100 Reasons to Love Chicago Right Now

It’s finally 2012 and yes, it’s about to get cold in Chicago. Before you start crying about the wind and snow, take a second to remember why you put up with these miserable winters. In no particular order, I give you 100 reasons to love Chicago right now. Thanks to everyone who contributed their favorite things!

Feel free to add your own reasons in the comments.

Happy New Year!

Reasons to love Chicago right now…

1. Because it occasionally smells like chocolate.
2. Because sometimes it seems like we live in Montana.
3. Because we know the real reason it’s called the “Windy City” but the tourist definition is true too.
4. Because everyone takes the classic Bean picture.
5. Because guessing the lineup for Lollaplooza is a big deal.
6. Because everyone knows that Navy Pier is just for tourists.
7. Because we arguably have the best skyline in the Nation.
8. Because it will always be the Sears Tower and never the Willis Tower.
9. Because it will always be Marshall Field’s and not Macy’s.
10. Because everyone’s been to Wrigley Field no matter how much they hate the Cubs.
11. Because the first couple to find love through Words with Friends is from here.
12. Because Lake Michigan can create 15-20 waves in storms and it is terrifying.
13. Because Lake Shore Drive is known as LSD.
14. Because Wicker Park is for Hipsters.
15. Because everyone has an opinion on who should be the Bears new [insert any position here].
16. Because Blago received 14 years and it didn’t surprise us. In fact, you can buy t-shirts with graphics of his hair.
17. Because we have a statue of Marilyn Monroe and her skirt is a great umbrella in rainstorms.
18. Because we have the best deep dish pizza in the country and going to Gino’s East or Lou Malnati’s is standard.
19. Because the Chicago River is great for architecture boat rides and finding dead bodies.
20. Because there is a beautiful river walk around the entire Chicago River.
21. Because our Hard Rock Cafe is in a building shaped like a Champagne bottle.
22. Because of Al Capone.
23. Because we faced the trauma, traffic reroutes and destruction of Transformers 3 just to make a couple bucks and see our office buildings get destroyed in high-def.
24. Because we have the highest tax rate in the US but we’re used to it.
25. Because there is a huge grassroots fashion movement that is starting to gain traction.
26. Because we have alleys and, according to Len Kendall, that is huge.
27. Because we’ll be arguing for years over whether Mayor Richard M. Daley was good for the city. – Chicago Mag
28. Because of Second City.
29. Because the Chicago Critical Mass rides their bikes at night once a month no matter how cold it is.
30. Because architecture in Chicago is a contact sport. – Chicago Mag
31. Because everyone loves Billy Dec.
32. Because everyone has a wedding picture on Michigan Avenue.
33. Because even though we try to act tough, people end up sticking to their Midwestern values.
34. Because of the light parade on Michigan avenue.
35. Because everyone goes to the ChrisKringlmarket in December to get drunk off the best German beer and food.
36. Because we take multiculturalism to another level.
37. Because we dye to river green on Saint Patrick’s Day.
38. Because our summers make the freezing winters worth it.
39. Because the Gay Pride parade in Boystown is all about love.
40. Because the Lincoln Park Zoo is open and free for 365 days a year.
41. Because we’ve won the Stanley Cup four times and when we win, we go all out.
42. Because there are free concerts at Millennium Park almost every night during the summer.
43. Because our BYOB and Tapas selection are endless and delicious.
44. Because Halsted’s Bar and Grill on Halsted Street has the best Mac&Cheese in the city.
45. Because the Southern Mac&Cheese Food Truck is a close second.
46. Because we have free admission days for most of our museums.
47. Because you can take an architectural tour on a segway.
48. Because all of our sports fans are passionate and outrageous.
49. Because BaconFest is always sold out 15 minutes after tickets are posted.
50. Because we have one of the cleanest cities in the country.
51. Because the Taste of Chicago is overpriced and crowded but we go anyway.
52. Because going to brunch on Sunday is basically mandatory.
53. Because the Buckingham Fountain is still pretty cool.
54. Because you can basically run a 5k every single day of the year if you wanted to.
55. Because Obama is from Chicago and can stop all traffic on Michigan Ave when he visits.
56. Because going out on the SkyDeck actually makes for a fantastic profile pic.
57. Because our Chicago Marathon produces healthy babies.
58. Because during the snowpocalypse the city came together to help people stranded on Lake Shore Drive.
59. Because you can make a fool of yourself ice skating in Millennium Park.
60. Because of the sketch-comedy history. – Len Kendall
61. Because Chicago has the most incredible skyline and seeing it at night is absolutely breathtaking. – Krystle Senires
62. Because of amazing jazz bars. – Chris Comella
63. Because the city never sleeps and it’s nice to walk down the street at obnoxious hours knowing others are doing the same. – Katelynn Werrbach
64. Because the national anthem during Hawks games gives fans chills. – Lisa Kopala
65. Because Chicago has the big-city energy of NY and the glamour of LA, while remaining a city of substance without being over-the-top. – Krystle Senires
66. Because you miss the CTA and public transportation when you move away. – Kellyn Wieland
67. Because it’s the only place where heating lamps at L stops become God’s gift to Earth in the winter. – Krystle Senires
68. Because Portillos says it all. – Lisa Kopala
69. Because it’s always fun to party with a diehard Chicago sports fan. – KS
70. Because looking at the Marshall Field’s (or, you know, Macy’s) windows during Christmastime is on every Chicagoan’s list of holiday traditions. – KS
71. Because although Chicago charges an obnoxious tax rate, the city still manages to hold free festivals and events for everyone to enjoy year round. – KS
72. Because we have a phenomenal local music scene and small venue shows at places like the Metro and the Vic. – Lisa Kopala
73. Because the white lights on Michigan Avenue for the holidays and Pequod’s Pizza.Erin Bell
74. Because when it’s hibernation season there are many excuses to stay inside and drink. – Kristen Claes
75. Because we all have that local alcohol store where the owners know you by name.
76. Because Venetian Night was the best way to show off your decoration skills and see fireworks until they cancelled it.
77. Because the Windy City Rollers are not only badass, they have great promo posters too.
78. Because everyone knows someone with a boat or has been asked by a stranger to come aboard their yacht.
79. Because of 30 miles of non-commercial lake-front. – Len Kendall
80. Because anyone can get into the Chicago Red Eye by tweeting.
81. Because North Avenue Beach is our version of Jersey Shore.
82. Because there are many other Chicago beaches where you won’t find Smirnoff bottles buried in the sand.
83. Because Giuliana and Bill Rancic live here.
84. Because the city is constantly reinventing itself and we “make no little plans”. – FastCompany
85. Because we lost the Olympics but at least we have plans ready for future games.
86. Because we have BIG plans to be the next great American biking city.
87. Because in the summer you can learn Yoga in Millenium Park with 100 new friends.
88. Because it is a fabulous city to be a vegan in. – The Examiner
89. Because we have the Rock-n-Roll McDonald’s.
90. Because the Chicago Blues Festival is the largest free blues festival in the world.
91. Because the annual Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby raises money for the Illinois Special Olympics by putting 30,000+ rubber ducks in the river.
92. Because D. Rose put the CTA into his shoes to rep the Windy City.
93. Because every neighborhood has a $2 shots and tacos joint.
94. Because the Harold Washington Library used to be the largest public library in the world.
95. Because Chicago’s theater district is alive and thriving.
96. Because Belmont Harbor has that adorable little dog beach.
97. Because the shopping on Michigan Avenue is to die for.
98. Because the Chicago Crown Fountain is an easy way to cool off in the summer.
99. Because we are the home of the Chicago Bulls and we see red.
100. Because Chicago is more than just a big city – it’s our home.

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Flashbacks Through a Camera Lens: Why It’s Hard to Forget But Easy to Help

It’s been 4 years. Life isn’t about the things you have and the money you make, it’s about the people you meet, the relationships you create and the happiness you maintain. After all, what’s the point of having the nicest things in the world when you don’t have anyone to share it with?

Shards of glass from the windows were embedded into the thick ivy that covered the full side of the house. The window frames were reduced to splinters on the ground. Construction workers looked on from the road while drilling into the earth and reworking the dirt in front of the house with bulldozers. While all of these details caught my eye, the worst part was the front door. It had been ripped off the front of the house and the sentiment mimicked the torn heart of the woman sitting on the porch.

The fire might have been small but the damage was evident. The inside of the house looked as though a tornado had consumed all of the belongings and then whipped them out in random directions. The smell of smoke and burning plastic seemed to hang in the air as I walked through what seemed like a reoccurring dream. Everything about the scene reminded me of my past, especially the woman standing by my side showing me the damage. I started to get flashbacks as I inspected the damage through the lens of my camera.


On December 20, 2007, I awoke to my three story farm house engulfed in flames. As the fire alarm went off, I could have sworn it was just my morning alarm buzzing to remind me that I had to catch the bus in thirty minutes. But it was 3 AM. Then the door swung open and smoke poured into my room along with my brother screaming that we had to get outside. Adrenaline pushed me out of bed, into my rubber ducky bathrobe, and down the stairs. Red and yellow consumed my eyes.


As I continued to walk around and observe, family members and friends were moving things in and out of the house before the landlord came to board it up. Daunting reptile cages with tarantulas inside were being passed back and forth. Confused, I headed upstairs to the second floor to uncover the origin of these pets. When I reached the top of the stairs, I was met with more torn doors and holes in the ceiling from where the fire department attempted to unblock the ventilation.


I pushed my mom away from the phone as she was repeatedly stating the wrong address to the 9-1-1 operator. We were standing on the porch which was already halfway consumed in fire and could not leave for safer grounds since our house phone was not cordless. When we confirmed the address my mom and I ran towards the grass and away from our home of eight years. Where was my brother? Where was my dad? All I could do was watch in absolute horror at the blazing building that I used to call home. I heard screaming but couldn’t force myself to turn around. I didn’t realize how closely I was standing to the flames until my dad suddenly emerged from the basement. He was covered head to toe in black ash and looked like he was about to collapse. I thought he was going to die and I couldn’t even move.


I saw snake skin out of the corner of the camera lens and got weak in the knees. I was told that one of the resident’s family members rescued abandoned or hurt reptiles and took care of them. This news deepened my sorrow as I knew that the residents clearly had good intentions and had a deep love for animals. While not all of the reptiles and spiders survived, a very lucky puppy made it through the disaster. Cajan, an adorable brown and black freckled canine with an undeniable will to live, was alive and well after the fire. Rescued from Hurricane Katrina, Cajan had already escaped a much larger catastrophe and showed off his cool demeanor by lying in his cage with a silly grin on his face.


Fire fighters, police, neighbors. Everyone was in my face and trying to comfort me. But I wasn’t there. I didn’t know where I was or even who I was. Someone had moved me off of the patio and away from the house as fiery siding curled off the exterior walls and fell like comets into my mom’s daylily garden. I was barefoot. My eyes were watering but I made sure everyone understood that it was because of the smoke and not because I was crying. And that was the truth. The last thing I remember happening that night was staring back at the ball of light in the middle of my valley as we drove away. And then it was over.


When a disaster hits, we all want to help the victims. As human beings, it’s in our blood. As I looked at the victims of this Chicago fire, I knew I had to be there to comfort them. I could see the pain in their eyes and it resonated within me.

I can think of a million reasons why my house burning down was a positive experience but that is something that comes with time. All I could do was comfort the family and reassure them that everything would be okay in the end. Even though I played a small role on the road to recovery, I will never forget the family, the scene and the atmosphere of my first field reporting assignment.

My name is Lauren Snyder and I am a Red Cross communicator.