June 23, 2024


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11 Mistakes Tourists Make While Visiting Chicago


When people think of classic American cities, Chicago inevitably comes to mind. As such, the Windy City attracts a large number of tourists with its music scene, delicious restaurants and varied cultural attractions.

“Chicago is one of the most diverse cities I know, and this shows itself in the foods and the experiences that are available for travelers,” travel blogger Hayet Rida told HuffPost. “Now, not everyone can get it right, especially when you don’t know what to do or where to go. I will be the first to remind people that there is more to Chicago than seeing the Bean.”

Below, Rida and other Chicago locals share the faux pas they’ve observed. From limiting exploration to the Loop to missing out on the best pizza, here are 11 mistakes tourists often make while visiting Chicago ― and some advice for avoiding these errors during your travels.

Sticking to downtown

“The biggest mistakes tourists make when visiting Chicago is sticking to downtown. Chicago has 77 neighborhoods with so many rich diverse cultures, cuisines and things to see and do. Some of my favorite neighborhoods I’d recommend checking out are Bronzeville, Hyde Park, West Loop, Humbolt Park, Wicker Park, Lakeview and Rogers Park.” ― Ashley Marshall-Seward, blogger at MommyWeek

“One of the biggest mistakes Chicago travelers make is not leaving the Loop. There is so much more of Chicago to see in the neighborhoods ― including some truly wonderful local restaurants! Pick a neighborhood and plan to spend at least a half-day there. Start at a local coffee shop, visit a few shops and boutiques, and find a cute spot for lunch or dinner and drinks. If you do choose to stay downtown, the food halls in the Loop are a great way to try a bunch of local spots at once.” ― Erin Byrne, blogger at 312food

Avoiding the waterfront

“No matter the season, don’t miss the being by the water. That can be strolling on the path at Lake Michigan, walking along the Chicago Riverwalk or taking the Chicago Architecture Center boat cruise on the Chicago River.” ― Paige Adams, interior designer and food enthusiast

Visiting without the Ventra app

“Download the Ventra app and get yourself a Ventra card to use the CTA. The same card can be used for the Metra trains out of Union Station, and for Divvy as well. Divvy is the bike share program. This saves time and money spent on a car rental and parking.” ― Bonnie Rodríguez Krzywicki, blogger and photographer

“The first mistake people make when visiting Chicago is not downloading the Ventra Chicago app. I constantly see people trying to get on the train at the airport or after a baseball game and they have to wait forever in line to purchase a ticket.” ― Linardos

Don't miss the water when you visit Chicago.
Don’t miss the water when you visit Chicago.

Overlooking lesser-known cultural attractions

“The Art Institute and the Museum of Science and Industry are fantastic, but don’t overlook lesser-known museums and cultural destinations like the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago or the Museum of Contemporary Photography, or take a tour of the Glessner House on historic Prairie Avenue.” ― Adams

Getting pizza from a chain

“People that live in Chicago usually are not crazy about deep-dish pizza. It’s a more touristy thing for sure. If you still would like to try the deep dish, opt for a local account rather than a chain like Giordano’s.” ― Adri and Kam, bloggers at Mapping Our Tracks

“Don’t only go to Lou Malnati’s or Giordano’s for pizza. Chicago has some of the best pizza in the country. Try Pat’s Pizza, Gino’s East or Roots. There are so many choices to choose from!” ― Alexander Linardos, blogger at MrSouthLoop

Correcting locals on building names

“Don’t correct anyone when they call Willis Tower ‘the Sears Tower.’ It’s been Sears Tower for those that live here for years, and that is all we know and will call it.” ― Adri and Kam

Ignoring the suburbs

“There are many other locations even in the suburbs, which are really worth seeing. Did you know we actually have a replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa? It’s actually in a suburb called Niles.” ― Adri and Kam

Hogging the sidewalk

“Don’t ride a Divvy bike or scooter on the sidewalk. Nothing irritates me more than walking on the sidewalk and that bike or scooter bell rings and the rider asks me to get out of the way when there’s literally a bike lane right next to us.” ― Linardos

Missing the music and sports scenes

“Besides sightseeing, Chicago always has plenty of goings-on within eyeshot. Check out any of the various event venues for a listing of current shows and cool exhibitions, and don’t miss the city’s happening music scene.” ― Rodríguez Krzywicki

“Chicago is full of unique experiences and destinations, including Wrigleyville. Even if you are not a die-hard baseball fan, you can enjoy the neighboring restaurants and views from The Bar at Hotel Zachary. A visit to the home of the Chicago Cubs is the perfect place for a memorable picture in front of the iconic marquee on the corner of Clark and Addison. This neighborhood is also near some of the legendary music venues such the Metro and Vic Theater.” ― Michael Willson, Director of Sales and Marketing, Hotel Zachary

Focusing too much on taking photos

“This may seem like a weird mistake, but one of the things many tourists spend the day doing is trying to get the perfect photos on their phone without actually experiencing the city and all it has to offer. I once told a visiting family to hire a photographer for two hours to come and show them around while taking photos of them … They ended up telling me that the ability to enjoy the city without trying to capture images was more enjoyable than any trip they have ever been on.” ― Rida

Not getting local recommendations

“Don’t only eat at restaurants that make it on big lists. I always make convos with Uber drivers or hotel staff anytime I travel. I want to know where they eat. My absolute favorite Chicago spot is a hole-in-the-wall Korean fried chicken spot called Crisp. You aren’t going to find it on any shiny curated lists, but ask anyone in the city who knows good food and they will send you there.” ― Rida

This article originally appeared on Huffington Post Travel News


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