Tips + Trends

6 Quirky Chicago Laws You Should Know Before You Go

Going to the opera in Chicago? Leave your French poodle at home. (Photo: Shutterstock/Studio DMM Photography, Designs & Art/ Nejron Photo)

It’s not technically against the law to put ketchup on a hot dog in Chicago, but many here would consider it a criminal act to do so. (For the record, the appropriate toppings for a Chicago-style dog are yellow mustard, chopped white onions, a dill pickle spear, tomato wedges, pickled sport peppers, a smidge of celery salt and a dollop of neon-green sweet pickle relish.)

As you’re putting down the ketchup — no, really, put it down — we recommend digesting the following offbeat Chicago-area rules that are actual laws.

Hot stuff. In Chicago, it’s forbidden to eat while inside a burning building. There are, however, no laws against taking your food to go.

Just put your lips together and… In “To Have and Have Not,” Lauren Bacall was actually explaining to Humphrey Bogart how to whistle — well, among other things. It’s a good thing they weren’t in Cicero, a suburb of Chicago where it’s against the law to put your lips together and hum on public streets on Sunday.

Doghouse. Thinking about heading to the opera while in Chicago? Great idea, since both Lyric Opera of Chicago and Chicago Opera Theater offer stellar performances in equally stellar settings. Just be sure to leave your French poodle at home since it’s against the law to bring a French poodle to the opera. No specifics on whether non-French poodles are doga non grata too.

Fish tale. Everyone knows that the early bird gets the worm. But if you plan on doing any fishing while in Chicago, make sure you change out of your pajamas first. Not doing so is against the law.

Sink or swim. If you find yourself here after Labor Day and the weather is warm enough for a swim in Lake Michigan, congrats! But don’t dive in. Technically, Chicago beaches are closed for swimming until Memorial Day. But, fortunately, there’s nothing illegal about going for a walk on the beach any time of the year.

Get happy (hour). Just don’t expect to do so at a Chicago bar, which forbids two-for-one drinks for solo imbibers (wine bottles and carafes are exempt). Unlimited drinks during a set period of time and reduced-price specials are also illegal (prices must be the same for all customers for the whole day). Cheers!