Trolleys (some are FREE), Chicago
If you're around Navy Pier, there's a parking garage right on the pier that is a tad less expensive than other nearby garages. (Sorry, you're not going to find a deal anywhere in the city.) It'll run about $20 for a whole day. There's also a free trolley service that runs during the day that will take you from Navy Pier to several downtown landmarks--State Street, Michigan Avenue, etc. That'll save you a few minutes' walk if you came by car or train.
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.
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.
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 is a shuttle that pickes up guests from the hotel anddrops them off at different areas to shop from 10amto 5pm. For transportation anywhere else,it would be cheaper to take the trolley or walk,rather than takeing a taxi. As for the subway train,it is a fun way to get from the airport to the hotel and back,but it didn't go all the way to our hotelso we had to walk the rest of the way,lugging all our luggage with us,up and down the stairs when we had to change form one train to another.For that reason,to avoid dragging luggage everywhere,it is easier to get an airport shuttle from the airport and back.
Sorry,no pictures available.
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).
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
If you are only spending a few days in Chicago, the Chicago trolley is not a bad idea. It takes you around downtown Chicago and stops at major attractions sites. Also the guide gives you an insight on the architecture and history of most of the historic buildings and of the city. Tickets are about $20 per person for the whole day. You can get off at any trolley stops and catch another one any time you like. Trolleys come by about very 30 minutes.For routes, check the website.
There are several free trolley's that travel up and down Michigan Avenue, and to Navy Pier, Grant Park and several other area's. The trolley's are very convenient, great for tourist because they go to the tourist hot spots, and they are FREE.
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.
These "trolley" tours are run by Chicago Trolley & Doubledecker Company -- this stand was just outside Orchestra Hall on S. Michigan Ave. near the Art Institute.
This is the free trolley that you can catch at places like Michigan Ave. to take you to different landmarks around the city for free.