Gary is a city in Lake County, Indiana.

Gary, still waiting for the good days to return

Founded in 1906 as a company town for U.S. Steel, it once had the nickname "The Magic City". More recently, it has been described by writer Jessica Hopper as "the Pompeii of the Midwest, a city of ruins where life can seem to have just suddenly stopped".


Gary is both famous and infamous. It's the "just one place that can light my face" and "home sweet home" effusively described in the song of the same name from the 1957 musical The Music Man. It's the childhood home of Michael, Tito, Jermaine, and the rest of the Jackson family. It's also home to an unattractive and often industrial-smelling stretch of highway east of Chicago, and has repeatedly ranked first in the nation among large cities for homicides per capita.

When designing the city, the U.S. Steel Corporation bragged that its engineers "took for their guidance the motto that hangs in the office of the big company's chief executive, "It can be done," and made Gary at least an attractive, if not a beautiful, residential town," and posited Gary as evidence that "management has always shown its realization of the fact that "not by bread alone does man live"; that the mere paying of employees a living wage is not sufficient, and that even the least educated worker has an aesthetic sense, even though often uncultivated, that should be developed and pandered to within reasonable limits if the best good of the worker and the employer is to be achieved." As U.S. Steel began to struggle in the late 1960s, the city's economy followed, and it has yet to recover.

Two casinos, legalized in Gary out of sheer desperation, make it a destination for gamblers on short trips and locals on pay-day. Its crumbling architectural heritage also makes it a favorite—and dangerous—destination for urban exploration.

Get in

City hall

By plane

The Gary/Chicago International Airport is located at the northwest corner of the city. Alas, there's no commercial air service at present, but the casinos run occasional charter flights.

By train

By car

Take the Indiana Toll Road from Illinois ($3 from Chicago) or Ohio to exit 14A (Gary West) or exit 17 (Gary East). Exit 17 intersects with Interstate 65 and U.S. Routes 12 & 20.

By bus

Greyhound Buses stop in Gary. Their offices are at 100 W 4th Ave, Ste. 106 in Gary; tel. 219-886-3041.

By boat

Lake Michigan and the Grand Calumet River are nearby.

Get around

There is a limited local bus service. The depot is two blocks west of the baseball stadium, and it's quite easy to walk around the four-five blocks of downtown Gary (including the City Methodist Church ruins). However, while visiting Gary, use of a car is strongly advised, both due to limited transport, and relatively high levels of violent crime, (even downtown, at night).


Modern ruins at the City Methodist Church


Gary was a thriving city in the 1950s and early 60s, and it has the architecture to prove it intact or otherwise.



The Gary "Aquatorium"


There are two casinos along the lakeshore, both of which have plenty of fake-Vegas glitz and few traces of the city outside. One of the two casinos had once been a Trump Casino, and The Donald even brought the Miss USA pageant here, but now both are operated by the Majestic Star, and as before, both are reached from the same parking lot and entrance platform.



The city is not widely renowned as a shopping destination, and with good reason. There's little to buy here that you couldn't buy elsewhere, and most (budget) shops are located in strip malls outside the city center. Gary is, however, perhaps ground zero for Michael Jackson and Jackson Five memorabilia. An easy (and, it must be said, cheesy) spot to pick up the goods is the small indoor marketplace at 487 Broadway, which also boasts a good collection of over the top celebratory Obama tees.


5th Ave near downtown, one of the main streets

Gary is extremely short on sit-down eateries. Take out is much easier to find if you have a carlook in and around the run down strip malls along 5th Ave outside of the city center. Lake St, on the way from the city proper to Marquette Park, has about two blocks that look incongruously charming, and there you'll have no trouble getting a slice of pizza.





There are bars and lounges all over Gary. The trouble is, they're all shuttered, having closed or burned down in years gone by.


You'll probably want to day-trip from Chicago, which is about 45 minutes away; Hammond (about 20 minutes) has some reasonably non-decrepit discount options.

Stay safe

As mentioned above, Gary has repeatedly ranked first in the United States for murder rates per capita, so take care. Due to the economic depression, many businesses close in the evening, so call ahead to confirm that wherever you're going is still open, and don't set out at night without a destination in mind. If you're tempted to do some urban exploration, bear in mind that the poverty of the city means that much more potential danger from people squatting in abandoned properties. Make sure someone knows where you're going, and check in with them as you go.

Stay healthy

Go next

Routes through Gary

END  N  S  Hobart Lafayette
Joliet/Chicago Hammond  W  E  Lake Station South Bend/Michigan City/Bowling Green
Chicago Hammond  W  E  Lake Station South Bend
Chicago East Chicago  W  E  Portage Michigan City
Chicago Hammond  W  E  Portage Michigan City
Chicago East Chicago  NW  SE  Porter South Bend

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