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Parking in Downtown 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.
- Road Trip
Driving in the Chicagoland area
If you are listening to traffic reports while driving through Chicago, in addition to the highway number, sections of these highways in and around Chicago have different names that they are more commonly known by
Kennedy-highway 90/94 West runs north from downtown Chicago, at the Junction the Kennedy (90) keeps going northwest towards O'Hare and the Northwest suburbs, renamed after President John F. Kennedy after his assasination in 1963
Edens Expressway-highway 94 West runs north from the Kennedy Junction to the north suburbs, named for William Edens, head of the Illinois Highway Improvement Association, who ironically never owned or drove a car.
Dan Ryan-highway 90/94 East actually runs south from downtown, splits into the Bishop Ford (94) and the Chicago Skyway (90), named for Daniel B. Ryan, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners
Bishop Ford-highway 94 runs east from the Dan Ryan into Indiana, formerly named the Calumet Expressway, renamed in 1996 honor of the late Bishop Louis Henry Ford who had a church nearby.
Eisenhower-highway 290, runs west from downtown Chicago to the western suburbs, named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, very appropriate as he was a major force in the development of interstate highways (although 290 isn't an interstate highway as it just runs through Illinois)
Stevenson-highway 55, runs south from Chicago towards St. Louis, named after Illinois governor and presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson
Reversible lanes-Kennedy Expressway
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.
If you are heading into/out of Chicago via the Indiana Toll Road, you will spend a portion of your trip on the Chicago Skyway. As the price keeps rising and rising and rising, I'm less inclined to use this to get to and from home to Chicago than Highway 41 which eventually merges into Lake Shore Drive. If I'm not in a real hurry, I almost always avoid the Skyway now.
If you do drive it, watch out for the ever present Chicago Police Department writing tickets to speeders, it is practically guaranteed that you will see one during your trip. They lurk on the on ramps, at the bottom of hills and right before the toll plaza when the speed limit drops dramatically so you'd be advised not to go too fast.
And if you are unlucky enough to be continuing on to the Indiana Toll Road, you will get hit within a few miles with yet another toll.
In 2004, the City of Chicago agreed to sell the Skyway and the toll, which had been $2 since 1993 rose to $2.50, then to $3, the to $3.50 and is currently $4 and will likely continue to rise as the agreement allows for a series of increases up to $5 by 2017. You can use your Illinois I Pass, Indiana I Zoom or the EZ Pass (used in northeast US states) to pay the toll on the Skyway but there is no discount over cash like there is on the Indiana and Illinois toll roads. At least you avoid the long cash lines!
Parking on North Michigan Avenue
Street parking near the shopping area on North Michigan Avenue is nearly impossible. When we go in the evening we either park at 900 N. Michigan where the have validation with a $5 purchase. The parking with validation is $6, $21 without validation. If nothing else, there is a bookstore in the mall where you can go buy a cheap book.
2007 update, I found the Sterling Self Park on Kinzie between LaSalle and Clark recently, after 3 pm and on the weekends it's $8.
Prices are subject to change, check the signs before you pull into the garage.
No More Free Parking
It was just announced today (May 16th, 2009) that the last of the free parking in various spots near the Lake were now going to cost about $1 per hour to park.
Several months ago the City of Chicago privatized their parking meters around town and since then it costs more to park even at the spots with meters, if you are even lucky enough to find one.
The picture in this tip is one of the new parking meters. At least they take credit cards so you don't have to wear a hole in your pocket carrying your piggy banks worth of quarters.
Be sure to get the timed receipt after you put your money in and place it the driver's side window.
Hire A Hummer
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.
Parking Downtown Chicago
Chicago is the first large city I have ever had to park in where it was very easy to do so. The city planners did a great job providing parking garages all over downtown.
We had no problem at all finding a parking garage, getting a space in one, or figuring out how to pay. Very well thought out. It was $14 per day, but, compared to the hassle of parking in other cities, I would say it was worth it.
Park Where It is Good-Where?
A couple of years ago, the city needed money so it sold the parking rights to a group for $1 billion. Welllll-little did they know, or maybe care, the overall cost of all parking skyrocketed. there were cap limits over some years, but now it is full fare everywhere. Meter parking is $2-4 per hour. Off street near Grant Park is $19-40 for the day, and by the museum area. $19 if over 4 hours, or $14 if under that. It gets "rich" and a real disappointment for me to return to New York prices.
- Road Trip
Big cars in this City
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.
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INTERPARK STERLING SELF-PARK
Chicago is one expensive place to park, but there are cheap places if you know where to look and a VT friend and local tells you where - thanks Kristi and David.
For Saturday's VT Meet, Hans and I needed to park our car for the day. Kristi suggested the INTERPARK STERLING SELF-PARK at 345 N. LaSalle, near Kinzie. We parked at about 10:00 a.m. as we were taking the Wendella Boats at 11:00 a.m. We had a full day including the Boat Tour, Cultural Center, Walk in Old Town and then dinner at the Adobo in Old Town, which we finished at 8:00 p.m. From the Adobo, we hailed a taxi ($7.00) to take us to the parking garage.
We inserted our parking ticket at the machine near the entrance, paid our $8.00, retrieved our validated ticket, went to our car and headed for the exit. You have to insert your validated ticket in order to get out of the garage.
From what I was able to find out, the $8.00 parking is offered from Friday 3:00 p.m. until Monday 5:00 a.m. I am not sure if it's a 12 or 24 hour period.
For Sunny Days
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.
Parking Tip for the Loop?
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!
- Road Trip
Holiday weekend traffic
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
Drive if you must!
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.
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