Founded near a crucial portage between America’s Great Lakes and the massive Mississippi watershed, Chicago was always a city destined for a very special kind of success. The world’s busiest airport, the country’s largest logistics hub, and a storied sports history like no other—Chicago simply has it all. And with the country’s third-largest local economy, there’s no shortage of great opportunity in the city’s exciting neighborhoods.
It comes as no surprise that Chicago attracts some 50 million visitors and tourists each year. In fact, with such a distinct local culture, such an impressive local history, and such thriving businesses, it’s a wonder even more visitors don’t frequent the Big City. From the rich, deep dish pizza to the comedy clubs like Second City (where many of Saturday Night Live’s most cherished comedians started out), Chicago is a city of wonder and excitement that has a little bit of something for everyone.
And what’s more; Chicago can claim the kind of uniquely rich local history and traditions that few American cities enjoy …
Always a Land of Plenty
Long before it became the big city we all know today, Chicago spent centuries as a bountiful crossroads—a gateway to the American West and the brave northern lands of Canada.
Named for the wild garlic that grew in abundance nearby, Chicago spent almost 150 years as an informal settlement and waypoint before becoming an official American city. But once that happened, things started moving quickly—with the city’s population soaring 20 times over in the first seven years after its founding. For several decades, Chicago would remain the fastest-growing city in the world.
And it was plain to see why …
The city enjoyed an abundance of great jobs and new business thanks to the burgeoning transportation infrastructure. Serving as something of a frontier waystation for trappers, settlers, explorers and gold-diggers, Chicago thrived on transit and trade for ages as the country grew into itself.
As time moved on and the country industrialized, Chicago led the charge. The city innovated new standards and practices for things like sanitation and downtown construction—methods that are copied all over the world to this day by cities like London and New York.
Thanks to the city’s bold and forward-thinking local culture, Chicago today remains as relevant as ever; a massive American metropolis with exciting promise for the future.
Sweet Home, Chicago
Chicago’s culture is perhaps the city’s most unique and defining attribute—one that firmly sets the city apart from places like New York or Baltimore, and puts Chicago in its own realm …
Because where other big cities tend to enjoy a very international and metropolitan kind of local culture, Chicago’s is a “down-home” kind of feeling; the kind of city where quiet families can feel just as at home as irreverent artists and musicians.
In America’s Pop Culture, Chicago plays a much more important role than many people realize—home to celebs like Tina Fey and Oprah Winfrey, irreverent icons like Kanye West and Barack Obama, and movie stars like Vince Vaughan and Bill Murray.
For foodies, there’s no shortage of great must-haves in the “Windy City,” thanks especially to the local ethnic populations and the cold weather that inspires such hearty food. Tuck into a classic deep-dish pizza (the tourist favorite) or go a little deeper by delving into a local Polish market or enjoying the local favorite “Chicken Vesuvio.”
The city even enjoys a rich literary tradition; as its residents fought over the past few centuries to reconcile the city’s intensely urban history and create a “city of feeling” from the glass and concrete that define downtown Chicago.
Big Business Around the Clock
The wellspring of Chicago’s success and prosperity has, of course, been the thriving fortune of its local economy and businesses.
Chicago has the third largest Gross Metropolitan Product in America (at approximately $532 Billion as of 2010), and it’s been rated as having the most balanced economy in the entire country, thanks to its careful diversification.
It’s home to the second-largest business district in the US and home to a whopping 12 Fortune 500-ranked companies. Big names like Kraft, Boeing, McDonald’s and more call the Windy City home.
Chicago’s local economy is too diverse, too complex and too fascinating to encapsulate into a brief section like this—but suffice it to say the place is filled with opportunity and promise for folks at all levels of experience and in virtually every different industry.
Sweet Home, Chicago (Condo)
It should come as no surprise that—as one of the country’s biggest cities—Chicago has long had a sizable and rather healthy condo market. Even in the suburbs along the outskirts of this Midwestern Metropolis you’ll find swank condo residences with $2+ Million price tags.
But the financial crash of 2008-9 managed to hit the Windy City pretty hard; especially due to the industrial/financial core of the city’s local economy. Condo prices crashed and have taken several years to recover, but recent reports show sales returning to 2008 levels with prospects for an especially healthy market moving forward.
This is thanks in no small part to the city’s continued growth and evolution—with trendy areas like the River North neighborhood drawing massive amounts of buyer interest, and brand new condo buildings like 4 East Elm selling out of units much faster than anticipated.
In fact, some luxury condos in Chicago are selling for as much as $1,000-$1,200 per square foot; prices that wouldn’t be too far off for major condo hubs like New York, LA or Miami. With foreigners driving up the prices in cities like those—and plenty of Midwestern Millennials hoping to live the “Big City” life—Chicago’s prospects for continued condo growth are starting to look very good …