Chicago is a bustling city with plenty going on, and it can all be a bit overwhelming for a newcomer. Why do some lines on the L only go one way? Where’s the best deep dish pizza? When do they dye the river green? Thankfully, there are a few Chicago apps that will help you learn everything you need to know about your new home. The best part? They’re all free!
Category: Apartments Still need a place to live in Chicago? PadMapper has you covered. The app pulls apartments from different websites to bring you the best options that match your criteria. Of course, you can also opt for a turnkey service like Blueground, which offers furnished rentals across Chicago that are all ready to go with everything you need.
If you plan to use public transportation in Chicago, this app is a must. Ventra is the CTA’s fare system, and from this single app, you can reload your Ventra card, buy monthly passes, and even purchase tickets for the Metra commuter trains. Get notifications on your phone when your balance is low or set up Autoload to automatically add funds to your account. It certainly beats waiting in line at the ticket machines.
After you’re done setting up the Ventra app on your smartphone, your next download should be Citymapper. This is the ultimate navigation app for public transportation not only in Chicago but in dozens of cities worldwide. Simply enter your destination and Citymapper will do the rest, telling you which rail and bus lines to take, and even sending you handy notifications when it’s almost time to get off. You’ll never miss your stop again.
This app is by no means exclusive to Chicago, but it’s a must-have if you plan to drive in the city. Chicago is famous for its overly sensitive red light cameras and speed cameras, issuing over $670 million in tickets in the past decade. Waze shows you where those sneaky cameras are hidden, so you’ll have plenty of warning to check your speed and avoid a ticket.
All you need is a Chicago Public Library card and you’re on your way to accessing totally free books and other content through OverDrive. You can virtually “borrow” titles from the library’s digital collection without having to remember to go return anything. It’s even compatible with Kindle e-readers so that you can download books and read them anywhere.
Category: Dog Walking
Any dog owner knows that living in a city can be a challenge with a dog that needs plenty of exercise but can’t run around a backyard. Even that outdoor common patio at your pet-friendly apartment isn’t enough. Rover, the preferred Chicago app for dog walking, takes care of that by sending someone to walk your dog while you’re at work. You’ll even get cute photo updates and live GPS tracking to make sure your dog gets all the exercise he or she needs.
Category: Food and Drink
You’ve ordered from Grubhub, but have you tried Caviar? With more sophisticated gourmet options than you’ll find on other services, this is the Chicago app for true foodies. You’ll find everything from French pastries to hip street food, all delivered to your door within an hour. Just be prepared to pay a premium for quality.
From Movies in the Parks to free dance lessons in Millenium Park, the Chicago Park District hosts more than 1,000 free events per year. At three events a day, it can be hard to keep track of them all. Thankfully, there’s a free app so that you don’t have an excuse to miss any of them.
Category: Food and Drink
Happy hour was banned in Chicago until 2015, but since its legalization, bars haven’t wasted any time coming up with enticing specials. BarPass is your go-to guide for finding the best happy hour deals near you. You might even score a free drink depending on the deal.
If you’re a car owner, this is the Chicago app you need. Parking in the city can be a nightmare, and that’s where SpotHero comes in. Owners of parking spots list their spaces Airbnb-style for you to rent by the hour or month. Some downtown spots are available for as little as $8 per hour, which is a steal when compared to garages that might charge as much as $20 for the same amount of time. Of course, if you have a spot you’re not using, you can always list it to make a bit of extra cash.
Moving to any new city can be a stressful experience, but with these apps, you’ll feel like a local in no time. Just remember to look up from your phone every so often to enjoy the beautiful city around you.