I interact with a lot of people from around the country. Almost 30 weeks out of the year I am standing in front of individuals, many who are in Chicago for the very first time, asking where and what they should do for the limited time they have to entertain themselves. Inevitably, the question about Chicago violence comes up and I find myself defending my city to people who have only heard the worse.
Having had to do this for several years now I have my spiel down pat: You can’t believe what the media says, most of the crime happens in just a few neighborhood, it’s no more dangerous than any other big city. These clichés role easily off my tongue now, to the point where they’ve actually help alter my feelings for Chicago and given me a greater appreciation for the city in which I live (although I live in the suburbs, everyone knows when it comes to stranger you’re from Chicago if you live 60 miles of the city).
My relationship with Chicago is like that of a big brother defending his annoying little brother when others start to dis him. In your heart of heart you know they are making some good points but you just bring yourself to allowing them the satisfaction of being completely right. And in the process of defending your brother you begin to see some things in the little monster that you really enjoy. Not that it’ll stop you from beating him up and locking him in the closet, but you’ll do it with a little more love.
Those of us who live in the Chicagoland area know that there are great neighborhoods with great restaurants and activities in each. To relay this to visitors I start with Chicago downtown but then encourage them to venture beyond the beaten path and checkout Bucktown, Old Town, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Lincoln Park. For the more adventurous I suggest Bronzeville, Wrigleyville.
I understand that Chicago has many issues but for the uninitiated, the bad press is a disservice because it really limits one imagination in what the city has to offer. And even for those suburbanites who dare not venture into the city miss out on a lot of opportunity to enjoy everything that is available to them.
Rather than go into a litany of things to do in Chicago, I would like to just encourage everyone who lives in and around Chicago as well as those who visit our fine city to give it a chance. You’ll be pleasantly surprised that you can go out, eat, drink, enjoy a day at the beach, a late night in a rooftop restaurant, with the price of parking as the only thing to complain about.
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