Thats excactly what we did. Well actually got a loan of a Hummer for a few days. I have never driven a tank before but it felt like it was a tank l was driving. The Hummer would not fit into my garage at home it was so big, and its amazing the way other cars get off the road when your driving this huge tank. I enjoyed the experience.
A must for when the sun is out. Coming from Dublin we don't get to use cars like this very often so l took the opportunity to borrow this car to see what it was like. Great if your used to the sun but l burned the head off myself... Lucky my hair is red, no one noticed. Ah the pain of it all... won't forget sunscreen again.
Driving in Chicago is a bit scary if your anyway nervous. The rules of the road slightly differ to the rules in my country. For example the "Chicago Left". Basically you can turn left on a red unless a sign states not to do so. I found it cool to crash a red light but you do need eyes in the back of your head because Chicagoans drive very fast and change lanes at high speed.
Chicago has such a great public transportation system and such great traffic and parking problems that a car seemed more a hinderance than helpful, especially for such a short visit. Like most large cities, free parking is virtually nonexistent, as are parking spaces. Most hotels charge exorbitant rates for storing your vehicle as well.
If you're focusing more on exploring downtown and have the privilege of visiting the city during good, or at least decent weather, walking may be your best bet. Take a stroll along Lakshore Drive and watch Chicago's active population run, bike and rollerblade by the lake on your way to visit Lincoln Park. Or take a walk down Michigan Avenue and admire the architecture and sculptures on your way to a museum or restaurant. Much of this area is better explored a this pace.
For those who hate to walk, or the weather is not cooperating, buses and subways run on a pretty efficient schedule. For about $4 a day (as of May, 2005), you can purchase a pass that allows you unlimited rides and transfers on buses. The El train costs extra, but it is still a cheaper alternative. Public transportation runs not only through downtown but extends to the suburbs as well.
The Chicago Transit Authority has a detailed website of the bus and train routes and operating times. You can also purchase passes online in advance of your trip.
If you are driving north out of Chicago (outbound) or south into Chicago (inbound) on the Kennedy watch for the signs saying the Express lanes are open. Almost always, these lanes move faster than the local lanes.
Don't use them if you need to exit before you can get out of them, there's one place you can exit in the middle and then again at the end.
The lanes are reversible and change direction depending on which way the traffic is usually heaviest. The schedule,which can be overruled by IDOT, is 1 am to 11:30 am inbound and 1 pm to 11 pm outbound on Sunday-Friday. On Saturdays the express lanes are switched from outbound to inbound sometime between 1:30 pm and 5 pm and back to outbound sometime between 5 pm and 8 pm.
Parking in Chicago will range from a free spot or feeding the meter to well over $20 in some areas. The Loop, Streeterville, River North, and Gold Coast are generally more expensive to park at. In these areas, make sure you look out for great deals like $12 for the first 15 minutes!
Parking is very easy to find, whether its a street level lot or a garage. Many garages do not have cashiers on duty so you have to pay by machine, and some even have valet service. In general, finding parking is not a problem in Chicago.
Coming to Chicago is wonderful, but paying downtown parking rates is like getting a root canal. Many people (including myself) love to stay at those supremely comfortable hotels in the Loop or on North Michigan Ave., but when we see our parking bills it's like the hangover after New Years - a harsh reckoning. What to do?
One possibility is to park in one of Chicago's near neighborhoods and take the El into the Loop. I've never had any trouble finding ample surface parking (free and unmetered) in the Bucktown/Wicker Park area. It's a safe, upwardly mobile, and vibrant neighborhood, and I don't have any second thoughts about leaving my car there on the streets over the weekend. It's a short stroll to the Blue Line, and only about a ten minute ride to the Lake/Clark transfer station.
Needless to say, if you choose this option, it helps if you are "travelling light." Of course, pay attention to parking signs and make sure that you are not blocking anyone's driveways. You _do not_ want to have to deal with having your car towed in Chicago!
If you're going to be visiting downtown Chicago and thinking of driving there, my advice is: DON'T!!! Your best option is to park in a safe area near one of the El Train lines and then take the "El" downtown.
But if you really do want to drive & park downtown then here are some garages that generally have lower cost parking rates:
- The East Monroe Street and Millennium Park garages (enter at Columbus Drive and Monroe Street) Call (312) 742-7644 for lot and rate information.
- Grant Park south garage (enter at Michigan Avenue between Van Buren and Adams) Call (312) 745-2862 for lot and rate information.
- Grant Park north garage (enter at Michigan Avenue between Madison and Randolph) Call (312) 742-7530 for lot and rate information.
This is a view looking west on Congress Parkway as it is about to turn into I280/Eienshower Expressway heading for the western suburbs. The signs are for the connections to I90/94 heading north to Wisconsin and south to Indiana.
This is a deceptive midday picture -- normally it is bumper to bumper.
As a general rule I try to stay off the highways on the day starting the holiday weekend and the day ending the holiday weekend as they are popular for folks traveling to and from their 2nd homes in Wisconsin and Michigan.
Memorial day-last Monday in May
Labor Day-first Monday in September
4th of July-employers try to make a 3 day weekend depending on what day it falls on
Thanksgiving-almost everyone gets Thursday and Friday off
Christmas-almost everyone gets Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off
New Year's-almost everyone gets New Year's Eve and New Year's Day off
Okay, I know I wrote kind of a joke driving tip, but here is the real deal. Chicago is a big city, and there are lots of cars. If you are not used to driving in heavy traffic, there are things you need to do to prepare. One, you can expect things to happen very quickly. Likewise, you need to do things quickly yourself. Being overly careful and slow will get you nowhere. You need to keep smart about how you're driving, but be very assertive and active behind the wheel. It's being assertive that will get you where you need to go. That means when you see an opening in traffic, take it. Don't edge over into the other lane, or mosy into a line of traffic, just GO! You need to keep traffic moving. Just "going with the flow" will dull your reaction time. Stop thinking and fearing, just make it happen.
I myself drove in Chicago last year, and had a lot of fun doing it. It takes patience, but it can be done. I'm from Maine, and drove in Chicago while I still had my learner's permit. Believe me, it's not about being experienced, it's about knowing how to do it, and trusting yourself. Sometimes a little behind the wheel ego will get you a long way!
Finally, whatch out for cabbies. They are very agressive. You aren't obligated to subject to them, but if they are already in the process of cutting you off, resist the urge to hit them! Best of luck to whomever's looking forward to facing the beast that is Chicago.
Driving in Chicago can be rough at times, especially during the morning and evening rush hours. But overall, I find that driving in Chicago is still much easier than in cities like New York City and Los Angeles. The streets are well marked, and interstate exits are well marked. Other cars can be disrespectful at times, but still the city does a good job of keeping traffic in good order. Driving in the suburbs of Chicago is like a piece of cake.
But parking is definitely a nightmare in downtown Chicago. You can easily get a parking ticket if you don't read the parking signs carefully.
Rules for driving in Chicago:
1. Use of turn signals gives away your next move, allowing people around you to cut you off.
2. When in bumper to bumper traffic, those honking their horns firmly believe that although traffic has not moved for 15 minutes, they can still get where they're going faster in your spot than in the one they're in now.
3. Cabbies will take the right of way, whether or not they are entitled to it. Those who do not obey this rule are the ones who are sitting in court, busily getting stiffed on the repair bill, wondering why they're paying the cabbie who hit their car.
4. Yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks will only encourage them to jaywalk.
5. Slamming on the brakes at stoplights gives you a relaxing foot massage if you have ABS.
6. Normally, red means stop, green means go, and yellow means stop if you can. In Chicago, red means slam on the brakes, and see if you can get money from the guy who just rear-ended you, green means floor it and start honking at those who don't, and yellow means step on it, even if you need to be going 90 to beat the red. (assuming you're not already.)
We have always driven in from MI where we live, but many of my friends in MI and IN take the Southshore train line into the city since it means they don't have to worry about parking. We take the 90/94 tollway over the Skyway Bridge.
TO drive or not to drive, that is the question. I approach it this way: If I’m going to the Loop or the North Side, particularly Cubs day games, I prefer to use public transportation. Anything on the South or West side I usually drive.
Get a map, learn it and create wacky short cuts, the Interstates occasionally resemble parking lots. Driving around the Loop, especially during rush hour, is a tiring game of skill, wit and perseverance.
Pictured: So rare I had to capture it in pictures. The Dyan Ryan, NOT clogged up.