You might think you know a thing or two about bustling Chicago, Illinois, but let us tell you: for every thing you know about the city, there’s a lot more that you don’t!
If you’re plotting a visit to Chicago, and you want to impress your fellow travelers with your knowledge of the city, we’ve got you covered.
Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about “The Windy City.”
1. It’s a Hugely Popular Destination
Chicago is an extremely popular tourist destination. Prior to the pandemic, which slowed travel rates everywhere, the city welcomed roughly 48 million visitors each year.
2. It’s Named After the Algonquin Word for “Smelly Onion”
The name Chicago is believed to have been derived from the Algonquin word “Shikaakwa,” which translates to “smelly onion,” most likely because of the wild onions that once thrived in the area.
3. It’s the Inspiration Behind Batman’s Gotham City
You might assume Gotham City, the home of the caped crusader Batman, is based on New York City. That’s not actually the case. Instead, Gotham is based on Chicago, and several recent Batman films were actually shot in the city!
4. It’s the Home of the World’s First Skyscraper
Today, skyscrapers are a feature of city skylines all over the world—but only Chicago can claim to have had the first one. The Home Insurance Building, built in 1885 on the corner of Adams and LaSalle streets, is considered the first modern skyscraper in existence. Unfortunately, this historic tower is no longer standing.
5. It’s the Birthplace of Many Inventions
Chicago is the birthplace of a long list of famous inventions—many of which are still used and enjoyed today! Highlights include the ferris wheel, the zipper, the sport of softball, spray paint, the vacuum cleaner, and of course, the Twinkie!
6. The Chicago River Flows Backwards
The 156-mile Chicago River, which runs through the city of Chicago, is the only river in the world that flows backwards. It wasn’t always that way, of course. The river’s flow was reversed by human technology as a way of diverting sewage away from Lake Michigan—the city’s chief water supply—and toward the Mississippi. The river’s reversal is still recognized as the largest public earth-moving project ever.
7. It Has Dozens of Beaches
Chicago is a long way from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but thanks to its position on the mighty Lake Michigan, it’s home to a long list of beautiful public beaches—26 miles of them to be exact!
8. There are Hot Dog Stands Everywhere
Craving a hot dog? If you’re in Chicago, you’re in luck. The city is home to more than 2,000 hot dog stands. That’s more than the total number of McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger Kings in the city combined.
9. It’s The Home of World’s Most Complete T-Rex Skeleton
Inside Chicago’s famous Field Museum, you’ll find the world’s most complete tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. It’s name? Sue. Be sure to pop by and say hello if you’re visiting the city—she’s been waiting a long time!
10. Route 66 Starts in Chicago
The world-famous Route 66 starts in Chicago, right out front of the Art Institute of Chicago—which happens to have more impressionist paintings than any other museum outside of Paris!