Sometimes it takes a special event to find yourself in a place you’ve never visited before.
For me, it was running, which saw me visit Chicago for the first time in October last year for the annual marathon.
Before heading to ‘the windy city’, I had always disregarded it as somewhere a bit too cliched for a specific trip, but I quickly realized there are many reasons why this is a fabulous destination in the United States.
And the proof is in the pudding, with the city setting record tourism numbers in the first half of 2023 according to a report by CBS News Chicago.
Chicago is absolutely packed with iconic sights, fascinating museums, amazing eats, friendly people, and a lot to do to entertain a solo traveler.
Here’s why you really should make time to visit Chicago:
The Place To Be For Events
Chicago is a show town and always has a busy calendar of events, concerts, festivals, and other entertainment.
There’s always something to do, but some of the city’s most famous events include the music festival Lollapalooza, the Chicago Blues Festival, and the Chicago Air and Water Show.
I’m probably biased, but the Chicago Marathon is also a great event to coincide your visit with.
It takes place in early October each year, and the whole city comes out to cheer and celebrate thousands of runners from around the world – also this year is the 45th-anniversary edition.
A Great City For Solo Travel
I found Chicago to be a great place for a solo traveler – it’s a big city that doesn’t feel so big, and the people are incredibly friendly and proud of their home.
If you want a low-cost way to spend a day, then browse some of the amazing museums on offer, such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History, or my personal favorite, the American Writer’s Museum.
For those who like to meet new people, the bars of the city are always welcoming – try heading to Logan Square or the Old Town.
More Affordable Than You Think
Despite the fact it’s a big city, Chicago can be enjoyed on a modest budget.
Lonely Planet suggests that a hostel room can cost as little as $40, whereas a basic hotel room for two can be around $150 a night.
Public transport is one of the easy ways to make Chicago cheap – a day pass costs just $5, which can also even get you to and from the airport on the Blue Line.
Food doesn’t have to cost the earth either; you can enjoy Chicago classics such as a hot dog or a deep-dish pizza for somewhere around $5 to $10.
Iconic Sights And Hidden Gems
It’s hard to visit Chicago without taking in some of its most iconic sights, such as The Bean sculpture at Millennium Park, the city’s tallest building Willis Tower, or Navy Pier.
But this is a city that rewards those who stray from the beaten path, with a wealth of bars, restaurants, museums, theatres, and other attractions that are just waiting to be discovered by the curious.
With a cheap and well-connected network of public transport, reaching the lesser visited parts of the city is easy.
So Easy To Get To
Chicago is served by two international airports, O’Hare and Midway, so there is plenty of choice when it comes to booking an affordable flight.
The city is also easily accessible by road via one of several major highways, including the I-90, I-94, I55, I-290, and I-294.
The train is also a great option to visit Chicago, with both Amtrak and Metra going into Union Station.
A Walkable City
One thing that is surprising about Chicago is just how walkable it is.
Of course, the riverwalk is one of the best places to explore on two feet, passing iconic buildings and bridges as you meander through the urban jungle along the Chicago River.
But even away from this specifically pedestrianized area, many of the most interesting parts of the city are best explored on foot.
Neighborhoods such as Downtown/Loop, River North, and New Eastside can all be walked around in a single day – just bring comfortable shoes and you’ll be fine.
Traveler Alert: Don’t Forget Travel Insurance For Your Next Trip!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com