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Getting Into The City From A Suburb

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SALTCOATS...
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Getting Into The City From A Suburb

Hi There

I will be visiting family in Illinois in June and we will be staying in Westmont. We would like to go into the city, what is the best way to get in from Westmont? Should we hire a car for a few days? But I was worried about parking in the city, or is there a bus or train that we could get?

Any ideas would be great.

Many thanks

Kirsty

Illinois
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1. Re: Getting Into The City From A Suburb

Taking the Metra commuter train might be the best option. Westmont is on the BNSF line (http://metrarail.com/Sched/bn/bn.shtml). The only things that might be a problem with Metra is the limited weekend schedule (if you are going in on a weekend) and the fact that Union Station is a long walk from most tourist attractions. However, Metra offers a weekend pass for $5 which is good for travel on both Saturday and Sunday.

The only other options for taking public transit into the city from the Westmont area would be to drive to either the Forest Park Blue Line station or the Midway Orange Line station. The advantage here is that there is more frequent service and you can use a CTA visitor pass that is also good on buses.

Chicago, Illinois
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2. Re: Getting Into The City From A Suburb

While there are train options as a previous poster noted, I would recommend renting a car even though you'd have to pay for parking wherever you go. This would give you greater flexibility because you'll probably be considering areas around Milleneum Park, the Museums, Michigan Avenue and the ballparks. If you take a train, you'd have to hire a taxi back and forth from the train station anyway and focus on central locations, so good planning is a key.

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3. Re: Getting Into The City From A Suburb

in june the free trolleys will be operating to cart you up and down in the city....there a museum loop, shopping loop etc...

i'd go metra myself and enjoy being with real chicagoans!!

SALTCOATS...
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4. Re: Getting Into The City From A Suburb

Hi there

Thanks for all your help, I feel this visit we really need to get into the city, tell me more about the free trolley? Where does it start from?

The car hire is an option, do you have an idea what the cost of 1 days full parking in the city would cost? I know it will depend on location.

Kirsty

Illinois
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5. Re: Getting Into The City From A Suburb

The free trolleys normally run in a loop and leave from the downtown train stations (Union Station and Ogilvie) to several of the main tourist attractions (Navy Pier, Museum Campus, Michigan Ave., etc.). There are usually a few different routes and trolleys are identified by a colored shape (red square, green triangle, etc.). The routes for this year have not been announced yet. In general, the trolleys only run from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

I usually warn people that while the trolleys are free, you get what you pay for. I suggest that people have back-up plans for transportation in mind for when problems occur. Generally, taking the trolley to an attraction isn't a problem while trying to return can be a hassle.

Rensselaer, Indiana
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6. Re: Getting Into The City From A Suburb

Kirsty, June is a beautiful month in Chicago. Depending on when you are coming, we have a couple of major city festivals occurring then as well. Which brings me to the next point.

If you aren't acclimated to driving in major city traffic, I'd suggest that you take the train in, instead of getting a rental car, especially if it is at the time of one of the major festivals. Check with the family with which you are staying and see if they don't agree.

Re: the free trolleys. eBob is correct in you should have alternative travel plans. The main problem with the trolleys is that there are too many people trying to utilize the limited amount of trolleys for different purposes.

They are not for sightseeing purposes (such as the Hop-on/Hop-off type), although there is a little narrative at times. Nor are they supposed to be used in lieu of cabs or busses for people getting near their hotels after disembarking the Orange or Blue Lines downtown with luggage. It's fine to consider and use them if you can - but have your CTA visitor's pass in hand.

Keep in mind that there are different routes and stops for the various trolleys. One route goes out to the Museum Campus. One goes to Navy Pier. And one goes north to Lincoln Park Zoo.

That being said, Union Station isn't THAT long of a hike to some of the top attractions. (Remember that 1000s do it everyday for their work-a-day commute.)

The Sears Tower is literally just east of the Chicago River (1 block) from Union Station on Adams.

If you were going to Millennium Park or the Art Institute, it is about 1 mile to walk - but you can eastily pick up the #151 CTA bus outside of Union Station to take you in that vicinity.

As a brief explanation of the route: In the Loop, the #151 goes east to State Street - turns north onto State Street for a few blocks - then turns east to get to Michigan Avenue. (You'll see the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritkzer Pavilion at Millennium Park as you approach.) It then travels north on Michigan Avenue, over the Chicago River, and on the Magnificent Mile until the avenue ends at Oak (where the Drake is located). The #151 then continues north on the (inner) Lake Shore Drive up through the Gold Coast neighborhood and zags into Lincoln Park (the neighborhood), going north on Stockton. It has a couple of stops at/near the Lincoln Park Zoo (look for the red barn and silo) and then continues north into the Lakeview neighborhood (and further).

On the return leg, only the #151s that show the end terminus as Union Station (on the exterior marquee) return there.

If you wanted to go to the Museum Campus (where the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum and Adler Planetarium are located), then you take that same #151 bus to State Street and catch the #146 SB CTA bus with the end terminus at the Campus.

You can combine using the free trolley service with the CTA busses, as well. For example, say you were going to Lincoln Park Zoo. Since the #151 is a local, with possibly many stops along the way, the going could/would probably be rather slow at times. What you could do, though, is take the #151 up to Michigan Avenue and then disembark near one of the LPZ route trolley stops and take the trolley to Lincoln Park Zoo.

Hope you have fun planning your trip!

Chicago
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7. Re: Getting Into The City From A Suburb

Take the train and forget the car - when we go to the city we park the car in a garage and use public transportation the trolley and our feet to get around and I am one of those people who always likes to have a car to use. If we could get a direct train from where we live now - we would not drive into the city - too many crazy drivers.

Chicago, Illinois
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8. Re: Getting Into The City From A Suburb

Hey, I just thought I'd offer my take on this too. Definitely take advantage of the Metra train service. I commute into the city and live in the suburbs. For the last few years I lived in Hinsdale (same train line as Westmont) and really benefited from not having to own a car to commute to work.

Driving to and from the city is awful no matter what time of day (unless you are driving on really off hours, some weekend times, or at midnight, etc.), you will get stuck in frustrating and crowded traffic. This is a waste of your time, fuel, and patience. Using the Metra train will be much more efficient and pleasant.

In the last few months I moved to Arlington Heights where I now live walking distance to the Metra train station in that town, and I commute to work from there. Since I use Metra a lot, I use a web site called www.thechicagometratrain.com which isn't Metra's site but its more useful to me because it has tips and organizes the information better than Metra does on their web site.

Good luck and enjoy your visit to Chicago this summer!

Gurnee, Illinois
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9. Re: Getting Into The City From A Suburb

<< Metra offers a weekend pass for $5 which is good for travel on both Saturday and Sunday. >>

I had heard that with the last fare increase (February 1st), they were going to change the weekend pass such that it would be good for one weekend day, not all weekend. However the Metra website (www.metrarail.com) does not seem to indicate that, so either they didn't make this change, or the web info is stale.

Kids 11 and under are free on Metra (up to 3 kids per fare-paying adult). They advertise this as "weekends and holiday" but in past summers they have extended this to weekday trains as well, as long as the train arrives downtown after 9:30am (i.e., not rush hour).

Metra is probably your best bet, especially during weekdays when traffic to and from the city can be stifling. But on the weekend, if you have 3-4 people that would require fares, parking downtown could be competitive. Parking for a day will run you in the $20 range per day at the Millennium or Grant Park garages (and perhaps more in other garages). I live in an outer suburb and take Metra during the week, but always drive on the weekend.

Chicago, Illinois
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10. Re: Getting Into The City From A Suburb

I ride daily, and they have made announcements that the weekend pass is now $7, and it works the same was as it always has.