Chicago Tips

CHICAGO, a city that respects people of every age, income, background and sexual orientation.


Things to do/places to visit

You’re new in the city, you don’t know anything and you really need some information or someone to help you… you should go to the Visitor’s Center located in the Cultural Center. You should go there even if you already have a guide.
They will provide you with lots of tips on Chicago, maps, city interests and all the useful information possible.

I recommend you those MUST:



If you’ve ever been to London’s Science Museum and you liked it you’ll realise that Chicago’s Museum is even better!

I went there twice and I bought some original devices for me and to give as presents.

Art Institute

I also went to DuSable Museum (African American History Museum), Contemporary Art Museum (MCAC), Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, some houses (Glessner, Clarke…) and Adler Planetarium.

Check when those places are FREE.

• Architecture Foundation.

• Green areas:

You may be thinking that Chicago is all urban, but you’re wrong. Nature is present in the city in different ways.

Parks (Millenium Park, Jackson Park and Lincoln are the biggest)

Beaches (the most popular is Oak Street Beach)

– Lincoln Park Zoo (you can visit the zoo whenever you want because the entrance is always FREE)

• Chicago greeter

You can enrol a service called “greeter” which you can find at the Visitor’s Center. A volunteer will be able to show you some parts of the city.

• Daley Plaza

In that place are held some interesting events, for example:

– Intercultural activities

– Farmers market

Baseball match

I recommend you go to a baseball match or basketball match (I wasn’t that lucky) if you stay in an American city like that.

Fun is guaranteed.

• Neighborhoods

More than a hundred neighborhoods are waiting for you in Chicago. You’ll feel you are in China or Mexico without moving from the city.

• Downtown

Hey, you don’t need to go very far to have fun in Chicago, in the city centre, also called “the Loop“, you’ll find all kind of entertainment.

Be careful not to spend all your money! Hahah

Hancock Tower and Willis Tower

Navy Pier

Bike Tour

What you see in the picture above is a City Pass. You can buy it if you’re going to visit lots of things in Chicago and you want to pay less for it.



Since Chicago is a modern city and what is more important an intercultural city, they serve all kinds of food you can imagine: pizza, donuts, ice-cream, asiatic food, mexican food (nachos, fajitas, tacos, salsas…), McDonald’s (of course), popcorn (there are specialised shops), or more sofisticated restaurants as Bubba Gump (the one based on Forrest Gump’s film) or Cheesecake Factory (very well-known in The States).

All of those are prepared fast and the majority of the restaurants etc. are open from early in the morning until late in the evening.

I was amazed by the amount of food and drinks were given in the streets for free (just to promote the products).

And don’t forget to get your hot dog in a baseball match! 😛


What & where to buy

• You can buy cheap tickets at StubHub

• To but food you have those marts: Dominick’s and Jewel Osco.

One advantage you get by buying in both of them is that each bill comes with discounts at the reverse.


They are located at the outskirts of the city (take public transport or a cab).

– Aurora Premium Outlets

Lighthouse Premium Outlets (bigger than the first and the village is cuter)

• The Loop, Michigan Avenue (aka The Magnificient Mile)

The largest Avenue where I’ve ever been.

There are lots of boutiques, stores, shops, restaurants and so, Chicago Tribune and NBC buildings, Water Tower and Hancock Tower,…

I went to Apple Store, Best Buy, Zara, Victoria’s Secret, Forever XXI, Ghiradelli Chocolate Shop (mmm! They give free samples when you enter), Nike factory, some huge malls (as Bloomingdales) and some else I don’t remember (there were sooo many…!)

• Sometimes there are markets which differ from the globalised stores, they are found at Daley Plaza.


Other recommendations

• Public transport:

CTA: The bus and subway in Chicago

To get a CTA Pass (daily, weekly, one way) go to Walgreens, CVA Pharmacy, 7Eleven or subway (loop) stations.

Metra: the train. They are as fast as Spanish trains (not too much).

If you have no choice you can take a cab (taxi). They aren’t too expensive.


You should always carry cash (in dollars $), and be careful with your credit/debit card because you will be asked for the security pin rarely.

If you stay for long you have better create an account.

• I would recommend you to buy a guide there, because sometimes they are very expensive in your home country and I found useful guides in the city in different languages for a lower price.

No public phones.
Either if you are the kind of person addicted to social network or even if you don’t care pretty much about being in touch with your people there’ll be a time when you need to talk to them. You have several possibilities to do it. On the one hand you can buy an internacional (and overseas) phone card. I DON’T recommend you that option! I was conned and I had to pay a lot of money having bought a $10 card.
On the other hand you have Internet, which is much more recommendable to use. Fortunately, in the US the WiFi is very common so you won’t have any problem finding a net wherever you’ll be. What is more, you can connect through the School –where you can also use PCs – or Acommodation.



I’ve collected some thoughts on things I found interesting or are different from my country (Catalonia).

• Obama’s house is located in Hyde Park, a wealthy urbanization, and one of my classmates’ host family was invited to his birthday, and him too.

• The architcture there is the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. I had never been to so high skycrapers.

• At the cinema theaters you watch a quiz instead of advertisings before the film starts.
There are more than one “hostess” to attend you at the cinema.

• I thought that there would be cardboard bags (typical from films when they buy something) but the majority of them where plastic bags.

• There were two-floor trains.

• Every street performer has to wear an insignia.

• We were given snacks sometimes at EF School at lunch time.

• Everything I bought at the mart was BIG.

• I didn’t find cocoa powder.

• One surprising thing is the smell of the “beach”, because you expect salted water smelling (the lake is really big like the sea) but you get river smell.

• In Magnificient Mile is typical to find surveys for cash.

• The majority of the citizens are non smokers.

• The sand at the beach comes from North side of Lake Michigan (not from Chicago).

• The taxes are never shown in the prices, only in the ticket.

• There where drinking fountains everywhere (even the typical fountain inside of the school).

• The license plates are decorated and colorful. (My favourite was one with Garfield painted on it)

• Chicago isn’t called Windy City for the weather but for political reasons (a good Chicagoan will tell you)


EF (Education First):


You can choose hiring a transfer service through EF when you pay. It’s a good option because you don’t have to care about public tranport if you don’t know the city.

In my case the service was very efficient (at first I was afraid I would be lost, but then I found a man with an EF sign). The price is affordable too.

EF will give you a phone number in case of emergency if you can’t find anybody, however you don’t have to worry because you will be with your mates from the flight.

Photos: living proof that you’ll meet other students during the flight. I knew Jorge in the plane.

Sometimes the host family pick the students. You can email them to be sure.


If you are going to the U.S.A. it’s better to make sure you have an insurance. For a little amount of money EF provides you a general insurance.

They will give you the form the day you arrive at the School.


You can get an identity card at the EF School. You just have to ask at the reception desk and they’ll make it at the moment.

Since it is a student card you can use it for discounts at museums, shows, tours, etc.


They’re all native from an English-spoken country.

Depending on the course you take – Basic, General or Intensive – you’ll have 2 or more different teachers.

You can always ask them for help in case you need some.
In fact my teacher asked me the first day: “What are you interested in? I know you’re staying few days in Chicago so if you need info or something just let me know”.

• Materials:

You’ll be given two books according to your level the day you start classes and an EF bag+EF folder w/information the first Monday you enter the School.

Pre-departure test:

The selection of the students to each level consists on a test which you can take either before you arrive to the EF School (at least 24h before you arrive or something like that) or when you get in the School for the first time.

If you’ve already taken the test you won’t have to spend many hours at school the first day.

To do it you’ll have to enter to MyEF with the User+Pwd given to you by email.
This is a very useful website where you can find your schedules, activities organized by EF, etc. and also take iLab lessons (if you have general or intensive course).

Academic Presentations:

After taking the test the students are lead to the Lecture Hall of the School.

There you’ll watch a video about EF Chicago and then you’ll be introduced the School Director, the Activities Coordinator, the Administrative Coordinator, the Housing Coordinator, the Academic Director and some other staff.

After that everybody will check the info they’ve been given when they entered the School and sign some application forms about the School’s rules.

Finally they’ll give you your schedule (each level is different) and you will be free to settle down.


The levels at EF Chicago go from A1 to C2.

The type of class you are in depends not only on the level but also on the type of course, it means, Basic, General or Intensive.

The subjects consist basically in Grammar, iLab (with iPad), Spin class (specialised on your interests, it is a subject to improve the part of English you prefer).

The time-table changes depending on the day of the week.
I had to go some days in the morning and others after lunch.

The locations also vary since there are lots of classrooms – they are named in an original way so you won’t forget their names 😉

This is my class!

Certificate:My Certificate

The last Wednesday you’re staying in Chicago you can take the EFCELT test to see your improvement. You get a diploma which you can use afterwards for your work, career, etc.


The coordinators prepare many activities which you can see by checking the activities shedule each month.

When I stayed there Cirque du Soleil, Kayak by the lake, bike tour and many others were being held.


– Fornelli Hall

I was lucky and I could stay in that residence.

There was a very kind person in church from EF, Alesia, who showed us everything and was available to be asked questions every day.

There were many facilities as washing machines, TV, kitchens (in plural because there was one in each room), sofas, desks,…all you could need.

You will learn cohabitacion skills wherever you stay.


Important rule: NO Spanish (do you remember the water gun I told you about in a post?)



Note: this is not official info, it is subjective.
For other useful info on Chicago enter, the site proved to be very helpful for me.

You can see photos about Chicago in my Flickr or in the blog posts.


One response to “Chicago Tips

  • Cristina

    Hola!:) viajo a Chicago en unos días y me gustaría hacerte algunas preguntas sobre lo que debería llevarme y eso, me podrías dejar tu correo? gracias y saludos 😀

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