Cicero and, in particular, the Back of the Yards neighborhood was immortalized in "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair. The book described as an area of the city beleaguered by poverty, pollution, and squalor. The area was once the home to the Union Stockyard which may have led to Sinclair calling it the "Meat Packing Capital of the World." When the stockyards closed in the 1950s, the entire area spiraled into decline and crime started to take over. Today, the neighborhood has undergone a complete rebirth and, instead of restaurants serving up a selection of Eastern European dishes, Hispanic food tends to be the norm. There are several parks in the area and restaurants to check out and pet supply stores are nearby.
Summers here are glorious with temperatures hovering in the 80s and days of endless sunshine. Winters can be harsh when the lake effects winds are blowing, driving the temperatures way below freezing for weeks at a time.
The Back of the Yards terrain resembles the butcher's table in that it is perfectly flat with a few small flaws. Thankfully, the majority of the streets do have sidewalks that are broad enough for you to walk along comfortably. The paths have grass strips separating them from the streets. This gives your pup a place to walk on that is cooler than the pavement and provides somewhere to go potty as long as you're prepared with bags to clean up after them.
The northern section of the "Yards" is still mostly industrial and houses a vast rail yard along with some shipping and packing businesses. Most of the residential streets have trees that give a little shade during the summer months. They also help to break up the winds blowing through town in the middle of winter, freezing you to the bone and making your pup miserable.
Thankfully for dog lovers, the "Yards" not only offers grass berms on the street, but a number of vacant lots left from the houses demolished as they fell apart. Keep in mind that even vacant lots have an owner and are not the best place for you to let your pup run around on. But there are several dog-friendly parks within the community for you to enjoy.
The largest of these parks is Sherman Park located in the heart of the residential area. It covers approximately 61 acres and offers a gym, a public swimming pool, and numerous athletic fields. One of the really cool things about Sherman Park is the lagoon running all the way around it. On the island in the middle, there are baseball diamonds and acres of grass for you to exercise on and burn off all those extra calories.
Over on the shore of Lake Michigan, Burnham Park has trails running along the shore for miles.