Chicago is much more than skyscrapers, L trains, and deep dish pizza, but it’s hard to see that if you never leave downtown. Do Chicago differently and you’ll find some amazing places, and things to do. Here are the nine ways a trip to Chicago will surprise you.

1. Chicago is not dangerous.

Anywhere you go on your Chicago visit will be a safe place. A lot of people with their own agendas like to paint us as a dangerous murder capital, but that’s just not true. There are some neighborhoods with a lot of violence, and a lot of people are working hard to address that. As a visitor here though, there’s just no way you’ll end up in those areas.

2. It’s all about the neighborhoods.

Chicago is truly a city of neighborhoods. Most of them started as ethnic enclaves of newly-arrived immigrants, and some still are. Others have changed completely, but most still maintain at least some links to their past. Each Chicago neighborhood definitely has its own unique character, and part of the fun of visiting the city is getting to know them.

3. There’s a ginormous lake.

A lot of people are vaguely aware that there’s a lake here, but they don’t expect it to have a horizon line with no visible land beyond it. The lake is basically Chicago’s non-salty sea.

4. And you can dig your toes into the sand.

Chicago has 24 beaches spread out along 28 miles of beautiful lakeshore. In the summertime, the beach is definitely the place to be.

5. We have an epic food scene.

When people think of Chicago food, most of them probably expect pizza, hot dogs, sausages, and Italian beef. We do make all of those things pretty damn good, but our food scene is much more diverse than that. First off, the immigrant population means there’s an incredible variety of world cuisine spread all throughout the city. Then there’s our fine dining scene, which has some of the country’s best and most innovative restaurants. It’s not all Polish sausages here, really.

6. There are enough museums to keep you busy for months.

Chicago is one of the best cities in the world for museums. The Art Institute, The Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, and the Shedd Aquarium, etc. No matter what you’re interested in, we have a museum for it, and chances are it’s one of the world’s best.

7. The nightlife is pretty damn good.

Chicago has always been a blue-collar town, so if you’re looking for nightclubs, you’re better off in LA, New York, or Miami. But if you want to have a really fun night out, Chi-Town is the place to be. Normal liquor licenses let bars stay open until 2:00 AM every night, and some places don’t close until 4:00 AM (and 5:00 AM on Saturday nights). Live music is also easy to find. Make sure to try a real neighborhood bar, and order yourself a shot of Malort.

8. There are parks everywhere.

Thanks to some great urban planning, Chicago has a wonderful system of parks stretching along most of the lakefront and throughout the neighborhoods. Some are little more than a playground, but lots of them are huge and have forests, lagoons, sports fields, bird sanctuaries, conservatories, museums, and more.

9. Chicago can hold its own against any city in the world.

Chicago is the Second City, as in second to New York, and we always have a chip on our shoulders about that fact. Still, New York City is not a bad place to be second to. In Chicago, our people, neighborhoods, food, culture, and history combine to create a truly world-class city.

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