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Curious City

Chicago Public Media

Ask questions, vote and discover answers about Chicago, the region and its people. From WBEZ.

Ask questions, vote and discover answers about Chicago, the region and its people. From WBEZ.


Chicago, IL


Ask questions, vote and discover answers about Chicago, the region and its people. From WBEZ.




848 East Grand Ave Navy Pier Chicago, Illinois 60611 888-789-7752


How So Many Chicago Bars Got Old Style Signs

You’ve likely seen these signs hanging outside bars in Chicago. Pale yellow, almost white with the red-white-and-blue Old Style logo in thebig top square with a bottom partition that reads “Bottles and Cans,” “Cold Beer,” “Cerveza Fria” or even “Package Liquor”. Well there’s a reason so many of those signs still light up Chicago bars. Reporter John Fecile uncovers this mystery in this week’s episode.


Illinois is abuzz with bees, but their future is uncertain

A listener noticed her garden didn’t seem to have as many bees as usual buzzing about this summer. She wondered if the population in Illinois was on the decline. Curious City reporter Adriana Cardona- Maguigad finds out how the bees are doing and why experts are worried about the bees.


Chicago teens went to dance and find connection at Medusa’s

Medusa’s was “like a community center for weirdos and freaks and everybody else in between,” say some Chicagoans who went there as teens in the 1980s and ’90s. In this week’s episode Axios Chicago reporter Monica Eng finds out how the club got started, what it was like to hang out there and why, despite its popularity, it closed its doors in 1992.


Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain and Why the City’s Got So Many Alleys

Growing up, one listener heard tales about how an engineer was hidden inside Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain in order to make sure the water spouts out each day. This week we go inside the innards of the fountain to see how it works and learn the history behind it. Plus, we get the answer to the question: Why does Chicago have so many alleys?


The Underground Railroad in Chicago and Illinois

Abolitionists in Chicago and Illinois helped freedom seekers reach Canada, and freedom.


What happened to Chicago's Japanese community?

Lakeview once had a thriving Japanese community, but it fell victim to a push for assimilation. As one Japanese-American puts it: “You had to basically be unseen.”


What happened to Chicago's Japanese neighborhood?

Lakeview once had a thriving Japanese community, but it fell victim to a push for assimilation. As one Japanese-American puts it: “You had to basically be unseen.”


Birdwatching Off The Beaten Path In Chicago

Tips and tricks for spotting and enjoying birds in Chicago, from far flung marshes, to one birder’s window.


How to Start a Community Garden in Chicago

Find out how the folks behind El Paseo Community Garden in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood changed a contaminated site into a space for neighbors to grow plants, keep bees, meditate, and congregate.


Chicago in 1910, and the City’s Long Rivalry with New York

A tourist to Chicago in 1910 might have gone to see hogs being butchered, sought illicit pleasure in Chicago’s vice district, or simply enjoyed the majesty of Lake Michigan. We virtually explore those sites, and then trace the long history of Chicago’s rivalry with New York City.


Florence Price and the Chicago Black Renaissance

As a classical composer and a Black woman, Florence Price blended African and European music into a new style of symphonic music.


Four Dances Invented in Chicago and One Traditional Dance Chicagoans Keep Alive

We track down the band members, musicians and dancers who popularized dances in Chicago, and meet the people who keep La Danza Azteca alive in Pilsen.


How the “Red Summer” of 1919 led to a more segregated Chicago

Curious City takes a deep dive into how Chicago’s powerful white institutions – from the police and the politicians to the banks and the realtors – used the 1919 race riots to cement a more segregated city.


Traveling Parties: A Queer Chicago Culture of Partying as Resistance

The history of traveling queer parties in Chicago is rooted in exclusion and racism. This week, we spoke with Pat McCombs and Vera Washington — longtime organizers of Executive Sweet, a traveling party focused on Black lesbians that got its start in the 1980s. We also talked with Tori and Jae Rice of smallWORLD Collective, a group that organizes events today — and learned how queer Black organizers have been at the forefront of traveling parties in Chicago.


Are there guardian angels at the Chicago Public Library?

Thinking about the next book you want to read? Librarians are way ahead of you. Find out how new books make their way in the Chicago Public Library system, and meet some of the librarians who make it happen.


Nicky's And The Big Baby: A South Side Burger Mystery

Dozens of unconnected fast food joins serve up the same popular Chicago cheeseburger under the same name.


The Hard Work of Collecting Scrap Metal for a Living

Chicago's scrap metal industry relies on small scale collectors, called scrappers, who scout for metal castoffs to sell and recycle.


The Story Behind “Go Cubs Go” And The Man Who Wrote It

Folk singer Steve Goodman grew up going to Cubs games in Chicago, and this diehard fan had a lifelong goal—to write a hit song about baseball. This week we revisit his story.


Putting on a Chicago race requires fees, permits and patience

Each year tens of thousands of people take part in 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons and all kinds of walking and running events in Chicago. But how does one get permission? And what’s it like to navigate the process and work with the various city departments to put on an event like this? Curious City talked to one race director who organizes ultramarathons to find out. And of course, as you might imagine, there’s just a little bit of bureaucracy involved.


Signs of Spring: From Screechy Recorders To Sprouting Weeds

Two sure signs of spring in the Chicago area are end-of-year band concerts at schools, and plants beginning to grow. This week we revisit a couple of stories from the archives on that theme. First, tenacious weeds like buckthorn, milkweed and goldenrod grow everywhere in Chicago from railroad tracks to sidewalk cracks. We find out how they survive city life. Plus reporter Monica Eng gets an answer to the question: why do so many kids learn to play the recorder in school?