As your first fall quarter progresses, you will quickly learn the concept – or more pertinently the value – of the college student’s disposable income. Quite literally, this value is often close to $0 US Dollars, and unfortunately this value will rapidly dwindle as late night Burger King runs and Amazon Prime purchases unburden your wallet.
But don’t fret! College is a time of exploration, and thankfully we live near a city with tons of things to do that don’t require that much cash. So here is a list of several things that you definitely want to try as soon as possible.
1. Saunter around Chicago’s Magnificent Mile like you own the place
Chicago is your home now, as well as the home of many friendly and diverse people. One of the first things you should do is take your right to one of the best parts of your new home and fully capitalize on it. Take the hourly Intercampus shuttle, which has stops all around Evanston campus, down into the heart of the city. Put on a pair of your favorite sunglasses and bring out that insane swagger you’ve perfected but have been hiding thus far. Walk southwards down Michigan Avenue and take in all the sights, sounds, and smells of one of America’s greatest cities in history. There are several places that you should definitely see while in the city, and are covered in another article.
2. Have fun at a museum (not kidding)
While institutions of learning are generally not known for their entertainment value, Chicago’s various museums are the exception. They rank among the best in the world, and in this particular writer’s opinion, they are insanely enjoyable. Depending on your interests, it is likely that you will want to visit one or more of them during your first few weeks in Chicago. The Museum of Science and Industry is one of the most popular ones, and my personal favorite. It is located a little south of the main city, and accessible via the ‘El’. The Art Institute of Chicago is another must-see, and the Field Museum of Natural History has sick dinosaur displays.
3. Run along Northwestern’s very own lake fill
While the Freshman Fifteen is greatly exaggerated, you’ll still want to treat your body with a bit of care throughout the year. Your five minute hurried walks to class every morning don’t exactly compensate for those midnight snack binges. Whether you have ran frequently in the past or not, the Northwestern lake fill offers a great experience for both new and experienced runners. Especially in the fall, the route along the lake fill and down Sheridan is an enjoyable, relatively flat two miles. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the campus at its best, and take in the beautiful lakeside view of Chicago. Here is a great route that will give you a unique understanding of the campus:
1. Starting at the Arch, head East towards the Lake, and find the walking/running path that starts at the beach and is flush against the lake.
2. Run along this path in the North direction, following the waterline of the lake to the bridge that will take you onto the lake fill.
3. Cross the bridge, and keep heading up North. Unless you’ve been looking at the ground the whole time, you should be in awe at the amazing views in every direction. Now would be a good time to take a break and practice your Instragram skills.
4. Following the lake path, head west around Northwestern’s enclosed pond area and back down south again. Run in the general direction of Norris Student Center (you can see it from any point in the lake fill).
5. At this point, you can either head back to your dorm or back to the Arch. The Arch will be southwest of Norris, indicated by a clear pavement path in that direction.
4. Explore a cultural neighborhood
Chicago is an extremely diverse city, and you’re going to want to take advantage of that. Why not take a trip to one of the several cultural neighborhoods that are located throughout the Chicagoland and take some cool pictures? Upload these photos on your social media site of choice, and show your friends back home how culturally acquainted you have become. The nearest options are Argyle (the Asian neighborhood) and Pilsen (the Mexican neighborhood). Grab some buddies, plan a route, and go on a nice Saturday afternoon. Make sure one of these buddies has an iPhone for Google Maps.
5. Get lost (in the city)
If you are feeling particularly adventurous, take the morning Intercampus Shuttle downtown with some friends, and start walking. Any direction will do. The goal is to create your own Chicago experience, and you’ll know when you’ve achieved that goal when you can’t find your way back to the shuttle station. Start walking into shops that interest you, and take a look at some that don’t. Find your own attractions that aren’t in any tourist guide book. Grab a bite at a random hole-in-the-wall café, and discover that more often than not these places are delicious. Don’t panic! North Chicago is extremely safe in the day, and as long as you stay on the North side, you’ll only ever be a couple blocks away from the Magnificent Mile.