Chicago - Best Cities

Chicago

Few American cities fell harder in visitor numbers in recent months than Chicago. Whether for business or pleasure, the city had been attracting tourism at record-breaking levels year after year. Indeed, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel took the city’s top job in 2011, an estimated 39 million people a year visited Chicago. By the time he wrapped up his final term in 2019, that number had ballooned to nearly 58 million annual visitors—an impressive tourism feat and perhaps the biggest success story of Emanuel’s mayoral tenure. In the last few years, the Windy City pursued and acquired some big-ticket draws, including the NFL Draft, the James Beard Foundation Awards and the Laver Cup. It also bolstered tourist-friendly attractions like the Riverwalk and events that showcase Chicago’s craft beer scene. Its #3 ranking in our Programming category—including #2 in the subcategories of Culture and Nightlife, behind only NYC—speaks to the plentiful buzz that Chicago was perfecting before everything ground to a halt. In the not-too-distant future, the Obama Presidential Center—to be set in Jackson Park—will become a marquee attraction on Chicago’s South Side. “I think President Obama’s library can do for tourism what McCormick Place has done for business travel in the city,” Emanuel noted during his time as mayor. The city’s #5 ranking for Museums among the country’s large cities will surely improve as a result.