Amtrak (U.S. train network), Chicago
I arrived in Chicago on an Amtrak train at Union Station. This is a spacious station with just about everything you want as a traveler.
The trains. Chicago has a very well developed train system. They have double decked trains here and it covers a lot of the suburbs of Chicago. The most famous route is the Loop.
Chicago two major airports. For the international flights this is O'hare Airport and for the domestic flights this is Midway Airport. From O'Hare you can take the blue line rapid train to the downtown area and from Midway the Orange line to downtown.
If you travel with Amtrak you can arrive at Chicago's Central station, which is famous of the movie 'The untouchables'.
In the three and a half month I was in Chicago, I only walked, used the train/subway, taxis or rented a car for transportation.
Fly into Midway (usually cheaper) or O'hare. You'll be able to get flights from virtually anywhere in the world, many direct. O'hare is a huge, busy airport. Midway is not so much. ;)
Take Amtrak into the city... Chicago is the hub!
Take Greyhound in. Drive in yourself, just know what you're doing before you find yourself stuck in traffic and lost.
Speaking of trains... if you're outside the city, the best bet is to take the El or Metra train into the city instead of trying to find a parking space. I think it works best, at any rate.
Avoid the car downtown. Avoid it other places if you can. Most of the day there's some sort of congestion, and oftentimes you'll find yourself in gridlock, whether it be downtown or on a nearby expressway. So, avoid rush hour (which is like 7-10 and then 3-7).
In the city, buses work well, but fare is $1.50. The El is an option for a few locations, as is the subway, both of which I reccommend if you're going long distances in the city. If you're not going really long distances, just walk. It's good for you and you'll get to see more of the city close-up.
Chicago is the transportation hub of the Midwest. You can get a direct flight to Chicago from almost any gateway city around the world, and it's easily accessible with both Amtrak or Greyhound. Of course, driving is always an option, but don't plan on using your car once you get here.
The public transportation system in Chicago is top-notch. There is absolutely no reason for you to use a car here. Just get a map of the city and take the 'L' wherever you want to go. There are also reliable buses, but if you aren't going far it's a good idea to walk. This is a great way to see and enjoy the city.
From Grand Rapids, Amtrak is a pretty good deal, even if the trains in this country are a joke compared to those in Europe. Amtrak has a 3-2-1 fare special on which means three people go for the price of one and a half or, if math serves, half price. It's leisurely(this trip the train had to slow to 15 mph between GR and Holland because of flash floods possibly causing washouts. Given that my daughter's company had to pay $30 per day to park her car at the pricey Swissotel, and given that the train was only $61.50 RT with a AAA discount(weird,huh?. If time is of the essence, fly, but I could not pay for gas and parking at that bargain rate.
Took taxis(my daughter insisted that buses and the L were not safe) If I were there as an adult sans child, you can bet I'd take the bus and the L. $1.50 per ride vs. $5 or more for quite short hops?
It's pretty easy to get to Chicago by any means you can imagine. We have 2 international airports (Midway and O'hare), numerous major interstates, and Amtrak still offers service to and from a number of destinations. If possible, I would opt to fly or take a train, simply because traffic and parking can be a nightmare.
The best way to get around Chicago is by using the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) Trains and Buses. Chicago is famous for its 'El' trains, and the system is easy to figure out. Chicago's downtown is known as 'The Loop' due to the fact that the El trains run in a giant oval around the heart of the city. For maps and information about the CTA just check out www.chicagotransitauthority.com.
Since CTA trains and buses cost $1.50 per ride, I suggest buying a pass for the week or however long you're staying. Any currency exchange or Jewel/Osco or Dominick's grocery stores sell various passes. A 30 day pass is $75, a 1 week pass is $20. If you don't feel like fooling with that, the vendors in the stations give you one extra ride for every $10 you put in, and 2 extra rides for every $20. Depending on how much you intend to use public transit, you can guage which will be the most cost effective choice.
Cabs are also plentiful here in most parts of the city, and the drivers are usually friendly and knowledgeable. However, because of violent crime and the lack of available fares, cabbies avoid many areas of the city. Be careful not to find yourself alone after dark in an underserved neighborhood.
If you are not coming from too far away (ie-Wiscosin, Minnesota, Illinois, and other surrounding states) I would suggest taking Amtrak into Chicago. It is a great way to relax before and after your trip.
Cabs in Chicago are the definate way to travel.
Driving in is good but you can enjoy a good part of the city without a car. (if you have time and a car, don't miss the suburbs though)
Amtrak comes into the loop, cab from station to hotels.
O'hare is not as bad as it's reputation. I like traveliing in and out, lots of flight options!
Cabs in the city. Car in the suburbs.