A guide to Chicago: America’s third-largest city and your neighbor at Northwestern


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Northwestern’s next-door neighbor has hundreds of options for entertainment and food.

Shannon Tyler, Reporter

Northwestern’s campus sits next to the country’s third-largest city, known to many as “the Windy City:” Chicago. Living and learning next to Chicago is a great opportunity for students to engage with the diverse, vibrant communities beyond campus in meaningful ways. Here’s The Daily’s guide to help you get a start.

Neighborhoods of the city

Chicago has 100 neighborhoods with different cultures, personalities and characteristics. The city stretches along Lake Michigan, with the Loop set in the center. It’s a downtown area filled with iconic landmarks like Chicago City Hall, Cloud Gate or “The Bean” at Millennium Park and Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue. Other popular neighborhoods in the city include Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville, Andersonville and River North. But, there are many more to explore between NU and Chicago’s city limits. 

Getting there 

The Chicago Transit Authority, referred to as “the L,” has several different lines to take commuters and tourists around the city, extending all the way to Evanston. As a NU student, you will be familiar with the Purple Line that runs to Howard Station where commuters change to the Red Line to go further into Chicago. The ride into downtown Chicago takes about an hour. Fares for the CTA are $2.50 per ride. Your other option as a NU student is taking the Intercampus Shuttle, which only runs on weekdays and drops you off at NU’s Chicago campus in downtown.

City politics 

Chicago’s government is divided into executive and legislative branches. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has served since 2019, and the city also elects councilmembers for each of the 50 wards.


Many students find themselves in the “NU bubble,” not engaging with the city right next door. But there are plenty of ways to do so in meaningful ways. Campus organizations including the Chicago Undergraduate Program and the Center for Civic Engagement strive to bridge the gap between Evanston and Chicago. Many students also make their way to the city to engage in politics through protests and volunteering. Just going to the city to explore and interact in a positive way helps you learn about the city. 

Art, architecture, education 

Chicago has many notable museums and sights to choose from including the Field Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Shedd Aquarium, the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Museum of Science and Industry. Chicago is also known for its architectural history. Take a walk around the Loop or along the Riverwalk to see some of the most famous buildings including the John Hancock Building, the Willis Tower and the Tribune Tower. 


Free activities in Chicago: the Art Institute (with your Wildcard), Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago Cultural Center, Grant Park, Navy Pier, Harold Washington Library Center, Lincoln Park Conservatory, the Riverwalk and more.

Comedy: Chicago is a great place to see up-and-coming comedians. Some comedians who started in Chicago include Steve Carell, Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert (Communication ’86). There are quite a few comedy venues from which to choose including the Second City, Laugh Factory and Annoyance Theatre.

Concerts: Chicago is a stop on many artists’ North American tours. You can also attend music and performances at the Chicago Symphony Center.

Sports: Catch a Cubs game in the spring or fall at famous Wrigley Field, or catch the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. Head to Soldier Field if you root for the Bears, watch the Bulls or Blackhawks at United Center or make the trip to Wintrust Arena to watch the 2021 WNBA champion Sky.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @shannonmtyler

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