CHICAGO OHARE ALL DAY - What to do??

Old May 19th, 2010, 08:06 AM
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CHICAGO OHARE ALL DAY - What to do??

Our layover is from 9:50 am to 8:20 pm in Chicago, June 8th.
I can't see us all day just sitting at the airport waiting for our flight to Madrid.
I read that the Architecture River Cruise is worth to take (90 mins)
How far is the airport from Downtown or from the river?

What do you recommend us to do besides that cruise?
Thanks.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 08:11 AM
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For $2, you can take the Blue Line DT; it takes 45 minutes.
The Art Institue
Millenium Park
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Old May 19th, 2010, 08:15 AM
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You can take the El directly to downtown Chicago and it takes about 50 minutes to the Loop. From there you can walk to the Art Institute or take a cruise of the Chicago River which really is a good way to see the city.

Figure you will be actually leaving the airport around 10:30 and for an international trip you need to be back by 6pm for check-in and security which at O'Hare can be lengthy depending on the number of flights going out the same time.

That gives you about 5 hours in the city. There are cabs available to get you around so you won't get too lost. You even have a little time for site seeing and a nice lunch.

Hope this helps.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 08:19 AM
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Thanks, I think that we'll do. We won't have luggage so we'll be very mobile.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 10:59 AM
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Yes - definately get downtown. There's plenty to do in the Loop -- I wouldn't venture too far away from there. The O'Hare blue line train will drop you off at Clark/Lake. Take the subway's pedway over to State Street - along the way, there's a Papa Beard's Chou Creme (creme puff) bakery -- great creme puffs if you were wanting a little something to nibble on.
Walk up to street level from the pedway, and you'll be right on State Street. Walking east to Michigan Ave., you'll see the GORGEOUS Gehry outdoor theater. Walk south on Michigan and see all of Millenium Park. YOu'll end at the Art Institute.
I'd have lunch either at the Gage on Michigan, or buy a sack lunch and eat that in the South Garden of the Art Institute.
If you have time, you can continue east of Michigan Ave. over to the impressive Buckingham fountain, and over to the lakefront.
I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time!
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Old May 19th, 2010, 11:22 AM
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don't forget Garrett's popcorn at the airport for your plane ride.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 11:31 AM
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Definitely take the El -- many a time we've been on the El and chuckling about the traffic we can see sitting still on the freeway!
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Old May 19th, 2010, 11:57 AM
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Thanks everybody!
I was dreading on being at the airport waiting for the next flight, this visit will make the time fly! I'm looking forward to eating those Creme Puffs!
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Old May 19th, 2010, 11:58 AM
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A single fare on the L is $2.25. You can purchase a one-day pass in the currency exchange on the lower level of the O'Hare Hilton for $5.75. It allows unlimited rides on all CTA trains and buses, so if you get tired while you're in The Loop you can hop a bus back to a Blue Line station.

In addition to the river cruise, I believe the Chicago Cultural Center on Michigan & Randolph has free jazz concerts on Tuesdays. If jazz isn't your thing, just walk upstairs to Preston Bradley Hall and view the newly restored Tiffany glass dome.

For transit info and maps, check www.transit chicago.com.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 12:12 PM
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Citylghts,
Thanks for the tip, I was just looking at the O'hare website to see where I could buy tickets for the train, I will look around on the lower level. I believe the $5.75 is much more convenient to hop on buses, etc, as we have to come back to the airport, and as being up since 4 am we may not have too much energy to walk around too much.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 05:36 PM
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pookymimi, IMHO, you should allow no less than 1 hour each way on the Blue Line from O'Hare and return trip. You'll also need to check the CTA's website right before your trip here to see if there are any scheduled delays which would further lengthen the ride.

The following information is assuming that the individuals in your party are all adults, no children under the age of 11:

In your case, I really don't think that the CTA Visitor's Pass is the way to go. Why? 1) Because you only have very limited time in the city and it is unlikely you will be using CTA that much; and 2) Visitor's passes are purchased *per person*. On the other hand, transit cards, on which you load a specific dollar amount, can be used for multiple individuals (up to 7).

If you are unfamiliar with using public transportation, this might be a little difficult to understand but...A transfer is simply going from one mode/route of public transportation (train or bus) to another *different* train or bus route within a specified amount of time (in this case, up to 2 transfers are allowed within 2 hours of the first ride).

When you ride a train or bus using a transit card or visitor's pass, the first ride is $2.00 for the bus and $2.25 for the train (i.e., Blue Line)*. The first transfer is $0.25 and the second transfer is free (yes, you read that right). So, you could literally ride on three bus and/or train routes within a two-hour period for only $2.25 (if all busses) or $2.50, if a combination.

Those visitor's passes are *per person*. So if there are 2 of you, you'll be investing $11.50.

If you use a transit card, you will have 2 people using the Blue Line twice ($2.25 x 4 = $9.00). I would suggest getting $10.00 loaded on the card. That gives you another $1.00 for transfers. Not a whole lot of savings, I'll grant you, but 11.5% is 11.5%.

*Cold hard cash: It costs $2.25 per ride on either a train or bus route and there are no transfers allowed with cash.

The last word on using public transportation: You probably won't be doing a lot of transfers because....you are on a pretty strict time limit. Transfers entail actually waiting on the bus (or train). This could realistically take up to 20-30 minutes, depending on the route and time of day. So I would consider using them sparingly.

You've got your camera, yes? You'll be using it a *LOT* on this adventure.

Since you are going to be taking the (I assume) Chicago Architecture Foundation's River Cruise, I would suggest that you do that the very first thing when you get into Chicago. I agree that you would get off at the Clark/Lake Blue Line stop in the James R. Thompson Center. However, instead of using the pedway - which really is for inclement weather - and, for your sake, we'll anticipate this to be a really nice day for you - what I'd suggest is that you would go to the north entrance. This is on Lake Street - you can tell because the 'L' runs overhead. You want to walk north one block to Wacker Drive.

Wacker Drive follows the Chicago River. It has north, south, east and west addresses (not too many streets do that). It also has several levels, because this area of Chicago is built up around the River. You will start out by going on the upper level, but then we are going to take you below.

So...you will be at Clark Street, walking east, and you want to be on the *NORTH* sidewalk. The next street after that is Dearborn; then State Street. If you can take your eyes away from the fantastic skyline all along this route, you'll notice that every one of the bridgehouses on the Chicago River (and all of these are drawbridges) are of a different architectural styling. You might even get to see one or more of these drawbridges in action, letting watercraft traffic through, when you are here.

We even have the Chicago Bridgehouse and River Museum - at the Michigan Avenue Bridge - where you can be inside a bridgehouse when the drawbridge is raised. Here is some information for you and others on that - look at the section entitled "Bridge Lifts": bridgehousemuseum.org

Getting back to this walk: Once you get eastwards from State Street, you will see where there are steps and ramps which go downwards towards the Riverwalk. You want to descend down these to that level. You will be at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Plaza, located at Wabash Plaza, between State Street and Wabash (next street east).

Now all you have to do is walk eastwards along the Riverwalk for a couple of blocks until you get to the Chicago Architecture Foundation's boarding area, just east of the Michigan Avenue Bridge. The ticket kiosks are on the right and the boarding docks to the left.

After the river cruise: Uh-oh! Now you've got 2 choices. Decisions, decisions. You can either walk three blocks south along Michigan Avenue to Millennium Park. Or...you can take a little longer walk along the lakefront. There is nothing like a walk along Lake Michigan on a beautiful (almost) summer's day with the sun sparkling off the blue, blue water.

Well, if you just want to do the first, then all you have to do is climb the flights of stairs back up to the upper street level at the Michigan Avenue Bridge. Then walk south on Michigan Avenue.

However, if you want to do the second, then you just need walk east along the Riverwalk. Once you go through Ellen Lanyon's Riverwalk Gateway, which showcases her artwork of the history of Chicago and the region, you will see DuSable Harbor to your left. You want to keep walking south just a little more than three blocks.

BTW, there are restaurants and places to just sit and enjoy viewing the Chicago River for a spell all along the Riverwalk, if you wish. However, I think that after sitting on a river cruise for upwards of 90 minutes, and with the prospect of sitting all during your flight, you'll not want to be doing too much more of that.

Getting back to the walk, you will easily see the BP Bridge (aka the Serpentine Bridge) at Millennium Park, also designed by Frank Gehry - in addition to the steel ribbons of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, which the above poster mentions. Simply marvelous views from that bridge. If you go to the website for Millennium Park, under Art & Architecture, click on BP Bridge and you will see what I mean. (There is also a park map on this website.)

And, please, don't miss the Lurie Garden when at Millennium Park. A lot of people just don't take the time to wander it when there because of the other spectacular attractions.

As mentioned, the Art Institute is located immediately to the south of Millennium Park. Last year, they opened the Modern Wing,which is designed by Renzo Piano - and, in fact, there is a bridge (also designed by him) which connects the Great Lawn at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion to the Modern Wing.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation's main location, the ArchiCenter is just to the southwest of the Art Institute (across S. Michigan Avenue). It has a wonderful gift shop, in case you are looking for a little souvenir of your stop here. And it has the Chicago Model City, which is something to see.

How to get back to the Blue Line? Well, you are only 3.5 blocks east of State Street at Millennium Park, the Art Institute or the ArchiCenter. Doesn't really matter which street you decide to take westerly there. There are many busses which run on State Street - it is a major bus artery. However, not all of them go all the way north to Randolph, which is where you want to be. The #146 and #29 do, though, if you want to take the bus, instead of walking.

Oh, but walking in the Loop north on State Street, you will see a *lot*. Not right on State Street, but just to the east on Monroe, you can pop in and see the luscious lobby of the historic Palmer House (hotel). You will go past the Sullivan Center (the old Carson-Pirie-Scott building) with the facade designed by Louis Sullivan at the corner of State & Madison. You will see the historic Hotel Burnham (aka The Reliance Building), designed by the firm Burnham & Root. (The "Burnham" refers to Daniel Burnham, the master planner of Chicago.) Up ahead of you, to the north, you'll see the famous "Chicago" marquee at the famous Chicago Theatre as well as the famous clocks (on each corner) of Macy's (fka Marshall Field's).

But now you don't want to continue walking that last block north on State Street from the Hotel Burnham (at State & Washington). Instead, you want to walk 1 block west. You will be at Daley Plaza and see our Picasso.

Daley Plaza sits between Washington Street to the south, Randolph Street to the north, Dearborn to the east and Clark Street to the west. The James R. Thompson Center (where you started your Chicago adventure) is just north of Daley Plaza, across Randolph.

Lastly, Garrett's? Nah. Try Nuts on Clark instead. They have a kiosk at O'Hare. www.nutsonclark.com

Let's tally up the price of your stop in Chicago: Cost of 2 CAF River Cruise tickets. $10 for public transportation. And all the other stuff is free. Except if you want to indulge in a meal/drink, souvenir or gourmet popcorn, of course. I'd recommend a visit to the Art Institute on your next jaunt here. Some things cannot be rushed.

Hope you have a wonderful visit here.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 07:19 PM
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exiledprincess
Wow! Thanks a lot for that detailed info!
I am traveling with my 2 kids, 21 and 9.
As recommended I will do the river cruise right at arrival to get it out of the way. I will allow the 1 hr each way to/from airport.

My only concern now is if we would have to check our backpacks from here in Denver all the way to Lisbon or if we will have to carry them in our Chicago adventure and check them when boarding the plane to Madrid.
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Old May 19th, 2010, 11:03 PM
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You could split the difference on the backpacks--carry one or even two but check at least one. You will need to re-think what you put in each. But then at least you can trade off carrying it (them).
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Old May 20th, 2010, 05:08 AM
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See if there is a hotel next to the Blue Line Station that you will be using that allows you to check bags in (probably for a nominal fee). Id pick one right next to the station and make sure that it is convenient for where you want to start and end your visit.
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Old May 20th, 2010, 08:28 AM
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You are very welcome.

With respect to your 9-year old, they have a reduced fare on the CTA. It's $1.00 in cash; $0.85 on a fare card. First transfer is $0.15 and the second is free. Again, no transfers are allowed with cash.

Re: backpacks. Sorry, I thought that you meant you didn't have any baggage at all. I doubt that there are any storage lockers at O'Hare (as well as Midway) due to security issues. And, since you mention this is just a lay-over, it's unlikely that you are getting a hotel room.

Well, IMHO, I wouldn't want to be hauling heavy(ier) backpacks around for any distance. In addition, the CAF's website states that no strollers or luggage can be brought aboard their cruises. I go on this cruise (at least, sometimes more) annually and have never seen anyone with backpacks boarding. You'd have to e-mail them to see what their rules are on them.

Are these absolutely necessary? For example, are your children female where they could take a larger shoulder bag - not the biggest, you understand, just a larger one?
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Old May 20th, 2010, 09:44 AM
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AA was able to move us to a later flight from Denver to Chicago, I was really concerned about making to the airport for a 5am check in (we live 1hr from the airport). We will be in Chicago at 1pm instead of 10 am, time enough for us to go to Downtown and do the Chicago Architecture Foundation Tour at 3pm and maybe a quick snack before heading back to the airport to check on Iberia at 6:30pm.

Regarding the backpacks, AA tells me the bags will be checked all the way from Denver to Lisbon, so we should be okay.
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Old May 20th, 2010, 10:22 AM
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That will really be cutting it pretty close time-wise. Any international flight with a lay-over of under 6 hours (or domestic flight lay-over of under 5 hours), I wouldn't even suggest trying to come into Chicago from O'Hare. Hopefully, your flight will be on time and there are no delays with CTA.

A lot of people don't figure in those little amounts of time for getting to a destination, waiting in line, getting out of the attraction - and those little things can add up quickly.

It will take you about 20 minutes walking time at a fairly brisk pace to get to the CAF boarding area, BTW. You can still do the Riverwalk option, if you wish, just keep an eye on the clock.

Please keep in mind that the river cruise is 90 minutes in length and that does not include the time for picking up tickets at will-call, waiting in line to board (at least 20 minutes ahead of time*), and disembarking - or getting to/from the dock. Since you only have one choice of sailing time, you might definitely want to consider purchasing your tickets in advance. Those tickets are rain or shine, BTW, no refunds.

You have to remember that you'll have to get through international security and be at the boarding gate of your flight with sufficient time. That's where you are really cutting it close. I'm going to give a little timeline for you to consider. The 3:00 p.m. cruise is over by 4:30 p.m. It will take you at least 5-10 minutes to disembark the boat. You have 20 minutes walk to the Clark/Lake Blue Line station. Assuming that you catch the first Blue Line train (as you are in the middle of rush hour by then), you would be back at O'Hare at 6:00 p.m. (maybe a little before). I think it is still recommended that you be at the airport 2 hours ahead of your *boarding* time, which would be 7:45-7:50 p.m. See what I mean?

The CAF's boats do have beverage and snack service. But I would definitely leave getting something to eat until you get back to O'Hare and know exactly how much time you have.

*You can show up later but seats are first-come, first-served. I know from first-hand experience that latecomers in a group often cannot get seats together and, most likely, don't get the choicest seats.
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Old May 20th, 2010, 10:58 AM
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This will be rather rushed and I apologize in advance for no proof-reading, as I have to be running to a meeting in a couple of minutes.

Chicago has a water taxi service. Part of it services the Chicago River (River Taxi) and some travel upon Lake Michigan (Harbor Taxi). Since you have such limited time, you might consider foregoing the CAF River Cruise and going this route instead (although the CAF River Cruise only travels on the Chicago River, not on the Lake).

It's definitely not comparable to the CAF River Cruise, as this is for transportation purposes only. It doesn't have the excellent narration, but you do see the buildings along the Chicago River. You can take the River Taxi all the way from the Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower) to Navy Pier. The Harbor Taxi runs from Navy Pier to the Museum Campus.

See Shoreline's website for details and fare information, as well as a map of their routes. If you are planning on taking more than one route, the daily pass might be your best option.

BTW, you can board Shoreline at Wells & Wacker, which is to the west of the Clark/Lake Blue Line station (2 blocks). You need to board from the north side of Wacker.
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Old May 20th, 2010, 02:21 PM
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Thanks exiledprincess!
I will give it a thought, I believe we may just end up walking around the lake and having some snacks, etc instead of the River Cruise.
I would've kept the txts for the flight at 6:50am, but I was too worried of not being able to make it to DIA at 5am from Littleton.
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Old May 20th, 2010, 03:46 PM
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I found it!
http://www.shorelinesightseeing.com/watertaximap.html

Do you know if I have to buy the daily pass in site? I can't find where to buy them, on the website you can only buy the cruise tickets.
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