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10 Ways to Make Friends if You’re New to Chicago

by Benjamin Schaye Jan 9, 2019

Making friends in a new place can feel like an impossible challenge, especially in a big city like Chicago. Fortunately, the Second City is a super friendly spot, and there are so many people living here that you’re bound to find people who share your interests and values. The only question is where to go to find them, and that’s where this list comes in. Here are our 10 ways to make friends if you’re new to Chicago.

1. Hang with your coworkers.

If you’re new here then there’s a good chance you came for a new job, and if so, your new colleagues are a great place to start. Be open, and say yes to all the invites you to get for lunch or after-work drinks. If those aren’t forthcoming, you can pry a little bit by asking people what lunch places they recommend nearby. The same thing goes if you’re a college student — but in that case you have the added benefit of being able to invite people to study sessions.

2. Volunteer.

Finding a local organization to volunteer with is a great way to do some good, and to make new friends. Find a cause that’s near and dear to you and you’ll be sure to find people with similar values. By definition, these will be the type of people you will want to be friends with. It’s a total win: You’ll be creating positive change, you’ll avoid the solitude you can sometimes feel in a new city, and you’ll be exposed to a great pool of potential new friends. Check out Chicago Cares and use the search function to find a good cause that matches the work you want to do, and works with your schedule.

3. Become a regular somewhere.

Showing your face repeatedly in one place is a good way to get noticed. It can be your local bar, a good lunch spot, or just a cafe, but after a few visits, you can be sure that people will start to remember you and eventually someone will strike up a conversation. You can also be the one to start the conversation by asking for recommendations or local knowledge on something. This will also tip people off that you’re new here, and there’s a good chance that this will be enough for them to invite you to an upcoming party or group outing of friends.

4. Join a sports league.

A sports league is another fantastic option that can help you meet like-minded people and it will keep you fit! Whatever your preferred sport or skill level, there is an option for you. Things really get going in the summer when kickball, softball, ultimate frisbee, and beach volleyball leagues are super popular, but there is plenty to do indoors in the winter, like basketball, volleyball, and indoor soccer. Most teams are in it for the fun more than the competition, and that often means going for food or drinks together after games. Check out Players Sport & Social Group or Chicago Sport & Social Club for league options and signups.

5. Go to the dog park.

You obviously need a dog for this one, and please don’t get a dog unless you’re fully prepared to take care of it. If you do have a canine friend though, that can be a huge help in finding some human friends. Dog parks are pretty social places and friendships (and sometimes more) are made there every day.

6. Get fit.

We mentioned sports leagues, but things like running, swimming, and biking clubs shouldn’t be overlooked either. Again, you can get in better shape, avoid the loneliness that can come with a move to a new city, and meet people with similar interests to you. Winning all around.

7. Get swiping.

Dating apps are not only for dating. If you’re open to possible dating, you can cast a wide net for a potential partner and new friends on any dating app or site. If you’re only looking for friends, the dating app Bumble has a feature for just that. Give it a shot.

8. Find your church.

If you’re a person of faith, find a congregation and you’ll find like-minded people there that would make great friends. This is probably obvious to some, but if you’re someone who doesn’t go often or has stopped going to any sort of services or religious groups, you might overlook this option.

9. Explore the city, and invite others along.

If you’re new to the city and around lots of people who are not, you might assume they aren’t interested in exploring with you, but you’re probably wrong. Locals always take their city for granted and often love it when someone pries them out of that mindset and drags them to do something “touristy.” There are tons of cool places to explore and events to check out, even for the blasé locals.

10. Follow up.

Once you start getting invites to lunches, parties, and other events, make sure to follow up. Reach out to people you meet, make new plans, and keep things rolling. You might think some people aren’t interested in being friends with you, but it’s entirely possible they like you but assume you aren’t that interested in them. If you feel like you connect with someone, reach out. You’ll find your Chicago family before you know it.

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