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Chicago

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Travel Guide North America USA Midwestern United States Illinois Chicago

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Introduction

Chicago on a Perfect Day

Chicago on a Perfect Day

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Chicago is the United States' third largest city although still called the Second City, a haven of art, architecture and jazz. It's home to elevated trains, Oprah, a wealth of museums, and wonderful places to eat, drink and be entertained. You can even laze on the beach in summer.

Chicago was originally a small fort on the Chicago River, which was destroyed in a massacre. The city remained a small trading post until the Illinois and Michigan Canal and Galena and Chicago Union Railroad were opened in 1848, after which Chicago grew rapidly. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed most of downtown and the north side of town. After the fire, Chicago changed as skyscrapers started to sprout out of the ground like wild grasses.

Chicago's location on the banks of Lake Michigan ensures steamy hot summers and frigid cold winters, with frequent biting winds giving the city its nickname: The Windy City.

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Neighborhoods

Chicago has over 75 different neighborhoods, which are actually very different. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the neighborhoods of Chicago were very divided and it was like crossing the borders of different countries. You can still get that feeling sometimes, but these days most of the neighborhoods blend together. Over time, neighborhoods have changed drastically, such as Pilson, which used to be an Eastern European neighborhood - it is now one of the main Mexican neighborhoods. Here is a list of the most popular tourist neighborhoods:

  • Lincoln Park is one of the more trendy neighborhoods in the city and home to several famous locations and residents.
  • Oldtown.
  • Wrigleyville.
  • The Loop is an area comprising of downtown and some of the neighborhoods near it.
  • North Michigan Ave and Streeterville is one of the main shopping and entertainment areas in Chicago and has an interesting history.
  • China Town is the center for the Chinese community in Chicago and is home to several great restaurants and shops.
  • Greater Hyde Park Area: Enjoy the Museum of Science and Industry, University of Chicago and many other famous things in this neighborhood.
  • Greater Wicker Park Area includes the neighborhoods of Wicker Park, Bucktown, Ukrainian Village, Humboldt Park and Logan Square.
  • Far North Side includes neighborhoods like Andersonville, Irving Park, Rogers Park, Edgewater and Ravenswood.

Suburbs

The sprawl outside of Chicago can be intense. It seems to go forever, even spilling over into Indiana. Here is a short list of Suburbs and Suburban areas that would interest tourists.

  • Evanston is the town directly north of Chicago and is a very interesting suburb.
  • The North Shore.
  • Oak Park.

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Sights and Activities

Millenium Park

Millenium Park

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Beaches

One of the great activities to be enjoyed during Chicago’s extreme summer is the beach. Chicago offers over 33 beaches with 29 located on Lake Michigan. The beaches in Chicago are a great way to spend a summer’s day escaping from the brutal heat.

Further information: Beaches in Chicago.

Comedy Clubs

Being the home of improv comedy is another Chicago claim to fame. It all started at the University of Chicago with a group of young undergrads in the early 1950s in a bar called Jimmies. Then they moved up north to create the famous Second City Theater. To this day Chicago is still an epicenter for many rising comedy stars.

  • The Second City Chicago Theater is the original and best Second City Theater. Second City has been the launching pad for many very successful comedians including Bill Murray, Chris Fraley, Mike Myers, Dan Aykroyd, Tina Fey and John Belushi, just to name a few. There are now several branches around the world due to the success of the original. There are great shows and improv every night. Remember to buy tickets far in advance because the theater sells out early.
  • Improv Olympic offers great shows and classes. It is usually pretty easy to buy tickets at the door and many of the more successful comedians here eventually go to Second City.

Museums

Leo d'Art

Leo d'Art

© All Rights Reserved zenjenn

The museums in Chicago are some of the best in world. If you are interested in science and fun check out the Museum of Science and Industry on the south side of the city. Wanting a little of the dinosaur or Egyptian pyramid experience? Try the Field Museum of Natural History. If you want to have a great time with fish, dolphins and whales, go to the Shedd Aquarium. Prefer star-gazing to the denizens of the deep? Then a visit to the Adler Planetarium and Museum, which houses the world's first 360º sky theatre, is perfect. In need of some culture or just like medieval armor? The Art Institute of Chicago is an excellent place. If you're a little tired of the old paintings and want something new, take a trip up north Michigan Ave and go to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see what is cool in the current art world. At this point, if your kids or the inner kid inside you needs a little more attention go to the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier for some interactive learning.

There are also plenty of great smaller museums spread across the city such as the DuSauble Museum of African American History, The Oriental Institute of Chicago, The Smart Museum of Art, Robie House and The National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum.

Further information: Museums in Chicago.

Day Tours

There are several different day tours that are great. Most of the tours have different themes and play to different markets. The majority of tours are given by either boat or bus. The bus tours tend to run year round while the boat tours, which are better, run from the spring to the fall.

Further information: Chicago Boat and Bus Day Tours.

Zoos

  • The Brookfield Zoo is located in the west suburbs and is fantastic zoo located on 216 acres. It features a fun and educational Ape habitat and the zoo participates in international preservation and breeding programs for endangered species. The only way to reach the zoo is by car.
  • Lincoln Park Zoo (2001 N. Clark Street) is the original zoo of Chicago, built in 1868. It has grown with the city. Located on the lake in Lincoln Park, the zoo has a very convenient inner city location. The zoo features many fascinating and exotic species along with a high quality Children's Zoo. One of the big perks is that the admission is free.

Music

Chicago is known for having an amazing music scene. From jazz and blues to more modern styles of hip hop and punk there is something for everyone to listen to. Chicago is famous for its blues and jazz legacy and for more information on jazz and blues clubs read the Chicago Jazz and Blues Clubs article. If looking for something more traditional Chicago is also home to the world famous Chicago Symphony Orchestra and less known local orchestras.

  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a world class symphony orchestra located right downtown on North Michigan Avenue and Adams. It is possible to get discount tickets on Friday afternoons and there are student deals.
  • The Metro is an alternative music venue that has everything from rock, punk and hip hop to Brazilian pop. The venue is located near the Addison stop on the Redline.
  • The Double Door is a great small music venue that the Rolling Stones love. Located at 1572 N Milwaukee it is very easy to check out amazing up and coming groups at this venue.

Architecture

Chicago is a dream destination for architecture buffs because the city is the birthplace of the modern skyscraper and home to stunning buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan.

  • Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust is located in the suburb of Oakpark and is a great gateway for any Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiast to explore all his houses scattered around Chicago. For more information on Robie House please read the Museums in Chicago in Chicago article.

Parks

Chicago is home to several amazing city parks. Many of the most famous parks are located right in the loop, including the famous Millennium Park, which has doubled tourism in Chicago since its construction. Chicago is one of the few cities in the world where the entire lake front is park with bike, running and walk trails. For the traveler with more time exploring the parks out in the neighborhoods can be a great way to spend several days. For more information on parks look at the neighborhood articles.

Other Sights and Activities

Chicago, view from Sears Tower

Chicago, view from Sears Tower

© All Rights Reserved JustJ

  • Navy Pier was once an industrial pier and is now one of the most popular tourist sights in Chicago. This long pier juts out into Lake Michigan and is home to several shops, restaurants, bars and an amazing ferris wheel! There are weekly fireworks on Saturday and Wednesday. Navy Pier comes off of the east terminus of Grand.
  • The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, is currently the tallest building in North America. It was also the tallest building in the world until 1998 when the title went to the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Completed in 1973, it has 108 floors and measures 1450 feet (442 metres) from the ground to the roof. The Skydeck is Chicago's highest observatory and was remodeled this last year with two clear glass floor balconies that hang out over the side of the building. Located on the 103rd floor or 1353 feet (412 metres) above street level, it gives visitors an amazing bird's eye view over Chicago. Visibility on a clear day can reach as far as 50 miles (80 kilometres) and one can see Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin just by walking around the Skydeck. The best time to visit the Skydeck is after 5:00pm to avoid the crowds and also for great sunset and twinkling night-scape views.
  • The John Hancock Building is one of the tallest buildings in Chicago and located on the north end of North Michigan Avenue. The observation deck offers great views of the city, some even argue better views than the Willis Tower. If looking to getting around paying the entrance fee to the observation deck it is possible to go to the Signature Room, which is bar on the floor below. The cost of one drink is cheaper than the ticket to the observation deck.
  • Buckingham Fountain is one of the main symbols of Chicago and located in Grant Park. This large fountain was built in 1927 and has more than 1,500,000 U.S. gallons (5,700,000 litres) going in its system. Every hour on the hour the main water cannon at the center of the fountain launches a stream of water vertically 150 feet (46 metres) into the air for 20 minutes. The fountain runs everyday from 8:00am to 11:00pm from mid-April to mid-October depending on the weather.

Outside of Chicago

Baha'i temple in Chicago

Baha'i temple in Chicago

© All Rights Reserved harisub

  • Bahá'í House of Worship is a wonderful temple built as a house of worship for the Bahá'í Faith, which believes that religion has universal similarities and people should follow the beliefs among the prophets and not the religion. It is a place open to any faith to worship so it is possible to see many different prayers happen in the temple at the same time. This temple is one of 8 around, this includes the one in Turkmenistan that was destroyed. Another temple is currently under construction in Chile. The site was bought in 1912 and construction began on the temple in 1921 although no completed ontil 1953. It is 138 feet tall (42 metres) and features an amazing dome. The inside and outside is craved and the architecture is stunning. The temple is located in Wilmette, a suburb north of Chicago at 100 Linden Ave, phone 847-853-2300. Admission is free and the fall is open daily 6:00am to 10:00pm, official website : http://www.bahai.us/bahai-temple
  • Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is run by the USA Park Service and is a nice wilderness and beach area near Chicago in North Eastern Indiana. These large sand dunes drastically enter the lake and can be great fun for the whole family. It is possible to reach the park by rail by taking the South Shore Line from Millennium Station in downtown Chicago.
  • Six Flags Great America & Hurricane Harbor is a pretty large amusement park and water park that is about 50 miles (80 kilometres) from downtown Chicago. There are some amazing roller coasters and the occasional concert during the summer. During the weekends it can get very crowded, but people can rent a fast pass that allows them to skip the lines for extra money. The only way to get to the Six Flags at the present time is by driving. The park is open from 10:00am to 10:00pm all summer long, and during the weekends in May and September. The entrance fee is $54, but there is always deals if you buy tickets from the website. There is also an additional charge for parking.
  • John Dillinger Museum is located in Hammond Indiana a suburb south and east of Chicago. This small museum features many artifacts from John Dillinger and is a good family visit. Admission is only $4 for adults and $2 for children.

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Events and Festivals

Inside the Stadium

Inside the Stadium

© All Rights Reserved Jess_F

  • The Chicago Gospel Music Festival is held yearly during the first weekend of June in Grant Park. It features local as well as international gospel performers over the 3-day event. The festival also includes an art fair and activities for children. Admission is free. Site links and additional information will be posted as they become available.
  • Chicago Blues Festival is held yearly during the second weekend of June in Grant Park. With 6 stages and over 70 performances scheduled, this 4-day event offers the "best of the best" in blues entertainment. Opening night of the 2008 Blues Fest will feature Johnny Winter and James Cotton. The infamous Koko Taylor, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater and Buckwheat Zydeco will also be making their appearances throughout the weekend. Admission is free. Hours are 11:00am - 9:30pm daily.
  • Taste of Chicago is a 10 day event beginning the last week of June and is held in Grant Park. (No, not everything is held in Grant Park, but almost...) "Taste" gives visitors a chance to enjoy a variety of foods and beverages from more than 70 Chicago restaurants and establishments. Cooking demonstrations are held daily at Dominick's Cooking Corner and the family can enjoy a variety of activities at the Family Village and Fun Time Stage. The Taste Stage highlights local bands throughout each day. Every evening there is a free concert on the Taste of Chicago's Main Stage (Petrillo Band Shell) featuring famous performers from around the world. Previous artists have included Sheryl Crow, Train, Los Lonely Boys, Santana and Counting Crows, just to name a few. The evening concerts begin approximately 7:00-8:00pm and 3:00-4:00pm on the weekend. Admission to the festival is free. Food and beverages are purchased with tickets only. Tickets are sold in strips of 12 for $8 and available at booths located throughout Grant Park. Food/beverage prices (in tickets) are posted on each vendor's booth. Hours are 11:00am - 9:00pm daily. July 3rd and 4th hours are 11:00am - 9:30pm Closing day hours are 11:00am - 8:00pm.
  • Independence Day is held on the 4th of July but in Chicago the fireworks in Grant Park are launched on the 3rd. Grant Park fills up that night although the fireworks launched from a barge in the water are stunning. Another good place to watch the fire works is on the Museum Campus by the Field Museum and Shed Aquarium.
  • Windy City Classic is the original name for the game played between the Cubs and White Socks every year on Memorial Day. This has changed since inter-league play has been allowed.

Art Fairs

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Weather

Face Fountain

Face Fountain

© All Rights Reserved zenjenn

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max-1.7 °C0.8 °C7.7 °C14.8 °C21.2 °C26.4 °C28.7 °C27.7 °C23.8 °C17.4 °C9.1 °C1.1 °C
Avg Min-10.6 °C-8.2 °C-1.9 °C3.7 °C8.7 °C14.2 °C17 °C16.4 °C12.2 °C5.7 °C-0.2 °C-7.2 °C
Rainfall38.9 mm34.5 mm68.3 mm92.5 mm84.3 mm96 mm93 mm107.2 mm97 mm61.2 mm74.2 mm62.7 mm
Rain Days7.36.299.58.9887.57.76.67.97.8

On a typical Chicago mid-summer day, humidity is usually moderately high and temperatures ordinarily reach anywhere between 78 °F and 92 °F. Overnight temperatures in summer usually drop to around 65 °F, but can sometimes remain well above 70 °F. Yearly precipitation comes in at an average of about 36 inches (920 mm). Summer in Chicago is prone to thunderstorms, and summer rain arises from short-lived hit-or-miss storms rather than a prolonged rainfalls. In a normal summer, temperatures exceed 90 °F on 24 days. Contrary to what one might think, summer is actually the rainiest season in Chicago.

Winter in Chicago proves variable and fickle, but even in mild winters one will experience bouts of cold weather. The average Chicago winter produces 37.0 inches (94 centimetres) of snow. This number can prove unreliable, as Chicago winters have produced between 9.8 and 87.0 inches (25 centimetres and 221 centimetres respectively) of snow. Snow tends to fall in light accumulations of around 2 inches (5 cm), but about once per year Chicago experiences a storm that can produce 10 to 14 inches (25 centimetres to 35 centimetres) of snow in one day. Unlike across Lake Michigan in western Michigan or in northern Indiana, Chicago rarely gets lake-effect snow because prevailing westerlies that cross the region pick up moisture from Lake Michigan after passing Chicago. Rare northeasterly winds during the winter may deposit the sort of snowfall that one associates with nearby snowbelt cities such as Grand Rapids, Michigan, Kalamazoo, Michigan, and South Bend, Indiana with the more usual westerly winds. Temperatures can vary wildly within the span of one week, but extended periods of temperatures below 32 °F are not uncommon in January and February. The temperature in January averages about 29 °F in the afternoon, and 14 °F at night. Temperatures can be expected to drop below 0 °F on 15 days throughout the winter season. Although rare, temperatures in Chicago even in the middle of winter can surpass 50 °F.

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Getting There

By Plane

1. O'Hare International Airport (ORD) is one of the busiest airports in the world. From O'Hare there are hundreds of flights to just as many cities within the USA and almost all continents. It is located in the far north west corner of the city, about 17 miles (27 kilometres) from the Chicago Loop. It's the 4th busiest airport in the world with around 65 million passengers a year.
There are numerous airlines serving hundreds of cities, both in the USA as well as other countries in North America, the Caribbean, South America, Asia and Europe. Some of the main destinations include New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas, Denver, Tokyo, Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, Mumbai, Dublin, Delhi, Toronto, Vancouver, Seoul, London, Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Zürich, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Mexico City. Nearly all main cities and towns in the USA have direct flights to Chicago O'Hare.

To/from the airport

  • The best way to get to and from O'Hare from downtown is on the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) blue line train station in the airport which runs 24 hours a day. Currently, the fare is $2.50 for a one-way ticket.
  • Alternative transportation is available with Airport Express Shuttle service for $27 (single) one way or $49 for (single) round trip. Group rates for 3 or more persons are available. Shuttles leave O'Hare approximately every 15 minutes and reservations for downtown Chicago are not required. Transportation to a suburban destination does require a reservation.
  • Taxi service to downtown is also available from each terminal. Average cost for one way is approximately $40.00. All taxis in and around Chicago are metered so a delay by rush hour traffic could double the price.
  • Vehicles enter and exit via I-190, which branches off I-90 (the Kennedy Expressway) leading to downtown Chicago. Cars may also access the airport locally from Mannheim Road, the airport's eastern boundary.

Midway international Airport (MDW) is the smaller of the Chicago airports. It is located conveniently near the city centre on the west side of the city. Midway Airport is a hub for many domestic discount airlines, flying to almost any city in the USA and has limited international service.

To/from the airport

  • Rail: The best way to get to and from Midway Airport from downtown is on the CTA orange line train station in the airport, which runs 24 hours a day. CTA fare rate is $2.50 one way.
  • Bus: The Airport Express Shuttle also services Midway Airport. Prices are $22 (single) and $37 (single) for one-way and round-trip, respectively. Again, group rates are available.
  • Car: Taxi service from Midway to downtown is approximately $25 depending on traffic time. There are numerous parking places and rental car facilities available at the airport as well.

By Train

Chicago's Union Station is the national hub for Amtrak passenger rail services. All Amtrak's intercity train routes in the Midwest region originate from or terminate at Chicago, making it the busiest (passenger) rail station in the country.

Amtrak's Midwest Routes: [1].

Union Station is also the hub for the Metra commuter train system which connects the city to towns in six different counties and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Trains run hourly with increased frequency during weekday rush hour periods.

By Car

There are several major expressways that enter Chicago. Because Chicago is located on Lake Michigan if approaching from the east one must drive south around the lake first.

  • I-290 - This expressway approaches Chicago from the west into the city.
  • I-90, I-94 - These two major expressways merge as they enter the city from the north or the south, they also run in and out of the heart of city making it a poor choice of roads if it is rush hour.
  • I-55 - This interstate approaches the city from the south east and terminates into the lake just south of downtown.
  • Historic Route 66 - The beginning and end of the historic Route 66 is near Union Station in downtown Chicago.

By Bus

Greyhound is the only bus company that services the entire United States with additional bus transportation into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico. Greyhound also works in conjunction with the Amtrak rail service, providing transportation to cities where train travel is not available. The Chicago Greyhound Station is open 24 hours a day, including holidays, and located on the city's near South Side. Though the station is not centrally located, access to public transportation is very convenient and taxi service is also readily available. The station was redesigned in 1991, making it a much safer environment for travelers visiting Chicago. The Greyhound bus service operates on a "first come, first served" basis and does not accept reservations. Greyhound Station address: 630 W. Harrison Street, Chicago, Illinois 60607. Station main phone: 312-408-5800. Toll-free ticket sales: 800-231-2222.

Megabus offers more localized bus service. Daily routes connect cities in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin and Ohio with Chicago. Unlike Greyhound, Megabus is by reservation only and offers limited departure schedules. Chicago's stop for all arrivals and departures is located adjacent to Union Station on the east side of S. Canal St., between Jackson Blvd. and Adams St. Phone: 877-462-6342.

Other bus companies with services from Chicago include Indian Trails to Michigan and Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Coach which also has buses to Milwaukee and its airport.

By Boat

Currently there is no ferry service to and from Chicago. If someone wants to come to Chicago by boat that person would need to own a boat and arrange it with a harbor to have a temporary dock. Although very few people do this except during the Race to Mackinac, which is a sailboat race from Chicago to Mackinac Island in Northern Lake Michigan.

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Getting Around

the 'EL'

the 'EL'

© All Rights Reserved Jase007

By Car

It is much easier to drive in Chicago than compared to other USA cities like New York or San Francisco. The city is laid out on a nice grid system with the occasional angle street. All street names have a corresponding number indicating how far north, south, west and sometimes east of city centre that location is. The street North Ave will have next to it 1600 N, meaning 16 blocks north of the city centre. For all north south streets 8 blocks is 1 mile.

On the southern half of the city it is much simpler. All east west streets are numbered while all north south streets have names. Therefore if someone wants to meet you at the corner of 55th Street and Harper it must be on the south side.

All the major car rental companies have offices at both the international airport as well as several locations downtown. These include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

Chicago has a great public transport. It is possible to get anywhere in the city by public transport. There are many trains and buses to choose from. If you want to figure out the best way to get between two addresses the RTA website can be a big help. Just put the two addresses in, then the date, and it will figure out the best way to get between two locations in Chicago on public transportation.

CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) is the main provider of public transportation in the city of Chicago. They operate all the El buses and many of the trains. The El train system is an efficient, air-conditioned way to get around Chicago, though only the Blue Line from O’Hare to the Loop and the Red Line from Howard to 95/Dan Ryan run trains 24 hours.

The best thing to do is to buy a prepaid card at any train stop. This will allow you one ride on any bus for $2.25 or train for $2.50 and then two transfers for 25 cents. There are also several multi-day passes meant for tourists: one day ($5), two days ($9), three days ($12), and seven days ($20). These are available from vending machines found in both airport El stations and at visitor centers, as well as at a few other stations and some hotels and hostels, or you can buy them online.

Here is a list of the major trains and buses:

  • The Red Line is the train line that runs north and south of most of the city. The most popular neighborhoods it has stops at are the Whites Sox's Stadium, China Town, The Loop, Lincoln Park and Wrigley Field.
  • The Blue Line goes all the way from O'Hare Airport to the northwest side, then Downtown, then out to the west side.
  • The Orange Line runs from Midway Airport, in the south west side, to the loop.
  • The Jackson Park Express Bus (Number 6) runs from the loop to Hyde Park where the Museum of Science and Industry is located.
  • The Museum Shuttle Bus (Number 10) runs among all the major museums in Chicago.

Metra has several commuter trains within the city. Because it is a commuter train be sure to check the train schedule. The major downside of Metra is that the different lines are not linked to each other easily.

Pace Bus is a bus service in the suburbs of Chicago.

By Foot

Chicago is a very large city, so walking around the entire city is difficult. However, the downtown area around the Loop and North Michigan Ave can easily be navigated by foot, although if you're in poor health or the weather is bad it might not be that much fun to walk around those areas. As noted, remember that the walk from the Museum Campus to the Museum of Science and Industry is over 8 miles (13 kilometres) and therefore not recommended.

By Bike

Chicago is one of the few cities in the world where over 90% of the lake front is public land. Along that public land are some great parks and beaches. Right behind those beaches and running through the parks are bike, running and inline skating paths. This makes it possible to bike all the way from the far north side to the far south side of the city. All trains allow bikes to be brought on board and so do many buses. For more information check out the website Chicago Bike Program.

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Eat

Sarah and Dave - Ginos East, Chicago

Sarah and Dave - Ginos East, Chicago

© All Rights Reserved davidarow

Dining in Chicago is as diverse as dining in any other metropolitan city. The catch: they like to put the words "Chicago-style" in front of the menu item and it magically becomes their own. Okay, so it's not magical but when it says "Chicago-style", it's the truth. From Chicago-style deep dish pizza to Chicago-style hotdogs to Chicago-style BBQ ribs, there is something for everyone. For information on restaurants look under the neighborhood pages.

Chicago Style Food

Famous Pizzarias:

  • Gino's East is located at 633 N. Wells St. and has many other locations throughout the city in suburbs. (Hint - in Chicago, never expect the cheese to be on top of the pie). Gino's first opened in the late 60s and has remained in the forefront throughout the decades. Reservations are not required but highly recommended as wait time for a table can be up to 2 hours on weekends.
  • Pizzeria Uno is located at 29 E. Ohio Street and is one of the original deep dish pizza places in Chicago. This is the original Pizzeria Uno and can be extremely crowded. Therefore you can walk around the corner to their sister restaurant Pizzeria Due located at 619 N. Wabash.
  • Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. is located at 2121 N. Clark St. in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. Unlike most pizzarias, CPOG serves delicious pizza pot pies and "Oven Grinder" sandwiches. The pizza pot pies are offered as half and one pound orders. (No pizza slices here.) Vegetarian pot pies are also available upon request. The restaurant is located on the lower level of an old brownstone house which may (or may not) have been connected with the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929. Reservations are recommended especially for weekend seating.

Italian Beef is a submarine sandwich which consists of thin slices of beef that has been soaked and cooked in a brown sauce. Usually people only add peppers or asked for the whole sandwich to be dipped into the brown sauce before eating.

  • Al's Italian Beef is one of the most famous Italian Beef restaurants in Chicago. With two locations in the city, one on Taylor and the other on Ontario, this place can give you a dipped sandwich with hot peppers that will make your heart stop.
  • Mr Beef is the main rival to Al's and many would argue a better beef. Located at 666 N Orleans St this place is not open past 5:00pm on weekdays and 3:00pm on weekends.

BBQ and More:

  • Carson's at 612 N. Wells St. has been a staple when it comes to barbequed ribs in Chicago. Their sauce is mild with just a touch of tang and very delicious. Their menu also includes steaks, pork chops, chicken and seafood. Whether you eat in or carry out, Carson's will not disappoint.
  • Hecky's and Hecky's Chicago are two great rib joints in the Chicagoland area. Their sauce is rich, spicy and a super secret. Hecky's offers both baby back and spare ribs depending on one's preference. Other items on the menu include beer-battered fish, fried chicken or shrimp, and assorted sandwiches. Side orders of hush puppies, baked beans, cole slaw and corn bread are also available. Hecky's is located north of the city at 1902 Green Bay Road in the suburb of Evanston, Illinois. A minimal amount of seating is available at this location. Hecky's Chicago is located at 1234 N. Halsted St. in Chicago and offers self-serve dine-in or carry-out options.

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Drink

Chicago has a great nightlife and bar scene, and there is a bar for any kind of person on any kind of budget. Just remember that not every bar has the same liquor license, so some bars have a 2:00am license while other have a 4:00am license. To make it even more complicated all liquor licenses are extended for 1 hour on Saturday night. Therefore a 4:00am bar on a Friday night becomes a 5:00am bar on a Saturday night. To make matters simple all bar hours are given for regular days of the week, but not Saturday. There are more bars in the neighborhood articles.

Loop

The Loop and the near north side is one of the busiest areas of the city during the day time. Although during the weekends and evenings the number of people in that part of the city drops off drastically. The drinking scene in the Loop is primarily the after work crowd and most people soon migrate to one of the other big bar areas of town pretty early in the evening. This might change in the near future because more and more people are starting to live in the West Loop, South Loop and Streeterville area.

North

The majority of the nightlife in Chicago is located in the northern neighborhoods in the city. There are several bars and bar streets in neighborhoods like Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville. These bars tend to be a little more yuppy although there are still many hipster and neighborhood bars in these areas. If looking for the LGBT scene, it tends to be located around the Belmont stop on the Red Line in Boys Town area in Lincoln Park or further north in Andersonville.

  • Spin is a LGBT mixed club located at 800 West Belmont two blocks east of the Belmont Red Line stop.

South

There are many neighborhood bars, watering-holes and jazz clubs scattered across the south side. The only neighborhood that has a small bar scene is in Hyde Park. There are some emerging scenes in Bronzeville, Bridgeport and China Town.

  • Checkerboard Lounge is a Jazz and Blues club that has different styles of music on different nights. The bar is located at 5201 S Harper Ct. and there phone number is 773 684 1472. It is best to call beforehand to see what is playing that night.
  • Woodlawn Tap, also known as Jimmy’s, is located at 1172 East 55th Street. This is the main bar of Hyde Park and the University of Chicago. In the early evening it is primarily a working class/professor bar and slowly morphs into a student bar around 11:00pm at night. Bar food, such as burgers and fries, is served till 12:30am.

West

The west side of the city's nightlife is focused around the Greater Wicker Park Area, which includes many bars for any kind of person. The nightlife starts around the Damen Blue Line stop but extends for a while in all directions.

  • The Map Room is a great bar if looking to try beers from around the country and world. This bar has one of the best beer selections in the entire country. The Map Room is located at Armitage and Hoyne.

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Sleep

Chicago has a wide range of accommodation option, from hostels to 5-star luxury.

  • Budget accommodation price range: Under US$50.
  • Mid-range accommodation price range: US$50 - US$200.
  • Upscale accommodation price range: US$200+.
PropertyAddressTypePhonePopularity
The Drake Hotel140 E. Walton PlaceHotel312-787-2200 or toll free at: 800-553-7253-
Parthenon Hostel310 S. Halsted Street GreyHound Amtrak StationsHOSTEL85
AAE Hostels Chicago675 W Roscoe StHostel-
Arlington House616 West Arlington PlaceHostel773-929-5380 or toll free at: 800-467-8355 (800-HOSTEL5)90
H.I. Chicago24 East Congress ParkwayHostel312-360-030089
Roscoes Lakeview B.T. Hostel673 W Roscoe StHostel-
Chicago O'Hare Garden Hotel8201 w Higgins RdHOTEL-
Days Inn Chicago644 W Diversey PkwyHOTEL89
Regal Motel (O'Hare Airport) - Chicago2448 N. Mannheim RdHotel76
America's Best Value Inn.405 W. Northwest Hwy NW Hwy and Barrington RdHotel-
Four Points by Sheraton Chicago O'Hare Airport10249 W Irving Park Road Schiller ParkHotel-
Travelodge Hotel Downtown65 E. Harrison StHOTEL87
Days Inn Elk Grove Village / Chicago1920 East Higgins Road Higgins & Oakton/I-90 Elk Grove VillageHotel83
DeWitt Place900 N. DeWitt PlaceAPARTMENT-
Super 8 Chicago OHare Airport2951 Touhy Avenue Rt 72 and Elmhurst Road Elk Grove VillageHotel85
Wingate By Wyndham2112 S. Arlington Heights Rd Arlington HeightsHotel-
Comfort Inn O'Hare2175 E. Touhy Ave. Des PlainesHotel-
Quality Inn & Suites - Elk Grove100 Busse Road Elk Grove VillageHotel83
Best Western Naperville Inn1617 N Naperville Road NapervilleHotel-
Super 8 St. Charles1520 E. Main St. CharlesHotel-
Ohio House Motel600 North LaSalle ChicagoHOTEL90
AWA Chicago City Center Hotel600 North LaSalle Street, IL 60654HOTEL88
Motel 6 Chicago O'Hare - Schiller Park9408 West Lawrence Avenue ChicagoHOTEL-
Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza350 West Mart Center DriveHotel-
Springhill Suites Chicago O'Hare8101 West Higgins RoadHOTEL-
Hotel 7171 East Wacker DriveHotel-
Motel 6 Chicago - Elk GroveI-90 West at Elmhurst Road North/Highway 83 Elk Grove VillageHOTEL-
Motel 6 Chicago North - Glenview1535 Milwaukee Avenue I-294 at Willow Road, then south 2 miles GlenviewHOTEL-
Motel 6 Chicago N Central-Arlington Hgt441 West Algonquin Road I-90 at Arlington Heights Road North Arlington HeHOTEL-
Motel 6 Chicago West - Villa Park #126810 W Roosevelt Rd Villa ParkHotel-
Red Roof Inn Chicago162 East Ontario StHotel-
IHSP Chicago Hostel at Damen CTA1616 N. Damen Ave CTA Blue LineHOSTEL90
Chicago Parthenon Hostel310 S HALSTED STHostel88
Urban Holiday Lofts2014 W Wabansia AveHOSTEL89
Oak 112112 West Oak StreetHOSTEL-
AAE Chicago Guest Apartments & RoomsIHSP Office, 2nd floor at 1616 N. DamenAPARTMENT-
O'Hare Inn and Suites4101 Mannheim Rd, Schiller ParkHOTEL89
Fornelli Tower55 E WashingtonAPARTMENT-
Comfort Inn & Suites1555 East Fabyan Parkway GenevaHOTEL-
Wrigley Hostel3514 N Sheffield AveHOSTEL-
Wrigley Hostel3514 North Sheffield AvenueHostel-
Travelodge O'Hare Melrose Park1900 North Mannheim RdHotel-

Luxury Accommodation

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Work

Chicago is one of those cities that always has openings for new jobs. As a center for the Midwest and an international city there is plenty of opportunity for finding work. Just update that resume and create cover letter!

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Learn

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Keep Connected

Internet

Finding an internet bar can be difficult in the city. There are few scattered around downtown but they tend to be down side streets. If you have your own laptop it is easy to find a cafe, bar or restaurant with free wifi in the city.

  • Biznet Internet Cafe is located on 205 E. Ohio and is open Monday to Friday 8:00am to 10:00pm, Saturday 11:00am to 8:00pm and Sunday 12:00pm to 9:00pm. Phone: 312-645-0065.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911.

The inner city area codes are 312 and 773, with 312 mainly covering the loop downtown area and 773 covering the rest of the inner city. 847 and 708 cover the suburban areas. 708 tends to cover the more southern suburbs. While 847 tends to cover the more northern suburbs. The western suburbs are mix of 847 and 708 area codes.

There are still plenty of public phones scattered around the city. Most of them only take change, which means have plenty of quarters and dimes ready. Most pharmacies and grocery stores sell phone cards that have much better rates than paying pay phone rates. Although in recent years the number of pay phones has been going down because of cellphone use.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Quick Facts

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Mayor
Rahm Emanuel (D)
Area Codes
312, 773, 847, 708
Population (City)
2,833,321
Population (Metro)
9,505,747
Time Zone
Central (UTC-6)
Daylight Saving Time
CDT (UTC-5)
Coordinates
  • Latitude: 41.879535
  • Longitude: -87.624333

Contributors

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