105 Fascinating Facts About Chicago

Fun and interesting Chicago facts

Chicago is one of the great American cities, often considered second only to NYC. It is known for its skyscrapers, pizza, and sports. Below, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the “Second City” with these fun and interesting facts about Chicago. Also, see these fun facts about Illinois, the state where Chicago is found!

General Chicago Facts

  • Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. But it is not the state capital (that would be Springfield).
  • With 2.7 million residents, Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the United States, behind New York City and Los Angeles, but ahead of Houston, Texas.
  • The Greater Chicago Area, which includes Naperville and Elgin, has a population of 9.5 million, also 3rd largest in the country. It is sometimes called “Chicagoland”.
  • Greater Chicago is similar in size to Greater Taipei, Taiwan.
  • Around 67% of all Illinoisans live in the Greater Chicago Area.
  • Chicago is located in the northeastern area of the state and on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes. Along with Toronto, Ontario, it is the largest city in the Great Lakes region.
  • The city sits at the same latitude as Istanbul, Turkey.
  • The highest temperature ever recorded in Chicago was 105°F (40.5°C) in 1934, while the lowest was −27°F (−32.38°C) in 1985.
A sea of skyscrapers lining the shore of Lake Michigan in Illinois
Chicago on Lake Michigan
  • Chicago’s name was derived from a French rendering of the Native American Miami-Illinois word “Shikaakwa“. Shikaakwa is the wild relative of the onion, known as Allium Tricoccum or more commonly as “ramps”.
  • Some common nicknames for Chicago are Windy City, Chi-town, the City of Big Shoulders, and the Second City (referring to its historical rivalry with NYC).
  • Slogans for Chicago have included “Chicago. Not in Chicago”, “Second to None”, and “Make No Little Plans”.
  • The official motto for Chicago is “urbs in horto“, which is Latin for “city in a garden”.
  • People from Chicago are called Chicagoans.
  • Nearly 1/3rd of Chicagoans are Hispanic or Latino, and it is the second most Irish city after Boston.
  • Chicagoans are known for their unique English accent and slang. For example, the short ‘o’ sound often becomes a short ‘a’, so “hot dog” sounds like “haht dahg”.
The flag of Chicago flying in the sky
The Chicago city flag
  • The Chicago flag shows two light blue stripes cutting across the flag’s white background, creating three white stripes alternating with the light blue stripes. Four six-pointed stars are featured in the center of the middle white band, which is thicker than the top and bottom bands.
  • Chicago’s physical geography is represented by the white and blue parts of the flag. The three white bands stand for the city’s north, west and south sides while the blue stripes symbolize the city’s important bodies of water. The four stars each stand for an event in Chicago’s history.
  • Chicago has 29 sister cities, including Amman (Jordan), Athens (Greece), and Belgrade (Serbia).

Interesting Facts About Chicago Places

  • Modern skyscrapers were invented in Chicago, with the 1885 Home Insurance Building in Chicago being widely considered the first one.
  • From 1973 to 1998, Sears Tower in Chicago was the world’s tallest building, at 1451 ft (442 m) tall. Today it is still the city’s tallest, and the 3rd tallest in the Western Hemisphere, but its name is now Willis Tower.
Willis Tower in Chicago at night with the moon behind it
Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower)
  • The Skydeck in Willis Tower is the highest one in the country and is Chicago’s most popular tourist attraction.
  • Other iconic buildings in Chicago include 875 North Michigan, Aon Center, Aqua, Tribune Tower, and The Wrigley Building.
  • Some of the trendiest and most famous neighborhoods in Chicago are the Magnificent Mile, Andersonville, Lincoln Square, The Loop, Hyde Park, Bucktown, and Wicker Park.
  • Chicago has 26 miles of lakefront, including an 18.5-mile path with 26 beaches.
  • In 1914, the term “jazz” originated in Chicago. Today, there are more than 225 music venues and 25 theaters in the city. This includes the landmark Chicago Theater, with its famous Chicago sign out front (see cover photo of this article).
Fun and interesting Illinois facts
“The Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park
  • The Art Institute of Chicago has the largest collection of Impressionist paintings outside of Paris. The museum appeared in the 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
  • In fact, the city is home to over 125 art galleries and 700 public artworks.
  • Chicago is home to 56 museums, including the Field Museum, which houses a real Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton.
  • Millennium Park is often called Chicago’s answer to Central Park in NYC. The park is known for the shiny, 110-ton Cloud Gate statue, otherwise known as “The Bean” because it looks like a bean, as well as exhibits, tours, concerts and outdoor works of art.
  • Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park is one of the largest water fountains in the world. It sprays out more than 15,000 gallons of water per minute.
The waterfront in Chicago, with Centennial Ferris wheel and iconic Chicago buildings in the background
Navy Pier and Centennial Wheel
  • The world first Ferris Wheel, sometimes called the Chicago Wheel, was built for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. It was later moved to St. Louis, Missouri before being dismantled in 1906.
  • Chicago’s current Ferris wheel, Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier, is 20 meters shorter than the original Chicago Wheel was (197 ft or 60 m vs 263 ft or 80 meters).
  • Another top attraction in Chicago, and the largest shopping mall in the city, is Woodfield Mall. It spans over 2.2 million square feet and has nearly 300 stores, specialty shops, and restaurants.
  • Other popular Chicago shopping malls include Water Tower Place, Fashion Outlets of Chicago, Southport Corridor, Block Thirty Seven, and 900 North Michigan Shops.

Chicago Economy and Society Facts

  • Chicago is famous for its deep dish pizza. It is not certain when and where it was invented, but a few claims include Pizzeria Uno in 1943 and Rosati’s Authentic Chicago Pizza in 1926.
  • Other foods invented in Chicago include Twinkies, brownies, Wrigley’s gum, Italian beef sandwiches, and Cracker Jacks.
  • The tradition of adding flames to saganaki cheese and shouting “Opa!” started in Chicago’s Greektown, not in Greece
A hand lifting up a slice of Chicago deep dish pizza, with strings of cheese down to the main pizza pie
Chicago’s signature deep dish pizza
  • Softball, yellow pencils, and zippers were also invented in Chicago. The city also played a role in the development of mobile phones and car racing.
  • The Greater Chicago area has the 3rd largest economy in the United States, after NYC and LA, but ahead of San Francisco, California.
  • Chicago is home to 16 Fortune 500 countries, including Archer Daniels Midland, Boeing, AbbVie, Exelon, and Mondelēz International.
  • Other famous companies that started in Chicago include Kraft, Michaels, Motorola, Sears, and William Wrigley Jr. Company (the chewing gum company).
  • The McDonalds headquarters has been in the Greater Chicago area for most of the company’s history.
A mosaic of four famous food brands from Chicago
Some famous Chicago brands
  • Chicago’s crime rate is about half that of St. Louis, Missouri, but double that of Phoenix, Arizona.
  • The O’Hare International Airport is the 3rd busiest airport in the US, after the ones in Atlanta and Lost Angeles. It served 40.8 million passengers is 2021.
  • There are currently 28 billionaires in Chicago, the 4th most in the country after NYC, LA, and San Francisco.
  • The richest person in Chicago is entrepreneur and hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, with a net worth of 15 billion USD.
  • 19.6% of people in Chicago live below the poverty line.
Lights streaking by on a road in the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, with iconic skyscrapers in the background
The Magnificent Mile
  • Chicago has the 3rd highest total number LGBTQ+ people in the US, after NYC and LA, but in terms of percentage of total population, many cities are ahead of it.
  • 74% of Chicago residents voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
  • Movies filmed in Chicago include Chicago Fire, Public Enemies, My Best Friend’s Wedding, Home Alone, and The Fugitive.
  • TV Shows filmed in Chicago include Empire, Fargo, Shameless, Euphoria, and Utopia.

Chicago Sports Facts

  • Chicago has 8 major professional sports teams: Chicago Bears (NFL), Chicago Bulls (NBA), Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs (MLB), Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), Chicago Fire FC (MLS), Chicago Sky (WNBA), and Chicago Red Stars (NWSL).
  • 32 of 362 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees made most of their contribution to professional football with the Chicago Bears.
The logos of 6 professional sports teams from Chicago
Chicago professional sports teams
  • Prior to the merger of the AFL and NFL in 1970, the Chicago Bears won the league championships 8 times. They went on to win the Super Bowl XX after the merger and also won 9 league championships.
  • The Chicago Bulls are known for having one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the NBA. They won 6 NBA championships with 2 three-peats between 1991 and 1998. Their championship teams were led by coach Phil Jackson and by Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
  • The Bulls also made history by being the first team to win more than 70 games in a single season.
  • The Chicago White Sox have won the World Series three times, but only once in the last century: 1906, 1917, and 2005.
  • The Chicago Cubs were one of the original teams to make up the MLB in 1876, when it was founded. Since then, they are the only franchise to have played continuously in the same city.
  • Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago cubs, is the country’s 2nd oldest MLB stadium, after Fenway Park in Boston.
Front sign of Wrigley Field in Chicago, with a statue of a baseball player in front of it
Wrigley Field is the country’s 4th oldest
  • The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the “Original Six” NHL teams. Since their founding in 1926, the Hawks have won six Stanley Cup Championships.
  • United Center is home to the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks. It is the largest NBA stadium and second largest NHL stadium by capacity.
  • The Chicago Fire won an MLS Cup the same year that they started, in 1998.
  • The Chicago Sky team were very successful from 2013 till 2016, playing in the 2014 WNBA Finals and making four playoff appearances.
  • In October 2021, the Chicago Red Stars held the record for the longest active playoff streak (2015 till 2021) in the NWSL.
  • 60+ Olympians have been born in Chicago.
An entrance gate of United Center in Chicago
United Center, home to the Blackhawks and Bulls
  • Some of the greatest Olympic medalists and record-setters from Chicago include track and field athletes Frank Foss, Betty Robinson and Ralph Metcalfe; swimmers Johnny Weissmuller and Adolph Kiefer; wrestler Terry McCann; and gymnast Bart Conner.
  • Originally, the bid for the 1904 Summer Olympics was won by Chicago. However, the organizers of the St. Louis World’s Fair didn’t want another international event occurring in the same timeframe. Thus, the 1904 Olympics were moved to the same city as the World’s Fair: Missouri.

Famous Chicago People

  • Actors from Chicago include Harrison Ford, Robin Williams, Bernie Mac, Michael Peña, Ben Savage, and Terrence Howard.
  • Actresses from Chicago include Jennifer Hudson, Jenny McCarthy, Gina Rodriguez, Bonnie Hunt, and Patricia Arquette.
  • Former US President Barack Obama lived in Chicago for most of his adult life and even served as senator of Illinois.
  • Rappers/musicians born in Chicago include R. Kelley, Common, Soulja Boy, and Chance the Rapper.
A mosaic of famous people from Chicago
Famous Chicagoans Harrison Ford, Robin Williams, John Waybe Gacy, The Common, Jennifer Hudson, and R. Kelley (clockwise from top-left)
  • Some of the most famous bands from Chicago include Cheap Trick, Fall Out Boy, Alkaline Trio, Rise Against, Wilco, Urge Overkill, Chicago, and Smashing Pumpkins.
  • Chicago has produced 94 Nobel Prize Winners, including Willard Libby (chemistry), Saul Bellow (literature), Milton Friedman (economics), Charles Huggins (physiology or medicine), Robert A. Millikan and Albert A. Michelson (physics).
  • The famous serial killer John Wayne Gacy was also born in Chicago. Before getting caught, he worked as a clown.

Chicago History Facts

  • The Three Fires (Potawatomi, Odawa and Ojibwe Nations) and the Illinois, Sac, Fox, Miami, Kickapoo, Menominee and Ho-Chunk nations were the original inhabitants of the Chicago area.
  • In 1673, the first Europeans arrived in the area of Chicago.
  • In 1696, Jesuits founded a mission around modern-day Chicago, but abandoned it four years later.
  • Illinois became part of New France in 1754, then fell to the English in 1763.
Fort Dearborn Monument in Chicago
  • In 1796, a Native woman gave birth to a child with Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, the first settler in Chicago. It was Chicago’s first recorded birth.
  • Chicago was incorporated as a town in 1833 and as a city in 1837.
  • In 1854, 5.5% of Chicago’s population died from a cholera epidemic.
  • The population of Chicago reached 100,000 around 1860 and exploded to 1 million by 1890.
Chicago Water Tower
The Chicago Water Tower dates to 1869.
  • Lincoln Park Zoo was founded in 1868. Today it is the country’s fourth oldest zoo.
  • In 1885, The Home Insurance Building was completed, widely considered the world’s first skyscraper.
  • In 1890, John D. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago.
  • In 1893, Sears was founded in Chicago. It would go on to be the country’s top retailer for much of the next century.
  • In the same year, Chicago hosted the World’s Fair, to celebrate 400 years since Columbus arrived in America. The world’s first Ferris Wheel was on display.
  • In 1906, the Chicago White Sox beat the Chicago Cubs in the only ever Chicago-only World Series.
  • 8,500 residents of Chicago lost their lives to the Spanish Flu between September and November 1918.
Black and white photo of the world's first Ferris wheel in Chicago, Illinois
The world’s first Ferris wheel in Chicago
  • Chicago’s first subway line first started running in 1943.
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport opened its doors in February 1944.
  • Sears Tower was completed in 1973. It would be the world’s tallest building for the next 25 years.
  • Jane M. Byrne became Chicago’s first female Mayor in 1979.
  • The first African American mayor of Chicago was Harold Washington, elected in 1983.
Aerial view of Chicago O'Hare International Airport with snow on the runways
Chicago O’Hare International Airport
  • In 2018, McDonalds’ headquarters were moved from the suburbs into the city of Chicago.
  • Lori Lightfoot became Chicago’s first female African-American Mayor in 2019.
  • In 2022, Chicago so an influx of abortion patients from neighboring states as the latter put tight restrictions on the practice.

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