Magnificent Michigan #AtoZChallenge

ChicagoAs in years past, this month I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. 2016 marks my fifth anniversary, so to celebrate, I’m hosting Friday Blog-Ins here in San Diego; you can find out more info about where we’re meeting each week on my A to Z Challenge page.

My monthly theme is Chicago From A to Z, so stay tuned from Monday to Saturday for new posts on the Windy City. Or sign up for my mailing list (delivered weekly, on Fridays) so you don’t miss a thing!


If you’ve ever lived in or around Chicago, you already know the importance of Michigan in its myriad forms.

Let’s start with the most obvious: Lake Michigan!

"Juneway Beach Park" image by Flickr user Ann Fisher
“Juneway Beach Park” image by Flickr user Ann Fisher
"Chicago Harbor Light" image by Flickr user Tom Gill
“Chicago Harbor Light” image by Flickr user Tom Gill
"Splash" image by Flickr user Shutter Runner
“Splash” image by Flickr user Shutter Runner
"Chicago, 2014" image by Flickr user Greg Wass
“Chicago, 2014” image by Flickr user Greg Wass

Yep, it’s true: Chicago is the city on the lake (not to be confused with “the mistake on the lake,” i.e. Cleveland, Ohio), and residents are well aware of its looming presence.

Due to the “lake effect,” (helpfully included in Chicago-area weather forecasts, particularly if you follow local meteorologist Tom Skilling) you’ll frequently find temperatures are several degrees cooler the closer you get to Lake Michigan. This can be gratifying in the summer months, and bone-chilling in the winter.

While the city of Chicago has forbidden lakefront development, allowing the adjacent areas to remain open to the public as parks and beaches, 12 million people do live along the lake shore – mostly in the wider Chicagoland and Milwaukee areas – and millions of residents get their drinking water from the lake, too. This can definitely be dangerous when BP is spilling oil there! (And you thought the Flint Water Crisis was bad…)

More Lake Michigan factoids to confound and amaze your friends:

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  • The word “Michigan” is believed to hail from the Ojibwa language, based on the word mishigami meaning “great water.”
  • Lake Michigan is the second-largest of the Great Lakes by volume, but only the third-largest in terms of surface area. How do you like that? It’s also been described as “slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia.”
  • It’s the only Great Lake entirely located within the U.S.; the other four share a border with Canada.
  • Lake Michigan is sometimes called the “Third Coast” of the U.S., because of its many beaches – many featuring “singing sands” that squeak when you walk on them, due to their high quartz content.
  • The lake supposedly even has its own version of the Bermuda Triangle, in which ships and airplanes have gone missing under unusual circumstances; it’s aptly named the “Michigan Triangle.” (Don’t worry; the “triangle zone is closer to Michigan and Wisconsin than Illinois, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally wandering into it.)


Michigan Avenue

In addition to Michigan the Lake, there’s also Michigan the street: Michigan Avenue, aka The Magnificent Mile.

The Magnificent Mile is a 13-block stretch of the avenue that runs from the Chicago River north to Oak Street. It does, indeed, measure almost exactly one mile, so if you’re looking to log some time on ye olde Fitbit, this would be a good place to do it.

Additionally, the Magnificent Mile is so-called because it’s located on Chicago’s Gold Coast – the second most affluent neighborhood in the U.S. (behind Manhattan’s Upper East Side), and where all the fancy-ass shopping takes place downtown.

"Chicago Gold Coast: When the Morning Breaks" image by Flickr user Roman Boed
“Chicago Gold Coast: When the Morning Breaks” image by Flickr user Roman Boed

Coincidentally, Michigan Avenue runs parallel to Lake Michigan. (The only street closer to the lake is the aptly named Lake Shore Drive.) So I think you can probably agree that the people who named this street weren’t feeling particularly adventurous that day. Nevertheless, it does have a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? It’s a far cry from the bland numerical moniker of New York’s Fifth Avenue, anyway…

Additional Resources

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What say you?

Which Michigan moniker gets your motor running?

Giveaway: San Diego from A to Z

Want to read the book I wrote last April, based on my A to Z posts about San Diego? I’m giving away two paperback copies of San Diego From A to Z over at Goodreads, so click here and enter to win! AND I’m giving away one free ebook copy every day until the end of April to a random commenter here on the blog. Leave a comment every day for another chance to win!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

San Diego from A to Z by Laura Roberts

San Diego from A to Z

by Laura Roberts

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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