Why Is Chicago Called The Windy City? (Explained)

Chicago, Illinois, USA cityscape over the river


You might have heard someone refer to Chicago as the “Windy City” before and wondered why.

Is it just because of the weather?

When did the city come to be known as the Windy City?

In this article, we will walk through everything you need to know about Chicago’s nickname and what makes the city so unique.


Why Is Chicago Called The Windy City?

Chicago skyline


There are two main theories about why Chicago came to be known as the Windy City.

The first theory has to do with the weather.

This theory is based on a more literal interpretation of the title.

Chicago sits on Lake Michigan.

Because of this, cold air often blows through the city.

Another common theory is that the Windy City name has to do with the boastful citizens and politicians of Chicago.

Oftentimes it is said someone who is making false promises and boasts is “full of hot air”.

It also could be connected to the phrase “windbag”.

To call someone a windbag is to say they talk a lot without saying much of substance.

This is how many Chicago politicians and citizens were perceived.

Many people consider both of these explanations to be true at the same time.

Oftentimes when people talk about “the Windy City” they are referring to both the personality types found in the Chicago elite as well as the weather found there.


What Are Some Historical Examples Of Chicago Being Called “The Windy City”?

Street of Chicago


There is a common myth that this term started when an article in the 1890 New York Sun newspaper wrote about Chicago’s efforts to compete for the right to host the World Fair in 1983.

It is said that the writer Charles Dana told readers to ignore “nonsensical claims of that windy city”.

Despite the popularity of this story, the original article has never been found, so we can discount it as a myth.

Etymological research shows that the name predates the 1890s and had been found in print as early as the 1870s.

The etymological research points to the term being used in both ways: as a descriptor of the weather and a descriptor of the city’s personality.

One example of this is when the Cincinnati Enquirer used the headline “That Windy City” in 1876 when talking about a tornado that had passed through Chicago.

However, etymologist Barry Popik stated that even in that article he felt the term was used as a “double-edged sword” that wasn’t just describing the weather but also the reputation of the city.


Is Chicago The Windiest City In The World?

Chicago sign


Chicago is not the windiest city in the world.

In fact, even in the USA alone, Chicago doesn’t make the top 10 windiest cities.


What Is The World’s Windiest City?

According to CPP Wind Engineering Consultants, the windiest city in the world is Wellington, New Zealand where the wind has an average speed of 16 miles per hour.

The reason it is so windy is because of its location.

It is located on Cook Strait which creates a sort of wind tunnel between the northern and southern islands of New Zealand.

Though Wellington boasts the most consistent high windspeeds, the highest wind speed on record happened in Barrow Island, Australia, where the wind speed reached 253 miles per hour during a tropical cyclone.

So if you want to experience the world’s highest wind speed, Oceania is the place to be.


Which City Is Windier: Boston Or Chicago?

Boston, Massachusetts, USA


So we know now that Chicago is not the windiest city in the U.S.

But is it windier than Boston?

No, it is not windier than Boston.

The average windspeed in Boston is 2 MPH faster than in Chicago.


What Are Some Other Nicknames For Chicago?

Aerial view of Chicago downtown


The “Windy City” isn’t Chicago’s only nickname! Chicago is also known as the Second City.

Just like “the Windy City”, this nickname has two potential stories behind it.

The first story involves the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

The city had to do major rebuilding work after the fire.

So the “Second City” nickname might reference the version of Chicago that sprang up after the fire.

The second explanation is based on the fact that Chicago was the second biggest city in the U.S. during much of the early 20th century.

So, it might be a reference to its second-place status behind New York City.


What Is Chicago Known For?

Chicago Style Deep Dish Cheese Pizza


Chicago has multiple nicknames for good reason.

People are always talking about it! It is a very famous city.

But what exactly is it famous for?

Here are some of the things that Chicago is known for besides being windy.


1. Deep Dish Pizza

Deep dish pizza is the pride and joy of Chicago cuisine.

There are two main types of American pizza: New York-style pizza (which has a thin crust) and Chicago-style pizza which is so different that some people claim it isn’t even pizza.

What makes a Chicago-style pizza different?

For one thing, it is baked in a pan with high edges, so it is almost a bread bowl filled with the kind of toppings typically found on pizza.

It is full of cheese and pizza sauce.

Unlike a traditional pizza, the pizza sauce goes on top!

For most people, it is practically impossible to finish a deep-dish pizza on your own.

They also aren’t common outside of Chicago.

In major U.S. cities, you can probably find one or two restaurants that make them, but they are a cuisine unique to the city.


2. The Chicago River Walk

If you are thinking about heading to Chicago, you will want to stop by the Chicago Riverwalk.

Walking along the river gives you a beautiful sight of the big city buildings that line the water.

It is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.

If you get a fishing license, you can even fish on the water!

There are restaurants all along the river walk.

Also, you can rent a kayak if you want to go out on the water yourself!


3. Skyscrapers

When you think of skyscrapers, you might think of New York City.

Chicago has quite the impressive collection of skyscrapers as well, though!

The city is home to more than 1,300 incredibly tall buildings.

50 of them are taller than 600 feet!

Its beautiful skyline is worth seeing at least once in your life.


4. Food Festival

Chicago has a particularly famous food festival called “Taste of Chicago”.

It is considered by many to be the largest food festival in the world!

The festival has been running for more than 40 years now, and it is known not only around the country but around the world.

It lasts 5 days.

The festival happens in July and takes place in Grant Park.

If you happen to be in town while it is going on, it is a must-visit!


5. The Bean

Also known as Cloud Gate at Millennium Park, the “bean” sculpture is something that Chicago is known for.

Its beautiful, reflective surface makes it quite eye-catching.

It is one of the landmarks that is immediately associated with the city.

If you are looking for a place to take the perfect Instagram pic, this is a Chicago icon that you can miss!


6. The Skydeck

If you like to document your travels with pictures, the Chicago Skydeck is something you absolutely must check out.

You can get some very cool Insta-worthy photos from the Skydeck.

What makes it so cool for photography?

Well, it is made completely out of glass! That means that you can see through the walls, floor, and ceiling.

The Skydeck is made up of many glass boxes that extend out from the Willis Tower building.

The ledge juts out 4.3 feet from the edge of the building.

When you are standing on the ledge, you really feel like you are standing on air.

This is not for the faint of hearts if you are afraid of heights, though!

These glass boxes are 1,353 feet in the air.

Even if you aren’t brave enough to step out on the glass, you can still get an amazing view of the city from this attraction.

Make sure you get tickets before you go!


7. The Chicago Loop

This is a part of town you must see if you are a tourist in Chicago!

There are a variety of different restaurants to choose from.

You can also find the Chicago Theatre if you want to see a live show.

The Chicago loop is a district that is located downtown.

It isn’t just limited to restaurants and theatres, though.

You can also visit parks like Grant Park or Millennium Park (where that famous bean sculpture is).

This is a part of town where you can spend an entire afternoon.


Is Chicago Worth Visiting?

Millennium Park


Yes, Chicago is worth visiting!

There is so much to do and see in the Windy City, even beyond what we have laid out here.

It might be a bit cold and windy at times, but as long as you dress properly it shouldn’t be a problem.


What Time Of Year Has The Best Weather In Chicago?

Chicago, Illinois, USA downtown skyline


The best time to visit Chicago is usually in the late summer and early fall.

September and early October are considered the best months to visit, weather-wise.

Chicago can get quite cold during the winter, which means that it’s probably best to avoid going during the winter months.

Unless you love the freezing cold, it will be easier to enjoy the city in the fall.

Another reason why September and early October are good times to visit is the lack of crowds!

Chicago is a big city, so there will always be people around.

However, coming in September means that summer vacation is already over.

This time period also doesn’t feature any major holidays that might attract crowds to Chicago, such as spring break, Memorial Day weekend, or the holiday season.

There will still be tourists of course.

There are tourists all year long in cities like Chicago!

However, with the balance between good weather and not being over-crowded, fall is the best time to go.


Should I Move To Chicago?

man wearing hoodie thinking


Maybe you are so sold on the idea of Chicago that you feel ready to move there.

Should you take the leap?

Well, first we would recommend visiting.

You never know if you are going to like the atmosphere of a city until you see it for yourself.

If you like it upon visiting, though, and you are looking for a change of scenery, Chicago can be a great pick.

Here are a few things you should consider when thinking about whether you want to move to the Windy City.


The Downsides

Crime scene tape in the foreground with a blurred police car in the background at a crime scene.


1. Weather

The winters are cold and cruel.

It’s not just because of Chicago’s northern location but also that famous wind.

With windchill, temperatures can go as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you do not handle cold weather well, Chicago is not going to be the city for you.


2. The Size

Whether the size of Chicago is a good thing or a bad thing depends on what you want out of a city.

This is going to appear on the list of potential upsides too.

For some people, though, living in a big city is a definite downside.

Chicago has dropped in rankings since its days as the #2 biggest city in the US.

However, it didn’t drop far.

It now sits at #3, behind NYC and LA.


3. The Crime Rate

Unfortunately, crime is something that Chicago is known for.

Some die-hard Chicago fans will say that the crime in the city is misrepresented by the media.

Even if that is true, it’s also true that you are going to have to think about safety if you plan to move to Chicago.

You want to make sure you are choosing a secure location to live in and that you have street smarts when walking around certain areas of town.


The Upsides

Chicago Bus and Buildings


1. Public Transport

Chicago has amazing public transport.

If you want to live in a big city, public transport is often a must.

Not only are cars expensive, but they can also be quite inconvenient.

Finding somewhere to park or getting stuck in traffic can mess up your schedule for the whole day if you are living in the big city.

Chicago boasts 140 bus routes and eight trains.

The transport passes are quite affordable at $2.50.

If you can survive in the city without a car, it can make a huge impact on your cost of living.

That will leave money for other things that are more fun!


2. Good City Design

Chicago is known for being quite a walkable city.

Part of this is thanks to the fact that Chicago is relatively flat.

Another part of it is related to city planning.

It is laid out on a neat grid.

Much like New York City, it is difficult to get lost.

The sidewalks are also kept relatively clean.

It’s not only walking that is wonderful in Chicago.

It can also be a great place for biking.

City design can make a huge impact on your life.

For one thing, it can affect your health.

Many of us work jobs that require us to sit around all day.

That can be hard on our bodies!

If you drive everywhere, it can be very difficult to get in a workout.

By walking and biking everywhere, you naturally get a workout as a part of your everyday routine!

And since you are just “working out” as a mode of transportation, there is no time wasted!


3. Big City Perks

Not everyone wants to live in a big city.

However, for those that do, Chicago can be an amazing choice.

It provides you with the classic big city lifestyle.

You can live in an apartment and take public transport.

You never have to worry about wasting hours of your day on driving or lawn care.

Events are happening constantly.

And it’s hard to not have a social life in a city this big.


4. Sports

If you are a sports fan, Chicago has a lot to offer.

In fact, there are eight major league teams in Chicago!

There are two major league baseball teams: the Cubs and the White Sox.

Then you have two major league basketball teams: the Bulls and Chicago Sky.

Chicago honors their cold winters with a professional hockey team called the Blackhawks.

Of course, like any huge American city, they also have the Bears which is their football team.

Then you have two soccer teams as well: the Chicago Fire and Chicago Red Stars.

This is not even to mention all of the university teams in the city.

The wonderful thing about the diversity of sports in Chicago is that you can find a game to watch all year long.

Whether it’s football season or baseball season, you aren’t going to be lacking in live games to watch!

Even if you don’t know much about sports or you just aren’t that passionate about them yourself, you can probably still enjoy them.

It is hard to resist the positive energy that comes from watching a game with a devoted sports fan.

In Chicago, you will find many devoted sports fans! You will likely be able to find one to teach you the basics of the game.

Who knows, sports could even become a new passion of yours!


5. Affordable Housing & Living

This is a huge perk.

When you compare Chicago with other major cities, it is much more affordable.

It has so much to offer that the city is pretty much on-par with New York City in many ways.

Despite being the 3rd biggest city in the USA, Numbeo ranks Chicago as the 23rd most expensive city in the U.S.

This means that you are going to get a much better bang for your buck as far as big-city amenities and opportunities when compared with the cost of living.

Rent, according to Numbeo, is 45% lower in Chicago than in New York City.

The price per square foot to buy an apartment in the city center at the time of writing this article is $1,429.94 in New York City.

By comparison, in Chicago, it is $460.52 per square foot.

That means that in Chicago you could generally get an apartment 3x larger for the same price as you would pay in New York City.

It’s not just the housing that is more affordable.

The day-to-day life is more affordable as well.

Compared to New York City, restaurants in Chicago are 20% lower.

Prices on consumer goods are also 20% lower.

So, it is definitely a city worth checking out!

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