The Lay of the Land
Chicago, the largest city in Illinois, sits on several miles of the Lake Michigan shore. At its core is the Loop, Chicago’s busy downtown. South of the Loop, the city fades into the poverty and desolation of the South Side. North of the Loop the city is densely settled with residential areas punctuated by more commercial neighborhoods, extending all the way up to the city’s northern border. Nearly all of the city’s hip or desirable locations are located within a mile or two of the lake. The farther west you travel, the blander the city becomes until it fades into the western suburbs, the bedroom communities with little history and less character, where the city’s mid-level managers, accountants and bureaucrats live. Connecting all of these areas is the city’s public rail system, the CTA, commonly called the el.