10 Essential Apps Every Chicagoan Should Have

by Christine Hadley

Do you remember the days when we had to use our landline phones to communicate? Neither do I. Technology continually makes everyday tasks easier, especially in the city. There’s an app for every want/need you could possibly think of. If you don’t have a smartphone by now, you’re definitely missing out. If you moved to Chicago for school or work and you’re still adjusting to city life, this list of 10 essential apps can make a world of difference in your everyday life.

Ventra: As a student or a new resident of Chicago, you probably own a Ventra card. But have you downloaded the Ventra app? How many times have you waited in line at the kiosk to add value or a pass to your card? This is a convenient way to manage your Ventra account. With this app you can add transit value and passes, as well as buy Metra tickets. A bonus feature of the app is that it includes a transit tracker, giving you the arrival time of your choice of public transportation. There are numerous apps out there for the transit tracker portion.

image via Twitter


Google Maps: Most phones come with this, thankfully. Never has it been so easy to navigate from point A to point B. Dealing with Mapquest printed directions is a thing of the past. Google Maps is definitely a lifesaver as a newcomer to the city. After you type in your destination, it gives you the best route via driving, walking and transit. This app can be especially helpful when your destination requires you to take multiple forms of transportation.

image via Google


Park Chicago: Have you ever had to inconveniently leave an event or dinner to add more money to your meter? Never again! With the ParkChicago app, you can extend your time remotely. The app prompts you to create an account, enter your license plate and then you can pay to park anywhere where a ParkChicago sign is posted. Forget standing in the cold to pay at the box….. brrrr.

image via Google


Divvy: When the Chicago weather has hit its peak, there’s nothing better than a bike ride. If you brought your bike to the city, it’s an easy way to commute to & from school and work, and don’t forget, it’s a great form of exercise! If you don’t have a bike, you can rent one from a Divvy station. If you’ve been living in the city for awhile, you probably already know about Divvy. But have you downloaded the Cycle Finder app? Sometimes the challenge can be finding the next station to check your bike into. The app shows the stations on a map and informs you on the number of bikes and docks that are available.

image via We-Cycle


My Chi Parks: This city is full of so many events, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them all. The My Chi Parks app helps you keep track of the numerous, year round arts and cultural events in the parks. Through the app you can search nearby events and then save and/or share them. The app will then send you a reminder and notify you in case of any changes. Never again will you miss Dirty Dancing playing in the park.

image via Google


Uber/Lyft: You’ll thank yourself in the future for downloading these apps! Sometimes it can be a challenge to hail a cab and public transportation might not be conveniently located to your apartment. With a tap of a button you can have a car waiting for you, right outside your front door. You just type your destination into your phone and payment is taken care of through the app. Convenience at your fingertips, it’s amazing! We all have that one friend that conveniently doesn’t have any cash or says they’ll get you next time and they’re called freeloaders. Both apps have a split fare/split payment option, your freeloader friends will just need an account.

image via AndroidCentral


image via Google


Open Table: Attention procrastinators, Valentine’s Day is less than a week away! If you don’t like sleeping on the couch, listen up! The Open Table app makes a last minute, romantic dinner possible. With the app you can discover, reserve and manage restaurant reservations. Some features include restaurant reviews, photos and menus. Food is great way to anyone’s heart! Keep this app handy for any future special occasions. You’ll never run out of options in this city!

image via Google


Festival Finder: Lollapalooza, Chicago Blues Festival, Chicago Pride Festival, Chicago Jazz Festival, Old Town Art Fair, Pitchfork Festival………… and the list goes on. It would be great if there was information on all of these festivals, in one place. Dreams do come true, Chicago Festival Finder gives you festival dates, descriptions, times, costs & directions. You can turn on notifications and the app will send you a notification when any of the festivals in your favorites list are starting.

image via MakeItBetter


Parknav: A vehicle isn’t really a necessity in the city, but some of us are holding on to the luxury/freedom it provides. One of the biggest annoyances about having a vehicle in the city is trying to find parking. The Parknav app maps out your chances of finding metered, free & permit parking. The highest chance of finding parking will be highlighted in green and the lowest chance of finding parking will be red. Hit the roads without stress…… well, traffic is out of our control. But in the words of Effie Trinket………… may the odds be ever in your favor.

image via Google


New to the city? With these apps you’ll seem like a natural. Technology has just made your transition to the city ten times easier. There’s a big city out there, just waiting to be explored. Now let the downloading begin!

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