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An Introduction

An Introduction to the Chicago Area.

A guidebook perspective.

Native Americans have inhabited the glacier-carved western shores of Lake Michigan for hundreds of years. French explorers Marquette and Joliet first brought this region to the attention of European peoples in the 17th Century, in part because they were searching for a portage site to create a trade waterway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Jean-Baptiste Point du Sable, of Haiti, was the first individual with Western ancestry to settle here at the end of the 18th Century. American settlers followed shortly thereafter, although many of the first group was slaughtered fleeing Native American hostiles (in a conflict relating to the War of 1812) during the so-called Fort Dearborn Massacre.

More settlers followed, and because of rapidly growing railroad lines as well as speculation about the completion of the trade canal first envisioned by Marquette and Joliet, Chicago population increased a hundredfold from the time it was founded over the course of the 1800s. A devastating fire, popularized with the myth (now debunked) that it was started by a cow knocking over a lantern, destroyed much of the central part of the city in 1871. Within decades, Chicago had rebuilt and became a marvel known the world over. In 1893 it hosted the World's Columbian Exposition, an elegant World's Fair that in many senses represented the city's finest hour to date.

Organized crime, stirring legends that glorified ruthless gangsters such as Al Capone, pervaded the 1920s, and social tensions riddled the city subsequent to the Depression. Chicago held international sway in the 20th Century mainly in the context of architecture and commerce. In the national consciousness, it became associated with memorable sports teams, bad weather, and tasty deep-dish pizza. Today it hosts the largest convention center in the world and is a popular tourist destination. Appealing museums, shops, and historic buildings give it a winning draw for summer visitors. Locals enjoy the fashionable Lake Michigan beaches during the warm months, and seasonal traditions, like Christmastime festivities, during the much colder remainder of the year. Favorite nicknames for Chicago are "the Windy City", the "City of Big Shoulders", and the "Second City".

River City Condominiums
viewed from the Sears Tower

Holy Name Cathedral, Near North

A local's perspective.

One epithet of Chicago known better to locals than to visitors is "City of Neighborhoods". For the guest, seeing Chicago can become a marathon of packaged sites, concentrated by guidebooks and city promotions into a handful of dense areas within what is informally known as "Tourist Chicago". As with many cities, the life of locals varies greatly from the brief local experience of out-of-towners, but in Chicago's case this is particularly true because the "sights" are isolated in show places and the many fascinating features of the hundreds of other neighborhoods and suburbs frequently go unseen. Even many locals know only two areas of Chicago well: where they live and where they work, and perhaps some additional terrain for entertainment and recreation. What both the local and the traveler might be missing is that nearly every pocket of the enormous land area that Greater Chicagoland covers has something worth seeing in it, in many cases worth a special trip. Everywhere there are points of interest, restaurants, shops, places of worship, monuments, museums, venues, parklands, and recreational facilities to be found. Why not explore them? WildOnions.org will show you how.

Sometimes, however, we don't have as much time as we would like to chart new terrain; sometimes day-to-day life takes up every spare moment we have. With that in mind, WildOnions.org also features everything you'll want to know about how to make the most out of the area you're living in, working in, or visiting, or which you will be soon. Life's essentials, from supermarkets to services, from restaurants to movie theaters: it's all waiting for you. And it's here on WildOnions.

What you'll find on WildOnions.org

Whether you've lived in the Chicago area all of your life or are considering visiting for the first time, it's always useful to have resources. There are many ways to learn about the city, and what could be more convenient than an all-in-one Internet information source? Of course no single place can offer you access to every address, experience, or opinion that relates to Chicago - but at WildOnions.org, we're working to give as much of the best that's available, as efficiently organized as practicable.

WildOnions is an online guidebook, a business directory, and a source of valuable commentary, all in one location. The places we feature are hand-selected by our editors, and our copy is not written or endorsed by advertisers. Our clearly-indicated advertising links are drawn from a pool of quality sponsors who want to let you know they're there for you to discover and enjoy. At the WildOnions Chicagoland Tapestry, you'll find an exciting graphic interface for our site, which is chock-full of every kind of useful Chicagoland information. To learn more about WildOnions.org, visit our WildOnions Information page.


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