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What happens in Chicago: A pre-HR Tech visitor's guide

Posted by Christina Perry on Sep 9, 2016 10:57:36 AM
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In just a few weeks, the innovators, early adopters, and visionaries of HR Tech will be converging on the Windy City, after gathering in Sin City for the last couple of years. We all know that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas… but what about Chicago? This is uncharted territory.

Here’s a little primer to help you move through it a bit more like a local, and some of the things to check out while you’re in Chi-town (yes, that’s one of its nicknames; it allegedly originated with long-haul truckers’ radio-speak. Something like, “I’m pullin’ this B-train into Chi-town with the hammer down, good buddy.”) But don’t you call it that. Locals would never, ever refer to it as Chi-town.

The “Windy city” (another of Chicago’s monikers, inspired not by its weather but by the hot air from its bellowing politicians back in 1893. Some things never change, eh?) has a lot of style, and several claims to fame. Here are a few of the most notable:

Hot dogs

Chicago has its own unique style of hot dog. Here’s a quick rundown:

The bun. Steamed, with poppy seeds.

The dog. All beef. And it has… Snap. This is the sensation of biting into the dog. I know sometimes it’s better not to think about these things, but this is really a really key element of the Chicago dog—so I have to tell you where that snap comes from: natural casing. (The less detail you know about that, the better. Trust me.)

Relish. It’s sweet. And bright green. So bright green that it looks like something created in observance of St. Patrick’s Day. (But it’s that color 365 days a year.) And it’s as polarizing as it is bright—people generally either love it or hate it.

Other standard-issue ingredients that define a Chicago dog are pickled sport peppers, tomatoes, chopped white onions, yellow mustard, and a dash of celery salt. A dog served with all these ingredients is known as “dragged through the garden.”

Whatever you do, don’t put ketchup on it!

Here are a few of the best places to get your Chicago-style dog:

Gene and Jude’s


Fatso’s Last Stand


Perhaps even more quintessential to Chicago cuisine is pizza. The most famous of the Chicago-style pizzas is deep dish. It’s a little different from most pizzas, because it has a thick, almost cake-like crust with high sides, and it’s filled with thick layers of cheese and other toppings, with a chunky tomato sauce layered on top of everything else. It’s hearty, very different from other styles, and sometimes controversial—New Yorkers, for example, often question its legitimacy. But its pizza cred is well-established, as it’s been going strong since its invention in 1943.

Some of the best places to score a deep-dish pie in Chicago:

The Art of Pizza

Lou Malnati’s

Pequod’s Pizza

Wrigley Field

For baseball fans, Chicago is home to one of the most famous ballparks in the world. You can get a private tour of the dugout, field, visitor clubhouse, and more, if you take one of the daily tours of the park.


Chicago is home to some remarkable architecture. The devastating fire of 1871 led to reconstruction efforts that boosted economic development and population growth. Chicago was the site of the world’s first skyscrapers, and those and many other buildings have rich histories and stories behind them.

One of the best ways to learn about local history and notable buildings is to take a docent-led river cruise with the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Navy Pier

The pier, built in 1916, is Chicago’s #1 visitor destination. It spans more than 50 acres, and is filled with parks, restaurants, shops, and other activities and attractions.

Amusements include carnival-type rides like the Light Tower Ride, Pepsi Wave Swinger and a brand-new (and only one of its kind in the U.S.) Ferris Wheel, as well as other family-friendly activities like a 4,000-square foot funhouse maze and remote control boats, a children’s museum, and an iMAX theater.

Millennium Park

Millennium Park is a vast and interesting public space anchored by a massive steel sculpture whose given name is Cloud Gate, but everyone calls it the Bean. (Which is understandable, because really, it looks much more like a bean—or some sort of Dalí-esque blimp.)

Beyond the Bean, there’s a lot of interesting architecture and art, and also a steady calendar of events like concerts, exhibitions, and tours at Millennium Park.

Have fun exploring, and remember:

  • What happens in Chicago doesn’t necessarily stay there. (This isn’t Vegas!)

  • Don’t call it Chi-town.

  • Come join Restless Bandit for a drink at the RB Saloon, Booth #1416!

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Topics: HR Tech, HRtech, Travel, Chicago, Conference

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