Ok...we've all done it... bought into the tour bus deal. If you just want to see the City whizzing by this is the way to go. However, if you like taking pictures and have a point & shoot camera forget about it.
The tour bus only points you toward the interesting sites and features and only stops at designated locations.
If you have any breathing ailments...Don't sit inside the double decker buses. Exhaust fumes will literally make you sick. There is no ventilation inside. If you sit up top wear a hat, some sunscreen and watch out for tree limbs.
Unique Suggestions: Plan your route before you get on then select the appropriate tour bus. You may have to travel all around the city to get to where you want to go if you don't plan your route.
For the best viewing and to save a few lung cells, ride in the upper deck. The lower deck is not adequately ventilated.
Same your camera battery! IF you don't have a high-speed digital camera you're pictures will be off, out of focus, or just plain not worth saving. Take your shoots when the bus stops.
For you digital SLR carriers...shoot away!
One last tip...if you're planning an extended stay (more than 3 days) purchase the 3-day ticket. It saves you money and you can hop on and off for the most of your stay.
Fun Alternatives: The alternative is to take the river tour...slow moving boat but you get great pics from the river angle.
Another alternative is to walk or take a taxi. The only draw back is limited area coverage and cost of the taxi.
ALWAYS have the exact change when you travel on buses or train, especially @ CTA stations. You won't get back what you put in more!!!
REMEMBER carry small change, both notes and coins, in different denonimation!!
They give a price and at the end of the ride they like to tell you that this price was per person !
Later we discovered that coming from the airport by metro is the best and the cheapest way !!
PAYTOLL!!! In Illinois there are paytolls on some roads. Esp. if you're coming in by way of #90 or #94. The tolls (right now) are $.40 each(exact change or you don't get your money back).
South of Chicago is what some would call a 'bad' neighborhood. And in south Chicago every house has fencing around it.