So you heard that Chicago is a wonderful city to travel to, but you are wondering how safe is downtown Chicago for tourists?
The truth is that Chicago - like most large cities - is has safe areas and less safe areas. Chicago is the third largest city in the United States. It is always important to keep your wits about you while traveling - especially in a large city. The safety of tourists in Chicago can vary depending on the neighborhood and time of day.
However, like any city, Chicago does have neighborhoods with higher crime rates. It's advisable to research the specific areas you plan to visit and take common-sense precautions, such as avoiding poorly lit or deserted areas at night, being cautious with valuables, and using reliable transportation options.
And, in the video below, Andy, a local Chicago tour guide with Free Tours by Foot, provides you with tips on safety in the city.
As local tour guides, we hear from visitors every day, and on just about every tour, someone says, "Chicago is so much safer than the news let on".
You can see this reflected in the testimonials of members in our Chicago Travel Tips Facebook group.
Our group is made up of roughly 20k locals, like our tour guides, expats, regular visitors, as well as newbies to Chicago.
There's no need to become a member to search for and read the posts, comments, and recommendations.
A link to the group can be found at the bottom of this page.
And, we've used our own personal experiences as local tour guides as well as our group members' experiences to craft this guide.
This guide will answer your most common safety questions, offer details on the safest neighborhoods to visit and provide a list of the best tips to stay safe in Chicago while you visit.
- How Dangerous is Chicago?
- Safe Neighborhoods of Chicago
- Is Chicago Safe at Night?
- Are the trains and buses safe to ride?
- Safety Tips While in Chicago
- Emergency Contact Information
How Dangerous is Chicago?
The news is full of stories about violence in the United States, and Chicago often gets highlighted as the most dangerous city for these types of crimes. It’s simply not true.
While violent crime exists in Chicago, it is largely in the far South and West areas of town, in residential places miles away from downtown.
The areas that you visit as a tourist are nowhere near these sections of Chicago.
That is not to say that Chicago is completely crime-free.
Like in any big city, visitors should be mindful of petty theft and scam risks. Follow our tips below to stay safe against these potential crimes.
Which Areas of Chicago Are Safe?
When deciding what neighborhoods to visit during your trip, we recommend starting with these.
There are, of course, others to enjoy. This is the list of the safest, most frequently visited neighborhoods for tourists.
Downtown Chicago, the Loop and Millennium Park areas, is very safe for tourists.
Generally, downtown Chicago and popular tourist areas such as the Magnificent Mile, Millennium Park, and the Loop are relatively safe for tourists. These areas are often well-lit and well-patrolled by law enforcement, and there are plenty of tourists and locals around.
Visitors should feel quite safe in this neighborhood, especially during the daytime.
Enjoy shopping on State Street, explore the historical Financial District on LaSalle and Jackson, and indulge in the Art Institute and Millennium Park on Michigan Avenue.
The Loop is a vibrant theatre district at night, with a few late-night bars and restaurants.
Otherwise, it is pretty quiet after the sun goes down, and travelers should head North to enjoy a more active nightlife scene.
Want a guided tour in the safety of a group? Take a walking tour of the Loop and Millennium Park neighborhood of Chicago.
River North & Magnificent Mile
River North is a heavy tourist area, day and night, and has plenty of police officers on every block.
While it is a safe area overall, with so much activity from the local bars, restaurants, shops, and hotels, visitors should keep our below safety tips in mind to blend in and watch out for scam artists or pickpockets in this area.
Our best advice is to ignore or say, “no, thank you,” to anyone who tries to stop you or steps in your path, and keep moving.
Navy Pier is a thriving, fun tourist area with plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy day and night (check out our traveler's guide to Navy Pier).
While visitors should be mindful of their belongings at all times, this is not a dangerous area.
Ride the Ferris wheel, shop for souvenirs, indulge in local treats, and see fireworks on Wednesdays and Saturday nights during the summer.
Remember, if you see something, say something to the local staff or nearby security guard or police officer.
The West Loop is an upscale restaurant district, with many locals and tourists enjoying lunch and dinner.
Overall this area is very safe. Public transportation does not go to the West Loop, so be careful walking across the bridges from the Loop or River North to get here.
Opt to take a rideshare car or taxi if you feel uncomfortable.
Lincoln Park & Old Town
Lincoln Park is a perfectly safe residential area where visitors can get a taste of local culture without straying from downtown.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is free and a great activity for families and anyone who enjoys nature walks.
Access to the North Avenue beach and several delicious restaurants make this a great area for all to safely enjoy.
Learn more about the history of this neighborhood when you take our pay-what-you-like Lincoln Park and Gangster Walking Tour.
Wicker Park is a great neighborhood for tourists to visit and experience local culture, with vintage shopping during the day, and a chill bar scene at night.
It’s a bit further from the downtown area, so we recommend this only for folks who don’t mind feeling like the only non-local at the bar. Otherwise, this area is very safe.
Like River North, be sure to blend in and follow our safety tips if you’re enjoying the nightlife.
Home of the Cubs’ Wrigley Stadium, Wrigleyville is a popular and crowded neighborhood when baseball is in season.
Heavy drinking, nightlife, and big crowds make this an exciting neighborhood, and one to be careful in.
Keep your belongings tightly monitored, and stay alert at all times to avoid overly friendly locals or pickpockets.
Watch out for intoxicated people, and monitor your own alcohol consumption. Otherwise, enjoy the game! GO CUBS!
Is Chicago Safe at Night?
Like anywhere, nighttime is more dangerous than daytime in Chicago.
When the sun goes down, it's time to be extra mindful and cautious about where you travel and how you behave.
That is not to say that Chicago becomes an active crime land at night, it doesn’t, but rather that the possibility of crime can increase.
If you are going out to enjoy the nightlife, or visiting bars or clubs, take only what you need and keep a close eye on your belongings and your drinks.
Travel with someone else whenever possible.
If you’re walking, stay in well-lit areas. Use Google Maps for navigating popular, safe routes.
Avoid alleyways or empty lots or spaces.
If you’re taking the train, ride in a train car with several other people, and change cars if you feel unsafe for any reason.
Remember, if something feels off, it is! Don’t wait for something bad to happen. Move if you are feeling uncomfortable.
You can walk into a hotel, restaurant, or any well-populated establishment to get away from unwanted attention or call for that rideshare or cab to get you somewhere safe.
Remember that safety can vary for individuals based on their personal experiences and comfort levels. It's always a good idea to stay vigilant, be aware of your surroundings, and take precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.
Are the Chicago Trains and Buses Safe to Ride?
It is easy to navigate public transportation in Chicago. Check out our blog dedicated to getting around the Windy City like a local here!
Trains and buses are an affordable, fast way to see more of the city, and we highly recommend riding them with safety in mind.
You can safely take the Blue Line from O'Hare Airport or the Orange Line from Midway Airport to your downtown hotel, any time day or night.
During the day, public transportation, which includes buses, the metro commuter train, and the L (like the subway or tube) will be more populated and are, therefore, generally safer feeling.
While it may be tempting to take that empty train car, it’s safer to ride with others should an unlikely incident occur.
At night, you may see a higher population of people sleeping or drinking on the trains. Avoid these cars when you can, and make sure you are in a train car with other people. Late at night - it is best to ride in the train car that at the very front so that you are close to the conductor.
Busses tend to be safe anytime since you are in plain view of the driver at all times.
Tips to Stay Safe While Visiting Chicago
- Stay Alert. Always be mindful of who is around you and use all your senses. Do not wear earbuds that cancel out the noise around you, or wear a hood that blocks your peripheral vision. When enjoying our fabulous nightlife, moderate your alcohol or drug consumption so that you can stay aware of potential threats.
- Travel with others when you can. Walking with a friend or group is always a good idea. If you are traveling solo, consider exploring Chicago on a group tour. Our guided walking tours can give excellent recommendations for the safest, best experiences in town.
- Take a Rideshare or Taxi at Night Sometimes it is worth the peace of mind to spend money on a safe ride home. If you are downtown, ask a friendly hotel concierge to assist you in hailing a cab, or order a rideshare from anywhere in the city.
- Keep Your Bags and Valuables Secure This means bags zipped, snapped, and across your shoulder. Avoid putting your wallet in any pocket where it can be seen and stolen. While dressing up can be fun when you are on vacation, avoid becoming a target. Secure your valuables in your hotel safe, and carry only what you need for the day on your person.
- Stay in Popular Areas See Which Areas of Chicago are Safe for the most popular neighborhoods for tourists to enjoy.
- Look Like You Belong It is common knowledge that scammers and pickpockets in any city look for tourists to target. Blending in can be a great way to avoid unwanted attention. Be aware of your surroundings and avoid panicking if you get lost or confused. Even locals check their phones for maps or information, so there is no shame in you calmly doing the same thing.
Emergency Contact Information in Chicago
- Emergency Services (Police, Fire, Medical):
- Emergency: 911
- Non-Emergency Police:
- Chicago Police Department: 311 (within Chicago) or 312-746-6000 (outside Chicago)
- Medical Emergency Services:
- Chicago Fire Department: 311 (within Chicago) or 312-746-6000 (outside Chicago)
- Poison Control Center:
- Illinois Poison Center: 1-800-222-1222
Remember, if you stay alert and mindful of potential danger, you are unlikely to run into any problems while visiting Chicago.
If you found this post helpful, here are a few other resources to check out:
- Best Time of Year to Visit Chicago
- Chicago CityPass vs. Go City Chicago Passes
- Observation Decks: Willis Tower vs. 360 Chicago