One Word to Describe: Chicago

The Chicago skyline from Navy Pier

The Chicago skyline from Navy Pier

I’ve been blogging for over three years at this point, but to be honest, search engines and the posts they choose to feature remain mostly a mystery to me. I understand the general idea that if I have a post about a certain set of keywords and enough people search for those keywords on Google, my post will start appearing at the top of that page. However, I tend to write posts that cover quite a bit of ground complete with vague titles that people apparently do not search for regularly. Sure, I could change my style to involve more keywords and SEO-friendly titles... but I’m generally very bad at writing clickbait (and get very bored every time I try).  

So, my blogging process has always been to just write whatever I want then laugh at what Google decides to rank and what it doesn’t. The perfect example of this phenomenon? A post I wrote in the summer of 2017 called One Word to Describe New Orleans

If you are under the impression that searching Google for “one word to describe New Orleans” is probably not something that a lot of people do, then you and I would have historically agreed.  

However, we would both be wrong.  

This post brings more traffic to my website than any other blog post on Sarah Going. It consistently ranks at the top of the first page of Google, and I consistently read back through it to make sure that there are no misspelled words because literally hundreds of people click on this post every single month (and y’all know I can’t spell).  

Because it has been two years since I wrote that New Orleans post and it still drives a ton of traffic, I’ve decided to conduct a little SEO experiment. I want to know if people are just searching Google for individual words to describe New Orleans for some strange reason, or if this is some type of larger phenomenon.  

Since I still owe y’all a blog post about my most recent trip, let’s start this experiment with.... one word to describe Chicago.  

a Long Weekend Trip to Chicago

At the beginning of May 2019, I took a week off work. Since I'm now a travel blogger with my very own fifties fixer upper in Nashville, TN, I split the week between working on my dining room and traveling. I wanted to go to Boston at first, but accommodation costs were a major problem on the dates I was looking at taking this long weekend trip. Luckily, my friend Anna from A Sometimes Traveler was going to be in Chicago during the same weekend... so I decided to crash her solo trip! 

Wicker Park, Chicago

Wicker Park, Chicago

State/Lake Station, Chicago

State/Lake Station, Chicago

The Southwest flight from Nashville to Chicago is consistently one of the cheapest direct fares from my home airport. Luckily, I had *just* enough Southwest Rapid Rewards points to cover the flight. To clarify: I don’t have a Southwest credit card... I accrued the points I used to book this Chicago flight from buying other Southwest flights. It takes time to collect points this way, but I’m always happy with a free flight (even if it takes a while to earn.)  

Since Anna also purchased her flight with points, we decided to splurge a bit (or a lot) on accommodation. In hindsight, it would have made more sense to stay a bit farther out, since we spent most of our time outside downtown Chicago. However, because this trip was only three nights long, our pricier hotel in the Loop wasn’t as bad as it could have been. We also saved money being so close to public transportation, which we took basically everywhere from the station beside our hotel. The general budget downside of domestic travel compared to international travel is the cost of accommodation, but since we were able to get our flights for free, I think it all worked out. 

our chicago itinerary 

Anna has spent a lot more time in Chicago than I have, so she brought some fantastic recommendations to the table. One of my favorite lifestyle blogs that happens to be based in Chicago – the Everygirl – also published an ultimate weekend guide to Chicago about a week before our trip (perfect timing!) Chicago is a foodie town if ever there was one, and we walked as much as possible… so that we could eat as much as possible. 

After all, it’s all about balance. 

Hopewell Brewing Co, Chicago

Hopewell Brewing Co, Chicago

Beer!

Beer!

On Thursday after we arrived, we went to Small Cheval in the Loop for burgers, fries and beer. Then we built our own brewery tour around Logan Square with stops at Hopewell and middle brow, and finally went to dinner at Big Star Tacos. Y’all: I don’t know what they put in the queso at Big Star, but it was honestly some of the best I’ve ever had. Since we were in the Wicker Park neighborhood, we also visited Stan’s Donuts for dessert.  

On Friday, we had coffee at The Allis at Soho House Hotel, which is gorgeous. After Allis, we went to brunch at Little Goat. Then, we coffee-shop-hopped to Stumptown in the Ace Hotel and eventually to Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea. Since we were in the neighborhood, we visited Lou Malnati’s pizza in Fulton Market for dinner, where I died and went to pizza heaven.  

The Allis at Soho House Hotel, Chicago

The Allis at Soho House Hotel, Chicago

Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea in Fulton Market, Chicago

Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea in Fulton Market, Chicago

On Saturday, I grabbed a coffee at Intelligentsia near our hotel (in case this isn’t already clear: Chicago knows how to do coffee), then we went to Beatnik for my favorite brunch of the trip. It’s difficult to describe Beatnik, but if I had to, I would say that it’s a jungle-restaurant hybrid with surprisingly good drink specials and a great vibe. Afterwards, we explored Wicker Park, then I spent the afternoon and evening walking around Navy Pier getting some Chicago skyline pictures before heading back to Nashville at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning.  

One Word to Describe Chicago 

Since the beginning of this trip, I’ve been trying to decide on the one word I would choose to describe Chicago. This was my third trip to the Windy City, but it’s still a difficult place for me to summarize with one word. I was very tempted to choose “proud”, because every time I meet a Chicago native I learn more about the pride they have for their city and its culture. But there is something more than pride driving that culture, I think. 

Oddly enough, most people I know agree on the U.S. city they would move to if they needed to move to a big city and had the choice: Chicago. Chicago is a city where even people from small towns feel that they could make friends and build a community. For this aspect of the culture, I was tempted to use the word “approachable”… but again, it’s something more than that. There is something driving people to feel that even though Chicago is the third largest city in the U.S., they could live there. Fit in there, no matter where they are from. Why is that? 

 I think it’s because Chicago is genuine.  


Genuine

adjective

1) Truly what something is said to be; authentic.

2) Sincere.

Synonyms: Actual, Original, Honest, Straightforward, Direct, Candid, Open, Real


I’m from Nashville, TN, which is a city that - for better or for worse - is having an identity crisis. We don’t know if we’re still a small town that happened to get famous for country music, or one of the South’s hottest tourist destinations and economic powerhouses attracting young professionals in droves from all over the country (that need places to live and public transportation.) We’re trying to be both at some level… and seem to be having trouble committing to either.  

But Chicago isn’t like that. It’s a city that seems to know its own identity. A city with its own rich history, its own food, its own traditions, its own culture and even its own brand of economic thought. A city with problems, sure... but problems that people seem to talk about. Because people talk to each other in Chicago. People have opinions, and they share them.   

Maybe Chicago is more direct than the South, but I've always been a fan of direct. I think that open sincerity is one of the reasons such a wide variety of people can see themselves living in Chicago. Because I think we’re all fans of authenticity, whether we realize it consciously or not. 

Chicago is a real city, full of real people.

Real is diverse, rich and often complicated.

But real is also a genuinely beautiful thing.   

The ferris wheel at Navy Pier, Chicago

The ferris wheel at Navy Pier, Chicago

American flags at Navy Pier, Chicago

American flags at Navy Pier, Chicago

Have you been to Chicago? How would you describe the city?