Learn the names of the neighborhoods...
More than most other cities I've seen in Indiana, G.I. is known for its distinct neighborhoods. So if you wanna be down, find out what each area is like, and the official name for it:
The far south section of Gary, from the southern border at 53rd, north to IUNW is called Glen Park; GP is one of the neighborhoods whose name is commonly seen on buildings and signs, making it sort of a city within a city. You'll find several fish/chicken/shrimp type restaurants along Broadway, and many people chilling in the area or rolling through, down to Merrillville south of the border.
The far southwest of Gary is known as Black Oaks, although my guy calls it "White Oaks" since it is a poor trailer park area where most of the few White people in the city live.
Also on the further west side heading toward Hammond is the Ivanhoe neighborhood and the area that locals call "Tha Bronx."
Just a mile or so southwest of downtown (short southwest), is Tolleston, the area where Michael Jackson came from.
A mile directly west of downtown is the Ambridge area (near Horace Mann High School), which is kind of seen as the "Old Downtown."
About a half mile to a mile east/southeast of downtown is the Emerson neighborhood or simply the "East Side". This is possibly the most abandoned section of Gary overall, yet the "Emerson School" in the area has a pretty good reputation.
Further East is the neighborhood of Aetna.
Near the far east border of Gary is the neighborhood of Miller, where most of the popular beaches and dunes are located.
G.I. - Gary, Indiana, as in "Live and Die, G.I." or "Shop and Buy, G.I." The latter you'll see on store marquees.
"Where you do stay?" really means "where do you live?"
If you want your food to go, tell 'em to "put shoes on it."
Like the "Occupied Look," facade coverings are meant to distract attention away from the fact that the building it covers is abandon and serving practically no purpose in its current state.
This giant billboard was added when Gary announced it was playing host to the Miss USA pagaent in 2001. It covers the empty Sherdan Hotel.
The "Occupied Look"
No, those aren't real windows. Common in blighted areas, the "Occupied Look" is a strategy designed to pretty up an area thus making it, supposedly, more attractive to investors and retailers. You'll notice on the lower left that one of the cardboard windows is about ready to fall out.
A 1997 fire left gaping holes in Gary's already decrepit downtown, particularly on the east side of Broadway in the 600 and 700 blocks.