You know the saying: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. As travelers, we know this is true in any city we visit, including the Windy City. But even when we try to be aware and well-informed, we often end up breaking unspoken rules or even getting roped into activities the locals will actively avoid—and that’s just as true in Chicago as anywhere else, as evidenced by these 10 common tourist mistakes. Avoid these faux pas on your next trip to the Windy City if you want to blend right in.
Many, many people put ketchup on their dogs, but in Chicago, this is considered a huge faux pas. It’s so irritating to locals that some places, like Gene and Jude’s hot dog stand, won’t even stock ketchup. The next-door McDonald’s will still sell you a packet or 2, but why not try something new? Try the city’s namesake hot dog. When you’re in Chicago, do as Chicagoans do: garnish your meal with a spear of dill pickle, tomato, mustard, relish and chopped white onion, and skip the ketchup. Even if some people consider ketchup a serving of veggies, you’re probably better off grabbing the fresh tomatoes anyway—and the locals will appreciate your efforts to respect their culinary traditions, even if you do think they’re a bit strange.
Chicago is known as the Windy City, but it’s also a city that gets winter. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, the breezes roll in with plenty of storms, which means that Chicago often gets dumped on by snow. Midwestern freezes are also commonplace in the winter and the mercury will dip dangerously low. You won’t want to get outside and truly enjoy all the city has to offer when simply walking between venues might mean freezing. Instead, visit the city any time between May and September, when it comes alive with outdoor patios, food festivals and concerts. You can enjoy beaches, biking along waterfront trails, boat rides on the lake and strolls through beautiful parks. While restaurants, cultural events, bars and shopping are year-round attractions, you’ll enjoy them more during the summer months.
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