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Overview

When getting your bearings in Chicago, remember that Lake Michigan, the fifth largest lake in the world, will always be to the east. On land, Madison Street, in the Loop, marks the division between the North and South sides of the city. Speaking of the Loop, this does not refer to the route the El trains currently make around the downtown area; rather, it encompasses the route that long-ago street cars once took, and refers to the city's central business district.

WHEN TO GO


Chicago winters are made for polar bears, not people. Winds whipping off Lake Michigan can make it feel like 30 below when the thermometer says 30 above. Summers are oppressively hot and humid. The best times to visit are September, when the leaves start to turn, and early June, before it gets too hot and too many summer vacationers invade.

HOW TO GET THERE


AIRPORT

O'Hare International is just 17 miles northwest of downtown, but during rush hour it could seem light years away (800-832-6352, 773-686-2200; www.flychicago.com). Many domestic travelers fly into Midway Airport, which is closer to the Loop and served by several low-fare airlines (800-832-6352, 773-838-0600; www.flychicago.com).

Waiting out a delay? At O'Hare, check out the 72-foot-long, four-story-high Brachiosaurus skeleton, on loan from the Chicago Field Museum in Terminal 1, or the replica of the WWII fighter plane flown by airport namesake and Medal of Honor recipient Lieutenant Commander Edward "Butch" O'Hare in Terminal 2. On Midway's Concourse A, see the Battle of Midway Memorial, featuring the ships, plane heroes, and drama of this World War II battle and the Dauntless Dive-Bomber aircraft suspended from the ceiling.

AIRPORT TRANSPORTATION

Taxis

A cab to downtown costs $35 to $40 from O'Hare, and $25 to $28 from Midway. Trips to and from O'Hare include a $1 surcharge. The shared-ride program allows four passengers to make the trip in a town car or SUV for about $26 per person from O'Hare or Midway (www.myshareride.com).

Airport Bus

Continental Airport Express (800-654-7871; www.airportexpress.com) services downtown hotels. Cost is $27 one-way to or from O'Hare (leaving every ten to fifteen minutes) and $22 one-way to or from Midway (leaving every 15 minutes).

Public Transportation

If you're not in a hurry, or carrying lots of bags, the El (elevated train) is the cheapest way to and from both airports, particularly during rush hour. O'Hare is on the Blue Line and takes about 40 minutes. Midway is on the Orange Line and takes 20 to 30 minutes. The fare is $2.  (Chicago Transit Authority, 888-968-7282; www.transitchicago.com.)

GETTING AROUND


The city's mass transit system (Chicago Transit Authority, 888-968-7282, www.transitchicago.com) is cheap, frequent, and extensive. You can get almost anywhere, including outlying suburbs and the airport, for $2 a ride. The best deal is a one-day pass for $5 that allows unlimited rides on CTA buses and trains. Two- ($9), three- ($12), five- ($18), and seven-day passes ($20) are also available.

Free trolleys connect Navy Pier, Lincoln Park, Downtown, and Chinatown/Pilsen on a seasonal basis. No tickets or reservations are required, and stops are marked.

TOURIST INFO


Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau
2301 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, Illinois
60616
Tel: 877 244 2246 (toll-free)
Tel: 312 567 8500

Chicago Water Works Visitor Information Center
163 E. Pearson Avenue
Chicago, Illinois
60611
Open Mondays through Thursdays 8 am to 7pm, Fridays 8 am to 6 pm, Saturdays 9 am to 6 pm, and Sundays 10 am to 6 pm.

Chicago Cultural Center Visitor Information Center
77 E. Randolph Street
Chicago, Illinois
60601
Open Mondays through Thursdays 8 am to 7pm, Fridays 8 am to 6 pm, Saturdays 9 am to 6 pm, and Sundays 10 am to 6 pm.

Illinois Bureau of Tourism (for brochures)
100 W. Randolph Street
Chicago, Illinois
60601
Tel: 800 226 6632 (toll-free)

Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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