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Chicago, IL

Nestled on the Lake Michigan shoreline and sprawling outward, Chicago is the country's third largest city with a population of almost 10 million. With thriving arts and restaurant scenes and a wave of gentrification having revitalized much of the city, Chicago has stepped forward in its bid to be recognized as a cosmopolitan area.


Chicago is generally divided into four large sections: Downtown, the North Side, the South Side, and the West Side. Each of these areas is further divided into smaller neighborhoods. In fact, Chicago has about 225 neighborhoods, each with its own special culture and lifestyle. A neighborhood known for its Puerto Rican immigrant heritage, for example, might butt against a neighborhood popular for its hip, urban nightlife and white yuppie inhabitants. It is impossible to discuss each neighborhood in detail here; however, there are some must-know highlights:


Once the "hog butcher for the world," Chicago no longer relies on meatpacking to power its economy. Today, the city has an enviably balanced economy, drawing on finance, manufacturing, education, tourism, food processing, conventions, and more. Chicago is an important financial center with three major financial and futures exchanges, as well as many major brokerage houses and insurance companies. The city also is home to more than 10 Fortune 500 companies. Chicago has the country's third-largest gross metropolitan product, estimated to be $440 billion in 2007.


Chicago boasts an array of world-class museums:




Chicagoans love their outdoor festivals, and most neighborhoods host at least one fest in the warmer months. In addition, locals and tourists alike pack downtown for the huge citywide festivals:


There's never a dull moment for Chicago sports fans, as they have their pick of teams (and sports) to choose from:

Chicago also hosts several professional teams in lesser-followed sports, such as women's basketball, arena football, and indoor soccer. And while not a team sport, the Chicago Marathon in October is considered to be one of the world's top marathons. It draws enormous crowds of supporters who cheer on the thousands of runners.


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