One of the most popular tours that is available in Chicago is the Chicago Double Decker Company Tour. It is heated in the winter and open-air in the summer.
They take credit cards such as Discover, Diners Club, Master Card, Visa, and American Express.
This tour has a "Hop On, Hop Off" advantage where you are allowed to get off at 13 different stops, but you cannot get off between stops.
From May 26 through September 3, they have an exclusive offer that includes a bonus route of Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods; thus, you obtain two tours for the price of one! These neighborhoods include Little Italy, Chinatown, Greektown, and West Loop/Harpo Studies.
They have several service stops where you can purchase your tickets. The prices are $23.00 for adults and $20.00 for Seniors.
The stops they make are Sears Tower, Millennium Park, Wacker South [Riverwalk, Tribune Tower, Wrigley Building, Boat tours], Theater District, Art Institute, Hilton Towers & Hotel [Grant Park, Buckingham Fountain, Printer's Row], Field Museum of Natural History, [Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium], Sheraton Hotel [NBC Tower, and River East Plaza, Navy Pier, Magnificent Mile, Hancock Center, Water Tower, River North [North Bridge & River North shopping and dining.
While we were there, they were offering a Free Hershey chocolate bar and a Free Garrett popcorn Sample [these items could be redeemed at the Hershey [Water Tower stop and at the Garrett Popcorn stop [Theater District].
Often called "Chicago's secret weapon against the elements", the Pedway was introduced to me by fellow VT member, Dabs [Kristi}.
The Pedway is really a combination of underground tunnels, overhead skyway bridges, and concourses. It shelters pedestrians from some of Chicago's bad weather when in and around the Chicago Loop.
I looked up information about the Pedway after being introduced to it and discovered that development of it began in 1951 [and I'm just now learning how to use it!!!] Because it has grown haphazardly, it is not uniform; it is difficult to locate, and sometimes hard to navigate
We were able to walk to James R. Thompson Center, to Marshall Field's [Macy's], and the Cultural Center. But the State-Dearborn Pedway is now closed because of the development of Block 37. This is really a great inconvenience for the downtown workers and dwellers who get off the Blue Line and pedway to Macy's or those who get off the Electric or the Red Line and cut underground to go to LaSalle Street.
I did read in the Sun-Times that the pedway at Michigan and Randolph will very soon have a Starbucks, a bakery, a newsstand and other retailers [this area will be called The Shops at Millennium Station]. Presumedly, there will be more and better lighting, air conditioning, and cleaner attendant-kept restrooms. I've forgotten when it will be completed.
Here is a partial list of points of entry and exit for the Pedway:
25 East Washington Street
139 North Wabash Avenue
Hyatt Regency Hotel
77 West Wacker Drive
City Hall/County Building
James R. Thompson Center
Richard J. Daley Center
Chicago Cultural Center
Carson Pirie Scott
Having been introduced to this underground world [at least a portion of it], I will now remember what to do when it's bitterly cold, raining, or ridiculously hot...The Pedway is the way to go!
For my first ride into Chicago, I decided to use the Chicago Transit Authority train from O'Hare, instead of taking a more expensive taxi. However, after following the signs to the CTA departure area and paying $2 to obtain a ticket from a vending machine, things seemed to go a bit wrong from there.
A string of cars was sitting in the departure area and they had a few people already sitting in them. Despite this, the doors did not open when several of we new passengers walked up to them, so we did not know for sure what was going on. In the end, the doors did open on one of the cars so we all hustled down to it and boarded. It was so crowded that I had to make my way through a couple of heavy doors to the next car, all the while manhandling my suitcase, laptop and carry-on bag! I found a spot and had to use a second seat as a place for my suitcase because there really is not any free space except the aisles themselves.
Finally, we were underway but only went past two stations before the train came to a halt and we were told to disembark and to board a bus because track work was taking place - no mention had been made of this when I obtained my ticket. The first bus filled quickly but another came along not too much later and this one took us on a 20-30 minute ride to another station as we bypassed the work area. Once again, it was a crowd on the platform struggling to get in the next train while I man-handled my three pieces of luggage! From there on it was a nice ride as we made our way past several more stops before reaching the downtown Loop area. I didn't know exactly where my hotel was located but figured this was close enough and left the train - I took a taxi from there for the short ride to my hotel. After this experience, I decided to take a taxi back to the airport at the end of the trip!
Overall, the CTA seemed to be a cheap and efficient way to get around Chicago - but it would be quite a hassle if you are dealing with luggage!
I've passed through Chicago's O'Hare airport a few times, but it was not until an October, 2004 business meeting that I actually got beyond the airport! However, not very far - just to one of its surrounding hotels for a single day. This is a city that I would like to see a lot more of, so maybe another time! O'Hare was once the busiest hub in the world but has now slipped behind Atlanta and London Heathrow in the rankings. It is quite pleasant to use and I was very impressed with this life-size replica of a 'Bronotsaurus alithorax' dinousaur. This plant-eating giant lived 150 million years ago in Colorado and Utah. The actual bones that this replica was based on were found in 1900 and are housed in downtown Chicago's Field Museum. That was about it, arrived from Toronto in the dark at 8:30 PM and left the next evening in the dark at 6:30 PM - didn't even get a good look at the skyline :(
As it turned out, I had to pass through Chicago again two weeks later, going to and from a meeting in Kansas City, Missouri. That time, I at least had a good view of the downtown skyscrapers but, by the time I dug my camera out, the airplane had descended into the smog and the view was no longer so good! Finally, in April, 2008 I actually got to spend a few days downtown at a convention, but once again the haze obscured any really good view of Chicago from the air.
I used taxis in Chicago four times during my stay in the downtown area and, in all cases, there was no trouble at all in quickly finding an available cab and being delivered where I wanted to go without undue traffic delays. My first experience was in getting the few blocks from where I exited the CTA train to my hotel - it only cost about $6 with a tip (the meter starts off at about $2.50).
On a couple of the rides after that, I was able to have some good conversations with two of the drivers after I initiated things. One guy was from Senegal (he sounded West African) and the other from Somalia (he looked like he was from the Horn of Africa). Once they found out that I had worked in Africa for 3 years the talk was flowing freely both ways and the trips were over in no time at all! I was impressed by the taxi system in Chicago. The only hitch a group of us had was in getting to the baseball game at Cellular Field, because the Somali driver 'heard' our instructions as Solders Field! However, it didn't take to long to set things right!
When leaving Chicago, I took an early morning cab from my hotel to O'Hare - costing $40 with a tip, a much more pleasant ride than my earlier train experience.
About the middle of March, 2008, anyone who is 65 or oder who lives in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, Will, or McHenry County is eligible to ride FREE on transportation operated by the Chicago Transit Authority [CTA], Metra, and Pace. If you already have the Reduced Fare Permit [as I do], then within a few months a transition to the new "RTA free-ride ID Card" [the new "smart card' ] will take place.
If you want to be elgible, you must sign up during normal business hours at the RTA's CUSTOMER SERVICE CENTER that is located at 165 North Jefferson Street in Chicago or a suburban site [270 of them]. For a list of the registration sites, you may call 836-7000 [from any local area code].
Once you receive your card, you are able to show it to the bus driver, the train conductor; or, you can use it at a farebox or turnstile.
This is a fabulous free service for seniors, especially low-income seniors. I personally think that this will give older people the opportunity to "get out and about" without financial burdens.
"One reason for knowing the history of Chicago is that its history is the history of the Midwest, and the history of the Midwest is, to a larger extent ...the history of the nation."
Floyd Dell, author, 1912
If you have never visited Chicago, and this is your first time here, it is a good idea to become familiar with the city by taking a sightseeing tour. See the highlights of Chicago's downtown and lakefront aboard an "Original Chicago Trolley" These hourly lectured tours depart daily. (Call 427-3105)
Shoreline Sightseeing and Charters is one of the best and most diversified. They operate from three Grant Park locations daily through the end of September. Daytime rides depart every half hour from the SHEDD AQUARIUM/FIELD MUSEUM from 11:15 a.m. to 6:15 p.m.
Every half hour from the ADLER PLANETARIUM from 11:15 to 5:15 p.m.
Evening rides depart from BUCKINGHAM FOUNTAIN every half hour from 7:15 p.m. to ll:15 p.m. with extended hours for major holidays and festivals.
All tours have live commentary on Chicago's history and architecture. Printed translations available in 10 languages!
Shoreline offers evening and weekend rides from their NAVY PIER location just west of the Skyline Stage nightly Mon-Fri every hour from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Sat. & Sun. from 1 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates the bus and rail system which services the city and surrounding suburbs.
The five operating city train lines (referred to as the "L" or "el" by most Chicagoans) are named by COLOR.
The BLUE& RED lines& PURPLE Lines
These lines shuttle from Chicago to Evanston
and run 24 hours daily.
The BLUE line departs from O'Hare Airport about every six minutes daily from Terminal 3.
The ORANGE line services Midway Airport; departing every 8 minutes.
Numbered from 1-204, most CTA buses run every 5-20 minutes daily from early morning through late into the night. Some run 24 hours; every 30 minutes at night. An OWL symbol on the bus sign indicates if a bus line runs all night long.
Chicago is heavily populated with cabs, and flagging one down is simple. But, during the holiday season, getting a cab requires patience.
Both distance and time determine the fare. Tips are at the discretion of the customer.
A cab ride between O'HARE AIRPORT and CHICAGO costs about $25-$30.
From MIDWAY AIRPORT to DOWNTOWN cost between $20-$25.
Navigating Chicago is a little easier if you know the following things:
1) Chicago was built on a grid system, almost all of the streets in Chicago run straight east/west or straight north/south. The notable exceptions are Lincoln, Clybourn and Clark (only past North Avenue)
2) 8 blocks=mile
3) The "zero line" is the intersection of State (north/south street) and Madison (east/west street) in the heart of the Loop.
Addresses to the east of State increase with E. addresses, to the west they increase with W. addresses.
Addresses to the north of Madison increase with N. addresses, addresses to the south of Madison increase with S. addresses.
4) Wacker Drive consists of upper and lower Wacker. Lower is just for driving and escaping the congested downtown traffic. The entrances to Lower Wacker are not very well marked.
5) Wacker Drive is the only street I can think of in Chicago that has addresses that are E., W., N. and S. as it curves along with the Chicago River. Be careful if you are trying to find an address on Wacker.
6) If you see a brown street sign instead of a green one, these are honorary street names, honoring notable Chicagoans, which you won't find on a map.
7) If you are driving, watch out for one way streets. There are lots of them, especially in the Loop.
8) Street names aren't as easy as NYC which is almost all numbered (Manhattan anyways) but there are some east-west streets that are lumped together:
The President streets in the loop in chronological order heading south-Washington, (Adams the elder and Jefferson are skipped) Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Polk. I don't know why John Tyler was skipped and I read that Washington and Monroe St. were named after counties and not Presidents...
The Great Lake Streets in River North going south-Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario (the 5th Great Lake, Michigan, runs north-south)
The tree streets-between Division (1200 North) and Chicago (800 North) along the Mag Mile there is Elm, Cedar, Maple, Oak, Locust, and Chestnut
Chicago is served by two airports: Midway and O'Hare. Midway has been redone and now is quite a nice place to fly into, particularly since the low-fare airlines tend to use Midaway also!
All international flights [other than some to the Americas] leave and arrive from Terminal 5 at O'Hare. The picture is of Terminal 3 in the American Airlines wing. United occupies Terminal 1 and several airlines share Terminal 2. I think they lost Terminal 4 :)))))
Chicago is well served by mass transit but we were traveling around the US for six months with all our camping/backpacking gear so our car was the best option. We hit Chicago on our way "back east" after touring the National Parks of the western US.
We drove in from New Glarus after visiting the brewery there and having a big lunch at the Glarner Stube. This 150 mile trip should take about 3 hours but we hit major traffic in town due to a White Sox playoff game so it took more like 4.5 hours. Since we left New Glarus after lunch, it was nearly dark by the time we got to Chicago so the brewpub was our only “sight.”
After dinner and our beers, D was nice to drive and surely I was in no condition after trying even small samples of nearly all the Goose Island beers. To make matters worse, we hit some rain once we got into Indiana and it was tough finding a room for the night though eventually did just that about halfway across the state. Thanks for driving D. I promise a much better look at Chicago next time. But the Stilton burger was great, wasn't it? :)
Driving along Chicago's Lake Shore Drive, especially on a nice spring, summer or fall day and you will see sail boats on the Lake, people running, jogging, biking and skating along the Lakefont. Do yourself a favor, after you drive the LSD get out and walk by the Lake yourself to get the true beauty of our magnificent lake front.
Until Chicago gets casinos of their own, the closest casinos are in Indiana and the various suburbs of Chicago. Horseshoe Casino in Hammond is the closest to downtown followed by the casinos in East Chicago, IN and Buffington Harbor (aka Gary, IN). Four Winds in New Buffalo, MI is the farthest by quite a bit. I don't know of any shuttles that go to the casinos in Joliet and Aurora.
Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, IN Check the Horseshoe website for a variety of shuttles leaving from downtown, northside, southside, Hyatt near McCormick Place, Chinatown, Wrigleyville
Majestic Star Casino in Gary, IN Asia Tours charters starts at their office at 6152 N. Lincoln Ave., 773-478-5893, cost is $15 which you can get back in the form of a voucher if you gamble enough at the casino.
Resorts Casino and Hotel in East Chicago, IN Casino Cruise Lines, you can see the schedule and pickup times here or call 800-254-3423, leaves from Crestwood, Homewood, Countryside/Hodgkins, Skokie, N. Lincoln Avenue, Chinatown, the Hilton on South Michigan and two locations on the South Side, cost is $5 to get on the bus and you receive $10 cash upon arrival (cost $1/$5 voucher from Chinatown and from the Hilton).
Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, MI Casino Shuttle service,you can see the schedule and pickup times here or call 866-711-1997, leaves from Chinatown, the South Side, Crestwood, Homewood and Countryside, cost is generally free with some restrictions
Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee WI Casino Cruise Lines, 800-254-3423, from the north suburbs only, Lincolnwood, Buffalo Grove, Niles, Skokie, Libertyville, Norridge, Vernon Hills, Gurnee, Waukegan, Wheeling, cost is $12, which includes a free lunch, $5 coupon toward table games and a $5 coupon to use on your next visit.
Let's not forget that the Chicago River is a working waterway. Particularly the South Branch, which goes through some pretty gritty industrial districts on its jolly way to Joliet.
Here a well-laden barge is carrying a significant amount of gravel. In the background, under construction you can see some of the new South Loop condo towers.
The FAA fought hard to keep this small, lakefront airport open for years. In the end, the jerk major Dally, came in like a coward overnight and bulldozed it.
It's a loss for aviators. Now it just sits there abandoned.
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