Another October, another year of the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs in baseball’s postseason. We don’t know who will advance to the next round of National League Championship Series (NLCS) but we do know that whichever city you visit, you will come out ahead. It is time to decide which is better: New York or Chicago? Native New Yorker Judy Antell, Vegetarian TravelingMom, and Chicagoan Cindy Richards, Empty Nest TravelingMom (who thinks the headline on this post should be Cubs vs. Mets; Chicago vs. New York), debate the merits of each.
New York – We Have Theater!
New York is home to Broadway, where you can see the biggest musicals, probing dramas and raucous comedies. Movie and television stars often do a stint on Broadway, so you can see stars up close, and even get them to sign a Playbill. Quality theater isn’t limited to Broadway, though; there are strong plays off-Broadway, at lower prices, and more intimate shows throughout the city. You can get half price tickets to many Broadway and off-Broadway shows on the day of a performance at one of the three TKTS booths.
Chicago Has Great Theater Too!
Chicago is home to plenty of world class theater. That includes the famed Steppenwolf Theatre Co., which counts among its ensemble members John Malkovich, Gary Cole, Martha Plimpton, Laurie Metcalf, Joan Allen, John Mahoney and co-founder Gary Sinise. In addition, Chicago has the Goodman, regular home of actor Brian Dennehy. And we have jazz and the Blues, appearing nightly at bars around the city, along with some of the world’s best dance theater, and Second City Comedy Club, the proving grounds for comedy greats such as Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert. In Chicago, theater isn’t just for adults. We have plenty of world class theater for kids as well.
Eat Your Way Through New York
Practically every ethnic group has its own enclave in New York, so you can truly dine around the world. There are three thriving Chinatowns, as well as Koreatown, authentic Indian restaurants, old-time Jewish delis, Polish restaurants, steakhouses and high quality vegan and vegetarian restaurants. Farmers markets every day of the week bring fresh local produce to the city and special markets like Eataly and Smorgasburg let you experience a wide variety of food.
Chicago is Second City to None When it Comes to Food
Chicago has an Eataly, a Chinatown, ethnic neighborhoods and incredible food, too. When you’re here, grab an Italian beef sandwich at Al’s Beef (it’s a dive, that’s how you know it’s good), head west to Pilsen for great (and cheap) Mexican, or head a little south for Italian. (Just remember to leave your Cubs attire at home if you head to the South Side. There’s a definite North-South divide when it comes to baseball in Chicago. You’ll be in White Sox land down there and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone cheering for the Cubs. Your Mets attire, however, might get you a free beer at the local tap.)
Chicago even has great food at O’Hare International Airport. And, of course, you can’t leave town without eating a Chicago hot dog and some deep dish Chicago pizza.
New York on the Cheap
New York City hotels may be expensive, but there is so much to do in the city for free. Many museums are always free; others have special free days, or suggested donation. There are free walking tours, free outdoor ice skating in midtown, free seasonal activities and year round adventures like riding the Staten Island Ferry.
Chicago Is Waaaay More Affordable
No way New York beats Chicago on the affordability scale. There are plenty of free things to do in Chicago, including two beautiful conservatories and one of the last free zoos in the country. And, of course. Chicago has the Bean. Don your team attire and head to Millennium Park for a selfie with the Chicago skyline in the background.
New York’s Central Park
New Yorkers consider Central Park their backyard, but it has its appeal for out of owners, too. Rent a bike and ride the car free bicycle paths, go for a run, visit the Central Park zoo and children’s zoo. Head to the Harlem Meer, which offers catch and release fishing, or take in a puppet show at the Swedish Marionette Cottage. In summer, watch the free Shakespeare in the Park (you have to wait on line for tickets) or buy a ticket to a concert at Summerstage. Central Park also has several playgrounds; the unique Ancient Playground features climbing pyramids and a sundial.
Millennium Park is Chicago’s answer to Central Park. It lies along the incredible lakefront on east end of the Loop and is home to a season full of free summer concerts, events and activities, links to the world class Art Institute of Chicago, and has the Crown Fountain for cooling off on hot summer days. Closer to Wrigley Field, you’ll find Lincoln Park, another great lakefront park that is home to the free Lincoln Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Zoo.
New York Museums
The breadth of the offerings in New York’s museums is breathtaking. The Metropolitan Museum of Art boats one of the best collections of art in the world, from Egyptian art to armor to Impressionist paintings. The Museum of Modern Art focuses on modern sculpture, paintings and photography, while the new Whitney specializes in American art. Then there is the American Museum of Natural History, with over 32 million specimens including dinosaurs and a planetarium, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum focusing on the immigrant experience and smaller institutes including The Japan Society, Scandinavia House and The Jewish Museum.
Chicago has a similarly impressive array of world class museums. The sprawling Museum Campus in home to the Field Museum of Natural History, the John G. Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. A few blocks north is the Art Institute with its collection of Impressionist paintings.