Safety Tips in Chicago

  • Road Construction in the Suburbs
    Road Construction in the Suburbs
    by riorich55
  • O'Hare on a wet August afternoon...
    O'Hare on a wet August afternoon...
    by leics
  • Take note!
    Take note!
    by leics

Most Viewed Warnings and Dangers in Chicago

  • leics's Profile Photo


    by leics Updated Oct 5, 2012

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    If you are flying in from outside the US and/or you are not a US citizen, do allow *plenty* of time to get through passport control. This really matters hugely if you are flying onwards within the US, as I was.

    It took me over 1.5 hours to be processed on arrival at T5 when I arrived midday on an August Monday. The queues for US citizens and for 'aliens' were equally long, and our bags were dumped in the middle of the baggage hall by the time we actually got through.

    I may well have been unlucky, although friends and relatives have also experienced substantial delays on arrival.

    Either way, make sure you have *plenty* of time if you are flying onwards, especially as you are probably going to change terminals as well. I'd suggest you allow at least 3 hours between arrival and departure times.

    And on the way back, expect to queue for security at T5. Again, perhaps I was unlucky (as were friends and relatives) but I queued for an hour +. There were only two staff checking the documents of several planeloads of people, which was what caused the delay.

    Basically, whatever you may read about Heathrow.....assume O'Hare may well be the same, and plan accordingly.

    There's nowhere much to eat or drink landside in T5, and very little airside. You need to know that too.

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    Traffic, Traffic, Traffic

    by riorich55 Updated Jul 11, 2012

    Lest you think we joke about the bad traffic in Chicago the 2 pictures shown here are on Interstate 55 the main southwest highway into and out of Chicago.

    These pictures were taken on a Saturday afternoon about 1:30 p.m. No major sporting events were going on, the weather was overcast, no traffic accidents. These were pictures leaving the city heading southwest.

    The source of the 4 mile bumper to bumper before the traffic magically opens up. The number of entrances to the highway where cars are merging in the far right lane. I stuck to the left lane, but no lane moved very quickly.

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    Chicago has 2 Seasons - Winter and Construction

    by riorich55 Written Jul 11, 2012

    We like to joke and say when people ask about seasons in Chicago that we really only have 2 seasons - Winter and Construction. It seems that in recent years the winters have been more mild and thus the construction season goes on now between March 1 and December 1 every year.

    Sometimes it is just minor construction and you will only have to detour a block or two out of the way. But other projects, especially ones on our highway systems surrounding town, or on Wacker Driver in downtown Chicago during 2011 and 2012 as depicted a little bit in my first picture can be a real headache for those who don't know how to avoid it by taking alternate routes or shortcuts that only true Chicagoans know about.

    If you are visiting the city it is best to park your car and take the numerous forms of public transportation we have.

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    Hanging Out at the Beach

    by riorich55 Updated Feb 3, 2012

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    In a related article that came out on the same day as my previous warning/danger tip was this about hanging out at the beautiful Chicago beaches:

    Beaches and parks are closed from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. so even though you can catch the sun setting in the west (not that easy looking west from Chicago towards to suburbs with all those huge buildings in the way), you wouldn't be able to legally see the sun rise in the east (looking toward Indiana or Michigan) over Lake Michigan in the summer months when the sun gets up before 6:00 a.m.

    Your punishment if caught - Up to a $500 fine.

    UPDATE: Added this picture on a Chicago day in Mid-May. The beach season really doesn't get started until the end of May and trust me you wouldn't want to spend too much time here until then as the water is just starting to lose its winter chill.

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  • riorich55's Profile Photo

    Be Careful if You Drive

    by riorich55 Written Jun 21, 2011

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    After the official VT meeting ended in Chicago in June, 2011 I got up early Sunday morning since we were staying at a hotel downtown and went on my own photo safari between 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. While walking by the Chicago River I happened upon the City of Chicago Auto Pound and saw this demolished high end cab.

    When I saw the writing on the side of the cab (which you may or may not be able to read from the photo) it says that the accident with another car, concrete medium strip or something had occurred about 3 hours before I took this picture a little after 3:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning. There were some injuries for sure.

    So moral of the story. If you are driving in Chicago be careful. Like most big cities it is better to walk or take public transportation. And even if you opt for a cab ride some things may happen if another driver isn't exactly paying attention or has had a few too many drinks that evening.

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    Traffic-All Over and Constant

    by BruceDunning Updated Apr 17, 2010

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    A place to get ready for delays. We traveled from Naperville, about 30 miles west of the city center and it took 2 hours in bumper to bumper traffic. This time of yer they start the road work on top of the continual lines of commuter traffic. It is UGH, and this is a main reason I left the area. It takes not too long to get frustrated and mad.

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    I'll Drink To That - Or Maybe I Can't

    by riorich55 Written Jun 18, 2009

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    As Chicago gets ready for its annual Taste of Chicago festival I saw an interesting article about Chicago festivals and BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle). Here is some of what the article said:

    "Carrying alcohol into street festivals, Taste of Chicago, Outdoor Film Festivals, parks or beaches isn't allowed."

    "City ordinance prohibits drinking alcohol on the public way with a penalty of $100 to $500 fine, 6 months in jail or both."

    "Millennium Park does allow alcohol at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the Great Lawn for most public performances. However, an outside concert promoter may prohibit taking alcohol into the park for ticketed events."

    Finally, "it's legal to take alcohol to picnics at Cook County forest preserves" (that's the county Chicago is in) "as long as the drinker is of age, at least 50 feet from the roadway and not intoxicated."

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    Renovation of Buckingham Fountain

    by deecat Updated Sep 12, 2008

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    One of my favorite sites in Chicago is the Clarence Buckingham Fountain, known as "Buckingham Fountain". Much to my dismay, this last trip to Chicago in September of 2008, the beautiful and popular fountain is off limits to visitors and surrounded by a tall construction fence [see photo #2].

    The only reason I have a photo of it is because the gates to the construction fence were opened so that a huge construction truck could go out on the street. Traffic was stopped, the doors were held open by two construction workers, and so I stepped up and took the photograph {#1}

    Buckingham Fountain is the main attraction in Grant Park. This fountain was commisioned in 1927 by Kate Buckingham to honor her late brother Clarence. Its design is based on the "Bassin de Latome" at the Palace of Versailles near Paris.

    Buckingham Fountain has a central jet that shoots water up to 150 feet [46m]. Usually each night in the summer a computerized choreography of color spotlights make for spectacular night views of this glorious fountain.

    It was sad to look beyond the gates to see the famous dolphins that surround the fountain over in a pile while the revamping is in progress. This is quite a project and a very expensive undertaking.

    So, to all visitors to Chicago: be aware of this project; hopefully, it will be completed by the opening of the summer season.

    Related to:
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  • BellaMora's Profile Photo

    Waaaaayyyyyy too many beggers downtown

    by BellaMora Updated Aug 6, 2007

    Along with that beautiful scenic, elaborate hotel, (and right outside it) there are probably the most bums Ive ever seen in a downtown area with hardly no police anywhere. I dont remember seeing that many bums in Miami! I thought there were waaaayyyyyy too many beggers right in that area of downtown for it to be a tourist spot. We had to walk over to the Hilton Chicago on Michigan Ave for our conferences and all of those streets getting there were filled with bums and beggers. No one bothered us because everyone in my group just happened to be from rough neighborhoods growing up and we all have plenty of street smarts. But for you not so street smart types--take off ALL of your jewelry, do not stop to talk to any of those bums, do not offer them money because they will tell you $2-3 is not enough and that can cause a confrontation, (apparently the bums in Chicago want a cost of living increase in their donations), ignore them, do not adjust your money in your wallet in public, get to where you are going, and get back to where you came from. End of story.

    There wasnt hardly if any at all along the lakefront of Michigan Ave but behind that street is where everything is and also where all of those bums are. There is also a park directly in front of the Hilton Chicago right across the street. Stay out of there as well. There are homeless people everywhere and it just has an unsafe feeling even across the street from the Hilton Chicago.

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    Central Areas

    by antistar Written Apr 24, 2007

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    For such a big city I found the central areas of Chicago that I wandered around to feel incredibly safe, especially the areas north of the Loop. The Magnificent Mile, where many of the tourist hotels are located, felt safe 24 hours a day. South of central has a bad reputation, but the few areas around there worth visiting felt safe too. The city does have a crime problem, so you might want to be careful where you wander, but it doesn't seem to be directed at tourists. I think if you stick to the central areas you'll be fine.

    I saw one group of thugs the entire week I was there, who spat on and threatened a homeless guy, but they didn't bother me. Apart from that everyone was incredibly friendly.

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    by Dyesebel Updated Mar 2, 2007

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    If you're planning to visit SEARS Tower or any other skycrapers,make sure it's not foggy,otherwise you won't see anything outside.So it'll just be waste of money and time.You might be advised before you buy your ticket or probably NOT.

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    by Martman Updated Aug 21, 2006

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    This is not a major warning i.e. nothing that endangers you, but worth mentioning.
    It might be my imagination, but birds in this area seem to have a Kama Kazi temperament. They swoop low with disregard to dangers e.g. right in front of your face. Even once in a car, the bird zoomed past our windshield. Just don't get a fright if it happens to you!

    Click here to return to my VT CHICAGO HOMEPAGE.

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  • Some useful advice

    by ChiTown777 Written May 17, 2003

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    As a lifelong resident of this city, I can provide slightly more helpful tips than the now cliche "avoid the southside" spiel.

    Comisky Park (I know, it's U.S. Cellular field, but screw their corporate image). I wouldn't recommend going to a night game, but the area is relatively safe during the day as long as you stay in the immediate vicinity of the park. If you choose to take the el, the red line is what you'll be getting on. You want to get off at the Sox/35th st. stopt. By no means SHOULD YOU MISS THIS stop. The red line southbound goes through some very dangerous areas. Be careful.

    115 Bourbon st. is my favorite bar/club on the south side. It's located on 115th and Homan in Merrionette Park, technically a suburb. If you choose to check it out, the safest way to get there from the loop is to take the Dan Ryan southbound and get off on 159th st. (Markham), the drive north. If you get off before 159th you're going to be in some shady ares, i.e. Harvey, Dixmoor, which brings me to....

    In addition to the immediate south side of Chicago, it's advisable for tourists to stay out of some of the south and far south suburbs. Avoid Harvey, Dixmoor, Posen, Calumet City, Chicago Heights, Robbins, and Phoenix. Don't let the fact that these are suburbs lead you into thinking they're safe by default. These areas have crime rates that rival some of the worst parts of the city.

    The general rule I would give when traveling on the south side is to limit your self to the southWEST side, that is, limit yourself to the southwest suburbs. Stay north of Garfield (55th st.) and west of Pulaski (3800w) and you should be fine, for the most part. When in doubt, look at a map and see if one of the suburbs I mentioned crosses over. In some places they do.

    The west loop has been renovated and is now lofts and businesses. It is pretty safe. Avoid the rest of the west side as you would the south side. The ares along the offramps of the Eisenhower (I290) are hangouts for heroin dealers. Be warned.

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    by kacooke Written Apr 21, 2003

    As in every city, you will encounter protestors and/or the homeless. I remember congregating in front of the Wrigley Building as a long line of protestors paraded down the main streets of the city. I don't recall what they were protesting, but I do remember noting a man dressed in a purple robe, adorned with a crown of thorns, and toting a large wooden cross.

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  • J_lynch's Profile Photo

    Just know where you are going...

    by J_lynch Written Aug 25, 2002

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    Just know where you are going and how to get there before traveling around town. Don't rely on other people to tell you which train or bus to take. However, if you do need info, the best people to ask are the bus drivers. Too often I hear random people on the street giving incorrect infoto tourists ( not on purpose, the people giving the info are probably also tourists). Most of Chicago is relatively safe. The more people around the better. If you really need to know if you have stumbled into a wrong area or not, just look at what kind of cars are parked on the steet. For the most part, downtown and North of the City are perfectly fine at night. Although the loop area of downtown can get kind of dark and empty at night on weekdays, there are usually plenty of city construction crews and taxis that keep things from getting too quiet. I used to go home from work in the loop at 3am and never had a problem standing on the street waiting for a bus or taxi.

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