48 hours in Chicago
Replies: 5 - Last Post: Nov 12, 2012 11:13 PM Last Post By: nicole
Nov 11, 2012 3:30 PM
48 hours in ChicagoHi everyone, I'm going to be in Chicago for just over 48 hours next March, for a conference at the Marriott O'Hare. What is it with people in the US holding conferences at airport hotels?!
I really want to see Chicago but will only have 2 nights (and no days). What should I aim to do? What's the best way to get into the city? I'm a mad keen sailor but I'm guessing that Lake Michigan will be coool at that time of year.
stuart (from Melbourne, Australia)
Nov 11, 2012 9:00 PM
1Yup, it'll be chilly! It's basically still winter in Chicago in March---count on cold temperatures and snow. Sometimes you'll get lucky with a pleasant and sunny day, but not usually.
In terms of getting into the city from the airport, you could take the train or go by car. O'Hare is out in the northwest suburbs, and there are trains that run from various stations in the suburbs into the train station in downtown Chicago (http://metrarail.com/metra/en/home.html). I'm sure you'd be able to ask at the hotel for the nearest station. It is nice to take the train into the city, because parking downtown is a pain (expensive and hard to find a spot). However, that does mean you'll have to figure out how to get to the station near your hotel, which may be a challenge, as the suburbs are not walkable at all (you need a car to get everywhere). A taxi would probably be fine. Anyway, once you ride the train and arrive downtown, you can walk, hope on the "L" train (the Chicago subway), take a taxi, or take a bus to get to where you'd like to go.
The other option to get from O'Hare to downtown is to take a cab or rent a car. I'd recommend against renting a car for that parking reason. Parking in the city of Chicago is just awful. If you decide to go with a cab, it'll be pricier than taking the train, but possibly faster and more direct (you don't have to work with the train's time table). There are a bunch of taxi services in the Chicago metro area that have set rates to take people from the airport or certain suburbs into the city. I'm sure your hotel would be able to recommend a bunch.
Just a note that as it seems like you'll be visiting the city in the evening after your conference, watch out for rush hour traffic. It's horrendous! For that reason alone, you might prefer to take the train, so you don't have to sit in traffic on the highway for a long time.
Anyway, there's tons to do downtown. I love Millennium Park---that's a must-see. There's a sculpture in the park called the Bean that's fun to check out. There's also an ice rink in the park that'll probably still be open in March.
If you're interested in checking out the lake/observing it while staying dry, you could take a walk along Lakeshore Drive, which is the street that runs right along the lake downtown. It's a popular running/walking/biking path.
Navy Pier is also fun. It's touristy and sort of cheesy, but it juts out into the lake and can be a fun place to spend some time. If you're interested in going out on the lake on a boat, there are cruises available that take off from Navy Pier. I'm not 100% sure what the availability would be like in March, as it'll be cold then, but there might be some. I know that during the warmer months for sure, there are dinner cruises, as well as architectural cruises that take you along the lakeshore (and some that also take you up the Chicago River) and give information about the famous buildings in the city. I wish I would've had a chance to do one of those, actually... I hear they're interesting.
I recommend having a drink at the Signature Lounge in the John Hancock building. It's one of the tallest buildings in the city, and the Signature Lounge is something like 96 stories up. The views are incredible. There's a restaurant there too, but it's pretty expensive. When I lived in Chicago, I liked to have a drink there for special occasions.
Check out the Field Museum for sure. It's a very famous natural history museum with a wide range of exhibits. I loved it. The Shedd Aquarium is very cool too.
One of the quintessential Chicago experiences is shopping on Michigan Avenue/Magnificent Mile. There are tons of stores to check out.
If you'll be in the city during St. Patrick's Day weekend, that's a big deal in Chicago. They die the Chicago River green, and there are crowds out celebrating everywhere.
And then of course there are tons of world-class restaurants and fun bars to visit. A popular bar neighborhood is Wrigleyville---it's big with twentysomethings and sports fans.
Hope that helps...
Nov 12, 2012 4:31 AM
2Actually, I don't think you'll need the (commuter) train at all, as Mint seems to be suggesting. The Blue Line of Chicago's legendary L train runs out to O'Hare, and there are a number of stations on the way near the airport hotels. Yours appears to be very close to the Cumberland station, though out in the hotel zone, with its wide avenues not exactly built for pedestrians, it's sometimes a little difficult to walk to L stations even if they appear to be close on the map. I checked out the Marriott website and see that they advertise their proximity to the Blue Line, though, so that's a good sign.
You're pretty far out there near the airport and the Blue Line will take its sweet time to get downtown, but it's cheap and it's a real Chicago experience in itself (even if that particular line doesn't do the famous loop around the downtown skyscrapers -- it heads underground instead). I won't get into what you can do downtown, but here's some good news: Before you get there, the Blue Line hits Wicker Park/Bucktown, a neighborhood full of nightlife and a perfect place to go after the convention. Get off at the Western or Damen stops. These neighborhoods have a hipster reputation, but even if that's not your thing, they've gone pretty mainstream in recent years.
Nov 12, 2012 10:01 AM
Nov 12, 2012 1:29 PM
4Blue Line is almost always faster than driving if you are trying to get to downtown. And as someone above mentioned, parking in Chicago is difficult and expensive.
I would check if your hotel has a shuttle to the Blue Line station. Otherwise, if they have an airport shuttle, you can always go back to O'Hare and then take the train in.
Nov 12, 2012 11:13 PM
5I would agree that if you can easily get to the Blue Line on the L, take that into town over renting a car and its inherent hassles (Chicago traffic and costly parking fees) or paying a taxi. The L is cheap, easy and accessible and will get you pretty much wherever you need to go. The Blue Line and the Red Lines both run 24/7 I believe.
The sites that mintchochip recommended above are good ones but may not be viable for someone who will only be seeing the city in the evenings. I wouldn't be heading down to Navy Pier at night in March - half the stuff there isn't even running in the daytime in March. Also, many museums close round 5pm. The exception would be the Art Institute of Chicago usually has one night a week when it stays open till 8 or 9pm so that's an option. I think the Contemporary Art Musuem has a similar deal with hours as well. Going to the Hancock for a drink in the evening is nice - your drink at the bar is a better deal than paying for the tourist fee to get to the observation deck. Seeing the city all alive with lights at night is wonderful.
The suggestion to get off at Damen and to check out hte funky shops/bars/eateries is a good one and might be a very easy thing to do as it is on the Blue Line so makes getting there simple if you find access to the Blue Line from your hotel to be feasible.
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