Make me a Chicagoan, MeFi.
October 25, 2007 10:12 PM   Subscribe

Chicago filter: How can I make the most of my new (and very exciting) move to ye olde Windy City?

Me n' the mister have moved to Chicago, thus achieving one of my lifetime goals. Right now, we live on the south side, on S. South Shore/71st, but plan to move to a more centrally located home once we have time to devote to home hunting. This is not a "Where shall I make my home?" sort of question (though, if you love your home and want to let me know, that's cool too.)

What I'd really like to know is how I can integrate myself into a life in Chicago. A little background: 26, engaged to the mister, not a big drinker, not terribly athletic, love art/music/theatre/movies/games/crafting, etc., not religious, have never lived in a large city. What should I be looking to attend or join? How do I go to an event where I know no one without feeling awkward with the hopeful intention of finding other interesting people to hang out with? What should I do to avoid isolating myself/ourselves in such a metro area? What sorts of things did you do when you first got into town as a non-tourist?
posted by santojulieta to Human Relations (21 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I'm hoping to attend the DIY Trunk Show on the 17th.
posted by santojulieta at 10:20 PM on October 25, 2007

- Buy a bicycle and learn how to use it on city streets.

- Get a library card - you can get museum passes for free.

- Sit down at a book store and dig through all the tourist guides - make notes on the places and things you'd like to see.

- Learn your neighborhood inside and out - there are probably lots of interesting things within a few blocks of you.

- Yes, the CTA sucks right now, but using it is essential to enjoying the city.

- The city is vast, but almost always welcoming... don't be afraid. If you find yourself with nothing to do on a free afternoon, hop on the bus or train and just go! All rails lead to the Loop (eventually...)

- Learn the grid. The grid is your friend.

- Check your local university or college for guest speakers and lectures... usually that stuff is free to the public and interesting.

- Things you should know after a while: Studs, Daley (each), The Fire, The Machine, Sandburg, Watertower, Mies, The Picasso, The River, and why the intersection of State & Madison is important.

- Cubs or Sox. Pick one. Stick with it.

Welcome to Chicago... she's one of the greatest cities on earth. ;-)
posted by wfrgms at 10:29 PM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Chicago is a good town for crafty type things. The Hyde Park Art Center is pretty convenient to you, and they've got classes. They have a free knitting circle on Monday nights, which might be a good place to meet people if you knit or crochet or do any other portable crafts. Lill Street Art Center isn't as easy to get to from where you are, but it's got classes and stuff, too. Loopy Yarns in the South Loop has a weekly knitting night, and they're a really nice, friendly store.

It's not at all close to you right now, but the Old Town School of Folk Music is a deeply awesome place, with classes in all sorts of music, dance, and other performance stuff.
posted by craichead at 10:36 PM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah...

- The Reader (free) comes out weekly and is generally pretty good. (Although they were just bought up by Creative Loafing, so it remains to be seen if it will degrade into some glorified entertainment rag - some would say its already there.)

- The Onion (free also) is both funny and informative.

- The Tribune is stuffy (they were the only major metro paper to endorse Bush in 2004) but far reaching.

- The Sun-Times tends to do a better job dishing on local stories.

- Please don't read the Redeye (yeah it's free, yeah its everywhere) - it really is written for pre-teens.

- Chicago Tonight airs at 7pm weekdays on WTTW (channel 11) and is surprisingly doing a great job covering city and county politics.

- All the foodies love Check Please.

- WBEZ does a good job covering local news in the mornings and their local news show 848 is mostly okay... though sometimes annoying and painfully irreverent.
posted by wfrgms at 10:42 PM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

This isn't going to help you meet people, but for movies you should check out the University of Chicago's Doc Films.

The calendar on Gapers Block might be useful to you.
posted by craichead at 10:47 PM on October 25, 2007

As a starting point, check out Chicago Reader and Gapers Block. Plenty of interesting and non-touristy things to be found. (And don't read the RedEye unless you like losing brain cells.)

Definitely familiarize yourself with the grid system and the CTA.

It will take some time - don't try to cram every waking moment with Authentic Chicago Experience if you don't want to. Chicago's full of different things to do and people to meet, and many of us were once new to the city too. I'd say try meeting people based on activities you're interested in -- you can find groups for just about anything around here -- and get their recommendations as well. Most Chicagoans I've met are friendly and unpretentious.

Good luck and congratulations!
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:49 PM on October 25, 2007

Metromix just relaunched, and they've got a super handy "narrow by neighborhood" feature. Check it when you want to go out, and you'll get some wonderful ideas for nightlife.

I'm a theater/improv junkie, so I'd be remiss if I didn't mention iO, The Playground, or The Annoyance. I could mention Second City, but I'm assuming you know it already. And, if performing is somewhere in your blood, take a class at iO or The Annoyance! The improv community is very welcoming, and you'll make friends in no time. Hell, just hang out at the iO bar every so often and you're bound to meet some people that way.

Another Chicago-centric blog I dig is Chicagoist. I'm not sure where you moved from, but if you've got an -ist blog you know (gothamist, laist, etc) Chicagoist is right up your alley.

And, I can't re-emphasize Metroid Baby's point enough. I was born and raised here, but a lot of my close friends are semi-recent transplants (but the old crew keeps in touch). Once you get used to it, Chicago is a big city with small town people.

Plus, if worse comes to worst - there's always
posted by leo. at 11:15 PM on October 25, 2007

do not move into the presidential towers. not if it were the only place on earth left.
posted by krautland at 12:06 AM on October 26, 2007

Best answer: Chicago is defined by its neighborhoods, with each having its own history, architecture style and overall vibe. A great way to explore the city without getting overwhelmed is to pick a neighborhood to explore on a weekend: work your way north or start in the north and work your way down. I'd also recommend (also organized by neighborhood) as a way to find restaurants and activities.
posted by gsh at 5:22 AM on October 26, 2007

pick your neighborhood and love it to death. chicago's neighborhoods are her beauty, and your bike is the best way to get between them in the warmer months.

one of the best things about this city is the ability to shop locally and be assured you're putting money and care back into the community, towards local artisans and area farmers. there are farmers' markets all the time, so this is one of the best cities in which you can eat as simply or elaborately as you wish, but always with grace.

ignore the city government as much as you possibly can. there's a lot of evidence (but of course, no proof) that there's a crazy amount of corruption happening here. a lot of the government, including pretty much everyone around the mayor and the police are under FBI scrutiny, which is fun to hear about almost every week.

and lastly, don't listen to a realtor when they try to talk to you about chicago's neighborhoods. it's bullshit, they're afraid of the deflating housing market here, and they're trying to overcharge you for a condo. there is no such thing as west bucktown or west roscoe village.
posted by patricking at 5:37 AM on October 26, 2007

Put only mustard (yellow) and onions on your hotdog.

Anything else is pure sin and marketing hype.
posted by stevejensen at 5:44 AM on October 26, 2007

Agreed on most everything listed above. Consider where the expressways and CTA lines are located before you move any place. You can lose a ton of time traveling in the city if you are in a transportation black hole (Devon and Western, lots of Hyde Park, etc.). Here are a few helpful links, with a couple repeats.

Gapers Block.





City Services.


Chicago Bicycle Federation.

Good luck and enjoy the city!
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:06 AM on October 26, 2007

Best answer: The above is a great start. (I run Gapers Block; thanks for the recommendations, everybody! We've got a hang-out thing tonight if you'd like to join us.)

You'll notice that most of the events and locations listed here are north of the Loop (even the stuff to the west). It's not that nothing's going on down south, there's just less going on down there. But check out Hyde Park, Bridgeport, Chinatown and Pilsen/East Pilsen for some action closer to home.

If you're into art, East Pilsen is a good area to check out, as is the Zhou B. Art Center.

For food recommendations, LTH Forum may have more to offer you in terms of recommendations closer to your current abode. (Be warned, some of the members can be a bit aggressive to newbies... not unlike MeFi, actually.)
posted by me3dia at 7:55 AM on October 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To find things to do, subscribe to TimeOut Chicago magazine.

To figure out how to get around and to learn the neighborhoods, pick up a NFT map book.
posted by limeswirltart at 8:05 AM on October 26, 2007

Best answer: For more nerdly pursuits, and nearer to your current south-side location, check out some of what Hyde Park/UofC has to offer. I'd recommend the Seminary Co-op and Doc Films, for starters. If you're a coffee-drinker/café rat, you can't do better than Intelligentsia (and grab some great mideastern food at Zad across the street while you're there). Take yourselves out for brunch at Lula. Pick up some music at Reckless. Feelin' spendy? Take yourself out to the place that's been called the best new restaurant in the country, Alinea. Grab a show at the Steppenwolf at the same time.

That's off the top of my head, anyway. Damn, this is making me miss Chicago.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 8:08 AM on October 26, 2007

er, make that Seminary Co-op.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 8:10 AM on October 26, 2007

the comments about the south side not being dead are true. the city's kind of split into half: north and south, which don't really have much to do with each other because the place is so big.

they're really two (three? four? hard to say, depending upon how you consider the place) very different places, and it always keeps you looking for new things. i've lived in the city since '94 and i still don't know much about the far south and far western sides. i just discovered austin and oak park a few weeks ago, and i still don't know a single thing about rogers park or evnaston. there's a ton of different types of places to live here.

one thing to note about the neighborhoods here is that it can be really balkanized. looks diverse from the road, but you can really feel the neighborhood boundaries on foot. case in point, boystown (official gayborhood) and wrigleyville (sports fans, mostly) are right next to each other, and you can feel the change in tone once you pass under the el tracks dividing them. it's utterly weird.
posted by patricking at 9:43 AM on October 26, 2007

Seconding the NFT book. It was my official guide to the city when I moved here. It tells you everything you need to know and where everything is.

There's so much to do here! I can't even begin.... If you think of it, there's probably a club for it at the very least.
posted by smeater44 at 10:01 AM on October 26, 2007

Best answer: if you're on facebook, add the neighborhoods app. it's actually surprisingly handy for finding others in your area with similar interests.
posted by patricking at 9:19 PM on October 26, 2007

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
posted by Scoo at 1:00 PM on October 27, 2007

Best answer: If you love art and enjoy making things, I highly recommend the black and white or digital photography classes at the Chicago Photography Center. They have a DIY ethos, and will point you toward equipment that won't break the bank. Plus, you will meet a ton of really fun people around your age. And your vacation photos will rock forever more. Bit of a haul from your current location, but a truly great way to make some friends.

If music is more your thing, there are some good music classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music (it isn't all folk if that's an issue).

Also, met quite a few people learning how to samba at the Latin Street Dance school.
posted by centerweight at 9:21 PM on October 27, 2007

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