Chicago (Listeni/ʃᵻˈkɑːɡoʊ/ or /ʃᵻˈkɔːɡoʊ/) is the third most populous city in the United States. With over 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the state of Illinois and the Midwest. The Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland, has nearly 10 million people and is the third-largest in the U.S. Chicago is the seat of Cook County.[a]
Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837, near a portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed, and grew rapidly in the mid-nineteenth century. The city is an international hub for finance, commerce, industry, technology, telecommunications, and transportation: O'Hare International Airport is the busiest airport in the world when measured by aircraft traffic; the region also has the largest number of U.S. highways and rail road freight. In 2012, Chicago was listed as an alpha global city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, and ranked seventh in the world in the 2014 Global Cities Index. As of 2014, Chicago had the third largest gross metropolitan product in the United States at US$610.5 billion. The Chicago metropolitan area is also home to several universities, including the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.
In 2014, Chicago had 50.2 million international and domestic visitors. Chicago's culture includes the visual arts, novels, film, theater, especially improvisational comedy, and music, particularly jazz, blues, soul, gospel and house music. It also has professional sports teams in each of the major professional leagues. Chicago has many nicknames, the best-known being the Windy City.
Chicago is located in northeastern Illinois on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan. It is the principal city in the Chicago Metropolitan Area, situated in the Midwestern United States and the Great Lakes region. Chicago rests on a continental divide at the site of the Chicago Portage, connecting the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes watersheds. The city lies beside huge freshwater Lake Michigan, and two rivers—the Chicago River in downtown and the Calumet River in the industrial far South Side—flow entirely or partially through Chicago. Chicago's history and economy are closely tied to its proximity to Lake Michigan. While the Chicago River historically handled much of the region's waterborne cargo, today's huge lake freighters use the city's Lake Calumet Harbor on the South Side. The lake also provides another positive effect, moderating Chicago's climate; making waterfront neighborhoods slightly warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
When Chicago was founded in 1833, most of the early building was around the mouth of the Chicago River, as can be seen on a map of the city's original 58 blocks. The overall grade of the city's central, built-up areas, is relatively consistent with the natural flatness of its overall natural geography.
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