Dec 20, 2023 - News

The 2023 Axios Chicago awards

Illustration of a Chicago flag-style star changing into a heart.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

We're sticking with tradition and marking the year's end by handing out hardware for the best stories of 2023. Let the ceremonies begin!

Most eager for holiday vacation: Mayor Brandon Johnson.

  • After a grueling campaign and runoff election, Johnson has faced big obstacles at the start of his term, and his fatigue has been showing at recent press conferences.
  • You could write a new Billy Joel song with all that Johnson has endured in his first six months: Migrant crisis, teen trends, Ramirez-Rosa in the way, what else do we have to say?

Biggest washout: NASCAR Chicago Street Race.

  • Downpours during the inaugural race led to canceled concerts and shortened races, leaving fans drenched but Loop restaurants and bars happy to welcome the soggy clientele.
  • Those same heavy rains, and more in the weeks that followed, left some homes, especially on Chicago's West Side, with thousands of dollars of damage.

Biggest tourist draw: Swifties like to think their savior single-handedly brought tourism back with her Soldier Field run in early June. But it was a group effort.

  • The weekend coincided with the return of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to McCormick Place. That conference, which had over 40,000 attendees, and the annual James Beard Awards are the unsung heroes as many rush to crown Swift the queen of Chicago tourism.

Biggest gamble: The new Bally's Casino in River North. Chicago's first casino opened in the temporary location after much fanfare. But pricey minimums and expensive amenities led to the casino posting flat numbers last month.

Biggest streaming star: Chicago restaurants. Season 2 of "The Bear" was a huge hit, and it gave screen time to restaurants such as Kasama and Ever and even speaking roles for restaurateurs like Donnie Madia.

Best sports drama: The White Sox. No team was as dramatic in 2023. The Sox's terrible on-field play led to one of the worst seasons in franchise history, but a mystery shooting at Guaranteed Rate Field sealed the deal. This was a season to forget.

Biggest mystery: Who painted over the Juice WRLD mural? Music lovers came from all over the world to visit the site near Fulton Market. That is, until this spring when it was destroyed overnight.

  • To this day, nobody has claimed responsibility. The city, the local alderperson and Amtrak (who owned the viaduct) have all said they didn't do it. But the story is not over.

Weirdest statue: It never gets old.

Photo of a statue
Harry, look out! There's a creepy face climbing up your thigh. Photo: Justin Kaufmann/Axios
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