

Chicago is renowned for its blues and jazz. This is due to the city’s rich history of these genres being brought to Chicago during the Great Migration. 

Jazz, but blues in particular, developed a unique sound here. Electric Chicago Blues is a great example. Musicians like Muddy Waters, Willie Dixion, and Buddy Guy are among the city’s major players in these genres and the development of rock ‘n’ roll.

👉 Pro Tip: The annual Chicago Blues Festival is the largest festival of its kind in the world. Read our guide for a full list of the best festivals in Chicago.  

21. It’s a Diverse City

Chicago is a melting pot of ethnicities, cultures, languages, and more. This diversity influences everything from art, to food, to the community. You can find people from all walks of life in Chicago, and that’s one of my favorite parts of the city.

22. Chicago is Known as the Home of Improv Comedy

For up and coming comedians and improv talent, Chicago is a mecca. This is due to the city’s long standing comedy club history. The Second City is arguably Chicago’s most famous comedy club, and has churned out talent ranging from Tina Fey, to Steve Carrell, to Mike Meyers. 

23. Chicago is One of the Best Biking Cities 

The author Lea Rose Allbaugh biking at the lakefront bicycle path in Chicago
Me biking the lakefront bicycle paths

For a large city, Chicago actually has great biking trails and pathways. There are over 300 total miles of bike lanes in the city, and more than 800 Divvy bike share stations. The lakefront trail is my personal favorite biking trail, which goes for almost 19 miles along Lake Michigan.

24. The First Blood Bank Took Place in Chicago

In 1937, the first blood bank took place at Cook County Hospital. This was introduced and led by Dr. Bernard Fantus. After this, more blood banks popped up around the country.

25. People are Friendly

Don’t let the big city fool you, Midwestern hospitality radiates through Chicago. People here are notoriously laid back and friendly. As long as you’re polite, you can expect most Chicagoans to return the good vibes. 

26. Many Famous People Come from Chicago

A wax figure of Walt Disney at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
Chicago native, Walt Disney attended Chicago’s McKinley High School and the Art Institute of Chicago (photo: Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock)

A ton of famous people are native to Chicago or have made Chicago their home. This includes actors and athletes like Robin Williams, Dick Butkus, Melissa McCarthy, Jennifer Hudson, and Harrison Ford. It also includes even bigger names like former President Barack Obama and Walt Disney

27. You Can See Four States from Willis Tower

On the 103rd floor of Willis Tower is The Skydeck. Here, you can step out onto a thick glass ledge that’s 1,353 feet above the ground. On a clear day, you might be able to see four states: Illinois (obviously), Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

📚 Related Reading: 17 Day Trips from Chicago

28. Deep Dish Pizza Was Born Here

It’s a widely known fact that deep dish pizza hails from Chicago! It was created by Pizzeria Uno’s founder, Ike Sewell in the 1940s. Unlike normal pizza, deep dish pizza is baked in a pan, with a thick crust and layers of cheese, sauce, and toppings [Source].

29. Chicago Has a Lot of Burger Kings

Here’s one of the most random facts about Chicago: the city ranks third for having the most burger kings in America. As of 2022, there are 52 total locations. If you really wanted to, you could “have it your way” at a different Burger King each week of the year.

FAQs About Chicago Facts

What are 3 facts about Chicago?

Three facts about Chicago: it’s the third biggest city in America. It’s actually not the windiest city either. Lastly, it’s a major destination for arts, architecture, and sports. 

What’s unique about Chicago?

Chicago is the capital city of the Midwest. It’s a vibrant city that boasts world renowned attractions across arts, culture, and sports. It’s also located on the shores of Lake Michigan.

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I hope you enjoyed learning these facts about Chicago! There’s so much to see and do in Chicago, and endless ways to customize your Chicago itinerary. Do you know any fun facts about Chicago? Let us know!

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