a VirtualTourist member
I am spending one day in Chicago and would like to see the best places. I guess that 1 day is not enough , but would be good to have some recommendations as well as an advice on the transport to use (rent a car, bus?) in order not to waste time and to be comfortable.
Thank you so much.
Diane, Let me start by asking you a few questions.
When are you coming to Chicago? Season, weekday or weekend?
Are you staying overnight in the city, suburbs? Are you staying overnight? How many hours? Any particular interests you have? Anything you don't like to do?
Let me know and we can give you much more specific information.
I live in the Chicago suburbs, so can help you with even the smallest details if needed.
I will be there on a Sunday during March till 6-7 pm. I will stay on the airport hotel (I'm in transit), but would like to visit the city.
I don't have particular interests, just want to visit the beuatiful places of the city (downtown, buidling with nice architecture etc, to het the flavor of Chicago :)
I would not rent a car, it's more of a liability than a help in Chicago. From any of the airport or any of the airport hotels you can take the blue line el (Chicago's version of a subway) into the city. Get off at Clark/Lake if you want to have a look around downtown Chicago or Michigan Avenue which is commonly referred to as the Magnificent Mile.
If the weather is not so pretty, you can pick any one of several museums that are in the tourist area, the Art Institute, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum.
If you have a walkable day, this is a great map of some of Chicago's public art
And this gives a nice overview of some of what there is to do in the Loop
And along the Magnificent Mile
If you haven't already booked a hotel, you might consider getting a room downtown if you are staying overnight. You can take the el into the city (45-60minutes) and then get up in the morning and be ready to go. I do this when I go to London just for an overnight, the airport hotels will be cheaper (unless you try something like blind bidding on Hotwire or Priceline) but then you won't have travel time to and from the airport hotel presuming you have luggage. Plus if you have luggage you have to go back to the hotel to collect it, any of the downtown hotels will let you store it while you explore the city. If you stay at the airport you have to budget time to do that.
Defo have a bite/brunch at John Hancock Towers. And all-round views from Sears skydeck is fun for sure, though aim to get there early to beat the crowds :-)
Definitely don't leave without trying some Chicago-style pizza! :) We ate at Lou Malnati's when I went, and it was excellent, but you can find a lot of other restaurants under the Chicago travel guide on this site. I also second the John Hancock tower--the views were amazing when I went, and you can definitely see some nice architecture from up there, which was one of the items on your list.
You can also go to the Signature Lounge at the Hancock, there's no fee for the Lounge except for whatever the drink costs that you order should you sit down. The view from the ladies room is amazing! If you go to the observatory there is a fee, same with the Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower) skydeck. The Sears Tower is a bit out of the way of everything else. Obviously if the day is cloudy or rainy, this won't be a good option.
I've never eaten at the Signature Room in the Hancock but I think you may find you might want to try someplace else since you just have one meal. Pizza is a great idea, they have personal size ones that come out a lot faster than the full size ones. Malnati's is a good choice for deep dish, Giordano's for stuffed. There are all kinds of other options if you have something specific you are looking for.
Well some us refer to it as "The Michigan Ocean", but yes, gwened, it's Lake Michigan:)
I don't know that the Chicago Cultural Center has already been mentioned but, as it's free and warm, it would be a good place to stop if you're looking for interesting architecture. Additionally, they have the halls lined with historic photographs of the city, with a focus on architecture. You should also definitely walk through Millennium Park.
I would also try to stay in the city if I were in your situation. The El runs 24 hours a day, so you can easily get back to O'Hare for your flight when you need to. I don't think much of the nightlife in the Downtown area, but it certainly beats what's around O'Hare.
It will still be fairly chilly when you come. It's supposed to snow again early this week, but not a lot. If you're coming later in the month, you will likely see temperatures around 5C in the daytime.
The Cultural Center is a great suggestion, it is on the corner of Randolph & Michigan so if you take the blue line el to Clark/Lake it's only a few blocks from there. Stop in the Macy's (formerly Marshall Field's which is what I still call it) on your way over, there's a beautiful Tiffany mosaic ceiling if you wander into the cosmetic section and find the Clinique counter. Once inside the Cultural Center, go upstairs to see the two glass domes, make sure you walk up the stairs on the on the Washington Street side of the building, the dome on that side is also Tiffany. And there is a tourist info office inside the Cultural Center.
If you want a quick lunch, inside Macy's on the 7th floor there is a gourmet food court with a branch of Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill (Frontera Fresco).
Across the street from the Cultural Center is Millennium Park, be sure to see the bean (Cloud Gate) and the Gehry designed Pritzker Pavilion.
I told my husband to meet me at Marshall Field's the other day, when he arrived he said that he had to fire up his time machine to get there :-) I don't even try to call it Macy's, if you live here you know what I mean! Same with the Sears Tower, I remember when they were building it and besides no one knows who Willis is anyway...unless you are talking about Gary Coleman's brother on "Diff'rent Strokes"...
A second vote for ensuring that you see the wonderful 'Bean' in Millennium Park. It absolutely fascinated me last August: a stunning piece of art which I found myself repeatedly drawn back to (because of the ever-changing cityscapes, skyscapes and humans reflected in its surfaces). And the park itself is good too!
I'd advise you to walk as much as possible (mostly within the Loop) if you are interested in the architecture and/or artworks. It is possible to go into the foyers of many of the more interesting buildings: the Chicago Cultural Centre mentioned by Rich above is wonderful, as is the Marquette Building.
Thank you so much for your prompt reply. I will follow your recommenation to take the blue line. How long it takes to the city (downtown)? Is it safe, especially whether I will come back after 6 pm?
Can't speak for the line but I (solo middle-aged female) felt perfectly ok walking around after dark within the Loop, up to round 10pm ish. After that, the streets were emptier than felt comfortable for me.
From the hotels around the airport (and we have 2 airports in town, but I'm going to assume you are at O'Hare and not Midway) it will take about 45 minutes on the Blue Line to downtown. Since the Blue Line train goes to the airport there are a number of travelers going to O'Hare so I wouldn't worry about being on the train. You can always choose the front car nearest the driver if that will make you feel better.
Yes, 6pm is still commuter time so you shouldn't have any problems on the el, there should be plenty of people on it. I'd still recommend looking into staying downtown, there is so much more to do at night in the city than there is out by O'Hare (or Midway). You could see a show (there is a 1/2 price ticket outlet called Hottix) or have a nice dinner.
If you are coming into Midway, there's a different el line that services that airport. That takes about 30-45 minutes, from O'Hare it's about 45-60 minutes
She will be in on a Sunday! She won't have a lot of commuters that day.
Oops! I knew that, I even looked up the Cultural Center and Marquette Building hours to make sure they were open on Sunday :-) Still, 6 pm on the el isn't late, she shouldn't have any problems.