Alright, alright, so I’m two months late on this one. I went couch surfing in Chicago in September and was totally meaning to blog about it. Well, better late than never, right?! In my short time here on this orbiting blue sphere, I've done a fair amount of travelling. On just a five day trip, Chicago proved to be one of the most amusing cities I've ever been to, so why don’t I ever hear of Montrealers visiting it?
1) Chicago Is A Top Notch City For Foodies
With billboards everywhere for five-patty-burgers stuffed with peanut butter or mac and cheese, Dorito filled tacos, and deep dish pizza, I was afraid I’d have to break my veganism for some of these outrageous choices. But, after further investigation, Chicago does food right and it does it big, even for the pickiest among us. Amazing vegan choices were right left and center, which surprised me in the Midwest. Check out the menu at Native Foods and tell me that doesn't look delicious. At Riot Fest, I even ate a DEEP FRIEND PEANUT BUTTER AND JAM SANDWHICH. WTF, RIGHT? This place is the holy grail of vegan junk food. I was sad to leave.
2) The Music Scene Is On Par With Montreal’s
Admit it. With all our political problems in Montreal, we do know how to do a few things right. Our local music scene is enough to put even the toughest competition to shame. But, after hitting up the unbelievable 3-day lineup at Riot Fest (I saw Bad Religion, Rancid, Andrew WK, Brand New, Against Me!, Blink 182 and Sublime – ‘nuff said) and a little open mic night to jam out a couple of acoustic tunes, I have to say Chicago knows its stuff! You have to check it out. Oh and by the way, Chicago loves Montreal so make sure to mention where you’re from for a couple-a-free-drinks, yo.
3) Free Places To Stay
You don’t need to stay in an expensive hotel or stinky hostel, the people here are extremely hospitable! Have a little faith in humanity and make a Couch Surfing profile. I was skeptical at first too, but after the amazing experience I had, I’m willing to vouch for this website. You can browse profiles to see past experiences with other users and find the host that’s perfect for you, and it’s all free! Choose the right host and worst case scenario, you’ll have an annoying roommate for a few days, best case scenario, you’ll have made a friendship for life. In my case, I made a great new buddy! The best part, you can make new friends with the household pet and have a new cat to post on your #instagram account.
4) It’s Not Too Far, And It’s Cheap To Fly!
It’s a two hour flight away (maybe four if you have a connection), and you can get there and back for less than $400 if you do it right. Try using travel tips like using e-mail alerts at Kayak, they’ll send you the cheapest airfares from any airline every day! Also, if you book your trip on a Wednesday, it’s usually cheapest. You can score deals by booking far in advance or really last minute. Or, if you’re up for a bit of a longer trip, take an hour bus ride to Burlington or Plattsburg and fly from there, it's way cheaper.
5) The Little Burroughs Have Something For Everyone
Wicker Park, Bucktown, Lincoln Park and the Navy Pier are all excellent locations for exploration and having a drink, or 7. You also have the infamous gigantic bean in Millennium Park to enjoy for Facebook photo purposes, lots of high end shopping downtown, and plenty of thrift store/hipster shopping in Wicker Park. It’s easy to get around their subway/bus system and, in general, bars are pretty well priced with fun themes. My pick of the trip was the Emporium Arcade bar, with over 50 old school arcade games, cheap drinks, awesome staff and a hilarious live performance by Japanese comic punk band Peelander Z.
So there you have it Montreal, Chicago is rad. Next time you’re going away for the weekend and are considering venturing off to the Big Apple for the 9th time, why not branch out to somewhere a little bit more off the beaten path? Take it from me, if you like the cultural diversity, the crazy music scene, and the first-rate food in Montreal, you’ll love Chicago. I can’t wait to go back, I’m counting my pennies.
Big shootout to my first ever Couch Surfing host and new friend Kristin for making our experience a great one! Cheers!