Why I love Chicago but hate “Chicagoland”

I love Chicago. I hate Chicagoland. That’s not just because I’m a city snob who hates the suburbs (although I am). It’s because I’m sick of seeing lists of “best things to do in Chicago” that include a bunch of destinations more than a hour away.

From my home it takes the same amount of time to drive to Wisconsin as it does to get to Naperville, yet Chicago publications usually consider crossing a state border a “getaway” while anything within the expansive suburbs of Chicago is just Chicagoland. Four miles away or forty doesn’t seem to matter to so many lists of things “in Chicago.”

Chicagoland Old Style Button
via buttonmuseum.org

It’s hard to know where anything really is around Chicagoland. Have you been to the new fashion outlets? You know, the ones called “The Fashion Outlets of Chicago?” You know, the ones that may be of Chicago but are actually in Rosemont?

Sure, Rosemont is adjacent to Chicago, but where do we draw the line between Chicagoland and somewhere else?

According to Wikipedia the Chicago metropolitan area, a.k.a. Chicagoland, is 10,856 square miles in area. That is bigger than any of the following:

  • Rhode Island,
  • Delaware,
  • Connecticut,
  • New Jersey,
  • New Hampshire,
  • Vermont,
  • Massachusetts,
  • Israel,
  • Kuwait,
  • Jamaica,
  • Kosovo,
  • Lebanon,
  • and many others.

Driving from one side of Chicagoland to another is like touring a small country. Heck, driving from the far north side to the far south side is quite a time commitment.

I understand the problem. I do. The people publishing “best ______ in Chicago” lists have readers all over the great nation of Chicagoland. Something that is an hour away from me is only 10 minutes from someone else and vice versa. So how can we fix this?

First, list makers should clearly state where things are located. What suburb? What Chicago neighborhood? The inspiration for this post was a list that didn’t say where anything was. You had to click on the link to the business websites find their addresses. Maddening and a waste of time for things that didn’t fit my timeframe.

Second, for sites that curate a directory of businesses please, please, please allow people to filter on location rather than just providing alphabetical lists.

Am I saying I’ll never drive an hour and a half to do something? Well, my husband would probably say that, but I’m not. However, when I’m looking for a way to fill a bit of an afternoon and not a daytrip I don’t want to be teased with that really great place that’s practically in Indiana, okay?

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