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Chicago: The Budget Traveler's Jewel of the Midwest
When it comes to traveling on a budget, the first thing you need in a city is a good cheap place to stay. Thankfully, amongst hostels in Chicago, there's one truly outstanding candidate that really allows you to get the most of the city.

Hostelling International Chicago is a fresh, inviting hostel with friendly, incredibly helpful staff. But what really makes the place stand out is its fantastic location – on the South End of the Loop, with the sprawling Grant Park and a range of great restaurants and bars nearby.

Along with New York and San Francisco, Chicago is one of the essential backpacking destinations in the United States. From blues shows to unique (and enticing!) cuisine to some of the most impressive architecture around, Chicago is undoubtedly one of the world's cultural hubs.

Even though Chicago is certainly a top-flight cultural center, this doesn't mean that there isn't plenty to keep the budget traveler occupied. In fact, the three things Chicago is known best for – entertainment, food, and architecture – are highly affordable.

Fantastically affordable eating and drinking

Chicago regularly tops polls for both gourmet and inexpensive eats. For those unable to dig too deep into their wallets, not to worry, Chicago's signature dishes should be very much within your means.

On practically every street corner, big, beefy hot dogs served in a steamed sesame bun, won't cost you a great deal. Just be sure not to order ketchup – some places refuse to even stock it!

Not the hot dog type? Another popular and cheap street delicacy is the Italian beef sandwich loaded with succulent gravy. Chicago's also famous for its legendary deep-dish pizza, with gooey layers of mozzarella, chunky tomatoes, and meat toppings, for a surprisingly cheap price. Giordano's, at the Argyle El Train stop, is generally regarded as the best for the money.

Aside from a plethora of bars in just about every district, Chicago is also known for its microbreweries. Check out the famous Goose Island Brewery at the North/Clyborn stop on the Red Line. They have 13 different beers on tap during any given season, including the hearty Old Abernation Barley Wine, checking in at a hearty 8.8% ABV. At $5 for a tour and tasting session, it's a must-do in Chicago.

A Culturally vibrant city

If you're seeking high-quality entertainment, the Windy City has two different baseball teams playing throughout the summer, and outstanding theater companies. But if sports and traditional theater aren't your thing, take the #22 bus over to Old Town and see Chicago's premier improv comedy group The Second City.

The troupe performs nightly, acting out a series of loosely-written sketches, which rely heavily on razor-sharp improvisation. Former alumni include John Belushi, Steve Carell, and SNL head-writer Tina Fey. One of the best shows in the city, and a bargain at around $15 per ticket.

Rich musical heritage

Another big form of entertainment in Chicago is music. Walk into any dive bar at night and you'll probably discover some top-notch jazz or blues from some of the best players in the business. A member of staff at HI Chicago recommended the Green Mill Tavern, a former speakeasy in the Prohibition-era 1920s. It's a great place to take in some late-night jazz. Music is a huge part of the culture of Chicago and you'd be remiss not to seek some out.

On a day when you don't want to spend any money at all, but are still looking to be impressed, take a stroll down the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue. This prestigious strip includes some of the world's best (and most expensive) restaurants, and luxury boutiques.

Another feature of this astounding avenue is that it contains some of the world's tallest buildings, including the mammoth John Hancock Center and Wrigley Building. The Magnificent Mile is an impressive symbol of American wealth and might and perfectly encapsulates all Chicago has to offer.
About the Author
Ben Cooper is a freelance writer working for HostelBookers.com. As a big music and standup fan, Chicago hostels help him keep the costs of his trips down.
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