Growing up in the heart of the Midwest – Nebraska – it wasn’t uncommon to hop on a plane or in the car and drive to Chicago for the weekend. So when I was looking for a nursing job, it’s no surprise that I ended up in Chicago – one of my favorite cities in the world.
If you’re looking to take a travel nurse job in Chicago – you’re in luck! There’s so much to see and do in the Windy City that you’ll be entertained for far longer than 13-weeks.
Everything You Need to Know About Being a Travel Nurse in Chicago
Best Time to Be a Travel Nurse in Chicago
Chicago experiences all four seasons, and it’s no secret that during the winter months (November-March) the weather is frigid with winds blowing off of Lake Michigan leaving you feeling chilled to the bone. But with an awful winter comes an incredible summer.
If possible, I highly recommend taking an assignment in Chicago in the summer months to the fall months, July-October. This is when the city comes alive with Cubs games, outdoor patios, and festivals throughout the summer months.
Where to Live in Chicago
RESOURCES/NEIGHBORHOODS TO LIVE IN
Chicago is the third largest city in America, meaning there are plenty of places to live! In fact, there are 200 recognized neighborhoods scattered throughout the city of Chicago. I highly recommend choosing your living arrangements based on what hospital you’re working at, or whether or not you can easily get to work on one of the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) lines. My favorite neighborhoods in Chicago are Lincoln, Park, Gold Coast, West Loop, Lakeview, and River North.
When choosing where to live, the cost may play a big factor. Chicago is pretty expensive, so if you’re taking an assignment and want to save some money, you may choose to live outside of Chicago and commute in. If you choose to do this keep in mind that the city can get congested so commuting to and from work may take a while.
In the past few years, tons of short-term housing accommodations have popped up in the US. For a comprehensive list of housing resources, make sure to read The Best Housing Options for Travel Nurses.
My experience: I lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago’s Gold Coast, walking distance from Lurie Children’s Hospital and Northwestern. While it was expensive, I valued living alone, loved the location, and thought that the price was worth it.
COST OF LIVING IN CHICAGO
Chicago can be quite expensive, with the average price of a one-bedroom apartment costing around $2,000/month (for a one-year lease). To offset the high prices, you can always choose to live with roommates or live outside of the city and commute in.
Aside from rent, overall, the city is also quite expensive. Eating out can be expensive, drinks can be expensive, and other activities are also expensive. But remember, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to live in different places as a travel nurse, I highly recommend taking advantage of it.
Travel Nurse Guide to Transportation in Chicago
To live in Chicago, you definitely don’t need a car considering how well the city is connected by the train (CTA). Plus, parking can be expensive and hectic so you certainly don’t need a car to live in Chicago unless you have a long commute or you’re planning to escape the city often.
My experience: I did not bring a car to Chicago. Instead, I walked or utilized ridesharing. Times when I wanted to escape the city I booked a rental car on Kayak.
CTA (Chicago Transit Authority)
Chicago is well connected by train, or the CTA as its referred to. The CTA goes all over Chicago and surrounding suburbs and costs as little as $2.50 per ride. You can pay for a ticket each time that you use the CTA or you can purchase a Ventra card from a number of convenience stores like Walgreens and CVS and pre-load money onto your card online.
You can find everything you need to know about using CTA here.
There are two airports in Chicago – O’Hare and Midway. O’Hare is Chicago’s international airport located 18-miles northwest of the city. To get from O’Hare to the city you can take a taxi, ride share, or the cheapest option would be the CTA blue line.
Chicago Midway is located 11-miles southwest of the city. To get from Midway to the city you can take a taxi, ride share, or the cheapest option would be the CTA orange line.
Ridesharing in the city is quite popular. Both Uber and Lyft operate in Chicago and can be requested at all hours of the day/night. The taxis in Chicago use the app Curb, which is generally cheaper than both Lyft and Uber, but at times less available. I suggest downloading all three apps before arriving to the city.
Hospitals in Chicago/Licensing in Illinois
There are so many hospitals to work at in Chicago. There’s Lurie Children’s Hospital, Northwestern, Rush, UChicago Medicine, and more. Since COVID, the hospitals in Chicago have become much more traveler-friendly. If you want to work in Chicago, but you don’t have your Illinois nursing license yet – plan to get it soon. Licensing in Illinois can oftentimes take a couple of months so you’ll want to plan well in advance if your dream is to head to head to the Windy City. (Oh and don’t forget to save those receipts so that your company can reimburse you for your license).
Apply for your Illinois license here.
Prioritizing Your 13+ Week Stay – What Should You Do?
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Art Institute of Chicago – The Art Institute of Chicago is most notably famous for housing the most impressionist and post-impressionist artwork outside of the Lourve. This museum has been around since 1879, making it one of the oldest (and largest) art museums in the world with over 300,000 pieces of art. For hours of operation and purchasing tickets ahead of time, click here.
Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise – By far, one of the coolest and most unique ways to see Chicago is on water. For more than 25 years the city has been running architecture cruises on the Chicago River, showcasing over 50 unique buildings and skyscrapers, explaining how Chicago became one of the largest cities in America in less than 100 years. The cruise takes you along different branches of the Chicago River and generally lasts about 1.5 hours.
Chicago History Museum – One of my favorite things to do in a city I’m living in is to learn about tits history. Luckily, the Chicago History Museum is one of the best museums in Chicago, where you’ll be able to learn about the city’s roots and uprising with displays on Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr, and historical events like the great Chicago fire. You’ll also see some of the great things that have come out of the city (like Plan B), and get to understand what makes Chicago so unique and stand out amongst other American cities.
Christkindlmarkt – Christkindlmarkt is Chicago’s annual Christmas market since 1996, opening before Thanksgiving and closing around New Years. The market is modeled after German Christmas markets and it’s a festive way to celebrate the holidays with gluwhein, lights, delicious food, and Christmas cheer.
For a complete guide to Christkindlmarkt, don’t miss: Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Christkindlmarkt – Chicago’s Annual Christmas Market
Weekend Trip to Traverse City, Michigan – Traverse City, Michigan is located about 5 hours (by car) northeast of Chicago. It’s a beautiful, serene, small town with wineries, lighthouses, and incredible restaurants. The best part is, it’s easy to get to and it’s the perfect escape if you want to leave the city for some peace and quiet. For a more detailed guide to Traverse City, don’t miss: From Chicago – The Best Weekend Trip to Traverse City, Michigan.
RESTAURANTS IN CHICAGO
Alla Vita – Sometimes it can feel nearly impossible to get into some of Chicago’s premier restaurants, and Alla Vita is one of those restaurants. Serving some of the best Italian food in Chicago (their wood-fired table bread is divine) Alla Vita has it all – unique decor, incredible food, a lively atmosphere. It’s created such high demand that people wait for months to get in and even then, the reservations aren’t always ideal having you dine early in the evening or at closing time. But if you’re lucky enough to get a coveted table at Alla Vita, I say you take it no matter what.
Duck Duck Goat – Created by the famous chef Stephanie Izard, Duck Duck Goat has to be one of my all time favorite restaurants in Chicago. The restaurant has an incredible homey feeling, while also being unique, vibrant, and fun. Not to mention, the food is absolutely incredible. Chef Izard has three other restaurants in Chicago, Cabra, Little Goat Diner, and Girl and the Goat.
Gilt Bar – Gilt Bar is one of those restaurants that transform the world around you and takes you back to a later time. It has such an “old school” feel to it with plush chairs, ornate decor, upholstered walls, marble floors, and timbered ceilings, all contributing to a moody and elegant feeling.
There is also a speakeasy in the basement called “The Library”, open Thursday-Saturday, reservations not accepted.
Rose Mary – Similar to Alla Vita, Rose Mary is another one of those Chicago restaurants where you need to book reservations months in advance to be able to get a table. Rose Mary was opened by award-winning Top Chef Joe Flamm. The restaurant is named after his wife’s grandma and his grandma – Rose and Mary. One has an Italian background and the other has a Croatian background which is how the concept for an Italian Croatian restaurant came to be.
If you’re lucky enough to snag a table at Rose Mary, don’t miss out on the stracciatella.
For a complete guide to dining in Chicago, don’t miss: The Best Restaurants in Chicago
BARS IN CHICAGO
All Together Now – All Together Now is my favorite wine bar in Chicago. Located in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village, I suggest grabbing a bottle of wine and some bites to share with friends, and sit down and take your time. The decor is timeless and the vibe is impeccable. It’s the perfect place to go for day drinking or a bottle of wine before dinner.
Sparrow – Sparrow is one of my all time favorite cocktail bars in the city. Not only is it the perfect date spot, but it’s also the perfect spot to cozy up in when the weather gets cold and you need a warm escape. The building has been around since 1927 so it has an old, rustic, speakeasy like feel to it. Sparrow specializes in rum drinks and craft beers.
Three Dots and a Dash – A fun and lively tiki bar, Three Dots and a Dash is a must see if you’re visiting Chicago. The tiki drinks are strong, the decor is on point, and the atmosphere is next level. There are over 200 different types of rum in this Polynesian-island type setting.
For a complete guide to Chicago’s bar scene, don’t miss: The Best Bars in Chicago
Although you could never see and experience the entirety of Chicago in just 13-weeks, I hope that this guide helps you explore the best that Chicago offers in a short period. Travel nursing in Chicago is an incredible opportunity and I hope that if you’re reading this, you plan to take full advantage of the city.
If you’re looking for other ideas of where to be a travel nurse, check out these posts: