One of the best parts about moving to Chicago was having a large swarm of my friends from college move here too – it’s definitely a huge draw for Miami graduates (and people from Louisville, too!) Now that summer is officially here, a fresh batch of graduates are making their way to the Windy City, and the texts and emails have been pouring in from old friends and acquaintances asking for any advice they can get their hands on!
I was fortunate enough to have a ton of expert wisdom from my older brothers and some close friends from years before me, so it was really satisfying to be able to pass it along now that I’ve been here a full year (still can’t grasp that fact…working on it!) Not that I consider myself the be-all end-all expert of all things Chicago, but I’d like to think I’ve picked up a thing or two by now!
Instead of continually answering the same questions, I thought it might be easier and hopefully helpful to more of you lucky soon-to-be Chicagoans to share some of these FAQ’s and insider tips! (Some of these are also definitely not Chicago-exclusive, so if you’re moving to another city, still skim the list!)
Where to Live
Looking for housing in any new city is always incredibly stressful, especially when you don’t have someone to guide you. Obviously this all varies based on budget, where you work, what type of amenities you are looking for, and what areas you find most appealing…but in general (particularly for post-grads) the go-to areas in Chicago are: Wrigleyville, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, and sometimes Gold Coast (but this can get pricey fast). Another thing to pay attention to is proximity to the train…it makes a huge
difference and you can see the train stops on Google Maps!
You’d be surprised how many great places you can find on Craigslist – my first two apartments have been found that way – just make sure you always use caution, verify that it’s legit, and never freely hand over personal information. Check out this helpful article on how to spot the scammers! To broaden the search, I also recommend Zillow and Domu.
Getting Familiar with Public Transit
The transit system and street grid in Chicago (in my opinion) is incredibly easy to learn. All you need is googlemaps to find anything
, and I still use it to this day, even to places I’ve been plenty of times. The first thing you should (almost definitely) do is get an unlimited Ventra Pass
. You can buy these at any train station (also known as the “El” for elevated train, and yes it took me several months
to learn where the nickname came from). Unless you are using a car, walking or biking to work, the unlimited pass is by far the best option for you and the best value. You pay $100 for the entire month (many companies do tend to offer a discount or pre-tax option for this, so be sure to ask!) and you can use it an unlimited amount of times on every single bus and train. You can set it to auto-refill, and never have to think twice about doing anything but swiping and going!
One you have the ventra pass that suits your needs, download an app called “Transit Stop”. It’s free, and you can look up when the next bus or train is arriving at any point in time at any location. It tells you any that are arriving within 30 minutes, helping you plan your trip with less time waiting around, or to just ease the anxiety of standing and wondering how much longer.
*Google Maps will also always tell you which buses and trains to take to get somewhere by hitting the public transit option when mapping your route
Re-establishing your “Go-To’s”
One of the most time-consuming parts of moving somewhere new is replacing all of your go-to spots you’re familiar with. Doctor’s offices, a gym, dentist, favorite restaurants, tailor, groceries…the list can get pretty overwhelming. My first tip is to do your research. Yelp
is a great place to go for honest reviews, and I’ve been using it more and more as my needs increase. So far Yelp has led me to my eye doctor, GP doctor, tailor, and gym in a matter of minutes!
Finding A Gym:
The key thing here is location. Don’t pick somewhere that takes a while to get to, or you’ll never
want to go. The prices vary, but be prepared to pay more now that you’re in a city. Some of the favorites in Chicago include Lakeshore Fitness, Fitness Formula Clubs, Lakeview/Lincoln Park/Webster Athletic Clubs (one for each neighborhood), DePaul Rec Center…take a tour and find one that works for you!
*Fitness Hint – you can almost always get around a “join fee” by playing hard ball and simply repeating that you can’t join if the join fee is there because it is out of your budget. They earn commission, and they aren’t going to let you walk out the door that easy!
Restaurant Favorites: This is a nearly impossible thing to provide hints on because you can rarely go wrong in this city. Here is a comprehensive guide of the best brunch spots in Chicago! Other favorites include Andy’s Thai Kitchen, Kirkwood, Mercadito, Quartino, Mia Francesca, Stella Barra, Taco Joint…the list goes on and on. Taste your way through the city and find your favorites, or email me/comment below for suggestions!
There are obviously an endless amount of questions and things to figure out that I could never possibly answer all in one post (plus half of the fun is figuring it out along the way!) but I love
to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to shoot me an email email me
about anything and everything!
Welcome to City Life!