Chicago Style Hot Dogs: A Brief History

Chicago has a proud and unique history full of music, movies, Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, Chicago Beef and now a World Series win! But when many people think of Chicago, they obviously think about the hot dogs. Chicago style hot dogs are so iconic that other cities and restaurants started copying them. You can even buy a Chicago Style Hot Dog starter pack on Amazon. These hot dogs may contain the same ingredients, but they will be nothing like the real thing. If its not made in Chicago, it’s not Chicago style!

hot dog history

Chicago isn’t the only city to claim hot dogs as their own. It’s not really clear which city was the first to introduce them in America or when exactly they started being sold on the streets. There is a lot of speculation that Chicago was one of, if not thee first, city to start pushing dogs on the streets from vendors selling out of a cart.

When Chicago style hot dogs started hitting the streets, they actually were a bit different than they are today. At first, hot dogs were sold as a way to profit from the less desirable meat waste from the factories. Using the technology of meat curing brought to Chicago by German immigrants, these ‘waste dogs’ were turned into a tasty treat!

There is no doubt that the hots dogs of years past were delicious, but they were nothing like the Chicago style dogs we have today. The version of the story we like to is that during The World’s Fair of 1893 (hosted in Chicago) two immigrants gave the ‘waste dog’ an upgrade by making the sausage with kosher meats. Good idea.

Chicago style hot dog ingredients

So what is a Chicago style hot dog? We’re glad you asked!

Chicago Style Hot Dog

introducing the chicago style hot dog

It wasn’t until the Great Depression that the Chicago style hot dogs we know and love today came to be. When food was harder to come by, these street foods became more than just cheap eating. They became meals that people used to feed their families. Chicago style hot dogs were cheap to make, had what seemed to be an entire day’s serving of vegetables and were being sold throughout the city making them the depression-era food of choice.

And for those who do not live in Chicago, NO, ketchup does not go on a hot dog! Chicago style dogs prove that ketchup has no place on one of these tasty treats. Tomato’s on the other hand make a great condiment! So if you want to give Chicago hot dogs a try, be sure to go to Chicago to get the real experience. If you want to make one at home, do us a favor and skip the ketchup please!

Free Things to Do in Chicago

If you are heading to Chicago and want to experience the city on a budget, you came to the right place. We have built our entire business on offering free tours of Chicago,  But we aren’t the only game in town. Luckily we’ve narrowed down the top free things to do in Chicago for you. The great thing about these attractions is that they are always free. There is no special date or time you have to be there to get free admission. That way, you don’t need to plan your schedule around getting free admission and you can go whenever you want.

Chicago is full of free attractions, but the list below is picked from our favorites.

Lincoln Park Zoo

Free Things to Do in ChicagoThe Lincoln Park Zoo is one of the only free zoos in the country. The Lincoln Park Zoo is also one of the oldest zoos in the country! It may not be as large as other zoos, but it has over 230 different species of animals on a 35 acre lot. A great place to spend an hour with your family, or take a walk on your lunch break. This zoo has monkeys, reptiles, polar bears, and even tigers!

There is even an oak tree present here that has been around since 1830, before the city was founded!

Millennium Park

Free Things to Do in ChicagoMillennium is one of the largest public parks in Chicago. Its original intention was to celebrate the entrance into the third millennium. You can view exhibits, architecture, a beautiful garden, and even go ice skating! This park even offers concession stands. This is among one of the best places to go in Chicago, and admission is always free. Get an unclose and personal experience on our Millennium Park Tour.



Chicago Cultural Center

Free Things to Do in ChicagoThis place is so awesome we either stop in or talk about it on almost all our Free Chicago Walking Tours. The Chicago Cultural Center offers so many different things to do so there is always something for everyone. Admission to the center is always free as well as the events. Be sure to check their calendar when coming into town! You can view free theater, music, dance and even films right here in the cultural center. The center also has great art on display and you can attend lectures and get guided tours for free.


Navy Pier

Free Things to Do in Chicago

Although Navy Pier’s attractions costs money, you are able to walk up and down Navy Pier and join in on the fun for free! Sometimes, concerts and events are offered that are free of charge, so be sure to check your schedule if you want to make the most out of Navy Pier without breaking into your wallet.



National Museum of Mexican Art

Free Things to Do in ChicagoFor those who love art, the National Museum of Mexican Art is a completely free attraction open to the public. The museum is divided into separate sections for each era of latin american art and culture! This approach also makes this museum appeal to lovers of history. Exhibits change frequently, so check out what they have before you make an appointment. If you have been before, chances are that you can go again and see some entirely new works of art!


Buckingham Fountain

Free Things to Do in ChicagoLocated on Columbus Drive, Buckingham Fountain is one of the largest fountains in the world! For those who want a fun experience in Chicago should come on by and check this fountain out. This is also a great place to spend your lunch break, or take your family to see the fountain go off! This is one of our favorite places to get a group picture after the Millennium Park Tour!

Our Picks for Live Shows in Chicago

If you are visiting Chicago and are looking for a world-class theater experience, you have plenty of options. Chicago is home to some of the best classical performances, ballet, broadway shows, and comedy. We have created a list showcasing our favorite theaters to witness live shows in Chicago. A great theater absolutely will add to the experience! These theaters are all well known for their acoustics, viewing angles, and world class performances.

Second City

1616 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60614

Things to Do in ChicagoIf you are looking for a good laugh, look no further than the legendary Second City in Chicago. Stars like Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell. Alan Alda, Bill Murray, and John Candy got their starts right here. It’s not an ordinary comedy club. This is where some of the funniest and brightest comedians perform. There is a reason this is one of the most notorious comedy theaters in the United States!


Cadillac Palace Theatre

51 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601

Live Shows in ChicagoThe Cadillac Palace Theatre, part of the Theatre District in Chicago’s Loop, has roughly 2300 seats, the perfect size for Broadway shows! The performances are always changing, and there is always something you must see here. Parking is limited in this part of town, we recommend taking an Uber or Lyft, but if you’re brave enough to drive don’t forget to checkout SpotHero.



Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place

175 E. Chestnut St,  Chicago,  IL  60611

Live Shows in ChicagoThe Broadway Playhouse is also part of Broadway in Chicago. New York is not the only place you can see Broadway shows! Chicago has some of the best shows available right here in the Windy City. This theater was originally closed and converted into a movie theater, but in 2004 it was restored to its original glory as a place to see some amazing live shows in Chicago. Events change frequently, so be sure to look at their calendar to find a show you might want to attend!


Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University

50 E Congress Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60605

This legendary theater has everything from music to dance. You may come for the performance, but the architecture is like a show itself! This theater values culture and frequently runs donations to help folks who might not be able to afford to come and experience live shows in Chicago. How cool is that!? If you want to see a wonderful performance in Chicago, check the Auditorium Theatre website and see what shows they have that week. If you’re traveling at expert-level you might even be able to time the start of a show with the end of our Millennium Park Tour which or time the end of a show with the start of our Chicago Haunted Mysteries Tour.


Greenhouse Theatre Center

2257 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

Live Shows in ChicagoWhat makes this place so special is how 100% authentic and unique their productions are. There is a beauty of an intimate theatre that doesn’t have the production budget of the shows you will see in Chicago’s Theatre District. The performers have so much passion, the stories are fascinating to follow, the prices are reasonable and the variety can’t be matched anywhere. Tucked right inside the beautiful Lincoln Park neighborhood, this is a must-see attraction for anyone interested in getting a feel for what “real” Chicago theatre looks like.


Chicago Symphony Center

220 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60604

Live Shows in ChicagoThe Chicago Symphony Center has some of the most beautiful musical performances in the world. All lovers of classical music must attend a show here if they get the chance, as it will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Their in house orchestra is world class, and they also bring in other guest performers and some of the most talented conductors in the world. The building is also known for its great acoustics, making it an even more memorable experience.

Top Things to Do in Chicago (Paid)

There are so many fun things to do in Chicago it can be hard to choose, so we have made this list of our favorite things to do in the city. All of these locations do charge admission, but the experiences you have will be worth it!

Many of the locations below offer discounts for those who have a Chicago Citypass. If you live in Chicago or plan to visit the attractions in their pass then you will absolutely want to consider purchasing.

Chicago River Architectural Boat Tour by Wendella

$39 Adult, $18 Child

Things to Do in ChicagoQuite possibly our favorite tour to take in Chicago when we aren’t taking one of our tours. How can you possibly beat being on a boat, in the sun, downtown Chicago, looking at all these beautiful buildings while drinking an ice-cold beer? The guides do an absolutely incredible job. The material comes at you really fast, so listen carefully. And if you like what you saw and what a slightly more intimate experience take a Chicago Riverwalk & Loop Tour with us!


See a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field

Prices Vary – We’ve seen tickets as low as $5 for some weekday April & May games

Things to Do in ChicagoIf we wrote this little piece 5 years ago we might have included seeing a Cubs game as part of our Free Things to Do in Chicago series. But not anymore. The Chicago Cubs are World Series Champions! And with that success comes a slight increase in demand and increase in ticket prices. That being said, it’s still a worthwhile trip to see a game at Wrigley Field and experience all that is catching a ballgame in Chicago during the summer. Have a pre-game drink at a surrounding bar, bring your own peanuts into the stadium, grab a cold beer then head to your seat and enjoy.


Shedd Aquarium

$20 for residents, $40 for non residents Children $10 off – part of the Chicago CityPass.

Chicago Things to DoThe Shedd Aquarium is an indoor aquarium located on Lake Shore Drive. To date, it contains over 30,000 different animals! There is a reason that this aquarium was the most visited aquarium in the United States for several years. There will not be many chances to see wildlife from all over the world, so take advantage of this while you are here. The Shedd Aquarium is also involved in conservation and the fair treatment of animals!

You can also get a great view of the Chicago Skyline from the upper level of the building. The aquarium is fun for the entire family. Chicago residents also get 50% off regular admission.


Willis Tower (Sears Tower) Skydeck

$24 – part of the Chicago CityPass.

Things to Do in ChicagoThe Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) is one of the top tourist attractions in Chicago due to its spectacular views of the city. There is no better way to see the city than from the Willis Tower Skydeck! It’s also a great spot to get some pictures of the Chicago skyline. If you have your family with you, there are discounts available, as well as cheap or free admission for children.

In addition to checking out Chicago from the 103rd floor there is an observation “ledge” that allows you to step out and look directly down to the street below. Scary? Oh yeah. Worth it? Absolutely.


Take in a show at Second City

Varies, based on show, date and time

Things to Do in ChicagoIt was right here in Chicago where stars such as Chris Farley and John Belushi got their start. If you are looking to laugh, there is no better comedy club in the city! With shows every week from an incredibly talented casts, you are guaranteed to laugh and have a great time! They offer several different types of shows including stand up comedy, improv, and group performances.

Divvy Bike Guide

The Divvy Bike system is one of the best new ways to get around the city on a budget. Divvy Bikes are one of the nation’s most successful urban bike sharing programs.  Basically, you sign up, find a Divvy Bike station near you, enter A code, grab a bike and you’re off! Chicago has a gigantic network of more than 580 Divvy Bike stations that you can pick up and return your bike to.

Chicago Divvy Bikes

Whether you don’t have a car, are looking to explore the city on bike or just want to get some exercise, Divvy Bike is for you. It is more convenient than owning your own bike because at any time, you can drop it off at a station and get a cab or an Uber. Or if you go home with a friend, you don’t need to take your bike with you! It is also a bit cheaper than buying your own bike, and you don’t have to worry about maintaining your bike or if it will get stolen.

If biking isn’t for you make sure to read our Guide to Getting Around Chicago to learn about all of your options.

How to Get Started

The first step to taking a spin on the blue bikes is to download the Divvy app and choose a pricing plan. Plans start at $3 for a single ride and go up to a yearly membership for $99. Our recommendation is to buy the daily pass for $15 which gives you unlimited 3-hour rides.

Once you have chosen a plan and paid, you use the app to find a Divvy Bike station near you. Here, you can get a code from your phone and you enter it to get your bike. It’s that simple! Once you are done with your ride, find a Divvy Bike station near you using your app and lock the bike back in. You do not need to drop it off at the stand you got it from! You can use any kiosk to drop it off, making Divvy even more convenient. Once you drop it off, you just need to wait for the green light and you’re all good!

Not only does Divvy save you money, you are also reducing your carbon footprint. It’s a win-win!

Currently, there are over 580 stations available around Chicago. If you look at their system map, it looks like there is a stand every block or so. This makes it very convenient for you, as you will most likely always be near a stand. With other similar services, stands could be limited making it hard to finish your return. Not with Divvy!

If you are a Chicago native, or just someone in town for a visit, you should consider using Divvy Bikes. You save time by avoiding traffic, you save money on gas/ride sharing, and you are going green. Download the app and get started today!

Welcome to Willis Tower … (Sears Tower)

When you look at a picture of the Chicago skyline, almost anyone could point out the Willis Tower. It is one of the most iconic buildings in Chicago, and even one of the most iconic buildings in the United States! Heck, we’ll say it – Willis Tower is one of the most iconic buildings in the world! The Willis tower is a beautiful sight from the streets, but you can also visit and explore this building from the inside.

Willis Tower History

The Willis Tower, formerly called the Sears Tower, is one of the top attractions in the city of Chicago. Until the Freedom tower was built in New York city, the Willis tower was the tallest building in the United States. It was also the tallest building in the western hemisphere! From 1973 to 1998, it was also the tallest building in the world and is currently in 19th place, so the height of this building has made it a Chicago icon. This building is so iconic and easy to find we start and finish our Total Loop Tour right outside their front doors. But the massive height is not the only reason you should visit this building during your time in Chicago.

Reasons to visit

The Willis Tower features a lovely skydeck which is a must see attraction. They even have a ledge, so you can stand above the city. One of the coolest features of the skydeck is that you can see four states up there! You will have views of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan if you look across Lake Michigan! In fact, people in southwest Michigan can see the Willis Tower on a clear day and can see it lit up at night. That is one spectacular building!

Cost & Tours

The cost of admission varies depending on what type of admission you want. Standard adult admission is $24, while youth admission is $16. You can purchase a ticket at anytime, and tickets are valid up until 6 months after purchase. If you have a Chicago Citypass, you can save 50% or more as well as save on admission to dozens of other places in Chicago. If you have a large group going with you, you can save on admission! This is perfect for larger family events.

Private events

For those who want a more intimate and memorable experience, the Willis Tower offers a special dining package. For roughly $200, you and one other person can share a meal in the Willis Tower while looking over the city! One of the coolest packages is called ‘Pie in the Sky’, where you are served a Chicago style deep dish pizza.

For those who are looking to spend some time in Chicago, try to make some time to explore this iconic Chicago building. Spending some time at the Skydeck is a fun and memorable experience, as well as a great way to view the city.

15 Cool Chicago Facts

This list doesn’t need much of an introduction. We are tour guides. We pride ourselves on knowing a bunch of obscure Chicago facts. Here are some of our favorites:

#1 The first televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was held at CBS studios in Chicago

This presidential debate was the first debate to be televised. Because Kennedy was so composed and calm during the debate, it was said that this debate is what won him the presidency, and what made televised debates a major factor in american politics.

#2 You can see four states from the top of the Willis Tower

If you go to the top of the Willis Tower, you can see Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin!

#3 The original Playboy Mansion was in Chicago

When Hugh Hefner started Playboy, he built the original Playboy Mansion in Chicago! Another fun fact, Playboy itself was started in Chicago.

#4 The first ever skyscraper was built in Chicago

In 1885, the first skyscraper for the Home Insurance Company was constructed in the windy city. New York was NOT the first city to have skyscrapers, contrary to popular belief.

#5 The Willis Tower’s elevators operate at 1,600 feet per minute.

This makes the elevators in the Willis Tower some of the fastest elevators in the world. It used to be the largest building in the Western Hemisphere, so it needed them!

#6 Chicago is home to the very first blood bank, soap opera, color TV station, and controlled atomic blast

Chicago has always been a city of first! It was also home to the first car race, as well as the first ever elevated railway.

#7 Western Avenue in Chicago is the longest (continuous) street in the United States

For those who have been on Western Avenue, you already knew this! Western Avenue is almost 24 miles long, making it larger than any street in the United States, and one of the longest in the world.

#8 The Intro Scene for The Dark Knight was filmed in Chicago

Chicago is the city that inspired Gotham City, and The Dark Knight was filmed partially in Chicago. The license plates even mimicked the Illinois license plates so they would blend in during shooting!

#9 11 Fortune 500 companies are based in Chicago

Chicago has a long history of large corporations being founded in the city. Can you name all 11? Boeing Co., Archer Daniels Midland, United Continental Holdings, Inc, Exelon Corporation, Kraft Heinz, ConAgra Brands, LKQ Corporation, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company, Jones Lang La Salle, Motorola Solutions, Old Republic International Corporation.

#10 The first Mcdonald’s was built in Chicago

Mcdonalds founder Ray Kroc started the very first Mcdonalds in the Des Plaines suburb of Chicago. The first restaurant was converted to a museum which can be visited.

#11 During the Chicago fair in 1893, Cracker Jacks were introduced to the world.

At the time, putting peanuts with popcorn was unheard of! The inventor was definitely a genius. The inventor was also an immigrant who came to Chicago from Germany.

#12 Every year, 52 million people visit Chicago

That is just under 6,000 visitors to Chicago EVERY HOUR or more than 140,000 visitors each day. This makes Chicago one of the top tourists destinations in the United States.

#13 In 1927, Al Capone made almost $60 million selling alcohol during prohibition

When prohibition was enacted, Al Capone made millions selling alcohol in the Chicago area. If you like this, make sure to check out our Chicago Crime & Gangster Tour.

#14 The cell phone was invented by a Chicago native

Martin Cooper, the inventor of the cell phone, was from Chicago. He is also considered the ‘father of wireless’ and has 11 patents.

#15 The Chicago river flows backwards

In 1887, engineers decided to reverse the flow of the Chicago river to solve some of the cities drainage problems. The river now flows into Chicago instead of out towards Lake Michigan.

What is your favorite Chicago fun fact? Let us know!

Greatest Chicago Movie Scenes Ever

Chicago has a long history of being the film location for hit movies. In fact, more than 200 well known movies have filmed in Chicago! The most notable director to use Chicago as a filming location was John Hughes (a native of Chicago), who wrote and directed some of the best grossing movies of the 1980’s including one of our favorites National Lampoon’s Vacation.

Since Chicago has such a rich filming history, we have put together a list of what we think are the top 5 Chicago movie scenes!

Warning: This blog post may contain some spoilers.

# 5: The Color of Money

This Martin Scorsese film stars Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. The Color of Money is about a pool hustler in Chicago’s west side and his protege. There is one scene that stood out to moviegoers, and that was the infamous White Cadillac scene!


# 4: Planes, Trains & Automobiles

The ending scene of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is one of the most heartfelt scenes in the movie, and it takes place, and filmed, in Chicago! The ending scene begins with a beautiful skyline and you see Steve Martin and John Candy standing on the L platform. In this scene, we see Neil (Steve Martin) find out the truth about Del (John Candy) and how he is homeless. This scene was a bombshell when it came out, as many were expecting the film to be a lighter comedy like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which came out a year before.


# 3: The Dark Knight

Since Gotham City is fictional, this movie was filmed in both New York and Chicago to mix up the architecture. The opening scene of the movie where The Joker and his henchmen rob the bank, was filmed in Chicago. If you look closely, you can see some familiar buildings!


# 2: The Blues Brothers

This classic comedy has many scenes filmed in Chicago. One of the best scenes from this movie is the scene where John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd are being chased by the Chicago PD. As they are being chased, they name off a few familiar those in Chicago might be familiar with.

#1: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

This movie gets our #1 pick for the greatest movie scene filmed in Chicago. For those who have not seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it is about three high school students who ditch school and spend the day in Chicago. There are many great scenes of Chicago in this movie, but the Twist and Shout scene was one of the most notable.

There have been so many great movies filmed in Chicago that it can be tough to pinpoint the best scenes. Other notable films filmed in Chicago would be The Untouchables, Rookie of the Year, High Fidelity, and Risky Business. But with over 200 films made here, there ought to be more great scenes that we just haven’t seen yet!

The Best Chicago Books

If you are thinking of taking a trip to Chicago, reading one of our best Chicago books before you go is a great way to get familiar with the city and decide how you want to spend your time here. Chicago is an enormous city full of history, culture, and a vibrant nightlife. If you really want to make the most of your trip, start here.

**Please know the links on this page will take you to Amazon. If you make a purchase Free Chicago Walking Tours will receive a commission. Thank you in advance for any purchases that are made!**

111 Places in Chicago That You Must Not Miss

While in Chicago, it’s important to make the most of your time here. There are so many great things to do in this city it can almost seem overwhelming. Of all the Chicago books in our list this one gives it to you straight.

This book pinpoints all of the best attractions in Chicago in a list-style format. A book like this is a great read for the plane ride over! If you are driving, let somebody else take the wheel so you can check out this incredibly well put together book.

The million dollar question is: Can I see all 111 places in one visit? Technically sure, we don’t see why you couldn’t. That might take you longer than you anticipate as most locals haven’t seen all 111 in their lifetime. We think you should see all 111 over a few different trips in different seasons too.

Chicago: Then and Now

This popular picture-based book shows how the skyline of Chicago has changed over the years. This is the perfect book for lovers of history and architecture!

After you get back from your trip, you can also put this book out on your coffee table as it makes a perfect coffee table book! If you did go to some of the sites listed in the book, you can talk about these places with your guests. This book serves as a helpful guide as well as a great educational experience!


Not For Tourists Guide to Chicago 2018

If you are not taking one of our Free Chicago Walking Tours and still want to check out some of the best sites, getting a few guidebooks before you head to the city is always a great idea! And honestly, even if you are touring with us it’s not a bad idea to grab a guidebook.

One of our favorite guidebooks come from  ‘Not For Tourists’ series. These guidebooks are advertised as a way to travel the city like a local! Not only will this help you avoid embarrassing tourists cliches, but navigating the city comfortablely will help you make the most of your time when you travel.



Lonely Planet Chicago (Travel Guide)

This is another incredibly popular travel guide. When searching for a travel guide, the more reputable the company the better the information will be. The Lonely Planet guides have tons of useful information for every age group and interest! Sure, you can read up on blogs and articles on the internet, but having a book with this much information is a great way to make sure you do not miss everything.





No matter what your interests are, Chicago has something for everyone. Whether you are coming to the city for business or pleasure, you should make the most out of your time while you are here! Our short list of the best Chicago books will have you feeling like a local. We hope you enjoy your stay!

Did we miss a great book? Let us know!