Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New York vs. Chicago

I would be a better writer of a post entitled "New York vs. Chicago" if I had actually lived in both places. However, even though I have not resided in Chicago, having visited there for five days recently, I did pick up on some differences between the two cities (mostly focusing on Manhattan and center city Chicago). I absolutely love New York, and I seriously fell in love with Chicago while I was there, too. Having lived in New York City for seven years now, I am grateful for having had the experience of it. However, I am at a point where slowing down and having a better quality of life is important to me. I have been exploring the idea of living in different cities and Chicago is one of my options. My initial (far from expert) thoughts on both cities are as follows:

Chicago is a much cleaner city. I did not see a single rat or roach on my visit, which I cannot say of New York. In New York, there is often bagged trash on the streets, whereas Chicago seems to keep their trash in dumpsters. There is also much more pollution in New York. There are less people in Chicago, and therefore far less crowding. Chicago is right on Lake Michigan (which is gorgeous), which means people can literally walk out of their downtown apartment and go swimming, whereas New York is surrounded by rivers so you either have to live way far out in an outer borough or travel a fair distance to get to the beach. Also, the lake water is a light greenish blue, whereas in New York it is a deep bluish gray.

In Chicago, I felt like I was in the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz because all of the buildings were so polished, architecturally impressive, and well-kept. In New York City, there are many beautiful and historic buildings, but there are also many areas that seem (the words that come to mind are) "less sparkly."

In Chicago, people seem to be more easygoing and friendly, whereas although there are friendly people in New York, most people seem to be moving at a much faster, more rushed pace, and there seems to be more general hostility in the air. In Chicago, people on the bus were quiet and I didn't hear horns honking, or people screaming or arguing on the street. In New York, occurrences like these seem quite common.

In New York, there is always something strange or unusual to be seen. People always put themselves out there in even the wildest of fashions. In addition, New York is highly diverse. On every corner you will find multiple ethnicities and people of varying socioeconomic status. In Chicago, I did not see a large amount of wildness or diversity. New York has anything you could want, and stores are jam-packed along the streets. If you are looking for Chinese food, there are a million places within a short distance. In Chicago, it seems that although they have a little bit of everything, there are not as many stores and they are not so packed together. You may find a little area of shops and restaurants here and there, but you may have to travel a bit to find what you are looking for. Also, the nightlife is more prominent in New York. There is more glamor, more chaos, longer hours, more clubs, more venues, more restaurants, more musical performances, more theater.....basically more of everything. However, both cities have deep historical roots in the arts.

New York is loaded with street performers and vendors whereas Chicago has much less of this. I only saw one street performer in an underground Pedway of Chicago and I think one cupcake truck the entire time I was there. I was told by a friend that they are not permitted to have vendors out on the streets. This is in stark contrast to New York where many vendors make a living selling items on streets throughout the city and performers are all over the place. Both cities had people begging on the street for money.

Both cities had amazing art museums, but Chicago took their art to another level by having multiple outdoor sculptures (some very large in size). Although New York has sculptures around the city, they do not seem as prominent as they are in Chicago. Chicago also has a huge outdoor auditorium in the center of the city in Millenium Park which is like a huge, beautiful sculpture in and of itself, whereas the stage in Central Park is just a regular stage. In general, the parks in both cities are very beautiful.

Both cities have wonderful zoos and aquariums and both have zoos located right in the middle of the city. However, in Chicago, the zoo is free. Also, in New York, you have to travel a fair distance to an outer borough to see the aquarium.

The cost of living in Chicago is less. It also seems much easier to get an apartment there. There are no broker's fees like there are in New York and you can get a much nicer place for your money. The public school systems in both cities are problematic and are known to not be the best, but both cities have a variety of private schools. The weather in Chicago is one of two extremes, hot and very cold. The city is known for its harsh winters. In New York, all four seasons are present. The summers are hot and humid, and the winters are cold, but a bit shorter than Chicago and not quite as bitter. In Chicago, people stay for the summer and love it. In New York, a lot of people go out to Long Island, or other beach destinations outside of the city.  Both cities have free concerts and events in the parks during the summer.

Chicago has Navy Pier, which offers amusements, boat rides, a museum, food vendors, etc. New York has Chelsea Piers which offer boat rides, and lots of opportunities to be athletic, with rock climbing, athletic fields, etc. If you want amusements in New York, you have to travel out to Coney Island which has more rides than Navy Pier, but is less clean, less safe, and further away. If you want to be athletic in Chicago, they have many groups that play intramural sports, such as the Chicago Sport and Social Club.

I think I could probably go on with my comparison of the two cities for quite a while. Overall, Chicago is a much cleaner, more laid-back city, with a more extreme climate and fewer happenings, but still enough going on to make it a hip place to be. New York is a less clean and more rowdy city. It is more expensive, but has more to do and much more diversity. The fact that Chicago is still a city, but has less pollution, people, and noise, while still being near the water sounds nice to me. My only concern is, could I handle such harsh winters? Hmmmm, I'm not sure about that! I would love to hear your take on both cities, or on any other city that you think is amazing.

 Chicago (July 2011)


  1. Hey Carly..I've been to Chicago several times..in the early 90's..and I always thought of it as a friendlier, cleaner and blonder NY..the architecture is wonderful. great music, restaurants, museums...and the lake! As a lifelong NY'er, I too feel that there will be a time soon when daily quality of life issues will lead me away from my home town..we'll see...one day at a time!

  2. btw, we just spent some days in Minneapolis-St Paul..another beautiful mid western city..check it out if you can..

  3. oh no, I think I've put ideas into your head about leaving NYC! All good reasons though, :-)

  4. Hi Carly,
    I have enjoyed seeing your pics and posts of Chicago, it's my hometown. I LOVE and have lived in both cities . They are so vastly different and both have really amazing strengths (and realities of weather, pollution,etc) Chicago is definitely more 'liveable' , but nothing can compare to the frenetic energy of NYC. We are in Florida now, but my heart will always be in BOTH cities:)

  5. @Allen, thanks for the suggestion! I am definitely going to check it out. I'd like to hear what city you think you might end up in. @Sheana, yep! But I realized you made perfect sense. @Julie, I can see how your heart will always be in both cities. I know that if I do leave NYC, I'd definitely miss it. I'd be interested to know if you like where you are living now in FL.