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Chicago in early March 2015 - a dilemma...

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This will be the first time wife and I will be in Chicago/Chicago area. We intend staying for about one week starting on the 4th March 2015 (can be a few days more, a couple of days less).

I was originally planning staying downtown, and not renting a car.

It has now occurred to me that the weather will probably be quite unpleasant for walking, going to parks, strolling in neighborhoods, or any other outdoor activity.

So here is my dilemma:

a) Do we stay downtown without a car and rely on walking and public transportation; or
b) Do we stay in a nearby town (maybe Joliet, but we are wide open to suggestions) with a car and an occasional train/metro ride to downtown Chicago, or even the occasional ride to downtown / lake neighborhood?

It would be nice to have suggestions of any small town nearby Chicago which could function a base for us.

Thanks in advance for any inputs.

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