Yes Chicago, There’s An App For That

You may think you have all the apps a person could need. But wait, Chicago, there’s more. We rounded up a handful of the essential go-to apps every Chicagoan needs – including long-time favorites and a few new kids on the block.

Hey, what’s going on?

Dark Sky – Do you really need to know the weather in Indiana when you’re in Andersonville? We didn’t think so. This hyper-local weather marvel pinpoints the minute-by-minute weather wherever you are. With incredibly accurate alerts including “rain starting in 15 minutes” or “heavy snow starting in 30 minutes”, you can get a jump on taking Fido for a walk or head home before Snowmageddon hits.

My Chi Parks – Not the fastest app in the bunch but MyChi Parks is oh so helpful to find out what’s happening right now in Chicago parks. Watch Star Wars under the stars, Grab the Wicker Mic, check out the Midnight Circus, go Steppin’ Under the Stars or enjoy Shakespeare in the Park.

Next Door – Like a neighbor who always has the low-down, this app lets you know what’s going on, well, next door. Sure there are an inordinate number of lost parakeets, found cats and couches for sale, but you’ll also find useful information and heartwarming reminders that even in a big city, neighbors look each for one another.


Eat, Drink, Be Merry: Never miss a cocktail, meal or deal again

GrubHub – Our hometown hero always delivers. It’s fast, efficient and fun. Quickly re-order from your favorite restaurants, or check out new restaurants to expand your horizons. We love its reliable service, pithy emails and an apparent lack of attention to coupon expiration dates. (You didn’t hear that from us).

OpenTable – Looking for that perfect romantic date night spot? OpenTable lives for that stuff. Get the low-down on restaurants across Chicagoland with reviews by diners on everything from ambiance and noise level to service. Preview new restaurant menus, make reservations anytime and earn points. Now you can even snag your favorite corner table or reserve that highly coveted patio spot.

Peapod — Because groceries and wine aren’t going to carry themselves up three flights, Peapod is essential. Born in Evanston in 1989 when online grocery shopping wasn’t even a thing, Peapod has lots of competition but gets our vote for affordability and quality; its professional herculean delivery crew; and a commitment to innovation, as evidenced by new offerings and its recent headquarters move to Riverside Plaza at the center of the city’s tech universe.

Drizly –Friends stopping by unexpectedly? This app has you covered. Drizly works with local retailers in Chicago (and 70 other cities) to deliver your favorite drinks in under an hour. Drizly also offers a corporate program so you can schedule an office happy hour cart as often as you like. TGIF.

SpotLyte – Because it’s always happy hour somewhere, it’s essential to have an app to find it, right? No more standing around with friends after work trying to answer the quintessential question: “Hey, where should we go?” Now you’ll know.

Bandsintown – True to its name, this concert app will tell you what bands are in town so you never miss a live show. Friends visiting? Hmm, let’s see what bands are in town.

Key Ring – Say goodbye to all of those loyalty cards you’ve been carrying around. Key Ring keeps them all in one place thanks to the beauty of barcode scanning technology. With more than 10 million installs, Key Ring has expanded to a full shopping app with exclusive deals from retailers and CPG companies.

Freevo – Get easy, immediate deals right in your neighborhood. Based on your location, the app pulls up local restaurants and coffee shops offering freebies or deals right now. Sound good? Head over, present your electronic coupon and grab the deal before it’s gone. Easy. At 300 Chicago locations and counting.

Getting Around

Transit – This is your one-stop transit app. Wondering if it would be faster to get an uber, catch the L, take Metra or hop on the bus — right here, right now? Based on crowd-sourced information and real-time tracking, Transit will tell you everything you need to know on one screen – including how many divvy bikes are down the street if you are so inclined. Who needs to open 5 apps to answer one question? Not us. With Transit for Intel and Ventra to pay, you’re good to go.

Via – Sharing is caring, right? Via’s algorithm creates a dynamic, on-demand transportation system, picking up other riders going your way. Offering 24/7 service in downtown Chicago, to O’Hare and Midway airports. Also in New York City and D.C. Use your commuter benefits card to pay for rides in vehicles with six or more seats.

Car2go —Chicago has given the fast-growing car-sharing service the green light for a one-year pilot program. Car2go is like Zipcar without having to return the Mercedes or smart car to its original location; park it anywhere in the approved “home area”. Some areas are excluded due to concerns about congestion and debate over allowing car2go to use neighborhood spots restricted to residents with permits. Will they stay or will they go? TBD.

Painless Parking

Park Chicago– The only thing worse than feeding the meter is not feeding it in time and getting a ticket. No need to run. This app gives keeps track of the time for you, with alerts so you never get a ticket again. If you decide to stay longer, you can extend your time up to two hours from the app. And if you tend to forget where you parked, just check the app.

SpotHero – No more circling around the block desperately searching for parking. SpotHero lets you reserve a parking spot at any of their 5,000-plus partner parking valets, lots and facilities across the U.S. Compare prices before you go, reserve a spot and find the best deals on hourly, daily or monthly parking.

Written by Linda DiJohn
Linda DiJohn is a marketing communications consultant and storyteller with a passion for all things Chicago. She is a former reporter and senior executive with global PR and advertising agencies. She lives in Andersonville with the loves of her life -- husband Tony and rescue pup Cooper.