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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


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?


How often do judges get voted out of office?

Editor's note: This episode has been updated with new statements from Judge Matthew Coghlan. Every election, after breezing through their choices for governor, president, senators, and state reps, Cook County voters face the longest part of the ballot: Circuit Court judges. Though the candidates running for judge may be the most obscure, judges are the elected officials any voter is most likely to encounter and the ones whose decisions can have the most direct impact on their life. Anytime...


The Story Of Chicago’s Polish Constitution Day Parade

For more than a century, Chicago’s Polish community has celebrated Polish unity and identity at the annual Polish Constitution Day Parade. This year, the parade has a new theme and anti-war message. Curious City’s Adriana Cardona-Maguigad tells us the history of the parade and what it has meant to the Polish diaspora in the Chicago area


What Happened To The Crows?

A listener thought she’d noticed a change in Chicago’s crow population. And she was right. Twenty two years ago, the crow population of Illinois was at an all-time high. But just a few years later, half of the birds were dead. The crows were hit by a deadly virus. And it’s one that humans are susceptible to as well. So where was this virus coming from? Reporter Claire Caulfield finds the answer.


The Fight For Disability Rights In Chicago

Sometimes, when Mike Ervin sees other wheelchair users about to board the bus or enter a train station in Chicago, he wants to catch up to them and say, “You’re welcome”. Because 30 years ago, much of the accessibility that people with disabilities encounter in public transportation today — lifts on buses, elevators at train train stations — didn’t exist. There were also no curb ramps, and buses would drive right by people in wheelchairs without stopping. But Mike Ervin, who has used a...


Are Chicagoans True Midwesterners?

Geographically, Chicago is smack in the middle of the Midwest. But not everyone seems to think that’s enough to make us “real” Midwesterners. Is being a Midwesterner about where you are on a map, or about state of mind? We found that people’s answer to this question says a lot about how they view Midwestern identity and the growing urban-rural divide.


What's It Like To Be In A Youth Orchestra?

This season 800 students will be a part of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra’s programs. They’ll come from across the state of Illinois but also from Indiana, Michigan and even Iowa. Nearly every member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra played in a youth orchestra. Producer Jason Marck finds out about the joys and pressures of being an elite youth musician.


Chicago Teens Open Up About Race Stereotypes And Dating

Students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds may go to the same high school, but this doesn’t guarantee they won’t cling to stereotypes about one another. That became painfully clear a few months ago when a student at Chicago’s Lincoln Park High School made a video asking classmates what race they wouldn’t date and why. Most of the answers were offensive, with many kids laughing and talking comfortably about how people of other races smell — all of it right in the school hallways...