At a Glance
Fly into Chicago’s O’Hare or Midway International airports. The city center is a 17-mile, $50 taxi ride from O’Hare and a 12-mile, $40 taxi ride from Midway. The Blue Line on the “L” train runs to O’Hare (45 minutes), and the Orange Line runs to Midway (25 minutes).
Chicago is very flat and walkable with “L” trains, buses, and taxis to take you anywhere you want to go. Train rides cost $2.50; bus rides cost $2.25. The buses take cash, but for the trains you’ll need a CTA fare card. The Chicago Transit Authority's website offers a trip planner that can get you from Point A to Point B.
- Even if you're not traveling with children, the Museum of Science and Industry is endlessly fascinating. The building in which it is housed was built as the Palace of Fine Arts at the famous 1893 World's Colombian Exhibition, so it's a magnificent space, and the exhibits—both the permanent and temporary—include a coal mine experience (the delightfully old-school museum design will transport you back to grade-school field trips), a walk-through of the sleek art deco Pioneer Zephyr passenger train, and lots of ultramodern tech and science.
- A stroll through Millennium Park is great introduction to a friendly and proud city: public art and fountains, the much-photographed Bean, free concerts, gardens, and the beautiful museums.
- Catch a baseball game at Wrigley Field. No kidding. The 1914 brick stadium, the ivy walls surrounding the outfield, the manually updated scoreboard (!), the beloved Cubs, the accents of the fans around you—this is an opportunity to get a strong taste of local flavor. Grab a beer after the game at one of Wrigleyville's many bars and keep your conversation with the locals going. (We like the Guthrie's Tavern, but there are lots of good options in the blocks around the stadium.)
Food and Drink
Chicago has a rich and varied art scene. Colorful street murals and local artist galleries populate Wicker Park, while formal museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago are found on the shore of Lake Michigan. The Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and Lincoln Park Zoo are wonderful places to check out. To fully appreciate Chicago’s architecture, take an architecture cruise up the Chicago River.
The world’s largest free blues festival happens in Chicago over three days in June, followed immediately by the Gay Pride Parade. July brings Taste of Chicago, an event that draws more than 3.5 million people to sample from 70-plus food vendors. September’s festivals include Chicago Gourmet, hosted by Bon Appétit; Oktoberfest Chicago; the Chicago International Film Festival; and the Chicago Marathon. The year ends with Christkindlmarket Chicago, a Christmas shopping and German food market that’s part of the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival. Celebrate the rest of the year with a myriad of local ethnic festivals, neighborhood parties, and holiday events.