North America / United States

Chicago

Photo by Allan Thraen
Few cities in the world can match the character and culture of Chicago. Whether you're visiting for business or pleasure, you can expect to find world-class dining, museums, entertainment and accommodations here in the largest and most visited city in the Midwest.

Chicago is the largest city in the U.S. state of Illinois and the third most populous city in the United States, with around 2.7 million residents. Its metropolitan area, sometimes called "Chicagoland," is the third largest in the United States, with an estimated 9.8 million people in the states of Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana. Chicago is the county seat of Cook County.

Chicago was incorporated as a town in 1837, near a portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed. Today, the city retains its status as a major hub for industry, telecommunications and infrastructure, with O'Hare International Airport being the second busiest airport in the world in terms of traffic movements. In 2008, the city hosted 45.6 million domestic and overseas visitors. Among metropolitan areas, the Chicago area has the 4th largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the world. Chicago is an important worldwide center of commerce.

The city's notoriety has found expression in numerous forms of popular culture, including novels, plays, movies, songs, various types of journals (for example, sports, entertainment, business, trade, and academic), and the news media. Chicago has many nicknames, which reflect the impressions and opinions about historical and contemporary Chicago. The best known include: "Chi-town," "Windy City," "Second City," and the "City of Big Shoulders."

The city lies within the humid continental climate zone, and experiences four distinct seasons. Summers are hot and humid, with a July daily average of 84.7 °F (29.3 °C). In a normal summer, temperatures exceed 90 °F (32 °C) on 21 days. Winters are cold, snowy, and windy, with some sunny days, and with a January average of 23.5 °F (-4.7 °C). Temperatures often (43 days) stay below freezing for an entire day, and lows below 0 °F (-18 °C) occur on eight nights per year. Spring and fall are mild seasons with low humidity.

According to the National Weather Service, Chicago's highest official temperature reading of 107 °F (42 °C) was recorded on June 1, 1934, and July 11, 1936, both at Midway Airport. The lowest temperature of -27 °F (-33 °C) was recorded on January 20, 1985, at O'Hare Airport. The city can experience extreme winter cold waves and summer heat waves that may last for several consecutive days.

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