Chicago Traveler Blog

Chicago Traveler Blog

15 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Chicago - Facts about Chicago

4/1/14 | by

Whether you call the Windy City your home base, or you have never had the chance to explore the incredible streets of Chicago there is ALWAYS something new to learn. From a mysterious past to a fascinating present, Chicago is always surprising us and keeping us on our toes. Here are a few facts that you might not have known about the famous Windy City:

Strange Facts About Chicago:

1.) And you thought the Navy Pier Ferris wheel was special… the original Ferris Wheel (like, the very first one), was built in 1893 in Chicago. It debuted at the World’s Columbian Exposition.

2.) Another first? The first skyscraper was built in Chicago in 1885.

3.) Wait, not another first… Chicago opened the Western Hemisphere’s first planetarium in 1930 - the one and only Adler Planetarium.

4.) Defying gravity… The Chicago River is the only river in the world that flows backwards. In 1900 the Sanitary District of Chicago reversed the flow of the river by the use of a series of canal locks. Weird.

5.) Enjoy the view from above - Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) boasts a view that reaches four states. From the Skydeck you can see INdiana Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. Talk about bird’s eye view!

6.) Al Capone, not so scary in the eyes of the law. He was caught and convicted in October of 1931 for tax evasion rather than bootlegging alcohol or, you know, murder.

Interested in the famous Al Capone? Join Bobby's Bike Hike on the Chicago Southside Gangster Bicycle Tour.

7.) Slipping a Mickey - Michael Finn, a Chicago bartender from 1896-1903 coined the term in the early 1900s because he allegedly served his customers drinks with drugs to knock them out so he could rob them. The term got popular in 1918 when over 100 waiters were taken into custody for giving poor tippers “Mickey Finn powder”.

8.) The Shedd Aquarium is the second largest in the world - with 5 million gallons of water, and gives home to over 20,000 aquatic animals. For more information about the Shedd Aquarium visit

9.) About 40 million people visit the Windy City each year.

10.) Another few awards for Willis Tower (formerly Sears)… It’s the highest building in the Western Hemisphere (with 110 stories). And tall buildings need fast transportation - the elevators are some of the fastest in the world at 1,600 feet per minute.

11.) What would a list like this be without a mention of the famous Lincoln Park Zoo? Not only is it free, it boasts being the country’s oldest public zoo. Want to know something creepy about it also? It used to be the city cemetery… and there are bodies buried underneath those cute critters.

12.) The musical term “jazz” was coined in Chicago in the early 1900s.

13.) What color do you think is dumped in the Chicago River every Saint Patrick’s Day? Would you have ever guessed…. orange! Orange powder is used to create the green hue of the Chicago River every March.

14.) Iconic Route 66 starts in Chicago.

15.) No need to hold it - Chicago banned pay toilets in 1973. Feel free to drink all the water you want while on a Chicago tour, all public restrooms are free!