We are currently on vacation in Chicago and using the free trolley with no problems other than finding an actual map! Here is our gift to you:
Just wanted to let everyone know...we visited navy pier on 8-17-2011..we took the train from our home town to union station..hoping to take the FREE TROLLEY to navy pier. It hass been a few years since we visited, so we did check the websites in advance. When we arrived, we could not locate the free trolleys. We asked several walkers, and even some employess who directed us to the TROLLEY TOURS..to our dismay..according to tour guides..they no longer provide free trolleys..they now provide 4 hour tours for roughly $30.00 a person. We took the train to save money on gas and travel time. We ended up walking to millenium park, and thenon to navy pier. I really wish there were better signs, and bus information for us suburbanites. All in all..we enjoyed navy pier,,,even after the looooong walk. We spent the $2.25 per person bus fare to head back to union station. Our group consisted of 2 adults, and 3 children ages 9-12...it was a tiring day..and probably would have been just as ccost effective to drive.
Yet another free trolley, but only during the holidays: Nov 26 - 28, Dec 18 - Jan 2. No service Christmas or New Years Day.
Lincoln Park - Navy Pier (departs Navy Pier on the hour & on Nature Museum on the half hour)
Lincoln Park - METRA Ogilvie & Union (every 30 minutes)
Mondays - Saturdays 10am - 6pm
Sundays 12pm - 6pm
Daily service during the hours that the Pier is open. Trolley travels from Navy Pier along Grand Ave, turning at State Street before heading back to Navye Pier along Illinois Street.
Catch the trolley at stops marked with a "Free Trolley" sign & the free trolleys are marked with signs in their front windows. Board 30 minutes before service ends.
Opening hours will change from time to time. Do check prior travelling. Current Navy Pier hours:
Winter (November 1 - March 31)
Mondays - Thursdays 10am - 8pm
Fridays & Saturdays 10am - 10pm
Sundays 10am - 7 pm
December 26 - the Sunday after New Year's Eve
Sundays - Thursdays 10am - 8pm
Fridays & Saturdays 10am - 10pm
April 1 - the Thursday before Memorial Day
Sundays - Thursdays 10am - 8pm
Fridays - Saturdays 10am - 10pm
Summer (Memorial Day - Labor Day)
Sundays - Thursdays 10am - 10pm
Fridays & Saturdays 10am - 12am
Free trolleys only on weekends from September - December. Daily holiday services available on November 26 - 28 & December 18 - January 2. No service on Christmas Day. Catch trolleys at stops marked by a "Free Trolley" sign & the trolleys are marked with signs in their front windows. Board 30 minutes before service ends.
LaSalle Station Express
Hours (every 20 minutes):
Saturdays 10am - 6pm
Sundays 12pm - 6pm
Holiday service hours:
Mondays - Saturdays 10am - 8pm
Sundays 12pm - 6pm
Metra/Museums service to Roosevelt/State only on Bears’ game days.
Chicago's Free Trolleys offer service to some of the city’s most popular museums, shopping destinations and visitor attractions.
Trolleys run on four routes, connecting downtown CTA and Metra rail stations to the Art Institute and Museum Campus, State Street and Michigan Avenue shopping, and Navy Pier, with many stops in between.
The routes interconnect and each trolley has a clear sign indicating which route it travels.
Generally, trolleys are every 20 minutes.
BEWARE, there are a number of trolley companies operating in Chicago so ensure that you are standing at a marked Trolley stop and that the trolley clearly states that it is a Chicago Free Trolley.
Here's a great idea from the city: a FREE tourist trolley system connecting most of the city's major sites. They even ran a special, weekend-only Pilsen/Chinatown line last summer. Here's hoping they bring it back in '03.
Currently the trolleys run on weekends only, Saturdays 10 am until 6, Sundays noon until 6. In summer they run everyday at longer hours.
The stops are marked, but don't just hop on any trolley. Be sure to look for the words "Free Trolley" on the vehicle as there are other trolley company around town. And the bums tend to park at the free trolley stops, waiting to catch the unaware.
Visit the website for complete information and route maps.
As of summer 2009, Chicago is discontinuing the free trolley service. The city website doesn't even give other options (CTA, taxi, etc.). I live in the Chicago suburbs, and parking fees in the city are outrageous. As a teacher, I enjoy the freedom to go downtown by train or el on weekdays (when others are working) to visit the less-crowded museums, Shedd Aquarium, Lincoln Park Zoo, and SHOPPING! This summer, it will more than likely be suburban malls and museums, and the Brookfield Zoo (practically in my back yard! Parking is cheaper, traffic is lighter--sorry, Chicago!
Updated 11/30/08 Chicago's free trolleys ceased operations on January 4, 2009 due to budget cuts
But the blue line running from Navy Pier to State Street and back still runs every day even in the winter, check out the Navy Pier website below for current information. No ticket or reservation needed, board at the marked trolley stops.
Hopefully the city will bring the other trolleys back some day but until they do, there are still buses and el trains to get visitors around.
While the free trolleys look like a good way to get around for free, there are potential problems with using them. Specifically, at times the lines for the trolley can get very long and you may find yourself waiting for several trolleys to pass before you can board. The photo I've uploaded shows only a portion of the line for the trolley leaving Navy Pier on a summer weekend day. The trolleys are not air-conditioned and can get stifling (especially if they are loaded with standing room only). Also, the trolley does not often run as frequently as advertised. I recommend getting a CTA visitor pass for your trip and using that to get around. Personally, I wouldn't waste time waiting in any line to ride one of these trolleys.
Right along Michigan Ave there are several spots to catch the trolley. Some are free and others are relatively cheap. This was an excellent way to see all of downtown, the navy pier, the aquarium and other cool places. I highly recommend this small excursion in addition to an all out tour. I went on the free one and it was the tour of the lakefront area. It was very peaceful and serene with a gorgeous breeze and beautiful humid weather. It was very nice. The element on the trolley seem to be tourist so there was no danger there.
On that same street in kiosks on and behind Michigan Ave are tour bus tickets for the full downtown city tour of that odd looking McDonalds, where Oprah lives, Sears tower, etc. It was great. I did this too. I recommend both. The tour wasnt any more than $10 plus a tip for the full tour. All of the trolley stops have great maps as to where the tours and trolleys go. Im sure the hotels sell the city tours tickets as well if the kiosks are closed.
Cabs getting around downtown are just like any other major city downtown-expensive. For us to go 3 streets over to Michigan Ave from State St was around $5-7 plus a tip and the streets are one way. So the trolley and simply walking is convenient as well. Your hotel concierge will have maps of the local area. When I went to the laundry mat outside of downtown, it only cost me $10 and we were at least 8 miles away. So cabs are cheaper outside of the downtown area like anywhere else.
If you use the free trolley downtown Chicago, be aware that there are 3 different lines. We got on the wrong one on the way back from the Pier and made a large detour.
You can get a free map at the information center at the Navy Pier.
One time when I was in Chicago, we checked into a hotel in Rosemont, which is near O'hare and kind of far from downtown. Considering the terrible traffic from there to get to downtown, we decided to take the metro instead of driving. We started from Rosemont station on the blue line, got off at the grand/milwaukee station at 7.05pm. We saw cta bus 65 right outside the grand station can take us to navy pier. We also saw a group of other people waiting there too. however, 30 mins went by and still no sign of bus coming. Finally a taxi drove by and told us 65 only operates until 7pm. Darn, we missed that! We went back to the blue line and changed to the red line and got off at grand/state station. After getting off at the state ave., we realized it is quite far away to walk from there to navy pier, but thanks to the free trolly that parked across the metro station, it took us all the way to navy pier for free, also took us back to the metro station from navy pier too. Bus driver was an extremely kind and friendly 50ish guy!
There are various free trolleys that run around Chicago, I think mainly in the summer. They fill in some of the gaps that the El leaves, making it a bit easier to get to some of the touristy areas. Each one spreads out from the Loop to some area that people usually want to visit, like the Mag Mile, or the area with the aquarium and natural history museum. You can pick up a map with details at all tourist info centers. They can be quite packed, esp at peak hours, and the buses aren't air conditioned, but they can still be fun thanks to the snarky, humourous commentary from the driver (who are also very helpful in getting you where you want to go).
Museum Campus free trolleys circulate between the parking lots, all three museums (Adler Planetarium, Field Museum & Shedd Aquarium) and the CTA station @ Roosevelt Road. Take the Red, Orange or Green CTA line to Roosevelt Road and then trolley the rest of the way! Just catch one at a stop marked "Free Trolley".
- Outside CTA station on Roosevelt Road (remember to cross over to the other side of the road when you get out of the station)
- In front of Field Museum on McFetridge Drive
- Outside Shedd Aquarium on Solidarity Drive
- Outside Adler Planetarium on Solidarity Drive
Service runs every 20-30 minutes from 10am - 6pm between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Trolleys run on weekends in the fall and winter. Board 30 minutes before service ends.
No trolley service on Chicago Bears home game days & Christmas Day.
Seems like they have change a little on this service. Will update once I find out more about it.