Chicago Flights and Travel Guide

General Information

Chicago

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Chicago - Introduction

Chicago is located in the US Midwest, in the state of Illinois.

Home to 2.7 million people, the city is a major metropolis and the third most populous city in US, after New York City and Los Angeles.

Chicago is a major business and financial center as well as a hub of industry and infrastructure. Its O’Hare airport is one of the world’s busiest.

Chicago is said to be the most American of all US big cities. It is the home of the blues, and skyscrapers. It is famed for a stunning variety in architecture, culture and art. It is home to a great number of museums, but also the epitome of art and the cultural scene, the Art Institute of Chicago.
Chicago is also a destination suitable for travel with kids: Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium are popular family attractions.
Choose your travel period carefully, however. Chicago’s weather can be less than pleasant as the summers are hot and humid, and winters bitterly cold. The best time to visit is early autumn.

 

Next: Chicago Climate »

Chicago - Climate

Chicago has four distinct seasons and its climate is often marked by extremes.
Summers can be very hot and humid, as temperatures can often exceed 32° C during the day. It can get very humid too, as August is the wettest month.
Winters are cold, windy and snowy with frequent sub-zero temperatures. Sometimes there are extreme cold spells during the winter.
Spring and autumn are mild and experience low humidity.

January average temperature -4 deg Celsius 48 mm rainfall
February average temperature -1 deg Celsius, 41 mm rainfall
March average temperature 4 deg Celsius, 74 mm rainfall
April average temperature 10 deg Celsius, 97 mm rainfall
May average temperature 15 deg Celsius, 91 mm rainfall
June average temperature 21 deg Celsius, 104 mm rainfall
July average temperature 24 deg Celsius, 97 mm rainfall
August average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 99 mm rainfall
September average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 89 mm rainfall
October average temperature 13 deg Celsius, 61 mm rainfall
November average temperature 6 deg Celsius, 79 mm rainfall
December average temperature -1 deg Celsius, 71 mm rainfall

 

Next: Chicago Getting There »

Chicago - Getting There

PLANE

Chicago has two major airports. O'Hare International Airport is located 27 km northwest of downtown and Midway Airport 16 km southwest of downtown.

Transfer:
There are plenty of taxis but they can prove expensive, especially during rush hours. A ride to the city usually costs $40 or more.
CTA trains connect to anywhere in the city and are much cheaper (a ride costs around $2.25).
Some hotels offer free shuttles and vans.

 

Getting Around

CTA

Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) covers the city of Chicago and its suburbs with an extensive network of buses and trains.
Payment is made with Transit cards, which can be bought and filled with credits at kiosks and lobbies of CTA stations. Visitor cards are also available and cover unlimited daily passes, and come in several varieties: 1 day, 3 day and 7 day passes.
It is also possible to pay with cash, but carry specified amounts as change is not given.

TAXI

Chicago has an extensive fleet of taxis, regulated by the city. Fares are standard and are among the cheapest in the US. Taxis can be hailed anywhere on the street.

CAR

Avoid driving downtown as traffic is heavy, and parking spaces are limited and expensive. Fines for offences are strictly enforced in form of tickets and towing.

BICYCLE

Most major streets are equipped with bike lanes, so are the shore of Lake Michigan. Bike culture is experiencing a high, and the traveler can easily combine cycling with CTA.

 

Next: Chicago Activities »

Chicago - Activities

CHICAGO BLUES & JAZZ

Chicago was a major center of music during the 1900s, due to the large migration of poor workers from the South into the industrial centers. Thus traditional jazz and blues music was brought to Chicago, resulting in urban variants of Chicago blues and "Chicago-style" Dixieland jazz. Among the most notable blues musicians from Chicago were Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson, and listed among the jazz giants were Nat King Cole, Gene Ammons, Benny Goodman and Bud Freeman.
Today, Chicago is home to the biggest free blues festival in the country, attracting over 500,000 fans to Grant Park in mid-June every year.

 

LAKE MICHIGAN BEACHES

Even though Chicago lacks the sea, Lake Michigan provides plenty of sandy beaches, where Chicagoans flock on sunny days. Beaches are public and free of charge and the water is pleasantly warm during the summer and early into the autumn.

 

CHICAGO PARKS

Chicago has hundreds of parks, several of which flank the lake shores. They play host to several outdoor activities, from volleyball and soccer to chess.
Further inland, the Loop area is where to find the popular Grant Park, which hosts lots of music festivals throughout the year.
Other parks include Hyde Park, a great place to skate, Jackson Park offers golf, and Washington Park is ideal for community sports.

 

FESTIVALS

Chicago has an incredibly rich cultural program. Literally every neighborhood, parish, and service group hosts their own annual festivals throughout the spring, summer, and fall. On top of that, the city neighborhoods host over 400 festivals per year, showcasing the city's ethnic customs, music and food.
City of Chicago Official Tourism Site

- festival listings: http://www.explorechicago.org/city/en/things_see_do/event_landing.html
- neighborhood festivals:
http://explorechicago.org/city/en/supporting_narrative/events___special_events/special_events/mose/chicago_neighborhood.html
- free events and festivals:
http://www.explorechicago.org/city/en/supporting_narrative/events___special_events/events/mose/mose_calendar_of_events.html

 

Next: Chicago Attractions »

Chicago - Attractions

Art Institute of Chicago

Address: 111 South Michigan Avenue
Web:
http://www.artic.edu/

The Art Institute of Chicago was founded in 1879 as both a museum and school.
It collects and preserves works of art from diverse artistic traditions from around the world. Today it is home to one of the world’s finest art collections, covering over 5,000 years of human expression, encompassing various mediums: paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, textiles, sculptures, and architectural works.
Among its notable art pieces are Monet paintings, Japanese ukiyo-e prints, bronzes from ancient Egypt and many superb 20th century sculptures.
The school's graduate program is continually ranked as one of the best in the country.

The Sears Tower / the Willis Tower

Web: http://www.willistower.com/

The 108-story, 442 meter high skyscraper is a famous Chicago landmark. It was the tallest building in the world at the time of its creation in 1974, surpassing even the World Trade towers of New York, and retained its rank for nearly 25 years.
However, it is still the tallest building in the USA.
It is still popularly known as the Sears tower, but that name expired in 2003. The building was renamed in 2009, when the London-based insurance broker Willis Group Holdings, Ltd., rented a portion of the building and obtained the building's naming rights.

 

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home

Address: 951 Chicago Avenue, Oak Park
Web:
http://www.wrightplus.org

The building served as the home and studio of Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s most renowned architect, during the first 20 years of his career between 1889 and 1909.

His experiments in form and materials led him to develop a distinctly American form of architecture. He drew inspiration from the flat, expansive prairie landscape of the American Midwest where he grew up. He believed that beautifully designed buildings make a difference in our lives.
The house itself has many interesting features, mostly due to the fact that initially it was just a simple cottage, and was later upgraded and enlarged by the architect himself.
Guided tours of the complex are available. Further than that, visitors can explore the entire Oak Park neighborhood, which nurtures 26 other Frank Lloyd Wright homes, the largest concentration of his creations.

 

Grant Park

Grant Park is Chicago’s most central park, lying between Lake Michigan and Michigan Avenue. Its most notable landmarks are the Millennium Park, Buckingham Fountain, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum Campus.

The Buckingham Fountain is one of the largest in the world. Operational from April to October, the fountain also features an evening color light show.

Museum Campus park on the lakefront sports Chicago’s most notable natural science museums: the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Field Museum of Natural History.

 

Millenium Park

The Millennium Park was first planned in 1997 as a way to create new parkland and transform some unsightly railroad tracks and parking lots. Located in downtown Chicago in the Loop area, the park covers a prominent section of the Lake Michigan shore. The park has become a hub of world-class art, music, architecture and landscape design, and has received a host of awards for its accessibility and green design.
The park serves as the setting for a rich and free cultural program including concerts, exhibitions, tours, and family activities.
There you can experience everything from interactive public art and ice skating to al fresco dining and free classical music concerts.
The centerpiece of the park is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion designed by Frank Gehry, which has a capacity of 11,000 and is used as the park's indoor performing arts venue.
Among the most prominent art pieces in the park is the polished stainless steel Cloud Gate sculpture by world-renowned artist Anish Kapoor. Its reflective surface mirrors and distorts the city's skyline and surrounds.

 

Magnificent Mile

Address: Michigan Avenue
Web:
http://www.themagnificentmile.com

The Magnificent Mile is the section of Michigan Avenue stretching from the Chicago River to Oak Street. It lies close to downtown and is THE place for urban activities, such as shopping, dining, nightlife and entertainment and cruising the landmarks. It also serves as the main thoroughfare between the Loop business district and Gold Coast.
Mag Mile is a retail fantasy, featuring major fashion houses and trendy retailers, unique shops and popular stores galore for everyone’s pleasure. Here you can find Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Macy's and Lord & Taylor, as well as these boutiques: Cartier, Hermès, Giorgio Armani, Salvatore Ferragamo, Ermenegildo Zegna, Burberry and Tiffany & Co.
The area also has several critically acclaimed restaurants like The Signature Room, Spiaggia, Tru, The Pump Room, Lawry's The Prime Rib, and Spago to name a few.

Also found at the Mile are fine hotels such as The Peninsula Chicago, Park Hyatt Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, Ritz-Carlton Chicago and Le Meridien Chicago.

 

Next: Chicago Events »

Chicago - Events

Lollapalooza

Location: Grant Park
Date: first weekend in August
Web:
http://www.lollapalooza.com/

The biggest annual music event in Chicago, the popular Lollapalooza festival always takes place in Grant Park over a period of three days and nights on the first weekend in August. The festival always hosts mega names from the world of heavy metal, alternative rock, punk rock, and hip hop. From 1991 until 2005 it was a traveling festival, but since then, Chicago has become its home base. Some of the more famous bands that have played at the festival are the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, The Cure, Primus, The Killers, Rage Against the Machine, Arcade Fire, Nine Inch Nails, Jane's Addiction, Soundgarden, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Smashing Pumpkins, Muse, Alice in Chains, Tool, Hole, 30 Seconds to Mars, The Strokes, Lady Gaga, and Green Day.

 

Chicago Blues Festival

Location: Grant Park
Date: 10 - 12 June
Web:
http://www.chicagobluesfestival.us

This annual festival, held over a three-day period in Chicago’s Grant Park, is the largest free blues event in the world. It showcases top blues musicians, both old favorites and new, rising stars and attracting over 500,000 fans, giving Chicago the rights to the name, ‘the blues capital’.

 

Art Chicago

Location: the Merchandise Mart
Date: 29 April to 2 May
Web:
http://www.artchicago.com

Art Chicago is North America’s premier annual international fair of contemporary and modern art, bringing together the world’s leading emerging and established galleries. The festival offers curators, collectors, artists and art enthusiasts a comprehensive survey of current and historic work, from cutting-edge to modern masters in a wide variety of media, including painting, photography, drawings, prints, sculpture, video and special installations.

 

Grant Park Music Festival

Location: Millennium Park
Date: 21 June – 31 August
Web:
http://www.grantparkmusicfestival.com/

Grant Park Music Festival is an annual festival taking place over a ten-day period, presenting classical music concerts. It is a non-profit event and it is the only free outdoor classical festival in the States. The festival has been a Chicago tradition since 1931.
Today the festival is housed in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park section of Grant Park.
Among the performers are Grant Park Symphony Orchestra and Grant Park Chorus along with featured guest performers and conductors.
Concerts are usually held Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, sometimes on Sundays.

 

Taste of Chicago

Location: Grant Park
Date: 25 June – 4 July
Web:
http://www.tasteofchicago.us

This annual festival is held on the last week in June and first week in July, and takes place in Chicago’s Grant Park. It started in 1980 and has become the largest food festival in the world, showcasing the food and drink of over 60 restaurants, available for purchase by portions. The event is accompanied by free concerts held at the Petrillo Music Shell.

 

Air and Water Show

Location: North Avenue Beach
Date: 20 - 21 August 2011

This annual air show is held on the shore of Lake Michigan. It has been held every year since 1959 and is today one of Chicago's most popular festivals, as well as one of the largest spectator events in the United States, attracting approximately 2,000,000 visitors. The free event presents daredevil pilots, parachute teams, and jets flying in formation, as well as a water-skiing and boat-jumping.

Next: Chicago Etiquette »

Chicago - Etiquette

Tipping is widely used and expected everywhere and is an important social convention in the USA.

An appropriate tip is between 15 & 20% for good service, more for exceptional service or less for poor service. Leaving no tip means that the service horrible.

As a general rule tips are as follows:
Bartenders: $1 per drink if inexpensive or 15% of total
Hotel doorman: $1 per bag (if they assist), $1 for calling a cab
Food delivery: $2-5, 15-20% for larger orders
Taxis: a tip of 10-20% is expected in both yellow cabs and livery cabs
Full-service restaurants: 15-20% (some restaurants already include service charge, especially for larger groups, so check the bill)

Smoking in public places is highly restricted. It is banned in the indoor sections of restaurants and bars, as well as train and subway stations, outdoor stadiums, and many other places. The outside areas of sidewalk cafes and restaurants are usually exempt from this rule.

 

Next: Chicago Safety »

Chicago - Safety

Chicago is a big city and, although the situation has improved since the 1980s, there are still areas better avoided.

Most crime occurs in the neighborhoods on the South and West Sides, off the visitors’ track. Nevertheless there are some shady areas in the vicinity of tourist areas and should be avoided; such as the deserted areas near the United Center and US Cellular Field.

Be cautious around the Loop area at night. After work hours the area becomes desolate.
Bag snatchers and pick pockets operate in the crowded CTA trains. Be especially vigilant while disembarking.
In general, practice usual travelers’ precautions: do not carry excess cash, leave valuables in a hotel safe, know where you are going and do not wander in deserted alleys alone at night.

Note that winter in Chicago is very cold, so dress accordingly. On the other hand, summers can be very hot so avoid heat exhaustion by dinking plenty fluids and wear sun protection, especially in July and August.

Travel within the USA is usually safe but nevertheless it is prudent to practice general precaution. Leave valuables in a hotel safe. Keep expensive jewelry and watches out of sight.

To avoid pickpockets and purse-snatchers, women are advised to carry their purse across their shoulder, and men are advised to keep their wallets in front pockets.

Due to the threat of terrorism, security checks at airports have been greatly increased. Allow enough time for connecting flights.

Medical facilities are excellent but very expensive. It is essential to secure good travel insurance for the trip. Note that only emergencies are treated without prior payment. Treatment can be refused without evidence of insurance or proof of funds.


Emergency Phone Numbers

Emergency: 911
(This includes fire, acute medical emergencies, accidents, crime, violence, people in danger, etc)

Non-emergency: 311

 

Next: Chicago When To Go »

Chicago - When To Go

The best time to visit Chicago is early autumn when temperatures are still pleasant and rainfall diminishes. Summers are very hot and humid and winters often freezing cold.

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