We traveled to Chicago last year in September. Being the waning of the tourist season, we were told later that the city is much quieter around this time. Personally, I did not mind that. Weather-wise, neither too hot nor too cold, this is a good time to visit. We were unaware of this fact when we booked. In hindsight, it was a good decision.
Ours was a two day weekend trip. At 9:00am we took the Blue Line Chicago Transit Authority train from O’Hare towards downtown. Located within the airport terminal, it’s easy to find the station with signs all over. Buying three day unlimited passes for $15.00 each, we were all set. Tanvi who is under six, rode free. Traveling with light luggage, CTA trains turned out to be an economical and user-friendly option.
Chicago Downtown is full of tourist attractions but it’s big and one can get lost. Getting off at Jackson station in downtown loop area, we bought a map after walking around for an hour. When in a hurry, keep a map handy.
The Visitor Information Centre on Wacker drive is located above Chicago Riverwalk next to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Valuable information in the form of pamphlets and brochures is available on topics ranging from tours, food, accommodation, activities and much more.
We decided on the two-hour bus tour of the Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Bus Company. At $35.00 for adults and $15.00 for children, fourteen stops around downtown are covered. There is live commentary by a tour guide and one can hop off at a stop and get back on again at the same or another. Millennium Park, Fields Museum, Navy Pier, John Hancock Observatory were amongst the attractions included. Detailed and comprehensive, this is a great option when time is short.
A word of caution! Seasonal rain is expected so carry an umbrella or a poncho. It rained while we were on the tour bus and very heavily at that.
A walk down Magnificient Mile shopping district marked the end of day one.
Day two started nice and early. Reaching downtown at 9:00am via CTA we already had a plan in place. First stop-The Field Museum of Natural History, followed by the Shedd Aquarium and then the Adler Planetarium, all located within the Museum Campus. To try and cover the three most popular tourist attractions in Chicago in one day was an ambitious plan. We did not make it.
Researching online the day before we had bought the CHICAGO CityPASS. With discounted entry tickets to five attractions, including the ones above, this pass also allows one to cut through the long queues at the entry gates. My personal review- wonderful!
Couple of hours in the Field Museum were followed by Shedd Aquarium. Both of these are huge and what we covered may quite really have been the tip of the iceberg. If either of these is of particular interest and time is short, I would suggest choosing one over the other. We reached Adler Planetarium at 4:45pm. They close at 5:00pm. Needless to say, we were late.
Lunch consisted of Chicago deep-dish pizza at Pizzeria Uno followed by caramel popcorn from Garret. Both highly recommended. Looking back, I think we unknowingly chose the pizza and popcorn over Adler Planetarium. At another time, I would make the same choice.
Touching briefly upon the cloud gate and the crown fountain in Millennium Park, we finished the day at Chicago Skydeck. Entry to this was included in the CHICAGO CityPASS. The night view of Chicago from the 103rd floor was captivating. I found my ten seconds on the glass ledge to be both frightening and thrilling at the same time.
Chicago downtown has a lot to offer. Two days went by very quickly and were by no means enough. However, packing in what we did in our limited time gave us a feel of the city and just one more thing along with that- a great reason to go back!
For Chicago Trolley and Double Decker Company
Chicago Visitor’s Pass:
29 E Ohio St Chicago, Illinois 60611